You might think your sweet and affectionate spaniel was born just to be cuddled and adored by you, but you’d be wrong: Spaniels were actually first bred to be hunting companions! Their role was to hunt, find game, and then drive them out of their hiding places (also called “flushing”). Want to see those natural abilities in action? Then consider taking him for a Spaniel Hunting Test!
In these tests, you’ll experience the thrill of watching your dog’s nose drop to the ground and run off to follow the scent of a bird. After waiting a few minutes (which can seem interminable!), you’ll see him charge out of the woods and run towards you — bird in mouth, and beaming with pride. Not only will you feel like a proud parent, you’ll also be surrounded with support from everyone in attendance since no one is competing against each other; every dog is assessed based on his own hunting style and skills.
Spaniels are flushing breeds and their primary purpose is to hunt, find, flush and return birds to hand as quickly as possible in a pleasing and obedient manner. Judges evaluate the performance of each spaniel entered according to a specific scoring system based on their natural ability to hunt, find game, flush, and retrieve. Judges also score a spaniel’s work in the field based on their learned abilities – range, pattern, gun response and response to commands. Spaniels can be tested at three different levels: Junior, Senior and Master.
The following Spaniel breeds can participate:
- Airedale Terriers
- American Water Spaniels
- Boykin Spaniels
- Chesapeake Bay Retrievers (July 1, 2015)
- Clumber Spaniels
- Cocker Spaniels
- Curly-Coated Retrievers
- English Cocker Spaniels
- English Springer Spaniels
- Field Spaniels
- Flat-Coated Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- Irish Water Spaniels
- Labrador Retrievers
- Sussex Spaniels
- Poodles – Standard and Miniature
- Welsh Springer Spaniels
Your dog must be:
- At least 6 months of age.
- In both excellent physical and mental condition and up-to-date on all inoculations and health check-ups.
- Have an AKC number.
- Spayed and neutered dogs are eligible to compete in these events and are welcome.
- Blind dogs are not eligible.
- No dog can compete if it is taped or bandaged or in any way has anything attached to it for medical purposes.
- Dogs with the Purebred Alternative Listing Program/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP) are not eligible to participate.
- Dogs of these breeds with Conditional registration are not eligible to participate.
- Bitches in season are not eligible to participate.
- Dogs with Limited Registration are eligible to participate.
First, we recommend you get familiar with the various terms used in Hunting Tests. See the glossary here.
The next step is to find a local AKC club who gives Spaniel Hunting tests, which always take places on weekends. Go to one, or several, to see how they work. We also recommend getting a copy of the rules and regulations, and attending one of our Hunting Test Seminars so you can learn about the standards that your dog will be judged on, the requirements to acquire a title, and other related information.
You’ll start out with the Junior Hunter test, which tests your dog’s potential as a hunter and how long it takes for your dog to find birds and drive them out of their hiding places (called “flushing”). After passing the Junior test, you can then continue on for Senior and Master Hunter tests, which evaluates your dog’s skills against more advanced standards such as how he fares in water; his enthusiasm to hunt; his style of running and, of course, his excellent ability to find game.
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