Spaniels are flushing breeds. Their purpose is to hunt, find game, flush and retrieve birds in a please and efficient manner. The objective of the hunting test program is to help the hunter develop a useful hunting companion by providing a means to gauge a dog’s ability against three standards of accomplishment-Junior Hunter, Senior Hunter and Master Hunter.
The procedures for running a hunting test are contained in the Regulations. Committees are responsible for providing sufficient help to conduct good events, securing good grounds for sufficient size and cover, obtaining healthy flying birds and securing experience, safe gunners. The Committee is also responsible for selecting knowledgeable Judges who are thoroughly familiar with the Regulations.
All of these elements form the basic groundwork for a successful event. Attention to these important details insures the long-term integrity of the program. (Regulations for AKC Hunting Tests for Spaniels, page 25 under Purpose)
Hunting tests are designed to evaluate the abilities of various types of dogs by testing them against a standard. Dogs are tested at various levels and when the requirements of a level are met, the dog will be awarded an AKC title. In the case of the sporting breeds, these titles would be the Junior Hunter (JH), Senior Hunter (SH) and Master Hunter (MH). The sporting breed group includes spaniels, retrievers and pointing dogs.
Getting started in hunting tests is easy. Assuming you have a dog you want to enter in a test, join a local dog club that relates to your specific breed or type, such as a spaniel, retriever or pointing breed club. Check on the AKC web site for clubs in your area and contact that club’s representative. Attend club meetings and training sessions and become involved in the club functions.
Next, attend an AKC Hunting Test Seminar. You can find a listing of the various seminars, when and where they will be held. These seminars will provide you with the standards that dogs will be judged on, the requirements to acquire a title and other related information. It is of the utmost importance that one understands the regulations and standards before entering an event. Regulations pertaining to the hunting test can be downloaded from our web site or you may order a regulation book from the AKC.
Last would be to attend a hunting test and observe as many dogs as possible. With spaniels, there will be some walking involved so be sure to wear the proper footwear. Also there will be game harvested by official gunners. It is mandatory that a blaze orange article of clothing be worn in order to follow the dogs into the field. A vest or jacket is the minimum. Be sure to attend at least one hunting test before you enter your dog.
Committees and judges will design tests and courses that will simulate hunting conditions as close as possible. It is important that judges be experienced not only in competing with these dogs but also in training and hunting of them. With experienced judges quality testing will be achieved and the end result will be a title that one can be proud of.