The purpose of the AKC Hunting Test program is to provide a non-competitive opportunity for a spaniel to demonstrate its field abilities in a manner as consistent as possible with the demands of actual hunting conditions. The following applies to all three levels of testing:
- Hunting Tests are open to all AKC registered Spaniels (plus a few other breeds) over six months of age. There is no maximum age for any of the test levels.
- The dog’s natural hunting ability and training are scored against a standard of performance. The standard varies by test level. The basic attributes of the test allow the dog to demonstrate its hunting abilities: in general the spaniel must find, flush and retrieve 2 birds on land and execute a water retrieve(s).
- There are three test levels — Junior, Senior and Master.
- Hunting Tests are pass/fail events. Dogs are scored on their own merit. There are no placements and no ranking of the dogs.
- If in the opinion of the judges, a dog meets the minimum requirements for the test entered, the dog will receive a passing score, thereby earning a “leg” toward a Junior (JH), Senior (SH), or Master (MH) title.
- An AKC title certificate is awarded when a dog receives the required number of passing scores. The title will appear after the dog’s name on its official AKC pedigree.
- Dogs are run one at a time.
- Gunning is involved at all test levels. All gunning is done by designated gunners.
- Females in season are not allowed to enter.
- Many participants attend an event just to watch prior to entering. Tests are hosted by AKC licensed clubs.Cascade ECSF has been hosting AKC Spaniel Hunt Tests consistently since the early 1990’s and has earned a reputation for putting on quality tests that are challenging, yet practical for the companion gun dog. FIELD
Field trials are a competitive sport involving the team of dog and handler. Cocker trials are open to both English and American Cocker Spaniels. A trial gives a handler and his or her dog the opportunity to compete in the field with their peers. The purpose of a spaniel field trial is to demonstrate the performance of a properly trained spaniel in the field. The performance should not differ from that in any ordinary day’s shooting, except that in the trials a dog should do his work in a more nearly perfect way. The Green Book, (The Conduct and Judging of Spaniel Field Trials) adds that the following qualities are to be emphasized: retrieving promptly to hand, hunting and game finding, working within gun range, control, steadiness to wing and shot (the dog should “hup,” or sit and hold its position, until released by the handler), and responsiveness.
An all-age stake (Open or Amateur) at a local field trial generally consists of three land series and may, at the hosting club’s discretion, include a water series. Trials are run using planted game birds, usually pheasants but occasionally chukars. In the first two series, two handler/dog teams are judged concurrently by running in braces, one team running on each side of the shared center line of parallel courses with one judge presiding over each course. Each dog is responsible for finding all birds on his/her section of their course, and generally receives two to three bird contacts per series unless the team commits an error resulting in the judge immediately excusing them from further consideration. The dog must honor the flushes on the opposite course by hupping when it either sees a bird fly up or when it hears the gun, and wait for instructions from its handler.
A dog may be excused or not called back to a subsequent series for the following reasons: breaking, failing to honor another dog’s retrieve, failing a retrieve, passing a bird, poaching (finding a bird on the other dog’s course), pointing, or hard mouth. In addition, an entry may not be called back if the judges feel they could not place that dog, for example, for lack of control or lack of bird finding ability. Remember this is a competition; so the judges do not need to keep a dog under judgment if they know they will not place it. The judges may award a First, Second, Third and Fourth Place in each stake.
Dogs (or bitches) who obtain enough points (earned through placements in various trials) will be given a title of either Field Champion (FC) for points earned in the Open Stake, or Amateur Field Champion (AFC) for points earned in the Amateur Stake. Each category requires the dog to have two wins and a water test, or a win plus 10 points (2nd place – 3pts, 3rd place – 2 pts, 4th place – 1 pt) and a water test to earn the respective title.
Each year all dogs that have placed in the Open Stake during the previous 3 years qualify to compete in the National Open Field Trial. AKC has not yet authorized a National Amateur Field Trial as of this writing (January 2015).
Cascade ECSF has been successfully hosting cocker trials since 2010, providing a venue for local spaniels and their handlers but attracting competitors from Texas, North Dakota, Minnesota, California & Montana.