What are Trials?
Working Gundogs is a National Discipline of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia that promotes the use of trained gundogs for hunting and retrieving in the field. The discipline conducts training, trials and competitions at various levels to provide owners with a guide to improving the abilities of their dogs.
The shooting and game laws of all states and territories must be observed, and govern the conduct of all trials in conjunction with WGAA Field and Retrieving Trial Rules. Every competitor must be a member of SSAA or affiliated body member.
Field and Retrieving Trials?
The Working Gundogs field and retrieving trial disciplines are:
Pointer & Setter
Hunt, Point & Retrieve
Pointer and Setter Field Trials
The first gun dog field trial ever conducted was for pointers and setters in 1865.
Dogs seen in this discipline include the pointer, Irish setter, English setter, Gordon setter and Irish red and white setter. Sometimes pointer and setter trials are scheduled for all pointing breeds.
The Pointer and Setter discipline includes dogs that have been bred for the task of working with speed and style in the quest for game birds. In Australia, they excel in the pointing of our great game bird, the stubble quail. The dogs are expected to work under their handler’s instructions, to be steady to wing and shot, to back another dog on point and to retrieve or point shot game. Dogs may work at a distance from their handlers, but are expected to be under control at all times.
The purpose of Pointer and Setter field trials is to find the best hunting dog in terms of the criteria that are seen in the class bird dog - finding ability, style, speed and application to its task.
Hunt, Point, Retrieve Field Trials
The Hunt, Point and Retrieve (HPR) discipline caters for utility gundogs. Dogs in this discipline are expected to be versatile, and it is this fact that has led to their enormous popularity. Go to any duck swamp, rabbit patch or quail paddock and the odds are that you will see a HPR dog at work.
Dogs seen in this discipline include the German shorthaired pointer, Epagneul Breton (Brittany), Vizsla, Munsterlander, Wirehaired pointer and Weimaraner.
The aim of HPR field trials are, under conditions similar to a normal day’s hunting, to test handlers and their dogs in competition against each other to determine the dog that best fulfils the role of a HPR gundog on the day of the trial.
Before a HPR dog can be awarded a field trial title, it must successfully complete a water retrieve to demonstrate that it will swim and retrieve from water.
Some of the dogs that perform creditably in HPR events will often bob up and do well in retrieving.
Spaniel Field Trials
The working English springer spaniel is the most common spaniel breed used in the field in Australia. Springers are trained to be steady to shot and game, and are required to retrieve shot game on command. These little dogs are generally full of enthusiasm and are a pleasure to watch.
Spaniel field trials are all action, with the trial being conducted under conditions that reflect a normal day’s shooting. Hunting within range of the handler, the spaniel’s job is to find and flush game. The competing spaniel is expected to retrieve shot game for its handler. Spaniel trials are normally conducted on rabbits.
Before a spaniel can be awarded a field trial title, it must successfully complete a water retrieve to demonstrate that it will swim and retrieve from water.
Retrieving trials aim to test gundogs under conditions as close as possible to those in natural field conditions. Artificial game is used in WGAA retrieving trials. All gundog breed are eligible to compete in retrieving trials.
In a retrieving trials dogs are required to:
- be under control and quiet at all times,
- walk at heel,
- stay on command, until released,
- mark and retrieve thrown items of game, and under direction, seek and retrieve hidden items of game,
- when ordered to retrieve, it should be done quickly, and direct without disturbing too much ground,
- retrieve on land, across water, and in water, and
- return the item of game to the handler, and gently deliver to the hand.