13 Guidelines For The Hunt Test

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13.1 Purpose.

13.1.1 The purpose of a hunt test for Retrievers, Barbet, Irish Water Spaniels and Standard Poodles is to test the merits of, and evaluate the abilities of retrievers in the field in order to determine their suitability and ability as hunting companions. Hunt tests must, therefore, simulate as nearly as possible the conditions met in a true hunting situation.

13.1.2 Dogs are expected to retrieve any type of game bird under all conditions, and the judges and the Hunt Test Committee have complete control over the mechanics and requirements of each test.

13.1.3 Pheasants, ducks, chukars or guinea hens may be used in hunt tests, as may any other species of game bird that might be unique to a specific region. Pigeons may only be used in the upland hunting test with flush ‘in Master Hunt Test.

13.1.4 While natural hunting conditions are subject to great variations in different parts of the country, retrievers are expected to possess a defined set of abilities which enables them to serve as hunting companions, although the proportion of these abilities and their relations to one another will vary. In most instances there should be little doubt in a judge's mind as to the abilities of dogs in a given hunting situation. However, there is unlimited opportunity for an honest difference of opinion on abilities that range from just above average to just below average.

13.1.5 Hunt tests provide a mechanism for identifying, through the evaluation of the abilities of retrievers, those dogs which possess abilities that set them apart as accomplished hunting companions.

13.1.6 The information provided here is intended as a guide, not only for judges, but for all concerned with the welfare and development of retrievers as superb hunting companions.

13.1.7 All Provincial and Federal laws must be adhered to regarding the handling of and use of birds; and the handling and use of firearms.

13.1.8 Gun safety is of paramount importance and judges may remove anyone who does not practice gun safe- ty. In accordance with the Canadian Firearms Program handlers, judges, gunners and others who handle firearms must ahere to the following Vital Four ACTS of Firearm Safety (Canadian Firearms Program):

Assume every firearm is loaded
Control the muzzle direction at all times
Trigger finger must be kept off the trigger and out of the trigger guards
See that the firearm is unloaded

and PROVE it safe:

Point the firearm in the safest available direction Remove all ammunition
Observe the chamber
Verify the feeding path
Examine before each time you pick up a firearm

As well it is strongly recommended that handlers complete the Canadian Firearm Safety Course

13.2 Apportioning Time

13.2.1 This is a first and most important consideration in planning the mechanics of an event and is the joint responsibility of the judges and the Hunting Test Committee. The premium list scheduled the days of the hunt test and the hour when judging will start. Those are fixed, definite factors in planning the mechanics of an event.

13.2.2 The following factors should be considered in apportioning time:

the number of entries in each of the various tests;

  1. the quality and quantity of the facilities available at the grounds;
  2. the weather;
  3. the proximity of sites for the various tests;
  4. the ease of moving and the time involved in moving from one site to another (here one must not forget about the importance of the size of the gallery).

13.3 Inspection of Test Grounds

13.3.1 It is extremely important that judges inspect the grounds with representatives of the Hunt Test Committee the day preceding the event.

13.3.2 The judges must seek the Committee's counsel regarding any peculiarities of the grounds not readily apparent. At that time, the judges should select and determine the nature and objectives of each hunting situation, preferably for their entire assignment. The club must provide an efficient organisation ton conduct the event; this will do much to reduce to a minimum delays in starting providing, of course, that the judges have previously planned and have instructed the Hunt Test Committee about the location of the hunting situations, and the requirements for game, guns, blinds, bird boys, boats, decoys, etc.

13.4 Planning Hunting Situations

13.4.1 This is one of the most important responsibilities of the judges.With natural hunting situations, it is much easier to score the abilities of a dog than could be true with situations which are very easy, or with situations which are too difficult and time-consuming, or too tricky. Of primary importance is the simulation of natural hunting conditions in as realistic a manner as possible.

13.4.2 Be sure that instructions to bird throwers are clear about when and how to throw, and to remain quiet and not move while a dog is working. Bird throwers should also be old enough and strong enough for the task.

13.4.3 On marked retrieves, a dog should be able to see a bird in the air and as it falls, since marking can be evaluated only when it has seen the falls. Many factors contribute to a dog's ability to see and mark the falls, for instance, the background against which the bird is visualised in flight and the light conditions, as well as the height to which birds are thrown.

13.4.4 On blind retrieves, wherever possible, the judges should plan their hunting situations so as to take advantage of hazards, such as islands, decoys, points of land, sand bars, ditches, hedges, small bushes, adjacent heavy cover, and rolling terrain. Despite such natural distractions, it should be possible for a dog to find a well-planned blind-retrieve on the initial line from its handler; that it will do so is highly improbable because of those natural hazards, so it must be handled to the blind. The hunting situation should be so planned that the dog should be in sight continuously. A blind retrieve is a test of trainability (control, response). A dog which is out of sight for a considerable period cannot be said to be under control. Utilising natural hazards provides better opportunity to evaluate the abilities required of superb retriever.

13.4.5 Each test should have a specific purpose that calls for the use of specific abilities. This makes scoring easier and your objectives more clearly known to handlers. Tests should never be overly complex or elaborate or anything other than reasonable (but imaginative and natural) situations.

13.4.6 Ingenuity on the part of the judges is always encouraged not only in planning natural hunting situations, but also in devising some which are unusual but practical and realistic and which would be encountered " a true hunting situation". These situations might take the form of a type of hunting unique to the region in which the event is held, but remember - complicated or unnatural tests very often prove nothing and consume great amounts of time and expense.

13.4.7 The judges should think of the handler as a hunting companion. Handlers can ask questions, but this does not relieve them of the responsibility for knowing where the birds fall and knowing generally where the blinds are located. Clarity in explaining test objectives should minimise questions.

13.4.8 Guns may be retired but visible guns should never be moved to another spot in order to trick or mislead the dog.

13.4.9 Tests should be designed to be fair and suitably challenging for the stake and not designed to eliminate or trick the dogs. Judges should not feel that if most dogs do well on the first test, the next test must be more difficult – elimination is not the point of testing.

13.4.10 Judges are also encouraged to incorporate elements and conditions that lend realism to their hunting situations. A test that requires a dog and handler to work from a boat, for example, is realistic but caution must always be exercised. Keep in mind those handlers, who, because of age, weight, injury, etc., might not be able to accomplish certain tasks.

13.4.11 Consider, also, the amount of time consumed by these elements, and ask yourself what they are testing and whether they allow you to efficiently test multiple abilities.

13.4.12 Judges should avoid setting up a too-clearly-defined line (i.e., a departure point that would be unnatural when hunting). While consistent and similar tests for each dog are desirable and generally necessary, this does not mean that each bird must drop in the identical location for each dog, or that all dogs must work from the same line or point of departure.

13.4.13 For example, a dog and handler can walk along a hedge row and a bird or birds can be released from different areas along the row. In a test such as this, more than one dog can be taken on a hunt as the same time. In Senior and Master, one can honour while the other retrieves, and the roles can be reversed as you walk further down the row.

13.4.14 Blind retrieves must also have a scenario. On several occasions during a day's testing, (except in Junior) a dog will be sent to retrieve a bird it has not seen fall. A shot can be used to indicate a downed bird while a dog is out retrieving another bird.

13.4.15 All birds shot for a dog in a blind do not have to be seen by the dog while it is in the blind. Al birds should be within gun range so the judges will be able to see and evaluate the dogs under normal hunting conditions.

When setting up your test remember the following factors:

  1. Lighting and conditions over the course of a day
  2. Water configuration
  3. Terrain
  4. Wind
  5. Hillsides
  6. Cover and changes in cover
  7. Background against which birds are seen
  8. Height and distance to which birds are thrown or to which they fly

13.5 Test Dogs

13.5.1 Changing a hunting situation after a series has been started should be avoided if at all possible. One way of avoiding this, and of avoiding unforeseen and unpredictable situations which would weaken a sound hunting situation , is the practice of running a test-dog in every series before any of the entered dogs are run. Use of a test-dog is usual practice by some judges, when they may entertain doubts about the exact way in which the hunting situation may actually go. Use of a test-dog is very often a time-saving device.

13.5.2 The test dog must not be entered in that test and can reasonably be expected to complete the test and demonstrates the mechanics of the test.

13.6 Unusual Circumstances, "No Birds"

13.6.1 If unusual and unplanned circumstances occur during the course of a marking test, the judges can ask the handler to handle the dog, or otherwise compensate for the unanticipated occurrence. The absence of competition allows more flexibility for judges.

13.6.2 Because dogs are evaluated against a standard, a test need not be exactly the same for every dog. However, it is highly desirable that they run in similar tests. Dissimilar tests can inadequately test some abilities. For example, a double mark and blind that becomes a single mark and blind because of a missed bird does not test a dog's memory as adequately as it was intended to do.

13.6.3 Unplanned situation can markedly lessen or increase the difficulty of a given test and actually change the test level to a higher or lower category. Dissimilar tests also invite the question - Why did my dog have to do 'X' amount of work to qualify while that dog only had to do 'Y' to qualify?"

13.6.4 There will be situations, which through no fault of the dog, might adversely affect the score of one or more of the dog's abilities. There will also be situations that present danger and hazards for dogs. Picture the bird that lands on the far side of a barbed wire fence, or over a levee and out of sight, etc.

13.6.5 Each judge should be at liberty to call a "no-bird" and independently, when in their opinion, a hazard or an element of danger exists, or the test conditions are altered to the point that the test becomes something else. Ask yourself whether the altered situation still presents a reasonable opportunity to evaluate other abilities.

13.6.6 Many situations will occur which cannot be specifically addressed in the regulations or guidelines. In these instances, judges must draw on their own experience to arrive at fair decisions.

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