Tips for New Field Trialers

Article originally appeared in “On the Wing”, a monthly e-mail newsletter by Pheasants Forever

Maybe you’ve done Field Trials & Hunt Tests before, maybe not. As a beginner you’ll make mistakes and not remember everything that you’re supposed to do. The more prepared you and your dog are before you get to the event, the better off you’ll be. To help you along the way, I’ve put together a short list of key factors in performing well in dog competitions. 

Make A Good Impression

What makes the best dog? Different judges look for different things. No matter how good your dog is, not all judges will like it. Here is a short list of things that will make a positive impression on most judges in flushing events.  

  1. Strong Finds – Fast, positive finds will get a judge to overlook minor faults in other areas. The instant your dog smells a bird, preferably from far away, he should try to get to it as fast as possible. A positive find is much more important then a positive flush.
  2. Effective Pattern – Using the wind to cover the course is much more effective than simply running from gun to gun. As often as possible, your dog should be running perpendicular to the wind and always smelling fresh ground.
  3. Showing Control – Your dog should be able to run with only an occasional whistle. Lots of loud whistles annoy many judges. One or two reminder whistles is okay, but the quieter the run the better.  

These three points are really one main point: Working properly, under control to get fast, hard finds from a good distance is the recipe for success.

Avoid Trouble

You want your dog to have a clean run with few issues for a judge to ponder.  Never make a judge think! The following tips are the obvious things to avoid in order to stay out of trouble. 

  1. Hard Mouth – Very few judges will tolerate dead birds. Injury is always a possibility with a powerful flushing dog and sometimes a wing or a rib is broken. If it happens often, though, judges will take note of it.
  2. Excessive Noise – Your dog should be quiet and not whimper or whine while waiting. He should also be patient and not bark at missed birds or yip when sent on a retrieve.
  3. Sloppy Delivery – You shouldn’t be wrestling with your dog to get the bird and he shouldn’t be trying to grab it from the judge’s hand. The dog should come in, give you the bird, and wait for the next command.

Most people are amazed, when they start competing with their dogs, at how many things can go wrong. You need to remember that Field Trials & Hunt Tests are just games we play with our dogs. There are rules to each game that must be followed to achieve success,  but the primary objective always is to be enjoying yourself and your dog. When you have a bad day, just take it in stride and come back the next weekend and show them how good your dog really is.

To learn more about Jason’s training methods, visit www.lighthousekennels.com.