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AKC field trials question

AKC field trials question

Postby oldbeek » Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:53 pm

Just what does running ahead mean? I have been to AKC trials and know trialers and I still do not understand the concept. My bird dog runs back and forth 100 yds each way in front of me. Maybe 30 yards to 150 yards to the front of me. Last week in open country she was 400 years out but still moving side to side. When she gets scent, she slows to a creep on running birds or slams on point. That is what I want. Is running forward just mean moving forward at a fast pace in a straight line while being chased by a rider on a horse. Enlighten me please. What is the judge looking for?
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby DonF » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:07 am

Your dog can run side to side and to be sure, unless you want a lost dog, it need's to. Being to the front isn't much more than staying to the front of the handler going down the course. Horseback dog's can get lost in a hurry and avoid a lot of ground by line running. But I've known a lot of people that worship the line runner. In that case the dog just goes, generally on the path of least resistance, in a straight line.

What your are describing your dog doing would work great for me! running to field trial standards the dog pass's a lot of ground. People claim they cover more ground and find more birds. Sometime's they might find more bird's but mostly they will pass up closer in birds. The reason for hunting birds to me was watching the dog work. Lot of people think it's more exciting finding a dog on point rather than watching a closer working dog. Without doubt there is something to finding a dog on point but for me it'snot as exciting as seeing a dog hit scent and work it without flushing the bird. Or seeing a dog pass close to a bird and freeze in mid stride. Trial dog's used for hunting isn't for everyone but some people just love hunting for their dog. Had a friend tell me his trial dog stood a point for over an hour as he was looking for it and he had a tracking collar on the dog. Same guy quit trialing and told me he enjoys it a lot more now as he's not trying to keep them to trial standard's any more.

The field trial dog and the hunting dog, two very different dog's. Most trial dogs can be hunted over but most hunting dog's cannot compete in trials! Neither good bad or indifferent, just the way it is.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby RayGubernat » Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:26 am

There is another level of complexity(or SHOULD be) to the judgement of dogs at trials.

In AKC there are two classes of field trial, Gun Dog and All Age. These two classes have different criteria for judging the dog's performance. The Gun dog criteria that is in print hews much more closely to what a birdhunter might want to see from their dog...at least in the areas I hunt. The all age criteria tend to favor a bigger running, more independent dog.

I believe that there should be a difference between the two classes of stakes and that that difference should be maintained and respected. The differences between the two classes provide opportunities for a wider cross section of sportspersons to engage in trials and a logical step up from hunt tests, in the case of the AKC. This amounts to more opportunities for more dogs and more handlers.

There is ALWAYS a tension between the two types of dog performances, as far as what is the "ideal". Since each person's "ideal" performance is the benchmark, or measuring stick that should be used to evaluate the performance that is being rendered, there is always some "elasticity" to those criteria.

When you have a horseback stake, judged by horseback trialers, particularly of those trialers have the bulk of their experience in American field horseback trials... the "natural" tendency is to want to see more run...not less.

I for one struggle with this when judging a Gun dog stake, especially if it is a walking gun dog stake. That is NOT the kind of dog I prefer to run in trials and that is NOT the kind of performance I like to see out of my own dogs.

HOWEVER, the standards for the stake are what they are and I must consciously suppress my own preferences and make my judgment subject to the standard for the stake I am judging, because it IS different and, to be fair to the participants. The walking Gun dog SHOULD render a performance that is much closer to what a good hunting dog should do, so the set of "ideal" benchmarks the judges are using, should reflect that. I generally try to go back to what I have seen in the hunting field, or in a walking gun dog or walking shooting dog stake for my benchmarks of excellence when judging this type of stake, but that is just me.

Ultimately, your dog has to do what pleases you. The judges are looking at your dog for a half hour and making a judgment on what they see, or do not see...in that half hour. They generally do their best, but again...it is only a half hour capsule view. There are any number of little things that can affect and influence the judge's decision.

Always remember that a field trial run is a "performance" that you and your dog are putting on for the benefit of the judges. No more...no less. Always remember that the judges can only award so many placements. It is not a pass/fail scenario. Many times, there are perfectly good performances that go unrecognized, because some other dog did it better.

If the dog does what you want it to do, and does it with joy...that is what really counts. Who cares if it hunts a little short sometimes or comes from behind once or twice. What difference does it make if the dog locks up mid-stride or slows down, takes a step or two and then locks up? What difference does it make if your dog turns crisply to match your change of direction or meanders a little? What difference does it make if your dog takes and edge all the way to the end and then turns, or if it cuts off the corner and turns? It is all little, nitpicky stuff like this that can sometimes separate the dogs that placed from the dogs that did not.

There are a whole bunch of things like these, which can enter into the decision as to which dogs get placements, especially when considering third or fourth place. Those placements usually give me more trouble than first or second.

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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby shags » Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:02 pm

Oldbeek,
You might try to find some Youtube videos of trials in your area, or in areas that have the same sort of cover as yours. IME judges want to see the dog hunt the cover appropriately, so how a winner will apply itself in the hedgerows of the tight grounds in the east will differ from application in the midwest or on the prairies, or in the west. On youtube, Skydance Kennels, who sometimes posts links to videos here on this forum, has vids of trials on different grounds so you can see how dogs apply themselves.

As you can tell from the above posts, a lot also depends on what the judges personally like. It takes some trial and error to figure out who likes what.

Remember that a field trial is not supposed to be like a hunt. It’s a whole different game looking at different attributes. A dog great in one, may not be so good in the other. No harm no foul as long as you are happy with your dog at the end of the day.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby Sharon » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:25 pm

A dog that isn't taking advantage of the wind could also be considered "running ahead ineffectively".Judge wants to see the dog take advantage of the wind when looking for birds along hedge roads / tree lines.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby bustingcover » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:36 am

oldbeek wrote:Just what does running ahead mean? I have been to AKC trials and know trialers and I still do not understand the concept. My bird dog runs back and forth 100 yds each way in front of me. Maybe 30 yards to 150 yards to the front of me. Last week in open country she was 400 years out but still moving side to side. When she gets scent, she slows to a creep on running birds or slams on point. That is what I want. Is running forward just mean moving forward at a fast pace in a straight line while being chased by a rider on a horse. Enlighten me please. What is the judge looking for?


This dog is running what is commonly referred to as a GunDog race. In field trialing there are different stakes that have different standards as to what the dog is being judged.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby P&PGunsmith » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:53 am

oldbeek wrote:Just what does running ahead mean? I have been to AKC trials and know trialers and I still do not understand the concept. My bird dog runs back and forth 100 yds each way in front of me. Maybe 30 yards to 150 yards to the front of me. Last week in open country she was 400 years out but still moving side to side. When she gets scent, she slows to a creep on running birds or slams on point. That is what I want. Is running forward just mean moving forward at a fast pace in a straight line while being chased by a rider on a horse. Enlighten me please. What is the judge looking for?

Sounds to me like you described your dog as staying in front and running ahead.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby Featherfinder » Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:43 am

PERHAPS, what the judges were looking for was a dog that runs to the front hitting intelligent objectives. This can mean running lines - the vernacular within the sport that really translates this way, "The bird planter(s) will likely plant birds in places that will have objectives (a place to hold birds - hopefully not too near or on the early part of the course - while still showing the dog(s) such as tree lines, clusters of workable cover, hedge rows or any combo of the aforementioned). As already mentioned, trials are a snap shot of a dog's capability. This introduces a number of other dynamics that a judge may like to see. One attribute is a dog that has an animated fast pace rather than a methodical forensic approach. The fast pace is practical because you only have a given window of time in which to find birds on the specified course. This animated dog is also eye candy both by virtue of it's gait and when it hammers a find. Another aspect is that judges want to see a dog start fast, maintain a fast pace AND end fast especially in an abbreviated AKC 1/2 hour stake! Furthermore, the underlying issue is that a field trialer that runs like a windshield wiper is effectively overlapping it's race, meaning that dog may in fact have run 3 or more times the distance in it's application instead of moving forward to those more promising field trial objectives. Basically, it "wasted" time and energy by not moving on to said objectives. I hope I am verbalizing what I mean clearly?
Consider that, every individual aspect of a trial is critical. That includes, the grounds, the judges, bird quality, the marshal, and bird PLANTERS to name a few. Bird planters are typically directed to use those same objectives I described to you above (tree lines, hedge rows, etc.). A judge MIGHT look at your dog and say, "Why the heck is that dog not going to where (we know) the birds have been planted? He's wasting energy see-sawing back and forth over non-productive ground!" I only say this based on what you offered from the get-go. I could be WAY off but that's what it sounds like to me.
Keep in mind that field trials are proving grounds with a certain unique expectation. You might want your hunting dog to apply herself/himself in a completely diverse manner depending on what/where you're hunting. Then again....you might not.
My setter spent her early years horseback trialing for the most part. When I took her grouse and woodcock hunting for the first few times, I was completely frustrated with her passing by what I knew should hold birds! Simply put, she didn't understand that and was confounded by this dense, vast, cover. No doubt, she was looking for tree lines. Where I live, the transition from a competitive trailer to a productive hunter can be humungous! You have to key your dog to the task at hand. Your dog might be an efficient hunter but that won't necessarily win trials.
In closing, I quote you, "I have been to AKC trials and know trialers and I still do not understand the concept." This is key to achieving a target. You need to know/understand what it is you aspire to achieve. My recommendation is that you attend as many trials as possible. Watch to see the winning dogs' performances. This should give you more clarity. You should see a pattern that will clarify what they look for in a field trial winner.....whether or not it's what you want from your dog.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby Featherfinder » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:40 pm

I forgot to mention one other salient aspect of trials. Your dog may have found 3 birds and another dog found just one. Yet, the dog with the one find, depending on those other attributes I mentioned above, may in fact win or place over your dog.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby JONOV » Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:12 pm

Featherfinder wrote:I forgot to mention one other salient aspect of trials. Your dog may have found 3 birds and another dog found just one. Yet, the dog with the one find, depending on those other attributes I mentioned above, may in fact win or place over your dog.

Yeah, it can be hard sometimes for a handler as there is a certain element of Beauty Pageant to it. It isn’t like NSTRA where it’s a scoreboard, and it isn’t like a NAVHDA or AKC test where they’re judged against a standard with many clearly defined aspects of the run judged.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby Featherfinder » Thu Dec 07, 2017 5:32 am

JONOV, I would have to disagree with you. The judges in trials typically, have walked the walk for years. Further to this, they have tallied an admirable number of wins/champions. In-other-words, they normally have invested years of trialing into the sport and clearly understand the expectation. You can't read a book or take a course then know all about it. In some cases, I see this as superior to any course or instruction that verbalizes what a standard must be. There can be a huge expanse between intent and interpretation. It's a bit like theory versus practical. If you trial enough, the winner/placements are rarely a surprise. There may be some variation but at the top levels of the sport, entrants have actually picked up their dogs prior to finishing the course - not because of a critical mistake but because they know what they need from their dog to challenge a front-runner, and on that particular day it's just not happening. Sadly, I have had to pick up a dog or two :wink: simply because they weren't cutting it. I don't want to insult the judges with the assumption that you actually think you're in the running!?!?
I ran one NSTRA event where my dog came in second to a dog whose handler spent more time looking for birds than his dog. He subsequently harangued his dog into the finds! Yup....he placed first. ???
What you might be alluding to is that there are "mediocre" judges and great judges in ALL sports and not just our beloved bird dogs. .....such is life.
Field trials have very clear and distinct requirements of a successful bird dog. Experienced trailers know those dictates well. Trials amount to much more than whether a dog finds birds within a restricted confine or whether they subsequently hold point. ......MUCH more, which is why I urge folk to attend more than a couple or 3 and then scoff. I'm not saying trials don't have their short-comings but I digress.
To that end, keep in mind that trials are more like an F1 or NASCAR event. The limits of the sport are tested to the extreme. You might find taking one of these cars for groceries or to pick up the kids from school a bit impractical. Still, they have their place. Many of the features of our commuter cars and p/u trucks today came from these same grueling testing grounds. If you're looking for a truck to haul a load of gravel, an F1 car wouldn't be the smart choice. :|
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby slistoe » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:35 am

Featherfinder wrote: If you're looking for a truck to haul a load of gravel, an F1 car wouldn't be the smart choice. :|

But the investment of learning that went into the F1 car will be displayed in the truck you buy.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby Featherfinder » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:52 am

That's right Slistoe. At least, that is the intent I believe.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby slistoe » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:28 am

Featherfinder wrote:That's right Slistoe. At least, that is the intent I believe.

I believe that every major improvement in safety, handling and economy in our vehicles came from innovation and testing in the racing circuits.
I also believe that the analogy holds for our bird dogs.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby Gordon Guy » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:39 pm

To include training processes.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby JONOV » Thu Dec 07, 2017 3:37 pm

Featherfinder wrote:JONOV, I would have to disagree with you. The judges in trials typically, have walked the walk for years. Further to this, they have tallied an admirable number of wins/champions. In-other-words, they normally have invested years of trialing into the sport and clearly understand the expectation. You can't read a book or take a course then know all about it. In some cases, I see this as superior to any course or instruction that verbalizes what a standard must be. There can be a huge expanse between intent and interpretation. It's a bit like theory versus practical. If you trial enough, the winner/placements are rarely a surprise. There may be some variation but at the top levels of the sport, entrants have actually picked up their dogs prior to finishing the course - not because of a critical mistake but because they know what they need from their dog to challenge a front-runner, and on that particular day it's just not happening. Sadly, I have had to pick up a dog or two :wink: simply because they weren't cutting it. I don't want to insult the judges with the assumption that you actually think you're in the running!?!?
I ran one NSTRA event where my dog came in second to a dog whose handler spent more time looking for birds than his dog. He subsequently harangued his dog into the finds! Yup....he placed first. ???
What you might be alluding to is that there are "mediocre" judges and great judges in ALL sports and not just our beloved bird dogs. .....such is life.
Field trials have very clear and distinct requirements of a successful bird dog. Experienced trailers know those dictates well. Trials amount to much more than whether a dog finds birds within a restricted confine or whether they subsequently hold point. ......MUCH more, which is why I urge folk to attend more than a couple or 3 and then scoff. I'm not saying trials don't have their short-comings but I digress.
To that end, keep in mind that trials are more like an F1 or NASCAR event. The limits of the sport are tested to the extreme. You might find taking one of these cars for groceries or to pick up the kids from school a bit impractical. Still, they have their place. Many of the features of our commuter cars and p/u trucks today came from these same grueling testing grounds. If you're looking for a truck to haul a load of gravel, an F1 car wouldn't be the smart choice. :|


I'm not scoffing, and I'm not questioning the qualifications of the judges...But just like a Beauty Pageant, if you've seen enough of them, the winner is rarely a surprise. Now, a judge that wants to place a dog that runs 25 yards in front the entire time because he found one more bird probably shouldn't judge. But, I have to imagine that often as not, the differences are far more subtle, and one can wonder why his dog didn't get a placement over another dog. Especially since your or I are likely to be far more blind to the subtler "faults" of our own dog.

Maybe Beauty Pageant isn't fair, maybe Figure Skating or Gymnastics or Alpine Skiing is a better comparison.

Things like "style," a 12 o'clock tail, a tail that doesn't curve, etc, can and will come into play. It isn't a criticism. It is what it is. Don't like it? Don't go.

If you want to do something where everything is extremely well defined, do a hunt test. If you want to compete against other dogs and have it scored like a basketball game, go to NSTRA.

The truth is, that in anything and everything, from a 2nd grade Little League game, to a tryout for the Varsity Baseball team, to a Figure Skating competition, to a Conformation Show, to a Field Trial, to a NAVHDA Hunt test, a Floral arrangement competition, there will be people that are dissatisfied with the judging/officiating/selections.

They will blame the way the rules are designed
They will blame the way the rules are interpreted
They will blame the way they are applied
They will find reason they should be granted exception
They will blame politics
They will claim someone's money or position swayed the decisions
They will claim racism
They will claim favoritism

Rarely, they will be correct; if you participate long enough, enter enough shows or trials or tournaments or tryouts, one or more of these will probably get you. But most of the time it amounts to sour grapes.

Every doggie-game venue, from NAVHDA to AKC Tests to All Age trials to NSTRA to HRCH to JGHV to Shooting/Gun Dog stakes, has things you can nit pick about it, argue the utility, argue deficiencies in how its run or judged, etc...All of them. If you claim otherwise, you're drinking too much of the Kool-Aid. That doesn't mean don't participate, and it doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself and your dog and the competition. Or, at least it shouldn't, though it does for some people.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby RyanDoolittle » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:23 pm

Your time would be better spent entering a trial then walking or riding all the braces in that stake yourself. Watch the dogs and see who wins. After it's over you can approach the judges alone and ask what they were looking for. Why did this dog place over that dog but don't ever ask why that dog placed over your dog. Approach them with a learning attitude and you will find most are happy to talk to you about it.

However if your dog is 100 yards either way and only 30 yards ahead he is being what's called lateral. The dog needs to be at 10 &2. He can run 100 yards to the side but he better be 200 yards ahead of you.

If you can get a dog to run ahead of you, doesn't run the path, you don't give him all kind of commands, and he is broke broke, you will be in the money 8/10 trials. If not I can think of worse ways to spend a weekend and $50 in entry fees.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby oldbeek » Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:26 pm

Thanks for all the explanations. I am in a NSTRA group and go to the trials to keep our group going. My dog does not respect planted birds and has no style on them. But she loves to run and I like the folks and camping. She is an amazing hunting dog and as long as there are birds to hunt that is what I will be doing. As for 30 years to the front and 100 yds each side, I want her to hunt the valley floor and both canyon walls as we hunt a draw. Valley quail are sneaky birds.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby slistoe » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:25 pm

RyanDoolittle wrote:However if your dog is 100 yards either way and only 30 yards ahead he is being what's called lateral. The dog needs to be at 10 &2. He can run 100 yards to the side but he better be 200 yards ahead of you.

The problem I have found when hunting with a lateral dog is that they are always that way - crossing back and forth to the sides. There are time that it is effective and proper, and times it is a total waste of my time and the dogs energy. With a front running dog that cues properly I have full control of all the options. I can make anything I want to "the front". One canyon wall is the front and then the opposite canyon wall is the front. I can make the aspen bluff 400 yards away the front, or I can "wipe" the field ahead of me.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby Featherfinder » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:21 am

Oldbeek, it is my opinion that dogs LEARN not to respect planted birds, be they quail or pigeons or whatever. Dogs aren't born not respecting one species over another. In fact, young pups will often chase song birds, sparrows, robins, butterflies, etc.
I believe that whether through bad experiences or through residual scent (human/launcher/tether/ other related gear/environs), dogs will sour on planted birds or even game farm/trial birds. I think it is induced rather than inherited.
Here is an interesting question. I think grouse are the King of my bird hunting spectrum although I am passionate about the many species. My dog(s) have always looked better on grouse finds than woodcock within the same covert. So-much-so, that I often know whether the find is a grouse vs a woodcock, and I know I'm not alone here. If you consider my opening comment to have any validity I ask: "Is that style difference because they key off of me, or is it something else?"
Ryan, your point is well made. When the placements have been given, you might like to speak to the judges as to the subtle differences between 1st and runners-up. Think of it this way. In any given trial with say....30 entrants in the one adult stake, of those, there may be 20 dogs that didn't break point - of those, 15 were smart in their application - of those, another 10 that finished strong - of those, another 5 whose handling was impressive.
Here's the challenge. There is only 1 first place! Sometimes, it's a clear cut case. However, if you judge enough, you will inevitably find yourself in some intense conversations with a fellow judge because the difference between 1 and 2 or SO minute. I re-iterate, there can only be 1 winner.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby gundogguy » Tue Dec 12, 2017 8:14 am

Just saying, I have seen an awful lot of Field trial wash-outs become excellent shooting dogs, but I have never seen a hunting dog wash-out make Field Champion.
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Re: AKC field trials question

Postby Elkhunter » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:42 am

Side casting is generally frowned upon in FT. I also do not like it in hunting, wind can carry scent quite a ways and a dog will waste a lot of time running through cover that its nose has already found out nothing was there.
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