ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF THE STANDARD PROCEDURE FOR SPANIEL FIELD TRIALS

In the following pages the fifteen numbered Paragraphs printed in italics constitute the standard procedure for spaniel field trials which is a part of the "Registration and Field Trial Rules and Standard Procedure for Spaniels" of the American Kennel Club.

Paragraph 1. A blaze orange outer garment or item of clothing shall be mandatory at all AKC member, licensed and sanctioned field trials (and Working Certificate Tests) for all persons in the gallery and in the field, including but not limited to handlers, owners, gunners, bird planters and stewards, Judges, club members, visitors, etc. The blaze orange item must be visible and be worn above the waist. As to how much orange is required, clubs should be guided by the hunting regulations of the state where the event is being held.

Paragraph 2. 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 above is not a complete statement since a trial has as well the very definite purpose of determining which are the better dogs among those entered in the event: which possess those qualities which will contribute most to the development of the breed.

QUALITIES OF A HUNTING SPANIEL

What then are the qualities to be emphasized?

A spaniel is a hunting dog who is also a retriever. His first job is to seek, find and flush game. This he should do with great desire, eagerness and the necessary drive. His second job is to bring the game to bag. Hence, he should be able to mark well the fall of game, to persevere on wounded game, and to retrieve promptly to hand.

Thus hunting and game finding are his primary requisites. To do this within gun range is an absolute requirement. This and the change from a hunting dog to a retriever demands discipline of a high order. Hence, those qualities instilled by training control, steadiness and responsiveness are of great importance.

However, if hunting and game finding are primary, natural ability is clearly the most important quality and this includes nose and brain if the breed is going to improve. This plus training produces the capable dog.

In a stake, judges, while seeking the information with which to make their placements, must balance all factors of differing terrain, varying cover and wind. It is a difficult job. There are judges who would like to reproduce as nearly as possible the same conditions and tests for each dog since that indeed would simplify their job. But this is in the nature of things impossible, and if attempted would result in artificial rather than natural conditions.

THE PERFORMANCE BEFORE YOU

It, therefore, depends on the judges to make such comparisons as he can. He can judge only by what occurs before him on that day and under those conditions. He must obliterate from his mind all past performances, all factors of what mighthavebeen and base his decision on what he saw and can testify to in discussion with his fellow judge to whom he is beholden for a clear report.

He should not seek the advice of handlers or guns or others, but reach his conclusion solely on his own. Truly he can ask a gun to indicate the point of fall of a bird, but he should be slow to accept the evidence of others on any questions such as whether a bird was a dead bird or a runner. He is free to move to any position that he feels is warranted; he may, in his discretion, disregard any evidence not conclusive to him and proceed to a further test of the dog. It is, however, his own judgment and his duty to his fellow judge which must govern.

SECOND AND OTHER SERIES

On the completion of the first series judges consult and each selects the dogs he wishes to bring back for a second series under the other judge. Dogs which have committed an unforgivable fault such as breaking or chasing are obviously out of consideration for any award and are, therefore, eliminated. If time permits and the number of spaniels are not too great, all can be brought back that have shown merit and have not disqualified themselves. When in doubt, it is not out of order to give the dog the benefit of that doubt since there will be opportunity to demonstrate ability or the lack of it in the next and if desired, subsequent series.

However, when the number of dogs is large, a more difficult problem arises, for both judges should insofar as possible, discuss and follow the same standards of selection. One should not condemn for the faults the other overlooks. There will be occasions when better performances seem to be all on one side and poorer performances occur under the other judge. Under such conditions an unbalanced second series cannot be helped in a stake with a small entry, but with a large entry some equitable basis of selection can usually be agreed upon by the judges.

Owners have often come long distances, spent months in training their dogs and all have paid the same entry fee. It helps an owner to accept the result if his dog is given ample opportunity to demonstrate clearly, his good or weak qualities.

Nevertheless, it is better to spend the time testing thoroughly the abilities of the better dogs in successive series than to dwell overlong out of a kind heart on a dog that cannot possibly enter into the final placing.

BALANCING OF TIME AND DISTANCE

In this association it is to be noted that some judges feel equal opportunity has been given a series if, say, each dog has the opportunity to complete two retrieves. When a long, bird less beat is encountered, they may in this effort keep one dog down for a far greater time than the others and thus place a greater burden on his strength and ultimate performance in future series work.

Granted that under such circumstances the dog that keeps trying should receive credit therefore, it would be, nevertheless, better to attempt a balance of time and distance. Guns will miss, birds will flush back toward the gallery, and birds will run off the course. These troubles sometimes seem to happen all at once to the one poor victim of mischance. A judge should bear in mind that there will be further opportunities to test the dog in later series when, because of the reduced number of dogs, each may be given more time and opportunities to display his capabilities.

Taking a dog up too quickly is another error into which judges occasionally fall. A dog may quickly demonstrate to a judge all the qualities he is looking for, have the good fortune to promptly flush game and retrieve the fall. Nevertheless, it is well to carry on a ways to see if the ground work continues well and to study the dog's responses. If this results in one or even more additional finds, the judge has additional evidence on which to base his judgment. At any moment suitable to the judge the testing may be ended by taking the dog up though it were better not to do so at a moment when the dog gives evidence that game is in the immediate vicinity.

Paragraph 3. The function of a hunting spaniel is to seek, find and flush game in an eager, brisk, quiet manner and when game is shot, to mark the fall or direction thereof and retrieve to hand. The dog should walk at heel or on a leash until ordered to seek game and then should thoroughly hunt the designated cover, within gunshot, in line of quest, without unnecessarily covering the ground twice, and should flush game boldly and without urging. When game is flushed, a dog should be steady to flush or command, and, if game is shot should retrieve at command only, but not until the Judge has instructed the handler. Dogs should retrieve quickly and briskly when ordered to do so and deliver tenderly to hand. They should then sit or "hup" until given further orders. Spaniels which bark and give tongue while questing are objectionable and should be severely penalized.

There are differences of view between judges on the meaning of this paragraph but they arise largely from the different kinds of terrain in different parts of the country.

THE ARTIFICAL PATTERN

When flat, level fields abound and a handler can observe his dog at all times, there is a tendency to make quartering of the ground in a regular pattern like a `windshieldwiper' the criterion. This includes exactness of response to the whistle at the end of the beat. As discussed later, such a pattern is not a fault if it is dictated by direction of the wind. On the other hand, if the progress forward of each traverse of the course is limited to a few feet regardless of wind and terrain, a dog can hardly fail to flush game in his course and there is less evidence of `bird sense,' scenting ability and use of wind.

NATURAL ABILITY

When terrain is irregular and there is much cover of varied character, there are frequent occasions when a dog and handler cannot see each other. Under such conditions the dog must be constantly relating himself to the handler. In addition he must work his cover out on a somewhat irregular pattern seeking always to pass downwind of likely cover in the line of quest. Resourcefulness in search is clearly more important than exactness in pattern.

For if it is the function of a spaniel to hunt out game, the manner in which he does should be directed to the finding of game rather than to pleasing the eye. In other words, the effectiveness of his search is a combination of thoroughness and bird sense rather than pattern, provided he does not neglect any area that might be productive.

Judges will have to decide what they are looking for in a dog. Certainly one that can be effective only in one type of cover or the other is of less value than a dog that can take the terrain as it comes and solve all problems even when his handler can give him little help. Hence a tendency on the part of the handler to over direct or over whistle should be looked upon as evidence of weakness in the dog no matter how perfect the results, and correspondingly greater value should be placed on the quiet performance of a dog that requires a minimum of handling and direction.

EFFECT OF THE WIND

The manner of ground covering will depend not alone on the terrain and the cover, but as well on the direction and force of the wind. A dog working upwind may cast right and left to the limit of his range in a fairly regular manner without risk of missing game. Downwind a dog will of necessity range out ahead of his handler at times to the limit of range, turning back to test out cover since he cannot effectively scent game until downwind to it unless perchance he strikes a trail.

A crosswind presents another variation to the problem, and a dog that is using wind and hunting out his cover will vary his method accordingly. Judges should look with doubt on the dog which follows a set pattern regardless of the variations in such conditions. Natural hunting ability in a dog is evidenced by adaptation to conditions versus only trained abilities by the maintenance of a set pattern regardless of such variations. It is as essential to use the wind in hunting as it is in locating shot game, and the dog is less able to `read' the evidence when the scent is blown away rather than toward him, except as it is left on the ground or hangs in the air in the cover over which he is searching, as when wet, heavy scenting conditions exist.

THE JUDGES VOICE

Both in this paragraph and in several other portions of the Standard Procedure emphasis is placed on the necessity for steadiness to flush and/or command. The whole basis of training and control is involved, and without control the best qualities in the world are of little avail.

Steadiness means, of course, that the dog be governed only by his handler regardless of other distractions or sounds. For example, dogs have in the tension of a field trial been known to go on the sound of the judge's voice. This is a fault subject to penalty. Hence, handlers prefer a judge to issue instructions to retrieve merely by tapping the handler on the back, especially important in noisy wind conditions or for the hard of hearing; however, it is acceptable to say "send" or the dog's number as there will be circumstances where the judge will be unable to tap.

THE `POINTING' SPANIEL

The word `flushing game boldly and without urging' were included to clarify the problem of the `pointing spaniel'. Unless care is taken in training with planted birds a spaniel can form the habit of hesitating on game, which is only one step from `blinking', hence undesirable and to be discouraged. Were all training carried out on wild birds and all trials run on game roaming the fields at will, as in the earlier days, this problem would seldom arise. The only caution to the judge is that he should recognize the poor scent given out by a deeply planted bird that has not moved and the difficulty of quickly locating it and hence make allowances as his judgment dictates. The brief pause when a dog that has located a bird by nose attempts to verify its position in order to pick it up or force it into the air cannot be described as pointing, but such hesitation should not be prolonged. Judges should note how scenting affects all dogs at different times in the day for inconsistencies.

Paragraph 4. If a dog, following the line of a bird, is getting too far out he should he called off the line and later he should again be cast back on it. A dog which causes his handler and gun to run after him while line running, is out of control. Handlers may control their dogs by hand, voice or whistle, but only in the quiet manner that would be used in the field. Any loud shouting or whistling is evidence that the dog is hard to handle, and in addition, is disturbing to the game.

THE POSITIVE ATITTUDE IN JUDGING

A summation of the important qualities of a hunting spaniel will be found Under Paragraph 8. Here it is well to emphasize that good judging requires a positive attitude a search for the good qualities of every dog in contrast to a negative attitude in which the judge could, if he were so inclined, be primarily interested in emphasizing those faults which penalize or disqualify contestants.

Field trials were designed as a test to discover the best dogs, not as contests to discover individuals that have made no mistakes. A negative approach will not necessarily eliminate all the good dogs, but there is no trial in which fine, energetic dogs will not have committed some fault of perhaps only minor proportion. Judging on faults rather than positive qualities can result in a set of placements that fail to possess class and the hunting drive so necessary if the breed is to improve or even hold its own.

Nevertheless, all good qualities are useless if control is lacking. The above paragraph of the Standard Procedure is so clear that it requires no interpretation except perhaps to point out that the spaniel "in touch" with his handler requires a minimum of handling. A dog's hearing is ordinarily highly acute and the whistle or voice should be no louder than the dog can hear.

Paragraph 5. A dog should work to his handler and gun at all times. A dog which marks the fall of a bird, follows a strong runner which has been wounded, and will take direction from his handler is of great value.

WORKING TO THE HANDLER

Even at the danger of reiteration it cannot be stated too often that the dog is expected not only to work to his handler but to keep some sort of track of him. The handler can aid him in this by keeping as much in the open as possible and moving up when a dog is obviously on a strong scent and likely to flush game. This should not be penalized unless it results in leaving game on the course that the dog should have scented before the bird that was flushed.

Working downwind a dog will naturally reach out and work back upwind on occasion. This can be faulted only if it results in game flushed out of range or ground unsearched.

The second sentence of Paragraph 5 is a statement of four positive qualifications to be look for: marking the fall, use of wind, effectiveness on a runner, and willingness to take direction. Obviously the reference here is to the efficiency of retrieving shot game.

MARKING AND RETRIEVING

Marking the fall or the direction thereof is one of the essential qualities of a good spaniel. However, the eye level of a dog is but a short distance above the ground and some four or five feet lower than that of the handler, gun or judge. Often all the dog can observe, even if heavy cover does not intervene, is the line of flight of the bird. Only under favorable conditions can he be expected to see the actual fall itself. Hence, the importance of the use of the wind cannot be overestimated. If the dog shall go somewhat downwind to the fall whether it be a crosswind or behind him, he assures himself the best opportunity to locate the bird promptly. Certainly under such circumstances a dog cannot be penalized for failure to instantly locate the exact spot.

SEARCHING AND HAND SIGNALS

Should he miss the fall entirely, he should continue his search in the area until successful. If a bird shall have turned in its fight beyond the observation of the dog, it can of course only be located by searching a gradually widening area of ground within a reasonable distance. When his search becomes aimless and it is evident it cannot be fruitful, he must of necessity be taken up.

Should, on the other hand, a dog be unable to observe either the line of flight or the bird falling in the air, that is, have a blind fall, the handler should direct the dog thereto by hand, voice or whistle, as quietly as possible. A dog should be credited for willingness, ability and speed in accepting such directions.

If a bird proves to be a runner, acknowledgment of the fall is the first requirement from whence the dog should be able to seek out and follow the line to a successful conclusion. More difficult is the problem when a dog misses the fall and in his search may even bring in another bird. The obvious answer is that the dog should be sent out again, as would be done in the field, and if he then fails to bring in the bird, his failure is a fault of very real proportion.

Paragraph 6. When the Judge gives a line to a handler and dog to follow, this must be followed and the dog not allowed to interfere with the other contestant running parallel to him.

THE HANDLER AND THE BEAT

Poaching on the other beat is a difficult subject, especially when there is a cross wind. It has the grave objection of upsetting the other dog. Yet the line between courses is often a varying line of poor definition that the dog himself cannot observe and the handler is not always sure of. Minor infractions are not important and should be overlooked. The primary fault is the interference with the other dog's work which is out of order whether it is the fault of the dog or of the handler and the judge may give handler an early indication of a pending issue. There will, nevertheless, be difficulties when a bird from one beat has obviously moved over onto the other and the dog has followed on the line of scent. No one can advise a judge in advance how to appraise such a situation, but a dog that responds when called off such a line should receive full credit therefore. A dog that is constantly and recurrently over on the other beat and fails to respond to his handler's commands must considered out of control.

A word of caution is here in order. Handlers, intent on their dogs, vary in their ability to keep to a line even when it is clearly marked. When working on planted birds, wandering around the course can be wasteful and reduce the chances of promptly finding game. Obviously a judge should from time to time warn a handler who strays from the course and reacquaint him if necessary.

However, a judge who constantly directs the handler and instructs him to put his dog `in here' or `in there' can cause a handler to `hack' his dog and upset both dog and handler. The general practice is to give the handler the fullest instructions at the start, to assume he knows what he is doing and, aside from obvious and unintended departures from those instructions, to let the handler run his dog his own way. Only when this way is unproductive over a long beat and the judge has absolute knowledge of the presence of game in a neglected area is it wise to interfere.

Paragraph 7. The Judges must judge their dogs for game finding ability, steadiness and retrieving. In game finding the dog should cover all his ground on the beat, leaving no game in his territory and showing courage in facing cover. Dogs must be steady to wing and shot and obey all commands. When ordered to retrieve they should do this tenderly and with speed. No trials for spaniels can possibly be run without retrieving, as that is one of the main purposes for which a spaniel is used.

The word `be steady' are interpreted to mean that a dog will either sit or `hup' to wing and shot or at the very least will cease all forward motion. Occasionally a dog will stand on its hind legs, better to mark the line and see the fall. If he does this and remains in position, or if he merely stands rather than sits, it is not considered a fault. The old English word `hup' is presumed to have meant `the bird is up' and that the dog should remain in place, presumably in a sitting or `hupped' position.

BRINGING GAME TO THE BAG

A failure to retrieve can be a very serious fault. And yet many times conditions exists which make decisive judgment difficult. The recollection of many trials is full of incidents that could not be explained by the limited evidence available.

Granted that a judge feels a failure to retrieve is not wholly the dog's fault, he can hardly overlook the fact that game was not brought to hand. Nevertheless, judges may well be a shade more tolerant when some special conditions are encountered. For example, heavy green grass recently exposed to a hard frost gives out a rank odor that kills scent; dry leaves in woods will hold little scent and make trailing difficult; people off the course and behind a hill have been known to interfere with a dog which was trailing a runner. Handlers of long experience have noted that occasionally a bird will be instantly killed, fall in the open perhaps in a slight depression, wings and feathers closely held, head upwind and prove a difficult bird to locate. The appears to happen more frequently with a hen than a cock and some observers who have watched a dog with a known good nose actually step on such a bird have wondered whether a particular condition was created such as quick paralysis of all functions so that the hen gave out little scent much as a setting hen pheasant is known to do on the nest.

No matter what the cause, the purpose of a dog afield is to bring game to the bag and a failure may be a fault that can hardly be overlooked unless dictated by specific circumstances. A judge under such conditions may choose to make a thorough inspection of the ground at the point of fall but be advised that most birds will not be found by a human in cover. Certainly, if the game is found there, all excuses are of no avail. A dog that failed to `honor' the fall can, of course, have no defense of any kind unless the bird be lodged in a tree or fall beyond an Impossible barrier such as a closely meshed wire fence; or if the fall be honored and the bird have made good his escape through a fence that denies passage to the dog.

GAME FINDING

Game finding ability is an interesting quality and difficult to define except in terms of results. It is a combination of nose, bird sense, thoroughness and intelligence. Some dogs seldom have a long, blank beat; they appear to be able to convert such a beat into a productive one. Such dogs seem to find more game in a given territory than others and to find more quickly. Where there is recurrent evidence of this in a trial judges cannot fail to place this to the credit of the dog.

On the other hand, a dog that on a considerable beat covers thoroughly territory where game is known to have been and who fails to give evidence that game has recently been there must be looked upon as deficient in nose, at least on that day. Under those circumstances a judge is justified in consulting with the Steward of the Beat. Should he confirm the presence of game such dog can be taken up and much time saved that could be better spent on those dogs that are still under consideration.

Most trials today are run over a set course with planted birds. Delays occur and this, on occasion, permits birds to move off the course. Under such circumstances if a dog trails a strongrunning bird to the right or left, it is up to the judge to decide how far off course a dog should be permitted to work. If a bid is followed off course for a long distance even though a flush and fall be eventually accomplished this can unnecessarily delay the trial. Hence if the judge decides further pursuit is not necessary, the dog should not be penalized if he has failed to flush the bird, provided he has exhibited drive and nose, and he should be given credit for being under control when ordered to leave the line. Should the dog take a strong line and fail to produce the bird that may or may not be a fault of the dog. A judge should consider if it took flight, ran thru an obstacle or if others have not been able to even take a bird off the course due to scenting or cover conditions.

WHAT IS A `BREAK'

Steadiness is a term of varying meaning to different people, including judges, and has been the cause of much discussion. Those who expect exact performances feel that a dog should instantly sit to wing and shot and will have no less. Others recognize that though a dog may instantly sit or `hup' to shot (unless himself in the very act of flushing game) it is his duty in flushing to push game out and into full flight. They are, therefore, less prone to criticize a dog that traveling at full speed, or driving in to flush, is less exact in sitting to flush provided he gives equally prompt indication that he is prepared to stop as soon as the bird is in flight.

There is the equally difficult problem of the dog that moves to the edge of cover or around a bush or up a slope to verify the flight, observe the line and see the fall. It may be a highly intelligent thing to do if observation is the sole `intent' of the dog. If the dog has to be stopped by whistle or voice once clear to see fall, the judge can only assume the handler believed he was in process of breaking and score it accordingly.

The problem can, therefore, best be resolved by the judge if he be guided in his appraisal by the way the handler dealt with it. If the handler ordered the dog to stop and the dog didn't stop, it is a break. Once stopped, any vigorous forward movement without command is equally a break.

WHAT IS `CHASING'?

All of this changes when the dog is sent on retrieve. Then his sole duty is to complete the retrieve as promptly and as expeditiously as possible, disregarding all other sights and scents that are not related to the duty assigned to him. This is expecting a good deal of the dog. The ability to distinguish between a fresh scent and that of a wounded bird is the result of considerable experience, and it is his duty to be sure he is not passing up the bird he was sent for by the judge. If while on retrieve a dog flushes a bird in the direction or area of the fall, it is but natural for the dog to determine whether it is the bird he was sent for before turning away. If the bird flies off low, he could well assume that it could be wounded game, at least until it assumes full winged flight when he should turn away and continue his search in the area of the fall.

When another bird is thus flushed during a retrieve, many handlers prefer a dog to stop or hup in accord with his training. This presents no problem if the dog is where the handler can see him since the dog may then be directed by voice, whistle or hand signal to continue his search for the dead bird.

However, the ideal conduct on the part of the dog would be to disregard the newly flushed bird and continue his search of the wounded or dead bird which is his duty to recover. A moment's reflection will disclose the reasons for this. Shall the dog remain hupped or leave his hupped position without command? To leave would be a violation of the first principles of discipline and training. For the handler to attempt to whistle at or give commands to an unseen dog may upset the dog's whole endeavor, particularly if he shall be following a vigorous runner.

The same general principle applies to a dog that is retrieving with a bird in his mouth. If the dog flushes game and in surprise or in accordance with his training, temporarily stops, he cannot be criticized. In either case, however, a dog should be given credit if he disregards entirely the flushed bird or, having stopped momentarily, continues his search or in the case of a retrieve continue on in to deliver the bird in his mouth.

Paragraph 8. In judging a spaniel's work Judges should give attention to the following points, taking them as a whole throughout the entire performance rather than giving too much credit to a flashy bit of work;

Where facilities exist and water tests are held in conjunction with a stake, the manner and quality of the performance therein shall be given consideration by the judges in making their awards. Such tests should not exceed in their requirements the conditions met in an ordinary day's rough shoot adjoining water.

Land work is the primary function of a spaniel, but where a water test is given, any dog that does not complete the water test shall not be entitled to any award.

POSITIVE QUALITIES

This paragraph is a recapitulation. There are ten points. All are not of equal value, but all are to be considered in a wellrounded performance. Again the judge will have to strike a balance. It has been truly said no dog is perfect in all departments. Few dogs excel above all others in the stake in every phase of the work at least such is very rare, indeed.

Hunting and game finding are the first and basic functions of a spaniel in the field. These should be done with sufficient speed to get the game into the air. Keenness, enthusiasm, and eagerness and that indefinable thing called class all contribute to it. The hunting should be productive, and the game should be brought to hand.

Hence, positive qualities are meant to be: intelligent and natural ground covering, a `positive' nose, use of wind, concentration on marking, directness in going to a well observed fall, perseverance in search, selfconfidence on a runner, drive and pace despite difficult cover, a prompt and direct retrieve, a good carry and, as a matter of course, control, steadiness and willingness to take direction from his handler.

TENDER MOUTH

Probably no subject has caused more discussion than the question of what constitutes a `tender mouth'. With a dead bird the best carry is preferably by the back, with weight of the bird on lower jaw, dog's head up so that the bird is carried easily and is not readily caught by briers or low cover. Yet birds do not fall in a way that enables dogs to pick them up promptly and still have an ideal hold. The result is either a less perfect hold or a less prompt pickup.

However, the real problem arises on a hard runner or a flapping bird that requires the dog to seize the bird, sometimes in midair, sometimes even dragging it from briers or heavy cover, and hold it with sufficient grip to prevent its escape. If the skin is broken at times, it is not surprising, nor can the dog be wholly blamed if he is doing his duty by making a prompt retrieve. If hard mouth is suspected, pass your concern to cojudge for his review in further series.

The rule of longstanding endorsement by experienced judges is that `any doubt must be resolved in favor of the dog.' Judges would do well to be guided by this rule.

THE CRUSHED BIRD

When birds are weak, have been crated for several days, are carried in burlap bags and are planted with head under wing, they will occasionally smother. Sometimes a closelyshot bird will be damaged by the force of the charge or even the manner of the fall on hard ground. All these considerations suggest that judges should be slow to mark a dog for minor damage.

Occasionally during a stake a dog will have the misfortune to pick up one or more live birds which may have failed to flush for any one of several reasons and deliver them dead or dying. The repeated recurrence with the same dog or even the evidence provided by a damaged bird is the criteria by which the judge will have to be guided,

Certainly a badly crushed bird is undeniable evidence of hard mouth and warrant for elimination of the dog from further consideration.

Paragraph 9. The dogs shall be shot over by Official Guns appointed by the Field Trial Committee. The guns should shoot their game in a sportsmanlike manner, as they would in a day's shoot. The proper functioning of the Guns is of the utmost importance. The Guns are supposed to represent the handler up to the time the game is shot, although not interfering in any manner with his work or that of the down dogs. They are supposed if possible, unless otherwise directed, to kill cleanly and consistently, the game flushed by the spaniels at a point most advantageous to a fair trial of the dogs' abilities, with due regard to the dogs, handlers, judges, gallery and other contingencies.

All gunners must be 21 years of age or older. It is strongly recommended that gunners wear appropriate hearing and eye protection.

GOOD GUNNING ESSENTIAL

Judges should not hesitate to assemble the guns at the beginning of a trial or a stake and give them any instructions the judges feel appropriate or interpret to them the above paragraph or either of the two succeeding paragraphs relating to the guns. If preferred, such instructions may be given to the Gun Captain to be transmitted by him to the others. Guns should be instructed to shoot all birds that can be safely shot unless judge instructs otherwise. It is the judge's decision to not shoot a passed bird, whether on the beat or not. In addition there should be no hesitation on the part of a judge to give further counsel or advice to a gun during the course of a stake. Such clarification will help provide `a fair trial of the dogs' abilities.'

The safety of all concerned the handlers, the judges themselves, the dogs, the gallery and spectators is involved. It is customary to instruct guns not to shoot at birds that fly back over gallery. In addition to the danger involved a bird that falls among or beyond the crowd provides confusing conditions for a retrieve.

Guns should, therefore, feel that they will not be criticized for passing up shots that entail the slightest element of danger or those shots which would be in conflict in any way with the provisions of these paragraphs or the instructions of the judges.

Paragraph 10. Care should be taken not to shoot so that the game falls too close to the dog. If this is done it does not afford a chance for the dog to show good retrieving ability and often results in a bird being destroyed. The Guns should stand perfectly quiet after the shot, for otherwise they may interfere with the dog and handler. When a dog makes a retrieve no other birds or game should be shot unless ordered by the judge for special reasons. The gun must also keep himself in the correct position to the handler and others.

Paragraph 11. It has been repeatedly proven that the most efficient gun and load for this work, in all fairness to the dogs, handlers and those responsible for the trial, is a wellchoked twelve gauge double gun, and a load of not less than three and one fourth grams of smokeless powder or equivalent, and one and oneeighth ounces of No.5, No.6, No.7 or No.71/2 shot. In `steel shot only' areas a comparable size and load of steel or other permissible shot shall be used.

THE GUN IS THE `SILENT' PARTNER

What should be the position of the gun? If he is the `good right arm' of the handler, he should be reasonably close to him, though not so close that he interferes with him or the dog. The gun should not crowd after the dog, which only encourages the latter to move out, but should guide on the handler alone. Nor should wing guns be placed too far out on a flank. This is unnatural and often affects the dog in his beat and the type of fall he receives.

After a fall, the gun should stand quietly until the dog has been sent on retrieve with gun up and unbroken until he knows dog is returning to handler with bird. The gunner may step quietly aside to leave a clear and unobstructed view of the handler if necessary. Needless to say, guns are to be seen and not heard except their shots. They should volunteer nothing to handler or judge, speak only when spoken to by the judge and give aid to the handler only as the judge authorizes it. They are the silent partner of the judge in providing the test required and of the handler in producing the result.

Paragraph 12. All field trialgiving clubs should clearly recognize that Open AllAge Stakes are of the first importance and that all other stakes are of relatively lesser importance and that an entire day should be reserved for the running of an Open AllAge Stake unless there is a very small entry.

KEEP THE TRIAL MOVING

This paragraph obviously needs no clarification except to point out that judges have often wished in vain for more time and more daylight toward the end of a trial. It were well, therefore, when the entry is large, and even when it is not too large, to avoid spending too much time on early series that might later be devoted to a more thorough testing of those dogs that warrant consideration for awards.

Many such situations can be avoided if judges will plan their time and keep `on top' of the trial, forcing its progress in accord with their schedules. The benefits are many. All dogs will receive more nearly equal attention and much embarrassment will be avoided as the remaining daylight wanes far sooner than anyone expected.

However, even this is not possible unless the Field Trial Committee shall have set the time early enough, assured the early arrival of strong, fullwinged birds in good condition, provided for the presence of bird carriers, planters and guns at the time specified; in other words, had everything in order for a prompt start at an early hour.

Three or more series are usually essential to disclose the abilities of good dogs in an allage stake. Two series are required by the rule that each dog should be down at least once under each judge. Final determination is in the hands of the judges.

It is, however, to be borne in mind that with a large entry it is difficult to complete even a twoorthreeseries stake without these few tests being hurried and inadequate.

Paragraph 13a. Before an English Springer Spaniel shall receive its Field or Amateur Field Championship or National Open or Amateur Championship title, it must have shown its ability to retrieve game from water, after a swim. The water test shall consist of two backtoback, open water, 3040 yard retrieves of dead ducks or dead pheasants, with gunshot. The dog is to be backed up to 10 to 15 yards from the bank for its entry.

Paragraph 13b. Before a Cocker or an English Cocker Spaniel shall receive its Field or Amateur Championship or National title, it must have shown its willingness and ability to retrieve game from or across water, after a swim. The water test shall of one or two bird retrieves which shall be at the option of the Field Trial Committee. The birds used shall be available dead game birds such as pheasants, ducks or various partridges. The dog and handler are to be backed up 510 yards from the water entry. The dog shall retrieve a dead game bird, thrown after gunshot, after a 2030 yard swim.

Paragraph 13c. A water test can be held as a completely separate event, licensed by the American Kennel Club, or in conjunction with an AKC licensed or member field trial. The holding of a water test during a field trial will be left to the discretion of the Field Trial Committee of the club conducting the trial, but such a possibility must be announced in the premium list. It is the responsibility of the the Field Trial Secretary or Committee to submit the results, properly signed by the judges, so they will carry championship credit.

Paragraph 13d. Once a dog has been certified by the judges as having passed a water test at a licensed or member club trial, or at a separate water test licensed by the AKC, the certification will apply toward both the Field and Amateur Field Championship titles (a dog needs only to be certified on one occasion). As a standalone event for English Springer Spaniels, it must have a date approved by the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association and be judged by 2 All Age Judges with a combined total of 12 AKC licensed English Springer Spaniel Field Stakes. The water test is not a stake; therefore the judges will receive no credit for judging the test.

THE WATER TEST

The water test is a subject of much discussion. A spaniel, as the Standard Procedure states, is primarily a land dog. However, in many parts of the country he is used to retrieve water fowl, and in an ordinary day's shoot there are occasions when the only way of gathering shot game is after a swim from a stream, pond or lake.

Any dog that warrants the title of Field Champion should be at home in the water, should swim willingly and adequately, and if necessary, take directions to game fallen in water or across it. There has been much discussion of the type and conformation of a dog that swims easily and thus has confidence in the water. Since Field Champions are much sought after as stud and as brood bitches they should possess these qualities or the breed will not continue to develop as it should.

Therefore, the successful completion of a water test is not only a very logical essential but a positive requirement. Because adequate facilities do not always exist near a field trial ground, the water tests can be held at a separate location and time. If held as part of a field trial, dogs competing must, if required by the judges to do so, take such a test and refusal by an owner or handler to let his dog take a water test disqualifies the dog in the stake in which he is competing.

Judges in making their awards are required to give due weight to the manner and quality of the performance in the water tests (no "pass/fail"). It is specifically provided that such tests should not exceed in their requirements the conditions ordinarily met in a day's rough shoot adjoining water.

Since a fall in water or a series of such falls is difficult to obtain with game without elaborate preparations, it is customary to place the dog several strides back from the shoreline and have a gun and man placed at a point where, upon the discharge of the gun, the dog may observe the fall of a single thrown dead pheasant or mallard duck at a distance from the dog and handler not exceeding an ordinary fall, but sufficiently long for the dog to demonstrate his ability in the water. The current test consists of two, back to back, open water, 3040 yard retrieves with the dog backed up 10 to 15 yards from the bank. Use of a boat is permissible if it is necessary to get the desired length of retrieve.

Conditions of light and background should be taken into consideration, particularly at the eye level of the dog, and it were better to send the dog away rather than toward the group of spectators.

EVALUATING THE WATER PERFORMANCE

There has been much discussion of the weight to be given to the performance of the dog in the water test. Since only a portion of the above ten points are displayed in the water testit is an act of marking and retrieving only it is generally held that the test should not be called another "series" and that it should play a far lesser part than any of the land series in the evaluation of the judges, presumably only such a part as the points relating to steadiness, marking and retrieving a single fall play in relation to the whole performance of the dog in the field.

The very artificiality of the test also supports this. It has to be borne in mind that the spaniel is primarily a hunting dog that is expected also to retrieve the game shot over him. Though retrieving is an essential part of his dudes, he is not trained solely as a retriever as are some of the larger breeds and can hardly be expected to develop along with his other abilities the perfection of work found or developed in those used for retrieving only.

Nevertheless, the dog should in a water test be staunch to shot, be sent only on the instruction of the judge, mark well the fall of game, enter the water willingly, take direction when necessary and deliver promptly to hand as on land. A dog which repeatedly "runs the bank" in an effort to avoid entering the water should be severely penalized even if he eventually retrieves the bird.

Paragraph 14. Special Training devices that are used to control and train dogs, including but not limited to, collars with prongs, electronic collars used with transmitters, muzzles and head collars may not be used on dogs at AKC events.

Paragraph 15. Pick Up Dogs. It is recommended that a pick up dog be available to retrieve birds that are not returned or inadvertently left in the field during the event. It must not be a dog entered in the event, but could be a dog that has been dropped from the day's competition.





© copyright 2016 ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL FIELD TRIAL ASSOCIATION, INC.