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Field Trial 101

What is a Field Trial?

A field trial is a mock hunting competitive event at which purpose-bred dogs demonstrate their ability to perform the tasks their breed was bred to do. Dogs may earn points toward their AKC Field and Amateur Field Championships.

The American Kennel Club sanctions member or licensed dog clubs the ability to hold field trials. These trials are divided into type by the function of the breeds they include:

  1. Trailing Hounds These breeds are judged on their ability to find and track game by scent. They include, but are not limited to Dachshunds, Beagles, Bloodhounds Black-and-Tan Coonhounds, and Basset Hounds. 
  2. Pointing Breeds These breeds find game birds by the birds’ scent cone, not by actual tracking. On locating game, the dog will go on point directing the handler to the location of the bird where it can be flushed into the air. These include Pointers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Setters (English, Irish, Gordon, Irish Red and White), Spinone Italiano, Brittanies, Wirehaired Pointing Griffons, and others. 
  3. Flushing Breeds These breeds find game in the same manner as the Pointing breeds, except after locating the bird, they are sent in to flush the bird for the handler. They include Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Clumber Spaniels, and others. 
  4. Retrieving Breeds These breeds retrieve by marking downed (shot) game and retrieving from multiple distances, both on dry land and from the water. The breeds in this group include Golden Retrievers, Chesapeake Retrievers, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Flat-Coated Retrievers, to name a few.

How is Westminster Kennel Club connected to the sport of field trialing?

Westminster was founded in 1875 in an effort to promote the betterment of dogs both for sporting and conformation. This is clearly illustrated by the Westminster logo, an image of Sensation, a Pointer, who was imported from England in 1876 to be shown, but also, primarily, to improve the bloodlines of Pointers owned by WKC members.

WKC supports the annual AKC Pointing Gun Dog Championship with two perpetual trophies, awarded each year to the winners of both the horseback and walking competitions.

How to watch a Field Trial

To find out where and when and where an AKC trial is going to be held go to the AKC calendar of events,  select Field Trial as the event type, then select the state and the date. A calendar will come up that lets you know where and when one of the types of field trials is being held.

Once at the trial, approach the Field Trial Chair or Secretary and introduce yourself. They will be able to provide information or point you to someone who can. It may be a good idea to do some research in advance on the type of trial or the specific breed of interest. Contacting a breeder who competes, and making plans to meet at an event, would be beneficial.

What are the benefits of field trialing?

  1. It builds strength and endurance for both the handler and the dog
  2. It builds a very strong bond between the handler and the dog
  3. It channels the drive that the dog has been bred for
  4. It helps to identify superior dogs who may improve a bloodline
  5. It creates a community of like-minded individuals, committed to the Sport of Dogs