Retrieving Trials

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Top Trialling Tips

by Penny Angel et al

For anyone new to retrieving, here are some inside tips on good trialling etiquette plus a few pointers to put you ahead in the game.

1) Listen to the Judge
At the beginning of each stake a Judge will often brief competitors on his or her general expectations of both dogs and handlers. This is usually followed by more specific requirements ahead of each run. Naturally, it’s important to follow all directions carefully but if you want to anticipate what a Judge really has in mind for a successful run, then this is the time to be listening very carefully. While all Judges conform with the same rules, individual Judges can place slightly different emphasis on the evaluation criteria according to their personal views and interpretations. This human element is what makes the sport interesting and less predictable. Although it’s a Judge’s job to take points off you for misdemeanours and poor performances, all Judges actually want to see you and your dog succeed under the circumstances they have placed you in. Often a Judge will hint on how much weight they might place on various aspects of the run or handling. Picking up on subtle clues like these and using the information can be highly advantageous in competition.

2) Ask questions if you don’t understand the run 
Explanations and demonstrations of a run can be a bit confusing for newbies, especially if you’re not familiar with some of the terminology being used.  Judges are aware of this and go to great lengths to make sure every competitor starts a run with a sound understanding of what is required. If you are uncertain of anything, at any stage, ask questions and you will receive answers not only from the Judge but also Stewards and fellow competitors as well. The exception to this is after you leave the control point for the firing line during a run. At that stage the only one that can help you is your dog! Tip - before heading off to your first event view this Glossary of Terms.

3) Read your catalogue and be ready for your turn 
A Trial Catalogue (issued to competitors on the day) contains essential information you need about the day’s event and your position/s in it. Of vital importance is the list of competitors in your particular stake/s and the order that they will be called. Pay particular attention to this as the order is usually different with each run as indicated in the catalogue. A word of warning though, make a note of any absentees and be mindful of any competitors who are running between your stake and another. Sometimes these handlers are ‘slotted in’ out of catalogue order to assist proceedings. Ask the Marshalling Steward or other competitors if you are unsure when your turn is.

4) Toilet your dog before the run
Energetic activity combined with cold weather often produces other kinds of movements in gundogs at trials.  If your dog goes to the toilet in the control area or during a retrieve points will be deducted from your score, and you’ll be asked to collect any droppings!

Training your dog to go to the toilet on command can certainly be an advantage. Otherwise, a quick exercise session in the morning plus a few fun bumpers just before a run is a good way to get things out of their system. Pay attention to where to the Judge says dogs can exercise without interfering with the run.

5) If you need to stake your dog, be aware of the proximity of other dogs and paths
Tethering your dog generally means you intend leaving Fido momentarily. Naturally, with you out of the picture he will probably try to become best friends with every canine in the paddock. Either that or mortal enemies! So make sure your ties are firm and consider the length of a tether carefully, so Fido won’t become someone else’s problem. 

6) Wearing whites at a trial
Brightly coloured apparel, particularly coats or tops, are often used help a dog recognise its handler while out in the field. It goes without saying, that more than one brightly dressed individual in the dog’s field of view is quite likely to cause confusion. If you are going to ‘don the white coat’ for your turn, don’t put it on until just before you present yourself to the Judge or are safely out of view behind a designated queuing position. Remove any bright apparel (including hats) as soon as you return from your run.

7) Quiet please!
Chit-chat among colleagues at a trial is natural, particularly in the gallery (the designated observation area). When a run is underway it’s important to keep your voice down as much as possible as noise does carry and can distract handlers while they are competing. Away from the run, in the marshalling area for example, is a much better place for spirited conversations.

8) Volunteer every chance you can
Retrieving trials simply wouldn’t happen without the generous help of volunteers. People are needed to fill field positions during trials on the thrower, gun stewarding and marshalling. Typically, these jobs are filled by the competitors themselves and rotated around.
If you are new to retrieving, don’t sit back when a position becomes available. Even if you are unfamiliar with a certain function, the very best way to learn the game is to place yourself right in the middle of the action. Plus, you’ll receive all the expert advice in world for your efforts.

9) Alcohol is not to be consumed during a trial -
This is an official competition rule and applies to both competitors and observers without exception!

10) Enjoy yourself
 Above all else relax and have fun at trials. Also, be sure to spend some time just taking in the rare, often beautiful surroundings you find yourself in. You will often experience places and situations that few others are lucky enough to ever witness. Retrieving is a unique pastime!

Do you have another top trialling tip? ...share it here - email retrievingaustralia@gmail.com