RETRIEVING TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
“Is it time to review and
accentuate our understanding of competing and judging in retrieving
A discussion paper by
Karl E Britton
Rules for the Conduct of Retrieving Trials for Gundogs; Retrieving
Trials, Rules for the Conduct of Retrieving Trials for Gundogs
(Effective from 1st January 2015)
Para 1 states the following:
“A retrieving trial is an event at which competitions for the working
of registered Gundogs are conducted, both on land and in or through
water, to determine their relative merits in the field under conditions
which emulate as closely as possible those which would be found whilst
hunting, but at the same time bring the work of each dog within an
ambit of equality where assessment may be fairly made.”
the military we have and use an acronym called BLUF, it means “Bottom
Line Up Front.” We present the problem or issue immediately without any
add-ons just how it is:
have talented dog trainers who are not getting a return for investment
in dog training. Is a review of judging and judging criteria now
required in order to moderate the sport?
1. I have
noticed when travelling around the country over the last few years the
vast difference in types of trials and runs that are being set by
judges from a variety of different backgrounds. Some runs reflect a lot
of work and thought on what is expected of a gundog and all facets of
gundog work are clearly being tested over the course of that run
throughout the competition:- without doubt clearly reflecting para 1
above and using the full gambit of all other considerations, within the
rules and spirit of the test, then apply para 94 allocation of points.
Some runs seem to be set in an unrealistic shooting scenario with an
unrealistic expectation on achievability.
My concern is that, I do not believe we (as competitors) are always
afforded the best practice within the intent of the rules, for the
conduct of retrieving trials; nor are we given the best opportunity to
present and test our gundogs in the most natural conditions of a
Using all the recommended purpose criteria
mentioned (para 1 to 4 of the above reference) I have observed in
particular, a type of fashion and trend that appears to becoming
acceptable and the norm around the country, that is not within the
rules, regulations and spirit of competition.
Some judges have a great understanding of working gundogs and can
clearly pick a run that shows all attributes of gundog work in the
field, and it is clear that this is in fact as realistic as possible to
a shooting day in the field and really could happen or present itself
on any shooting day.
4. Other runs show a
judge who understands the concepts to be applied but they don’t really
reflect a realistic shooting situation; or it is a run that is so
poorly thought through that it is clearly evident it will not work: it
will be a game of attrition rather than a viable test. Whilst following
the outline of a concept but not exploiting or testing for good dog
work and the partnership connection with the handler, these runs end up
being more of a survival contest to complete.
I would suggest
this is not within the spirit of the rules for the conduct of
retrieving trials. Having stated that I do not believe judges purposely
set runs to fail dogs, there is a degree of perception of that when
running under certain Judges. Some judges do have a reputation for
setting extremely hard runs, or should I say more technical runs. You
can then go to the opposite end of the spectrum and run under another
judge and be barely challenged.
This is where we need a balance achieved through Judge “moderation”.
is the process of bringing assessment judgements and standards into
alignment. It is a process that ensures the same standards are applied
to all assessment results. It is an active process in that adjustments
to assessor judgements are made to overcome differences in the
difficulty of the tool and/or the severity of judgements in order to
ensure the standardisation and reliability of assessments.
I will mention moderation several times throughout my article.
Several factors can cause a run to change, such as weather conditions
and time of day. Cool first thing in the morning to a midday sun and
dogs being pegged out in the sun for no reason for several hours can
all make a difference as to how a dog will perform by the time it
reaches the pegs. This I would say is not always a true
reflection of “an ambit of equality” as quoted in para 1.
is also not a reflection of a real shooting situation; I have always
shot and never left my dog pegged out in a hide for several hours with
20 other dogs who are whining moaning and frantically giving tongue.
This can be distressing for a sensitive dog and can really cause
6. Another factor I have observed
is trainability and biddability in dogs. As you know we run all types
and breeds of registered gundog, which is fantastic to see. I really
applaud that rule. However, I have also noticed that some runs will
allow a good lining dog that has been trained to run from the side of a
leg to take on a good line or a mark; if the dog has missed it and the
handler is astute enough to notice and can line their dog (because of
the prey drive in that dog) to take straight lines, it can then recover
and collect that mark.
Is this correct or are we taking away
the entire natural attributes that we require in a great gundog?
Sagacity, dash and perseverance, nose, memory, by literally handling a
dog to success and placing it on the mark. I know it is a partnership,
but I personally would like to see a dog put in the general area of a
blind or sent for a mark allowing the dog to work it out, whilst I
concentrate on shooting my next bird, just like in a real shoot.
There seems to be a real pattern of runs being set that you could train
a dog to run and understand the concept, but not necessarily runs where
the dog needs to use its brain; and it becomes a test of the dog’s
training not a test of assessing the dog for retrieving ability to
quickly seek and find game when ordered to do so. The dog just has to
do what the handler says and can be handled to success.
Understanding how a good gundog thinks and works is an art within
itself. I have seen and witnessed far too often in competition a run
that has been selected for all the right reasons, but clearly will not
work as dogs, no matter how much training they have had, will not
comply with the expectation to meet the judge’s aspirations. I will
present some examples of this later.
Over the last several years, as I have been involved in Australian
trialling, I have witnessed new people come into the sport. Some find
their comfort level and are happy to stay with it; some strive for
success and train emphatically, some just come along for the social
aspect and a few training tips for the year, before they disappear to
go duck shooting.
I think that is what is so unique in our
sport: it just does not matter what your reason is to trial and compete
either on a social level or a competitive one, as we do not have
10. It is unique for
several reasons. It is a small minority sport that is not publically
supported, but rather relies on a group of like-minded volunteers to
form committees and clubs, judges, stewards, throwers, game donations
and of course the competitors themselves. Just about everyone I know or
have met who is involved in the sport puts something back. It is the
epitome of the Australian spirit and is extremely refreshing in the
current day and age.
11. So what… what can we conclude from that?
is purely a self-funded sport: there is no hidden agenda. We all must
muck in, get on with it and make it happen, without any real financial
support from our affiliated governing State bodies.
large degree of personal expenditure is born by the competitors,
stewards and even the trial judges tend to be out of pocket. One thing
is for sure: no one is in it for the money.
I have watched new people come into the sport and hit a glitch in
competition, advice has been given to the handler to try and sort the
problem out; offers of a club training day have been given; and we have
even ran workshops for handlers to try and improve - but some handlers
cannot quite get that finish into their dogs to ensure a successful
completion of that trial.
13. That’s life,
as in every sport; not everyone is going to succeed every time.
Eventually some become frustrated and walk away. Some of that
frustration is with the type of runs that are being set. You can train
a dog to retrieve game using all its natural abilities, but you cannot
train a dog to ignore those natural hunting attributes- in particular
the nose-so when a Judge has put on a run where a dog is out of sight
for twenty metres or more on a blind, or the pegs are placed in a
position where you cannot see your dog all the way to the fall of the
blind area, I would suggest that this is not within the spirit of the
rules for the conduct of retrieving trials. The dog winds the wrong
selected bird on the way to that blind and because they are out of
sight to the handler they hook around and pick up the wrong bird. A
judge putting that type of run into play is not helpful. In particular
if you have practiced out-of-sight marks and you have taught your dog
to hunt and work an area of the fall. Rather than a hard charging style
of dog that can take a great line without thinking and can be stopped
and placed on the blind, compared to a dog using its sagacity and
training to put itself in position to succeed even though it may not
take the most direct route but using its natural hunting and retrieving
14. I have as a competitor on numerous
occasions been placed behind a natural object, e.g. large gum tree,
rocks and boulders, at the firing point. You are also expected to
handle from that 2 meter area.
In a real shooting
scenario you would move out of the bush or hide, step out from behind
the tree when you sent your dog so you can now see your dog working
(not always but if the scenario was correct you would do it).
I have personally never handled a dog out of sight from behind an obstacle of cover or terrain.
have sent a dog from out of sight then moved into a position so I could
help the dog if required. To obstruct a handler from helping the dog in
this way, I would say is not within the spirit of the rules for
competition and it is not really testing the dog or handler correctly.
is only teaching your dog a bad habit, setting you up to fail, or
handle your way out, box around the problem and not tackle the obstacle
or take it on directly, because you are going to play it safe! You
would not be afforded that luxury if you were out shooting but you
would be able to make a decision about where you stood and you could
15. This brings me onto a very crucial
point in our trials: it can be a great advantage watching other dogs
run and observe the pit falls of that run, then come up with a
contingency plan of your own on how to tackle that run. Surely for it
to be a true “ambit of equality”,
once shown the run you retire to a hide to wait your turn, so you do
not have an advantage over any other competitor by being able to
observe the run again prior to you competing.
You do not normally pay good money to travel around Australia, to run
in trials and go out on the first run of the day and not finish the
competition by not being allowed to be in sight of your dog so you
couldn’t help it.
Most serious trialers are the ones that travel and put a lot of time and preparation into training their dogs.
of us are training all year, and prior to the championship put in extra
training to ensure our dogs are in the best possible shape and fully
prepared in all aspects for the championships. Eventually the newbies
and frustrated trialers walk away because they are not getting a return
for their investment, as you cannot train for tricks!
is neither helpful, nor productive in a minority self-funded volunteer
sport, and as a consequence of that type of behaviour certainly will
mortgage our future.
17. I am also
disappointed to note that some competitors do not play the game. I have
seen competitors blatantly come out of the hide early, so their dog can
watch a blind being placed out and casually stroll to the CP whilst
whispering to their dog, “watch” or “dead bird”. Wives and partners
take the dog for a walk when the run is about to commence and blinds
are being placed out in the field.
The other one is leaving the dog hanging out of the back of the ute watching everything.
have also noted at different competitions the practicing or rehearsing
a concept at the rear of the vehicles behind the run.. why?
You would not have that opportunity in a real shoot, so why is this allowed?
do people turn a blind eye to this type of behaviour? Yes, I have
reported it several times to trial manager’s and the judge but to no
avail. Surely this is not fair and then is it really a true test for
the blind, or is it just a memory test, is it a true test of the
concept that is understood by the dog?
“The work of each dog within an ambit of equality where assessment may be fairly made.”
18. So is this now a fair assessment of dog work?
this really good dog work and being fair and honest, is this being
reflected or do the competitors also need to be refreshed about the
rules of gamesmanship?
I cringe when I see comments on
social media about great dog work and “what a clever dog”… when to be
fair and honest the dog watched the blind being placed out.
really would question the integrity of some of my fellow competitors
because as a judge; you cannot be responsible for everything and have
eyes in the back of your head.
Both stewards and trial
managers must take a degree of responsibility and reinforce what is
correct and appropriate behaviour. Perhaps if the trial manager was a
little more cognisant of their surroundings and helped the judge a lot
more they could park the cars in a more appropriate area and if
required walk a little to the run area. Most judges will orchestrate
hides on route to the run, and if not, it is common practice you do not
move up until all shots have been fired and that there is an
appropriate station for you and your dog to stay behind whilst the run
is being set.
19. In the ANKC Rules for Retrieving Trials (para 77 sub-para b states the following: Competing dogs shall be kept in a marshalling area from which they cannot see the retrieves in progress. Why is this not enforced?
I hear time and time again, ‘where have all the good marking dogs gone:
there are none’! Some of the more seasoned judges are very vocal about
this. I cannot comment on what happened twenty or thirty years
ago, I can only observe what is happening now. This year I have
personally competed in only four trials with great marking tests. For a
judge to set a triple mark or any mark is an art within itself. Some
judges are trailblazers at this; others struggle to give the dog a
clear mark and for the dog to present itself and demonstrate it can
clearly mark, judge depth, understands selection and have a great
memory. If we want to see great marking dogs then may I suggest that
where possible we use the criteria in para 26, which states the
For any mark retrieve the dog should be able to see a bird in the air and as it falls and where possible the cast bird should break open the skyline when viewed by the dog.
In conjunction with para 19 and para 8 sub-para: r:
If judges insist on putting on a marking test where you see a half mark
from behind a tree that your dog can’t follow all the way to the
ground, or a mark thrown directly toward you or going away without much
of an angle followed by another two similar marks; at similar distances
with very pinched angles against a light or dark cast background, there
is a very good chance that your dog will indeed miss one of those
marks. Setting a marking test against a wooded background does not
work. If you want to see a dog mark then present them a good marking
test, not something that is half out of sight from the dog. If you
can’t guarantee exactly where that bird is going to land in thick cover
and will be equal for all dogs, is this a fair test? I have seen
different size birds used in the same test that are landing twenty five
meters away from the test bird in a totally different area to what had
been shown on the test run. Is this honest and fair for every dog, is
this then the same marking test? I would suggest not, especially if
someone gets a nice white bird that is laid out in the open for it to
see as it comes into the area of the fall.
22. The Draw: Why do some judges or clubs in other States do a rotational draw for each run and in Victoria we do not?
running as dog number one, all competition and being first to start the
run on each leg is a very unfair disadvantage on the more technical
levels of competition, i.e. Restricted and All Age.
it to be fair we should all be shown the run once and then retire to
the hide with our dogs and not see the run again until we are called
forward by the steward: that way it would not matter what number you
were drawn. The only advantage a handler would have is if you were
running multiple dogs in the same competition. If you were out shooting
you would not be able to see the pit falls your dog may encounter when
you send them for a retrieve: you would not have the luxury of what
type of run you were going to get when you shot a sequence of birds in
The way Ahead
My proposal is two-fold: I would like to see some further training and
development in a more generic approach to run setting and refresher
training to be presented about the use of the full spectrum of the
sixty-point scoring system, as stated in ANKC Rules for Retriever
Trials. Just like in all walks of life, we never stop learning or
training to improve on what we do, including our dog training. I feel
we now have the technology where we could run a minimum of two judge
training seminars a year, using a video link up with the State
governing dog bodies, and if not we could go private.
I would like to suggest all judges attend a minimum of one seminar a
year to remain current and in particular if they are not now running a
dog, or are running a dog at that level of competition they intend to
judge the following year, they should attend both and be mentored by a
more current judge.
This should be registered and recorded and
delivered back to the Governing State body for a current qualified
judge. Throughout our working lives we all receive refresher training
and updated information, changes in work practices, etc professionals
(e.g. doctors, lawyers, WHS officers, physios) have to earn a number of
credits per year to remain registered so why when we do qualify as a
judge does it have to stop there?
We already have a judge
mentoring system in place: what harm could it do to do refresher
training and most importantly discuss moderation and the way ahead to
set best practice when we are judging? As human nature suggests we all
become complacent in things we are comfortable with. I would also like
to see more enforcement of the rules for competitors if required and
for them to be reminded of them at trials by the Trial Manager. I’m
accountable to that judge why is the judge not accountable to me in
their current practice? I want to feel comfortable that the judge is
going to be fair and foremost with every dog in his/her run setting and
try where possible to deliver runs that will reflect best practice all
over the country, not their own personal choice in what they perceive
to be a test for gundogs.
Note: There does not appear to be any moderation training in the country apart from the trainee judge scheme.
25. Trial Managers:
There should be a suitably appointed trial manager at the
correctly-appointed level and with experience to be able to deal with
an issue at that level of competition and to assist and help the
In addition they personally perform a physical
check of the runs on the day of the trial and work with the judge if a
run is unlikely to not work. Then come up with an amicable solution and
compromise. This trial manager should be the judge’s sounding board and
confidant. The trial manager does not need to be a judge but someone
who is a competent dog handler at that level of competition or has been
in the past.
At the end of the trial, the trial manager
should fill in a standard form as suggested in Annex A, to be submitted
back to the local RAFT chair, and used in further development of
judging and training. This would also serve as a tool for collection of
statistics, and information showing the current fashion and style of
runs being set and used around the country.
This would help
maintain continuity and consistency in judging in different States and
be used as a measure or gauge in either the difficulty and
technicality, or if indeed a pattern is being set on gundog testing
criteria when setting competition runs.
This could also be stored in preparation of either rewrites or an amendment to the rules.
individual trial manager for each competition or a designated steward
at each level of competition who is not running a dog can help with
moving dogs up to compete, correct car parking and policing that
competitors are being fair and playing the game, respecting the rules
of retrieving trials.
26. In general Rules for
the Conduct of Retrieving Trials stated in ‘rule 67’ most of the above
occurs, this just needs some timely reinforcement.
Judges still require the latitude in their favour of setting runs but
they should take care and consideration for all jundog attributes by
using the full gambit of judging tools. These should be considered
first and foremost in particular as to why we have a dog when we go
hunting! To find game, recover wounded game that we would not
ordinarily be able to find, locate or recover and therefore would be
lost for the table.
28. Trial Season:
I personally think being able to trial your dog for eleven months of
the year is far too long. I would like to see a shorter season ran in
the colder months from April to September building up to the States,
running and starting in July no more than two a month and culminating
with the National and lead up State finishing in September using the
National as the last competition of the year. I think if we could run
simulated trials either side for two or three months prior to the start
of the season and use that as a tool to introduce newbies to the sport.
Use it for training and running low-level competitions in preparation
of the main event commencing. This would save on costs funded for game,
allow clubs to consolidate themselves and most importantly help new
people into the sport by a gradual introduction of learning and low
level confirmatory competitions. You could still award a certificate
and ribbon but not a qualification as all tests would use training
dummies. Train people to help as stewards, throwers, and trial
managers, do judging upgrading, train new judges and moderation
training as required.
29. Electronic scoring:
We live in an advancing techno age; if we want to attract younger
people we must bring our scoring system into the next century. Dog
shows and working shows (sheepdog trials) all use electronic scoring,
why can’t we it’s instant! People can see what’s happening and they can
relate to that score as events unfold on the run. I recently requested
this be made available at RAFT for Championships so we have
transparency of scores. This never occurred: I have since been informed
it’s up to individuals (judges, trial managers) if they would like to
do it. I have also been informed that it is unpopular with the older
generation of judges: why? Surely we have nothing to hide: it’s just
like writing on a paper form but electronically which is instant and
can be placed onto a master scoreboard immediately:- it would
reflect what just occurred. It would also be helpful for the competitor
to learn from their mistakes or be realistic in what just happened as
it was transparent and if it did not occur and a judge had made a
mistake it could be corrected instantly.
Para 95: States the following: As
a minimum at the conclusion of the presentation of trophies, the run by
run scores of all dogs completing the trial shall be made available.
When was the last time that occurred? I personally have never experienced it in the last eight years of trialling in Australia.
Competitors are very reticent to ask a judge to show them their
individual scores in case they offend the judge and don’t want to come
across that they are questioning the judge’s decision. This way there
would be no confrontation, unless judges have something they do not
want to display for a reason. What is up with accountability: just like
when I am running under the Judge I am accountable so,why can’t the
judge be transparent in what they are doing?
31. Championship Competitions:
In addition to using the trial manager as a sounding board when setting
runs it would be useful to see the introduction of a two- judging
system. I feel if this was introduced it would help prevent runs from
failing and large amounts of competitors going out on the first run of
It would also help, if required to
quickly change a run when the natural conditions affected by the
elements on the day had changed.
In addition to the two
appointed co-judging and an appointed “Master Judge” this can be the
reserve judge for the competition preferably a RAFT Chair and
themselves an able Championship judge to oversee the competition and
all championships runs to remain neutral and if required the deciding
vote if a run once proofed needs to be reset.
As mentioned above all State Championships would require two judges and
a reserve judge, to co-judge each run throughout the competition,
scores to be added together and divided by two, (the national a similar
system) except, on day one for the first two runs, both judges will
judge separately depending on the number of competitors competing, with
the reserve “Master Judge” to act as adjudicator, in case there is a
problem or the run is not working. Then from day two until the
competition is completed all the remaining runs would be set and
co-judge together. With what I have witnessed, I would say this is
already happening as when setting a championship most judges will get a
fellow judge to assist and check that run and sound out the trial
manager too. This would confirm the above and make it official.
This is a contentious issue and is only one competition a year, but the
most important one and as a fellow competitor without a doubt it’s the
one you would like to win in a lifetime if you can.
I really struggled this year coming to terms with what seems to be a regular occurring theme when running in Nationals.
personally went out of the National on the second run when I could not
see my dog all the way to the blind; my dog hooked around and collected
the wrong bird.
Should my dog have ignored all his natural
instincts when I sent him for that centre bird and when he winded it on
the way out to maintain his line to the blind? Ideally, and probably
yes of course he should have. In addition to that, had we been allowed
to move as competitors out of the hide/FP, I could have seen what he
was about to do; I could have stopped him and directed him onto the
Quote: Para 28, On
Blind retrieves, where possible, the course should be planned in such a
way that the advantage is taken of all natural hazards. It should be
possible, at least in theory, for a dog to find a well-planned Blind
Find Retrieve on the initial line from the handler. The test should be
so planned that the dog should be in sight at least until directed into the area of the fall,
as a blind retrieve is a test of control and a dog that is out of sight
for a considerable period of time cannot be said to be under control.
Just like last year’s National where 50% of the field was lost on the
first day over two runs. I would ask therefore, are you really getting
the best dog in the country crowned as the National winner or is it a
dog that has been handled to success and survived? If that is the case
it really goes against the rules of competition that we are currently
using. Without sounding like a broken record, if you do not run
multiple dogs then is this really a true test of “an ambit of
equality where assessment may be fairly made” ? Because the multiple
dog handler has now scored a great advantage by effectively doing that
run again and again with a different dog!
35. National Qualification:
Maybe now is the time if we are going to do an extensive review of the
rules and regulations of the conduct of retrieving trials that we
introduce a rule of a qualification to be able to run in the National.
That is, you must requalify every year to compete in the National, by
winning say two All Ages. This would benefit all involved in the sport,
by encouraging trialers to support interstate competitions more
regularly. It would also encourage trainers to concentrate on training
and polishing their dogs, it would likely-reduce-in-the size of the
field by at least 40% for the National-which would make the logistics
and organisation/running of the competition a lot more realistic,
giving the judges a lot more time to set runs that would reflect a true
field of quality dogs who have already proven themselves consistently
that year. Not a dog that has won a restricted competition. Most
importantly it would encourage judges to be more cognisant and careful
when selecting their runs throughout the year with a great deal of
forethought and deliberation, when they know they are accountable as
people are looking at qualifying their dogs for the National and not
just looking for a title.
Run setting and Evaluation Examples
I have witnessed and competed in some great trials this year. My hat
goes off to the majority of the hard working Judges who have put in
their own time, personal expense and effort to make that competition
I have witnessed some great examples of shooting
scenario-based runs using every piece of ground, natural element, cover
and consideration of the wind/sun where possible, and some not so.
37. Judges’ own rules:
Do we now need to do a total rewrite of the above reference or do we
accept it? Do we keep eroding what we are doing with our interpretation
of the rules? Or do we take stock and do something about the position
we are currently in. We have talented dog trainers who are not getting
a return for the investment training that they are putting into their
dogs. We need to ask the judges to revisit some of the criteria that is
required of a gundog when setting runs, to afford the competitor every
opportunity that is available to succeed when trialling.
This year I received a zero score on a particular run where my dog
returned to my side after I sent him, because the dog thought I had not
sent him. Why? The dog made a mistake. There is nothing in the rules to
say a dog cannot return to your side. There was certainly no
advantage for me to gain as a competitor to resend my dog again.
In a real shooting situation you would just resend your dog. This again is a judge’s own interpretation of the rules.
I have also experienced a trial that failed because of weather
elements, where clearly a lot of time, thought and effort had gone into
setting those runs. I have also competed in some poorly set runs: ones
with very little forethought to good dog work and what could happen.
However, with a little help a slight change could have worked really
well if the judge had consulted someone or put a capable dog over the
run beforehand and changed part of that run.
Some examples of runs that did not work:
I took part in an All Age where the second run was a double mark and a
blind; the blind was up the middle of the two marks and diagonally
across several water inlets. Fifteen dogs were in that competition
including some very seasoned All Age dogs, a real quality field
including Gr Rt Ch’s and past State Ch’s winners: the majority of dogs
were Rt Ch’s. Out of that field one dog completed the run, with over
sixty five commands on the blind alone, the run took over twenty
minutes to complete. That individual went on to win the trial, whom I
saw practicing the concept at the rear of the vehicles in the water
prior to him running his dog! This was after the judge informed us not
to do this. I spoke to that competitor and explained he was out of
order and I would inform the judge which I did. No action was taken. A
very respected seasoned Championship judge said to me that day “that
was the hardest blind he had ever experienced in retrieving trials in
thirty two years”. I would say that run did not work.
Another trial I took part in was a double mark and double fall, with
relocation, down the side of a hill at max distance of twenty meters to
shoot the second mark, but you could not see your dog to the area of
the fall after you relocated and it was therefore a disadvantage.
Sequence: shoot the first mark and relocate, you shot another mark
across the creek line in the opposite direction, turned your dog and
sent him for the first mark. The line now to that first mark was up the
creek line, twenty meters off line once your dog left you; if the dog
took the line it went out of sight because it was in the creek. A
double fall went off, but if your dog was on line it went over the
dog’s head. Some handlers sent their dogs up the hill back towards the
first FP where you shot the bird, and hooked them right and they were
now above the fall. It became very messy and confusing for the dog;
granted the judge left you to handle your dog into the right spot to
collect the mark this, however went against the rules about relocation
and being able to observe your dog to the mark and into the area of the
fall. We lost some dogs and no dog completed it cleanly. I would say
that run did not work.
Rule 32 states the following: The
relocated Firing Point should not unduly disadvantage the dog or
handler and the area of the fall must remain able to be observed by
both dog and handler from the new firing point.
Another trial I took part in the third run was a single mark of around
70 meters, through a creek line with a tiny bit of paddling water in
the middle and a dead gum tree laid across the path of the mark, with a
two bird on the way back. The Sequence; shoot the mark,send your dog,
as your dog was returning a thirty meter, two bird went off in the
front of your dog. Some had a little variety in where they landed and
where the dog was when released and we had a couple of bad birds too,
but it was a simple concept: all dogs got it. It was extremely doable,
it was hardly a test for water as all dogs ran down the side and ran
around-it was so small and only inches deep in parts, you could not
make any points on the run because technically it wasn’t difficult you
could only lose points. It wasn’t a hard test for marking, it wasn’t a
water test either and it wasn’t a great test for memory and marking the
fall, as it was thirty meters away and your dog could see it in most
cases on the ground from the FP.
The final example of a run I would like to mention is another trial I
took part in where you shot a double rise and a swimming blind!
Sequence; shoot the double rise, send your dog, collect the mark then
collect the rise part. As your dog was returning down hill you shot
across the flowing river to the right of you. When your dog stopped and
your dog delivered the bird a steward up stream threw a bird into the
water. You had to turn and send your dog out into the water whilst
looking for the bird travelling downstream. Some birds went a little
faster in the current some dogs swam so fast they were across the river
and were out on the other bank. Some handlers missed the bird as it
floated past. Some dogs did not get into the water quick enough and
missed the bird also as it went by in the flow of the river and ended
up around a corner of an island and was lost in the current. We lost
some dogs on this it wasn’t a great blind as you can imagine, as you
had to handle your dog quickly and move them around until they spotted
the floating bird. It certainly was not equal for all dogs so I would
state that this run did not work.
All the above are examples of where moderation training would help in run setting.
I have left a competition frustrated time and time again knowing I
could have achieved a better score, had the double fall or two bird
been released at the appropriate time and judges were more cognisant in
briefing the steward or had better communication or used a crossing
line window to suit all speeds of all dogs.
To be told my dog
was too fast for the run is pretty dismal when you have an
exceptionally focused dog that thrives on that type of concept. I
personally enjoy both concepts but it must be fair for all dogs
including fast and slow.
41. The difference in
run setting, technicality, hardness, how much water or cover used is
vast across all states-is purely down to the judge.
playing field across the States can be gauged by individual judges but
we could help ourselves by applying the basic principles as stated in
the “Rules for the Conduct of Retrieving Trials for Gundogs” and not
our own interpretation of those rules. I don’t expect the runs to be
made easy but I do expect the runs to be equal and to give both the dog
and handler a good honest competition where we test the dog using all
the pre-requisite gambits suggested in the ANKC Retrieving Trial rules
as referenced. This would be helped by doing moderation training and
learning from best practice. I also expect the competitors to be
honest. It is awful to suggest we may need to police the trial ground
42. Recently it was
pointed out to me that I was being pinged for double handling with my
whistle! I tend to use my whistle instead of my voice, so if I blew
once it means stop, a fairly standard exercise I believe as most dogs
are trained that way. If I blow again after I have stopped my dog and
give another quick succession of ‘toot, toot’, that means come in: it’s
not a case of double handling. What is the difference with someone
doing the same but using their voice or giving a silent cast or over?
It’s one command: you must first stop your dog for you to be able to
handle, just because I may do things slightly different does not mean
it is wrong. It was always frowned upon shouting at your dog and using
your voice in the shooting field where there is live game as you could
disturb it. So are we now saying we must handle a dog to suit a judge’s
perception on signals? I can’t train my dog to suit every judge’s
personal preferences. I really would like to see what constitutes one
command and what is a double command. Just like when my dog reaches the
area of a fall on a blind I use a hunt whistle, please explain the
difference to stopping your dog and shouting, ‘find it, find it’ or
43. Allocation of Points:
Para 94 in Rules for the Conduct of Retrieving Trials does not mention
anything about judges making assumptions on what they feel is a
misdemeanour or a demerit which would award a penalty of negative
Maybe this rule needs an extensive review as it does not reflect to what is occurring.
Para 94 states the following: The
principle points to be considered by the Judge in assessing the merits
of performances in competitive work shall be the ability to mark,
sagacity, and use of nose, steadiness, dash, perseverance, attention,
control, courage, style, retrieving and cleanliness of delivery.
Retrieving to which supreme importance must be accorded, should be with
tender mouth and right up to hand. The dog must not injure game,
retrieve decoys, drop the game, or retrieve without being ordered to do
so. Points shall be allocated for each retrieve.
Certainly this should not be the judge’s own personal opinion on what a
Gundog should be capable of or able to do, or how a handler handles
their dog and the way they have been trained to respond to commands,
judges should not personally penalise someone because they handle a dog
different to themselves or others. Clarification on this issue would be
helpful in negative scoring and if moderation training were embraced it
would help clear up this type of thing; and stop causing confusion from
judges making up their own opinion on the day, and awarding their own
version of a penalty because they did not understand what was
happening. Alternatively we look at developing a new para in the ANKC
Rules for Retrieving Trials called ‘Handling and the standard commands
to be used.’
45. Why do some judges use a
clicker for counting commands and not an assessment of the run using
the full spectrum of the sixty point criteria? Surely if the entire
gambit of work and the run was taken into consideration this is a very
unrealistic way of scoring as in theory if you did not use many
commands you could score very highly-even though your dog did not
perform particularly well on the day.
believe an overhaul of the current rules and interpretation of them is
a must for us to continue in a sport that is not seeing our younger
generation follow through. We must change for the better and moderation
is certainly a start in that direction which will help both competitors
and judges in all States and by presenting a united front and
delivering an even playing field-running in one State under a judge to
another State should be no different. Surely we should be working in
harmony as a whole. Moderation training would identify, discuss and
workshop best practices in instruction, assessment and supervision. The
moderation activity would incorporate examples of performance that all
participants are required to assess, with a view to discussing their
assessment decisions and re-calibrating their ratings where necessary.
At a minimum, assessors would be required to participate in moderation
activities twice annually.
47. I have a
plethora of suggestions and ideas on how we can do this and I am
willing to assist in any capacity to help preserve the sport for the
future, but unless we are prepared to change then it will not get any
better and will eventually fall away as we will.
My preparation for this year’s trialling could not have been better.
Occasionally I got it wrong and so did my dog and occasionally we were
both wrong on the day.
I cannot train for an unrealistic
situation and runs designed to catch us both out, I only know how to
train a gundog to use all its natural hunting and game finding ability
within the pre-set rules and regulations.
Alternatively, do we now need another sport for gundogs? Where we train
them to run long lines over various obstacles and ignore all the
built-in acumen of a gundog; why they have existed and have co-habited
with man; and what they have been used for during the last centuries
50. I would welcome further
discussion on this vast subject. I do believe we have a fantastic set
of rules for retreiving trialling. That are clearly tried and tested
and in corporated in those rules is an example of everything I have
discussed, some of the criteria and interpretation of those rules
requires little or no modification only slight refinement and timely
51. What appears to be amiss
is the interperation of those rules incorporated with run setting and
scoring; this I believe is where we need some work with clarifacation
and refinement. I believe there is nothing wrong with the model we are
using but there is certainly scope to improve the way we judge by using
a moderation activity which would help everybody taking part in the
We are accountable in all walks of life, I have certainly experienced a
sense of discontentment over the last few years within the sport and
would welcome modernisation accountability in both run setting and
scoring. Rather than sit back and become frustrated I would be keen to
volunteer my services and develop best practice on how we could do
this. Judges, trial managers, stewards, secretaries, committees and
competititors need to be accountable and purposeful for their actions
just like I am accountable to the judge when I slip my lead from my
dog. I would like to invite all triallers past and present to discuss
this vast subject further in developing a ‘way ahead for the future’.
a. We hold regular judge’s seminars and discuss moderation in run setting, judging and scoring.
Schoolhouse Lane, Ladys
Pass, Vic 3523
If 50% of the field or remaining has failed that run; the run is
declared as not working, it is changed and re-started.
c. Clubs and the appointed trial manager assist the judge and carry out that appointment in a dutiful manner.
Competitors refresh themselves on the Rules of Retriever Trials and are
more sportsmen-like in their gamesmanship.
That all judges allocate and use the same weight bearing system when
awarding or deducting scores, as reflected in the suggested template in
ANKC. Not their own personal scoring system.
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(Affiliated with Dogs NSW)