Retriever Hunt Tests And Why Hunters Should Care



By Professional Trainer Greg Ye

I’ve heard it all! “I don’t need a dog that good” or “Field trial dogs are too hyper for my needs” or “Trial dogs are too expensive.” Well, let me explain why all hunters should pay attention to trial dogs.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers two performance event programs for retrievers, which are Field Trials and Hunt Tests. Field Trials are competition driven and the dogs do work that is incredibly difficult over huge distances. The first time observer may find these events fascinating but of little relevance to their world of hunting. As a note, I’d be honored to spend a day in the field with an accomplished trial dog.

Hunt Tests by comparison gained their start by hunters interested in game conservation. At first, hunt tests were designed to meet the needs of hunters and were conceived “by hunters, for hunters and of hunters.” Hunt tests are non-competitive and give the hunter an objective basis to determine what to expect in the field. Over time, professional trainers have influenced hunt tests to such a degree that hunt tests have become very demanding and require a very trained response from both dog and handler.

Why does any of this matter to the average hunter or family? I’ll tell you why; Performance retrievers demonstrate routinely what retrievers were bred to do. They are the cream of the crop and are owned by only the most devoted folks to retriever genetics. Performance retrievers are bright, out-going, trainable, healthy, sound, birdy, intelligent, friendly and proven. Their offspring are predictably excellent candidates for a long and fruitful life of hunting and family devotion.

There is a second reason for hunters to explore performance events. I can guarantee that the average hunter will be awestruck by the experience! Try a hunt test first. The folks are friendly and eager to share with new comers. You will see young dogs at the Junior Level doing single marked retrieves on land and water and then coming briskly home to the handler and tenderly giving up birds. You’ll see Master Dogs marking multiple bird falls and then retrieving the birds unaided and independently only to come back to the handler to pick up a bird or two they didn’t see by taking precise direction to the bird from the handler. Make sure you bring your family. The kids will get an education in canine potential that may spark a life long passion. You’ll walk away thinking, “That’s what I got to have!” So the next time your buddy is bragging about his dog, you can say, “Well, can he …”

To find events in your area, the easiest way is to go on-line. Visit Entry Express at The site is used primarily for entering dogs in performance events but you’ll find a calendar of events. Each event has a “premium” which describes the type of event, location, times, etc. Once you’ve found an event to attend, consider it like going to the beach. Bring lawn chairs, coolers, etc. One word of caution: Do not wear white clothing! White is very distracting to dogs and handlers. Wear clothing that is dark or appropriate for an outdoor occasion.

Hunters need to explore performance events. Not only will you receive first hand experience of what a retriever is expected to do, but you’ll start to become familiar with sound retriever genetics which will lead you to the dog of your dreams! If you are in the market for a pup, ask around and collect information.

Who knows, maybe you’ll discover an off-season sport that the whole family can enjoy and participate in and make Ol’fido more than just a 10 month couch potato. In any case, I would rather go to a hunt test than clean out the garage!

For More Information On Professional Retriever Training Services Contact:
Trainer: Greg Ye
Phone: 715-246-7040