AKC Pointing Dog Field Trials

The American Kennel Club (AKC) runs many activities for dogs and their owners to enjoy themselves.  One such activity is pointing dog field trials.  If you and your dog like hunting and your dog ranges far and wide to find birds, you might enjoy entering a field trial.

Although officially you can run your dog on foot in a field trial, you will not stand any chance of winning unless you are on horseback while you compete.  At some field trials you can rent a horse for your run, at others you can borrow one.  However, your dog has to be used to horses and to running well in front of them to do well at this sport.

Field trials do not just test instinct.  They test obedience to the owner as well as the ability to get along with other dogs on the hunt.  A dog aggressive dog has no place at a field trial.

Field trial dogs are expected to point at a bird, usually a quail or a grouse, that they find while hunting.  This part is instinct.  More importantly, they are expected to hold that point until told to move.  This part is training.  They must be able to visually track the flight of a flushed bird that is shot by their owner, but wait to retrieve it until they are told to do so.  Field trial dogs must retrieve to hand, or place the bird in the owner’s hand.  The bird must not have been chewed up or damaged by the dog, so he needs a soft mouth.

Finally, a good field trial dog must be able to run with another dog he has never seen before and hunt independently without interfering with the other dog.  If the other dog goes on point, as soon as your dog sees this, he must “honor” the point by stopping and pointing to the pointing dog.  He must stay there on point until he is commanded to move again.

Successful field trial dogs are rarely successful in the show ring.  There are only a handful of dual field and show champions.  Most successful field trial dogs come from field trial lines.

Training your dog requires access to pigeons or quail.  Many successful dogs are trained first on pigeons, which are significantly cheaper and easier to keep than quail.  They also can out fly a chasing dog, thus teaching him the futility of chasing birds.  Many people with just a few acres can train their dogs to point, retrieve to hand, honor, and hunt with their owner on their property.  Many field trial clubs have grounds that they allow members to use to train on.  This is where the dog learns to run ahead of the horse and hunt hard the full time he is running.

AKC pointing dog field trials are a fun way to spend time with your dog. They require training and dedication on your part and the part of your dog, but the bond formed during this training is priceless.  For more information, go to AKC.org.