Adapted from the Regulations for AKC Hunting Test for Pointing Breeds (Effective January 1, 1999)
Pointing Breed Hunting Tests evaluate a dog's hunting abilities on different elements of pointing and retrieving. Hunting tests are non-competitive events in which the dog's ability to perform is judged against a standard of perfection established by the AKC Regulations; theoretically, every dog can be a winner! Dogs receiving Qualifying Scores at a number of tests achieve titles of Junior Hunter (J.H.), Senior Hunter (S.H.) and Master Hunter (M.H.); each successive title requires more skill. Most Brittanys with a good degree of natural hunting instinct are able to earn a Junior Hunter title with only a moderate amount of work. Senior and Master Hunter titles require successively more training, with a Master Hunter being a finished, reliable hunting dog requiring little guidance from its handler.
Hunting tests are an ideal venue for foot hunters, as horseback handling is prohibited. Junior Hunting tests are a good starting ground for novice dogs and handlers, and an excellent way to introduce yourself and your dog to the world of AKC field events.
The purpose of Hunting Tests for dogs of the Pointing Breeds is to afford an opportunity for a person to demonstrate a dog's ability to perform in a manner consistent with the demands of actual hunting conditions. Testing gauges the dog's natural hunting ability and training.
For scoring purposes, the test is divided into four categories for Junior Hunter and six for Senior and Master Hunter. These categories provide a complete review of the dog's total performance. They include Hunting, Bird Finding Ability, Pointing, Trainability, and in Senior and Master, Retrieving and Honoring.
Dogs are scored from 0 to 10 in each category. To receive a Qualifying score, a dog must achieve an average score of 7, and no less than 5 in any category. For a Junior Hunter title, a dog must receive 4 qualifying scores; For a Senior Hunter title, a dog must receive 5 qualifying scores, or 4 qualifying scores if the dog holds a Junior Hunter title; For a Master Hunter title, a dog must receive 6 qualifying scores, or 5 qualifying scores if the dogs holds a Senior Hunter title.
1. Hunting: Desire, boldness, independence, speed and a useful pattern of running are the elements of the Hunting category. Dogs must demonstrate all of these attributes to qualify. A dog that is out for a run in the field and does not seem to be hunting, or a dog that does not leave its handler's side to explore the territory, or which potters about slowly would be scored low in Hunting Ability. Junior hunting dogs are scored more leniently than Seniors and Masters which are expected to demonstrate experienced hunting ability.
In evaluating a dog's Hunting Ability, judges should be looking for a good pattern, one that uses the wind and terrain to best advantage and searches all likely objectives. If a dog happens to cover a lot of ground in the process, so much the better, but range is not the primary concern. The dog should demonstrate independence in its search, but checking back to the handler should not adversely affect a Hunting score unless it is excessive. The dog and handler should present a picture of smooth and flowing teamwork, with the handler choosing the general direction of the hunt and the dog responsive to the handler's wishes, yet independent enough to maintain a good ground covering pattern. Making allowances for extreme weather conditions and terrain, the dog should maintain a fairly consistent range, not shortening toward the end of the time period.
Range should be dictated by the type of ground being covered, but a dog should never range out of sight for a length of time that detracts from its usefulness as a practical hunting companion. Dogs are expected to perform for the required length of the test taking into account any extreme conditions affecting performance.
2. Bird Finding Ability: A dog must demonstrate the ability to find game. A dog which does a good job of hunting should find birds. A dog which is not hunting may stumble upon a bird by accident, but this should be apparent based upon its overall application. The number of birds a dog finds should not necessarily be considered as important as the 'quality' of the finds. Scenting conditions, terrain and cover should be considered when scoring this category. The course should have sufficient birds (no less than two per brace but more are strongly recommended) to insure that a dog with good bird finding ability will locate them.
There are no provisions for calling back birdless dogs; dogs must find birds on their own. A dog that does not find birds cannot receive a Qualifying score. A dog which shows all the desirable characteristics of Hunting and Bird Finding Abilities and yet only finds one bird should not necessarily receive a 5 or less in Bird Finding Ability. As stated before, it is the quality of the finds which counts. Finding more birds than another dog should not necessarily result in a higher score since the dogs are not judged against one another; their abilities are being evaluated and scored numerically against the Standard.
3. Pointing: Pointing is more easily defined than Hunting and Bird Finding Abilities. Scoring in this category should reflect the style (intensity and staunchness) of the dog and its ability to pinpoint birds, especially with difficult or confusing scent patterns. In general, a dog which shows a complete lack of intensity or staunchness should not receive a Qualifying score. This could be a dog which has only stopped with a soft stance on a bird. A dog with a low stance should not be scored lower than a dog with a high stance if it demonstrates staunchness and intensity, particularly in difficult pointing situations. Some breeds may not carry as high a head and tail as others, and this should be weighed in determining a score. A 12 o'clock tail is not necessary and, indeed is not found in any AKC Pointing Breed standards. Flagging (lack of staunchness) on game is generally a fault in older, more experienced dogs, but should not be reflected too severely in the Pointing score of a Junior dog. A Senior or Master dog may flag when game has left the area but a pool of scent remains. The actual presence of game should be taken into account when judging a dog on point. Intensity and staunchness may also be influenced by the distance at which a dog is pointing game.
A flash point cannot qualify in any of the three levels. What constitutes a flash point as opposed to an acceptable point is of particular concern in the Junior hunting test where the dog is allowed to break and chase after first establishing a point. A flash point is generally a point in which the dog stops only momentarily before chasing the bird. The question arises as to how much longer than 'momentarily' the dog must remain on point. A Junior dog must hold point until the handler gets within normal gunshot range. If you were hunting, you would want to get close enough to shoot at the bird before the dog flushed it.
A Senior dog must point and must remain in position until the bird is shot or the dog is released. A dog which breaks before the shot cannot receive a Qualifying score. A Senior dog must be steady to flush, but not to shot. A dog should be credited for relocating on its own when it can be demonstrated it is attempting to pin the bird. The dog may also relocate on command of its handler, but the dog should not creep after or trail a bird that the handler is attempting to flush.
A Master hunting dog must demonstrate steadiness to wing and shot on all birds and cannot receive a Qualifying score it if breaks. The handler may caution a Master dog after it has established point. The dog cannot be commanded to retrieve until positive steadiness has been demonstrated. A handler may send his dog to retrieve after the bird has hit the ground and the dog is seen to remain in position. A dog that breaks at any time before it is commanded to retrieve cannot receive a Qualifying score. Normally, a dog can move or turn in place to mark the fall of the bird, provided no significant forward motion is made. This allows movement if the bird should happen to fly behind the dog but, again, there should be no significant forward motion. A question, 'How much forward motion is allowed?' a few steps to mark the fall or out of enthusiasm, if the dog stops without command, would be permissible. Blocking a dog to keep it from breaking calls for a lowered score because it prevents a demonstration of steadiness. If there is some question as to whether a handler is deliberately blocking a dog, the Judges might want to caution the handler.
Dogs may occasionally point rabbits and other small game, but their Pointing ability should be neither credited nor discredited for doing so. Senior and Master dogs, however, are expected to be under control, with the degree of control varying. Trainability scores would be affected by uncontrolled chasing.
4. Trainability: In the Trainability category, a dog is judged on its willingness to be handled, its obedience to commands and its gun response. In Junior, this category is scored more leniently than in Senior and Master, where these same elements are judged with progressively less tolerance.
At the Master level, the dog must be under control at all times, and handle kindly with an absolute minimum of noise and hacking by the handler. In Junior, the dog must demonstrate 'reasonable obedience' to commands and be willing to be handled. The Senior performance level requires that the dog be scored with less tolerance than the Junior. The scoring of 'obedience' and 'willingness to handle' should reflect the level of response by the dog.
A Senior dog must stop on a wild flushed bird and may be commanded to do so without receiving a failing score. A Master dog must stop on a wild flushed bird without being given a command to do so. A dog that fails to stop or a dog requiring a command to stop cannot receive a Qualifying score in Master.
Gun response is also evaluated under Trainability. Gun-shyness cannot be tolerated in any dog being evaluated as a hunting companion. In the Junior test, a blank pistol must be fired if the dog is within reasonable gun range when a bird is flushed. In the Senior and Master tests, gun response is evaluated when the bird is shot, or when a blank is fired over the dog on the backcourse. In Master, the handler of the pointing dog is required to carry an empty shotgun and when game is flushed, follow the flight of the bird with both hands on the gun as if a shot were to be fired. Judges should never be overly critical of the handlers manner of shouldering a shotgun and otherwise deserving dogs should not fail to receive a qualifying score because of handler's error.
5. Retrieving: The Retrieving category is applicable only in the Senior and Master levels. A good retrieve could be defined as a directness to the bird, quick location, prompt pick up, brisk, direct return to the handler, with tender delivery. In Senior, the dog is not required to retrieve to hand, but the Regulations do not specify how close is close enough to qualify. One or two steps would be generally acceptable. In Master, a dog must retrieve 'absolutely to hand.'
A handler may not assist the dog on the retrieve in either the Senior or Master tests by moving toward the downed bird. There should not be excessive commands on the retrieve. Excessive hacking through the retrieve should be reflected in the score, even to the extent of scoring the ability as 0, especially in Master. In a difficult situation, handling would be allowed, but excessive commands would result in a lower score on Retrieving.
Mouthing is a serious fault in a hunting dog. A mangled bird is not fit for the table. Any dog which renders a bird unfit for consumption cannot receive a Qualifying score. Judges should ask to examine any bird which they feel may have been damaged by a dog. Both Judges must agree the dog alone was responsible for the damage.
Some unusual situations can occur in the retrieve. For instance, the gunner fires a shot and the bird goes down. When the dog is sent for the retrieve, the bird flies away. Some Judges say that if a command is given to retrieve, the dog must come back with the bird or the Retrieving score will be zero. In this circumstance, the attempt should not be scored and the Judges should give a dog a chance to retrieve another bird. The dog can continue on course for another find, or a callback could be used.Two Official Gunners must be used whenever a dog is called back to retrieve.
Another situation which can occur is the appearance of a second live bird which pops up in the general vicinity of a downed bird. The dog is sent to retrieve a downed bird and either grabs or chases the second bird. Judges should not score the dog lower in Retrieving for this action and should score the dog on its retrieve if it returns with the bird. If the dog catches the bird and does not make an acceptable retrieve, it should be scored lower in Retrieving. A dog should be able to retrieve a crippled running bird. A dog which is able to complete the retrieve of a running bird should not be scored lower for killing the bird, provided the bird is not damaged to the extent of being inedible.
A subject, indirectly related to the retrieve, is the delayed chase. A delayed chase means that after a bird has been flushed and the dog has not been ordered to retrieve, it chases after the bird when sent on in another direction. A delayed chase should detract from the score in Trainability.
One more thought on the retrieve is the matter of safety. Everyone involved in a situation where live ammunition is being used should wear an article of blaze orange clothing. For many people this is already commonplace, but the cooperation of all participants works to the benefit of everyone involved and reduces the risk of accident.
6. Honoring: Honoring, like retrieving, is a requirement in Senior and Master. If a dog is given an opportunity to honor and refuses, it cannot receive a Qualifying score. Dogs which have demonstrated an excellent honor should not necessarily qualify if the handler has spent much of the time on course hacking, screaming or shouting commands which reflects poor obedience and an unwillingness to handle. (These actions would be reflected in the Trainability score.) If the dog does not have an opportunity to honor, it should be called back at the conclusion of the brace or the end of the test to demonstrate its willingness to honor and its style. Style can be compared to that discussed under the Pointing category.
In Senior, the handler may give a dog a verbal command to honor but the dog must acknowledge that its bracemate is on point before it has been cautioned to honor. Once the dog has established its honor, the handler may collar the dog to prevent interference with the pointing dog when the bird is flushed. But, remember, the dog must clearly demonstrate it is honoring before it can be collared. A dog that steals its bracemate's point cannot receive a Qualifying score.
In Master hunting tests, a dog requiring restraint, either physical or verbal, when honoring cannot receive a Qualifying score. Neither can a dog receive a Qualifying score if it steals its bracemate's point. Be sure it is not a divided find when both dogs hit scent and might go on point at approximately the same time. In that case, both dogs would be pointing and neither demonstrating an honor. The Judges must determine which one flushes the bird or gets to retrieve if it is a shooting situation.
The Regulations permit a dog to be called into the vicinity of a pointing dog so it can see a bracemate on point. However, the dog cannot be commanded to honor. Once the honor is established, the Regulations also permit the handler to give a quiet verbal caution, but loud vocal or physical restraint is not permitted. A Master dog must honor through the entire flush, shot and retrieve. However, it may be heeled off and sent on if the retrieving dog takes overly long, encounters a running bird, or does not make the retrieve. Generally, this can be considered a completed honor and the dog should not be required to demonstrate an additional honor unless it again encounters its bracemate on point. It must honor on each occasion and cannot receive a Qualifying score if it fails to do so. Blocking of the dogs should not be allowed.The positioning of the gunners, and of the handler of the pointing dog, can pose as problem when they stand so that a dog called in for an honor cannot see the pointing dog.
Whenever possible, the honor should be demonstrated on the course. If the dog does not have an opportunity to honor on course, it must be called back. In a callback for an honor, the Judges should also make every effort to use as the pointing dog, one which was entered in the test being judged. This may not always be possible and, in those cases where it is impossible, the Judges must select a suitable dog. Whenever a dog is to be called back for any reason, the Judges should notify the handler in time to be ready. At the Judge's discretion, callbacks may be held at the completion of the test or following the running of the brace. This latter option simplifies matters as scores are then recorded for each brace at the conclusion of the brace. Judges should use a pointing dog which is staunch and intense on point to provide the working dog with every opportunity to demonstrate an honor. Using the two dogs which originally ran the brace is acceptable if both dogs had otherwise Qualifying scores.
The Judges of a Junior Hunting Test must score
the dogs on the basis of the following four categories of hunting ability:
A Senior hunting dog must show all of the
attributes expected of a Junior hunting dog in HUNTING and BIRD
FINDING ABILITY, but must be scored in these two categories with less
tolerance than would be accorded to the Junior hunting dog. Senior Hunting
dogs must also be scored on the basis of the following four additional
categories of ability:
A Master hunting dog must show all of the
attributes of a Senior hunting dog in HUNTING and BIRD FINDING
ABILITY but must exhibit these abilities in the more exceptional manner
expected of a truly finished and seasoned hunting companion. Master hunting
dogs must also possess all of the attributes of the Senior dog in POINTING,
RETRIEVING, TRAINABILITY and HONORING. The Master Hunting Test requirements
for these categories are identical to those of the Senior Test, but the
Judges must score the Master with full expectation of the following refinements:
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