Field Trials

If you have a gundog you have the option of training your dog for retrieving and/or field work. Training your new friend for retrieving and/or field work brings out the natural traits which have been bred into your gundog for many generations.

As a bonus you will find the joy that you and your dog can achieve from understanding each other and bringing out your dog's natural traits.

There are three types of Field Trials in which a registered Gundog may compete according to breed. Pointer & Setter Field Trials, Spaniel & Retriever Field Trials and Utility Gundog Field Trials. A Field Trial is a competition where the working ability of dogs is assessed under actual hunting and shooting conditions in the field. The breed categories are listed as follows:

Pointer & Setter Breeds

English Setter
Gordon Setter
Irish Setter
Irish Red & White Setter
Pointer (English)

Spaniel & Retriever Breeds

Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Clumber Spaniel
Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniel (American)
Curly Coated Retriever
Field Spaniel
Flat Coated Retriever
Golden Retriever
Irish Water Spaniel
Labrador Retriever
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Sussex Spaniel
Welsh Springer Spaniel

Utility Gundog Breeds

German Shorthaired Pointer
German Wirehaired Pointer
Hungarian Vizsla
Italian Spinone
Large Munsterlander
Weimaraner (Long Hair)

Utility Gundogs are breeds identified as those which hunt, point and retrieve, fur and feather on land and from water.

Field Trials (FT) are tests based on real hunting situations and are therefore held in rural and regional areas. Field trials are based on the idea of companions going out for a day's shooting. Dogs work in braces 'pairs' and must 'point' the game (excluding Spaniels & Retrievers FT), with the second dog backing up the first dog ('honouring'), flush the game, and then retrieving the shot game. There are several FT categories, including trials for Spaniels and Retrievers; Pointers and Setters; and Utility Dogs.

There are normally fewer Field trials held each year than RATG or RT and some states are more active with these trials than others. Trials are mostly run on rabbits, but dogs finding and flushing other legal game will be scored with a 'find' by the judge. If the game is out of season it cannot be shot but the dog will still be given a score for the find.

Field trials are judged on a point scoring system and dogs run in two heats (provided they are not eliminated in their first heat). Shooting accuracy is not the main criteria in scoring, the trials are to test the dogs and not the aim of the handler.

The majority of the dog's work is judged on:

  • Finding game
  • Ability to work ground and wind properly
  • Ranging and quartering
  • Style, eagerness and action
  • Steadiness and control
  • Be good at facing cover
  • Show that it has a nose

Retrieving is the only purpose that shooting is connected with and the retrieving performances of the dogs make up most of the scores. Handling a gun is not always compulsory and, in some instances, rules may allow for a judge to appoint a ‘shooter’ so that all the dogs can be tested with a retrieve. So, if you have a great dog, but are not overly fond of guns, don’t be put off Field trials. Contact your local club to find out what the licensing requirements are in your state.

Where and how do I learn to train my dog for field trials?

Many of the group three breed clubs and the specialist training and trialling clubs advertising in the Dogs Victoria magazine run training days from time to time. These clubs often have their own website and facebook page. Also RAFT Committee has a facebook page which advises of events including training days.

There are many good books, videos and internet downloads to guide you in your field trial training, but nothing beats having an experience ‘buddy’.

If you would like to attend a trial, ring one of the clubs to find out when the next trial is on and come and have a look. Speak to the triallers and find out if any train in your area or attend one of the next training sessions conducted by the clubs conducting field trials.

To view the field trial rules please click here.

Extreme Weather Policy - Field Trials

Click here to read the Dogs Victoria Extreme Weather Policy for Field Trials.