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About Hunting Events

What is a hunt test?

A hunt test is an event that’s designed to evaluate your dog’s ability to hunt for birds. There are different organizations that put on tests, including the American Kennel Club (AKC), the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA), and the Jagdgebrauchshundverein-USA (JGHV – “German tests”!) A hunt test is judged on a standard, meaning that all dogs who meet the standard or do well can pass.

What is a field trial?

A field trial is an event that’s designed to evaluate your dog’s ability to hunt for birds. There are different organizations that put on tests, including the American Kennel Club (AKC), the United Kennel Club (UKC), American Field, the National Shoot to Retrieve Association (NSTRA). A field trial is a competitive event. Dogs are judged against each other and placements are usually given out to the top dogs.

What breeds can participate in hunt tests and field trials?

It depends on the organization putting on the event, but pointing breeds that are usually eligible include:

  • German shorthaired pointers
  • English setters
  • Pointers
  • Vizslas
  • Weimaraners
  • Brittanys
  • Irish setters
  • Gordon setters
  • Irish red and white setters
  • German wirehaired pointers
  • Bracco Italianos
  • Spinone Italianos
  • Pudelpointers
  • Small and large munsterlanders

Do I need to own a shotgun or shoot birds?

The short answer is no. I didn’t own a shotgun for the first five years I trained Zara for hunt tests. Some events (like Junior Hunter hunt tests and many AKC and American Field field trials) don’t involve shooting birds or retrieving. Even if you participate in events that do involve shooting, you can find training partners to help you. Even now, I’d much rather have other people shoot birds for Zara, because I’m not a very good shot!

Do I need to use an e-collar?

No, you don’t have to. Many skills in bird dog training can be taught without the use of pressure. Certain things, like retrieving, can work really well without pressure, although you may find that you want to add some at the end to help fully enforce the command. I taught my vizsla (and my ridgeback, for fun) to retrieve using “force-free” methods. Zara was five years old when we did this and had a lot of bad habits around retrieving. I did end up using low e-collar pressure at the end to make her retrieve really solid, but it didn’t take much. Some dogs may not need it at all.

Other skills, like teaching the dog to be steady to wing, shot, and fall, can be done without an e-collar although using one can make things easier. We can discuss the different options. I’m open-minded when it comes to training, so although I do use an e-collar with my dog, I’m not going to make you use one if you don’t want to.

My dog and I are brand new to this. I didn't grow up hunting. Can we still participate?

Absolutely! My brand is called “the Accidental Bird Dog” because my husband and I got Zara as a running partner. We had no intention (or desire) to do any hunt tests or field trials with her. When Zara ran her first Junior Hunter test at two years old, I knew the bare minimum, yet we still managed to pass. Many of the lower level tests and trials don’t require a lot of training and they can be great places to start for newbies.

Can I train my dog on my own or do I have to send her away to a professional trainer?

Of course you can train your own dog! I’m living proof of that. I knew nothing when I first started, and I’ve successfully trained Zara to the upper levels of multiple organizations. I know plenty of people who train their own dogs. Sure, it may take more time, but I guarantee it will be 100% worth it in the end when you look back and see how far you’ve come! Of course, you’ll probably need people to help you along the way. That’s where coaching comes in, and I can help you connect with local people in your area.

Does my dog need to live in a kennel if I train her for hunting?

Um, no. My dog sleeps in my bed under the covers at night and spends the day lounging around on our furniture. But put her in an area with birds and she’s crying to go hunt. Having your dog live in the house is not going to affect their ability or desire to hunt.

About Coaching

How does coaching work?

After the initial “meet and greet”, each session lasts one hour. You pick a day/time that works for you and schedule it on my calendar. I’ll send you a Google Meet video link and we’ll chat over video during the session. Coaching is very personalized to the individual and really depends on your goals and where you are in your training. If you purchase a package, we can discuss a general “game plan” of what each session will cover before we get started.

How often can we meet?

We can meet as often as you’d like! It depends on what you’re working on. Once a week might be a good pace for certain situations, but it could certainly be once every few weeks or once a month.

What if I have questions outside of our sessions?

I use a platform called Practice that allows us to message each other between sessions. You can send me photos, videos, and questions – as much as you want! I try to respond within 24 hours, but usually I’m quicker than that.

Still have questions?

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