The judges at
field trials are appointed by the Field Trial Secretary
of the organising club or society after having been
instructed to do so by the committee of the club or
society. It is considered and honour to be asked
to judge at a field trial and the highest standard of
judging is expected from appointed judges. The
club or society running the trial must satisfy itself
that the persons being invited to judge at a trial have
practical experience of both field trials and sporting
shooting. Judges may not shoot at a stake at which
they are judging nor may they enter a dog for
competition at that trial.
Judges are classified as either A or B "Panel Judges."
That is not to say that all judges must have achieved
the status of a "Panel Judge." However, a Panel
Judge must be present at all field trials, with
seniority being placed upon A Panel Judges.
Judges are appointed to panels after recommendation from
a Field Trial Secretary of a club or society which is
approved to hold Open Stakes for the appropriate
sub-group of gundogs for which he or she has judged
within the past three years. The opinion of all
previous A Panel judges with whom he or she has judged
field trials over the previous three years will be
sought by the Kennel Club's Field Trial Sub-Committee.
The experience of the perspective Panel Judge over the
last number of years is taken into account but this must
include having judged at trials for at least two
different clubs or societies and with at least five
different A Panel co-judges.
In addition, judges appointed to the B Panel must have a
minimum of three years judging experience and six
stakes, with at least five A Panel Judges. For
appointment to the A Panel, judges must have served at
least three years as a B Panel Judge, judging at a
minimum of six stakes of which three must have been Open
Stakes and with at least five different A Panel Judges.
Compulsory Judges at Stakes
Retrievers; Three or Four Judges
Championship All A Panel
All Panel Judges with at least two A
At least two panel judges, one of whom must be an A
Spaniels; Two Judges
Championship Both A
Both Panel Judges, one of whom must be an A
At least one A
Pointers & Setters; Two Judges
Championship Both A
At least one A
Hunt, Point & Retrieve Breeds; Two Judges
Championship Both A
Both Panel Judges, one of whom must be an A
At least one A
In HPR trials, judges who are
from continental countries and who are A Panel
recognised by the F.C.I. (Federation Cynologique
Internationale) may officiate as the second judge.
It is the judges at field trials who decide whether or
not awards are to be made. In some instances it
has been adjudged that none of the dogs reached the
required standard and awards have been withheld.
This is, however, an unusual occurrence. It is
more common for awards to be limited to one or two
places than not to be awarded. An award is a
placing in first, second, third or fourth position.
The following can also be conferred at the discretion of
At a Championship Stake
Diploma of Merit
In Other Stakes
Certificates of Merit
Regulations for Retriever & Spaniel Breeds
competing in retriever or spaniel field trials must not
wear a collar of any kind when under the order of the
judges. Leads can be used when dogs are not
under the order of the judges, but these must be removed
prior to the dogs entering the competition line.
Any dog that, in the opinion of the judges, does not
reach the required standard for the breed will not
receive an award. Judges will eliminate dogs from
the trial if they have committed and "eliminating
fault." Where the judges eliminate a dog for hard
mouth, the handler must be given the opportunity of
examining the game in the presence of the judges. Their
decision, however, is final and binding.
In general, all dogs must be steady to the shot and the
fall of game and should
have the ability to retrieve on command.
Handlers at field trials must not send their dog on a
retrieve until they have been instructed to do so by a
judge. Because all field trials in the UK are
conducted in live shooting environments, judges will
have instructed their guns not to shoot directly over a
dog when it is already out working on a retrieve.
All wounded game is gathered and dispatched at the
earliest possible opportunity and is normally retrieved
before dead game. It is possible that game cannot
be gathered by the dogs in competition and in such cases
the judges would assign this task to picker-up appointed
for this purpose.
As good marking is essential in a retrieving breed to
avoid the disturbance of game in the vicinity, judges
will give full credit to a dog that goes directly to the
fall of the game and gets on with the job of locating
and retrieving. A clean pick up is preferred but
judges will normally not penalise too heavily dogs that
set game down to get a better grip. They will, of
course, make a distinction between this and dogs that
are guilty of sloppy retrieving or that deliver short of
dogs are required to be obedient and respond to its
handler's signals, good game finding dogs will be scored
higher than those dogs that need handled to the game.
Usually the better dogs require less handling, appear to
have an instinctive knowledge of direction and make a
difficult find look simple. Judges will call
up dogs that are performing indifferently on a runner
and another dog will be tried on it. The work of
subsequent dogs on the runner will be assessed in the
order in which they are tried. Missed game that is
picked by the second or subsequent dog constitutes an
"eye wipe." All "eye wipes" will be
treated on their merits but dogs that have had
their "eye wiped" during the body of the stake will be
discarded by the judges. Where a dog shows ability
by acknowledging the fall of game and making a
workmanlike job of the line to the fall, it should not
be barred from the awards by failing to retrieve the
game if that game is not collected by another dog, tried
by the judges on the same game.
All retrieved game is examined by the judges for signs
of "hard mouth." Because hard mouthed dogs seldom
give a visible sign of hardness by damaging the skin of
game, the retrieved game should be placed in the palm of
the hand, breast upwards and head forwards. Judges
will examine the rib gage of the game, looking for any
signs of the ribs being crushed by running the index
finger and thumb along each side of the rib cage.
If a judges suspects hard mouth, he or she would
normally consult with their co-judge who will also
examine the game. Where judges are in agreement
that the damage has been caused by the dog crushing and
not by the fall or the shot, the handler will be given
the opportunity of inspecting the game in the presence
of the judges. The decision of the judges is final
and the dog will be eliminated from the trial.
Retrievers at Field Trials
competing at field trials, retrievers are required walk
steadily at heel and sit quietly at drives.
They should have natural game finding ability, a good
nose, marking ability, drive and stamina, quickness in
gathering game, be good retrievers, deliver game cleanly
and demonstrate quietness both when in line and when
being handled. These attributes are referred to as
credit points and it is on these that judges base their
The system for judging retrievers seeks to bring out all
these attributes in dogs and judges will attempt to
place the dog and handler in situations that will
demonstrate this to them. Field trials in the UK
must always have at least one A Panel Judge present in
the line-up of three judges. Where there is only
one A Panel judge, it is normal for this judge to take
up position in the centre of the line with the other
judges to the left and right. This allows
the A Judge to keep in contact with the co-judges and
offer them advice if requested. If there are two A
Panel Judges present then they will take up positions on
the right and left of the line with the less experienced
judge in the centre position. In a trial with four
judges present it is usual for two of these to be A
Panel Judges. These judges will not judge together
but will pair off with a less experienced judge.
At trials, each judge would normally have two guns
shooting for them and would place themselves and the
dogs they are judging between the guns.
Where the game situation permits, dogs would have two
retrieves under the first judge or pair of judges and
one under the eye of the second judge or pair of judges.
The judges will then confer and discard any dogs they
feel have not made the grade in this round. If for
some reason, a part of the line is starved of game and
the dogs have been under a judge or pair of judges for a
length of time without a retrieve, then it is not
uncommon for a judge whose section of the shooting line
has a lot of game to offer retrieves to the judge who is
short of game.
It is quite common for judges to decide to run-off dogs
they have placed high in their scoring to confirm the
final placing at a field trial. In such cases,
judges will place themselves in the centre of the line
to ensure that they have a good view of all dogs working
in the run-off. It is at this stage of a trial
that one of the final group of dogs can be "eye wiped"
by another of the other top dogs. When this
happens, the dog that has been "eye wiped" will be
penalised but could still figure in the awards.
Judging Spaniels at Field Trials
are required to work within shotgun range at all times,
hunt the ground well and must not pass over game on the
beat it is working at the field trial. The primary
job of a spaniel is to find game and to flush it within
range of the gun. Naturally the wind will have a
considerable influence on the way a spaniel will work
the ground and judges will take account of the wind and
the different ways dogs treat the ground in differing
wind situations. With a head-on wind the dog
should quarter the ground systematically, left and right
of the handler. It must hunt out all likely
game-holding cover within the beat but still keep within
gunshot range. If the wind is a following wind,
then the dog will likely pull out from the handler and
work the beat back towards the handler.
Judges will take account of this and regulate the pace
of the line to accordingly. It is vital that
the line is slowed down with a following wind because
game may be flushed by advancing handlers, guns or
judges that has not yet been reached by the spaniel
quartering the beat back towards the line.
It is during the quartering of a beat by a spaniel in a
field trial where the judge will make as assessment of
the dog's general ability in terms of game finding,
pace, drive and style. Spaniels are required to
face cover bravely, be biddable and quarter the beat
with minimal handling. Where dogs catch or "peg"
game they should be eliminated from the trial, except
where the judge is of the opinion that there were
extenuating circumstances, for example, previously
wounded game that did not flush. While all
spaniels are required to stop to flushed game or to the
shot, it is permissible for a dog to move slightly to
mark the fall of the game, for example a dog flushing
from cover is permitted to leave the cover provided it
checks after having left. This shows
intelligence on the part of the dog and is usually
marked up by judges. However, dogs
continuing to hunt after the flush or shot will be
eliminated from the trial.
retrievers, spaniels are required to pick up cleanly,
return quickly and deliver to hand. Where
possible, spaniels should not be sent out on a long
blind retrieve. Judges will generally take the
handler and dog forward to within a reasonable distance
of the fall rather than send a dog on a long blind.
At spaniel trials it is not normal for a judge to test
more than two dogs on one retrieve. If both dogs
are tried and fail to complete the retrieve, the judges
will search the fall area and when satisfied that the
game is not there, they will continue the line
forward. Should any subsequent dog find the game
then this is not considered to be an "eye wipe."
The emphasis at spaniel field trials is on the dogs'
hunting and game finding abilities. They are
required to retrieve and are scored accordingly but the
emphasis is very much slanted towards hunting.
Where possible, dogs at a spaniel trial are run in pairs
under a each judge. In the first round, odd
numbers will run under the judge on the right and,
unless discarded, will run their second round under the
judge on the left of the line. After the second
round is completed the judges will call up the dogs they
want to further test and this can be in any order they
choose. In situations where there are top dogs of
equal ability it is usual for these dogs to be run under
the two judges walking together. In this run-off
situation, the main judging consideration should be
style, pace and ground treatment.