This article is from the American Kennel Club FAQ, by Cindy Tittle Moore firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
The difference between field trials and hunting tests is that while
field trials compete dogs against one another in their marking,
finding, and retrieving ability, dogs in the hunting tests are
measured against a standard of performance. Potentially all dogs in a
hunting test may successfully complete a leg toward their title. The
North American Hunting Retriever Association (NAHRA) was formed and it
put together hunting tests in response to sentiment that field trials
had become specialized to the point where not only did the tests no
longer resemble actual hunting situations, but only an elite few could
really do well in it. People wanted a means of simply evaluating the
overall hunting ability of their dogs. As it turned out, there were a
series of hunting tests that were created in the mid 1980's: after
NAHRA was created, both the AKC and the UKC responded with with their
own hunting tests. The details differ for all three programs, of
course, but the overall goal of replicating actual hunting situations
is the same.
In the AKC, there are separate hunting tests for retrieving breeds,
pointing breeds, and spaniels. Note that many breed clubs have
"working certificates" available for their dogs: although these are
not official AKC titles, they are often a great way to get started.
My thanks to Charlie Sorsby for the information in this section. From
the AKC pamphlet:
"The purpose of the AKC Hunting Tests is comparison of bird dogs
against a standard, not competition against each other. A dog must
be AKC registered in order to receive any AKC Hunting Test title.
In the following, "Hunting Test" means an AKC licensed or member
club hunting test. In order to be awarded the Junior Hunter title,
a dog must have received Qualifying scores in four (4) Junior
Hunting Tests. To be recorded as a Senior Hunter, a dog must either
qualify in five (5) Senior Hunting Tests or must have earned a
Junior Hunter title and qualify in four (4) Senior Hunting Tests.
To be recorded as a Master Hunter, a dog must either qualify in six
(6) Master Hunting Tests or must have earned a Junior Hunter title
and qualify in five (5) Master Hunting Tests. Dogs that have
received a Qualifying score in a Hunting Test at any level are
ineligible to enter any Hunting Test at a lower level."
Dogs taking the Junior Hunting Test must demonstrate a keen desire to
hunt, show ability to find and point birds, be trainable. They cannot
be gun-shy. They may be restrained to prevent interference with
Dogs taking the Senior Hunting Test must do the same things demanded
of a junior hunting dog, but with definite improvement. They must also
hold their point until the bird has been shot or they are released.
They must retrieve a shot bird but need not deliver to hand. They must
initially honor another dog's point.
And those dogs taking the Master Hunting Test must do the same things
as Senior hunter, but show more experience. In addition must also show
intensity and staunchness of the point, without breaking. Must deliver
to hand. They must demonstrate absolute honoring throughout the entire
flush, shot and retrieve.
AKC Retriever Hunt Tests
The _Junior Hunter_ test requires two single marks on land and two
single marks on water. This means a bird ("single") is thrown and shot
while the dog is watching ("marking"). The dog will promptly retrieve
the bird upon command from handler. Two of these birds are thrown on
land, and the other two are thrown into water. The distance the dog
covers to get the bird should never be more than 100 yards. The dog
has to deliver the bird to hand, meaning that he cannot drop the bird,
and the handler must take it from his mouth. The team is penalized if
the dog mouths or injures the bird, or does not want to give the bird
up to the handler, etc. The handler may hold the dog steady as it
marks the single.
The _Senior Hunte_r test requires:
* a double mark on land and a double mark on water
* one walkup
* one honor
* one land blind and one water blind
* one diversion
A double mark is when one bird is thrown and then a second bird also
thrown before the dog is sent to get a bird. Typically, the dog is
sent first to get the second bird (the "select"), and then is sent to
get the first bird (the "memory"). The dog is not supposed to try to
pick both birds up at once nor should it "switch" (pick one bird up
and then drop it for the other). Sometimes the dog may go for the
memory bird first and then the select; this is penalized somewhat
here, and more heavily in the Master test. At this point, the dog is
supposed to be "steady" and not go racing off for the bird until told
to do so by the handler. In a walkup, the bird is thrown while the
handler and dog are walking. The dog is not supposed to bolt off to go
get it. Honoring is when the dog watches another dog go pick up a bird
without breaking and trying to get it himself. A blind is when the dog
does not see the bird fall and has to take directions from the handler
to go out and find the bird. Typically, the dog has been trained to go
out in the direction indicated by the handler, to turn and sit, facing
the handler upon hearing a single whistle blast, and to take
corrections in direction from then. Two whistles tells the dog to come
back in. A diversion is when another bird is thrown while the dog is
in the middle of retrieving another bird.
In the _Master Hunter_ test, one finds:
* Multiple marks on land, multiple marks on water
* One walkup
* At least one combination mark
* One land blind, one water blind
* One double blind
* One honor
* One walkup
* One diversion
Multiple marks are three or more birds thrown before the dog is sent
out to retrieve each in sequence. A combination mark is where the dog
goes out on land, to water, to land again before reaching the bird. A
double blind involves two placed birds and the handler directs the dog
out to each of them in turn. Master Hunter tests are usually in pretty
tough conditions -- gut sucking mud, waist high grass, etc.
_Junior Hunter:_ dog must find, flush, and have an opportunity to
retrieve 2 birds on land. In addition, one bird must be retrieved from
water at a distance of at least 20 yards with a shot fired. Distances
over water should not exceed those normally encountered in hunting.
_Senior Hunter_: dog must find, flush, and retrieve 2 birds to hand on
land. In addition the dog must be line steady at water and retrieve
one bird to hand from water at a distance of at least 25 yards with a
shot fired. A Senior hunting dog must also exhibit ability to 'hunt
dead' on a land blind of at least 15 yards distance.
_Master Hunter_: Same as senior hunter for land retrieves, water
retrieve is at least 30 yards. Also, required is a blind water
retrieve of at least 30 yards, and the 'hunt dead' on land as well.
Dog must qualify at least 4 times (4 different trials) in order to
earn the title.
The 2 judges score 0-10 on the following categories:
* Hunting ability (which includes desire, courage, perseverance,
independence and intelligence).
* Bird Finding Ability (which includes bird sense, response to wind
and scenting conditions, and use of nose).
* Flushing Ability (boldness)
* Trained Ability (which include range, pattern, gun response,
response to commands).
* Retrieving Ability (which includes marking, enthusiasm, and
A qualifying score is a minimum average of not less than 5 on each of
the categories of abilities listed, with an overall average score of
not less than 7.