AKC Junior Hunt Tests

| June 7, 2011 | 0 Comments
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Chuck Hilton And Zeus Training For His AKC Junior Hunter Title

Chuck Hilton And Zeus Training For Zeus' JH


Chuck and Sharon Hilton are a husband and wife team who judge AKC Hunt Tests mainly at the Senior and Master level these days. Chuck is an avid upland and waterfowl hunter and trains retrievers at all levels of the hunt test game. Sharon brings her many years of experience as a hunt test judge and often assists Chuck in training and running dogs that are in their care. I asked Chuck and Sharon to fill us in on what they are thinking about when they are setting up an AKC Junior Hunt Test and how they evaluate Junior dogs that are running the test.

Why Do We Have Hunt Tests?

AKC says the purpose is to test the merits of and evaluate the abilities of retrievers in the field in order to determine their suitability and ability as hunting companions. Therefore, Hunting Retriever Tests (HRT’S) must simulate as nearly as possible a true hunting situation.

All AKC judges are compelled to follow the regulations for all levels of HRT’S. This means we have to look at the grounds availability to comply with those regulations and then set up as realistic hunting scenario as possible.

Junior Hunt Test Mechanics

The Junior level, in our opinion, is to encourage handlers and retrievers to enjoy and have fun both in the training of the retriever and also running them at the HRT. There is a certain amount of seriousness about this now not only because of the cost of each individual HRT, but also the necessary training involved to have your dog ready to achieve success.

Let’s take a look at some of the basic requirements for the Junior Hunter.

  • Marks. Dogs shall be tested on four single marks, two on land and two on water.
  • Steadiness. Dogs shall be steady but may be brought to the line on leash with a flat buckle collar and may be restrained gently with a slip cord or by the hand until sent to retrieve. The importance of having the dog under control might not be obvious to most non-hunters; however, it is a matter of safety to both the hunter and the dog so neither gets shot accidentally. Also, an out of control dog can scare game away before the hunter has an opportunity to get close enough for a good shot.
  • Retrieve to Hand. Dogs must retrieve to hand. It is of particular importance if the dog retrieves a live bird (be it upland or waterfowl) and it is released by the dog prior to delivery, as there is a very high chance that the bird will get away. Retrievers are meant to be conservationists by minimizing the loss of wounded game.
  • Perseverance. A dog may be encouraged to hunt; however, excessive encouragement suggests a lack of hunting desire and would receive a low score in perseverance.
  • Handling. If handling to a mark is required, dogs shall not be handled on more than one mark and handling must be accomplished crisply and cleanly.

The dog and the handler should work as a team and we want to see them respond to the scenario accordingly. This means that when the dog is not responding to a situation, what do you (as the handler) do to help your dog. Now since the Junior level is primarily a marking test, there may not be much you can do to help your dog, except provide encouragement.

How Do We Set Up A Test?

When we are looking at the set up of the test, we want to make the marks challenging, but also not so difficult that it would become trickery to the dog’s ability to find the mark. We most always try to make sure the dog has visible sight of the thrown or shot bird from the time it leaves the gun station to the time it hits the ground. Sometimes because of rolling terrain this cannot be accomplished. If that is the situation, then we would take that into consideration on the duration of time spent for the dog to find and pick up the mark. We will always give any benefit of doubt in favor of the dog and if a rerun is needed to determine fairness, then we do not hesitate to do so.

How Do We Evaluate A Junior Dog?

The main qualities we look for and are scoring on Junior dogs are as follows:

  • Trainability. Does the dog come to the line under the control of the handler or under its own control? This will be scored under trainability accordingly.
  • Marking. When the dog is told to mark, does it look and pay attention to where the handler has directed it to, or does it move and jump with little control of direction? The attention the dog gives to the mark will usually represent what kind of retrieve you can expect to receive.
  • Perseverance. When the dog is released, does it go to the area of the fall and hunt up the bird in a timely manner? If a prolonged hunt is happening, then as a judge you have to determine if it was poor marking ability, lack of desire or perseverance or it could have been a fall out of the scent area. In our opinion, this is where the judges should give the dog the benefit to see what happens if given a reasonable amount of time to find the mark. Given a reasonable time, you can usually tell if the dog is lost and does not remember why he’s out there.
  • Recall. Once the dog has marked the fall, does he pick it up and return in a timely manner directly to the handler? If the dog meanders around and again looks like he has forgotten why he needs to return with the bird and sets the bird down on the ground and wanders off, this becomes a trainability problem of not understanding the importance of returning to the handler with the bird. As judges, we see this a lot with dogs that have not been taught the importance of a timely recall and the handler is pleading with the dog to return in hopes of getting a ribbon.
  • Retrieve to Hand. Will the dog deliver the bird to hand with a gentle release and not tear at or chomp at the bird? This is the last step of getting your dog to the next series or possibly the Qualifying Ribbon.

There is considerably a lot more to judging, handling, and training your dog for a qualifying wing in Junior; however, we hope this sheds some light on the process.

Note: Both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and North American Hunting Retriever Association (NAHRA) offer hunting titles for retrievers. To learn more, see the What’s in a Title article in this issue.


Category : Hunt Test

About the Author ()

I am one of the founders and editor of Retriever Life. My passion is Labradors of all sizes and shapes but I am a big fan of all the retriever breeds.

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