When I accidentally entered the world of pointer field trials two years ago I was confused by the terms, so perhaps this glossary will help you understand if you are new to the game.
Field Trial – term that describes a competition between dogs. AKC has field trials broken out by breed talent. Beagles, Labs, and Pointers have field trials but all very different. For the Pointer field trials there is additional variance determined by breed. For example Brittany’s do not have a retrieve in their field trial while German Shorthaired Pointers do. But usually all pointing breeds can run in a pointing field trial. Additionally 2 dogs run on course at a time, but all dogs in a class are judged for which individual dog performs the best. Pointing field trials are normally run from horse back. Horseback is not a requirement but the most efficient way through the course and offers the best vantage to see. Other organization like NSTRA have walking field trials. For AKC birds are not typically shot on course, but for NSTRA the handler must shoot the birds as they are found. AKC field trials are breeder oriented. So dogs are judged on rare characteristics that would possibly pass on to offspring. This includes but is not limited to their run, their independence, and bird finding ability. Obedience is a minor issue and I would describe field champions as right on the edge of being uncontrollable, or at least appearing that way. And certainly any field champion is capable of being excessively “independent” on any given day. The idea being you can always reduce a trait, but can never add it.
Hunt Test – Hunt test are very similar to field trials except they are pass/fail and not a competition. Additionally they are a walking event, so only horses for the judges and/or spectators. Dogs are judged in different areas and receive a numerical score. If the pass they get 1 or the 3 points needed for the title. Pass 3 times and the get the title added after their name on the pedigree. There are 3 hunt test titles for pointing breeds. Junior Hunter, Senior Hunter, and Master Hunter. I recommend AKC Hunt Test for anyone with a pointing breed.
Stake – a stake is the event individual event the dog and handler are competing in. A single field trial normally included multiple stakes, and single dogs and handler can potentially compete in multiple stakes. A stake is described first as the handler i.e. open and then the dog i.e. gun dog. So one stake in a field trial may be Open Gun Dog.
Open Stake – open to amateur and pro handlers alike.
Amateur Stake – handlers and scouts must be amateurs. See further definitions below.
Limited Stake – usually limited to previous field champions, but having never run one not completely sure at this point.
Puppy Stake – is a dog between 6 and 15 months of age. There is no requirement to find birds, point, or retrieve. I would describe it as taking a puppy on a long walk and if he finds a bird good for him, but they are judged primarily on their run and independence and desire to hunt. There is a limit to the number of points a puppy can earn and use for his total in becoming a field champion. Handlers walk in this stake.
Derby Stake – is a dog between 6 months and 2 years old. The dog should find birds but are not required to be steady to wing or shot in this stake. If they do not find a bird they will not win the stake. Handlers walk this stake.
Gun Dog Stake – is for any age dog, but the dog must find game, must be steady to wing and shot, must stop to flush, and must honor another dog on point. The difference between this stake and the all age stake is range of dog. The gun dog ranges shorter in its hunting. The average may be 100 yards versus an All Age Dog that might range 500 yards. (Yardage just an example not a standard) Typically the handler is on horseback though no rule requires it.
All Age Stake - is for any age dog, but the dog must find game, must be steady to wing and shot, must stop to flush, and must honor another dog on point. The difference between this stake and the Gun Dog stake is range of dog. The All Age dog ranges further in its hunting, often out of sight. When the dog is out of sight they need to be much steadier as the handler is not there immediate to command. Typically the handler is on horseback though no rule requires it.
Junior Hunt Test – any age dog judged on hunting, bird finding ability, pointing, and trainability. Hunting being how well they run, bird finding being going on point to game. Pointing for the Junior Hunt Test is point but can break on the shot. And trainability being obedience to the handler.
Senior Hunt Test – any age dog judged on hunting, bird finding, pointing, trainability, retrieving, honoring. Same as Junior Hunt Test accept for pointing the dog must be steady to wing and shot. Birds are shot on course by designated gunners, and the dog must honor another dog on point, either on course or a call back. Dog must retrieve on course of call back.
Master Hunt Test – Same as Senior Hunter but dog must do it without a lot of verbal command. All activities must appear fully ingrained and natural.
Brace – is the heat if you will for a stake. It is comprised of 2 dogs, 2 handler, and 2 judges. Scouts and spectators are optional. Each Field Trial stake or Hunt Test stake is run in a brace and the braces are drawn at random a couple days before the event.
Steady to Wing – dog stays on point until the game is flushed. Can break when a shot is fired.
Steady to Wing & Shot – dog stays on point until handler gives him a command to move. The dog will be steady through the flush, and shot, and/or killing of the game.
Broke Dog– is a dog that is steady to wing and shot.
Force Broke– also called force fetching. Is a technique where dogs learn to fetch under pain and/or duress. Best done by professionals, but highly effective. The pain/duress is given my either ear or toe pinch.
Honor – also called Backing, is when a dog points a dog on point. This honor should also be steady to wing and shot.
Stop to flush – when a dog stops and points flushed game. Game that is not otherwise pointed but that appears to flush on its own. The dog is relocated on Handler command. Failure to stop to flush is automatic disqualification.
Delayed chase – when the dog chased game that have been flushed and not killed. This included game the dog and pointed and that the handler has fired a blank shot at. A delayed chase is automatic disqualification.
Amateur – Handler that does not, and has not trained or handled dogs for a fee.
Pro Handler – Handler that has trained or handled for a fee in the past or present.
Scout – horseback person that stays behind the judges and handler that can “scout” for a dog left or right that might be on point and out of view. Usually recruited from the other participants. This person is not supposed to double handle the dog, but reality is far different from the rules as Scouts often “unintentionally” push dogs out of brush back in front of the handler.
Premium – this is the brochure put out by the club in addition to the entry form that will have directions, local accommodations, services available on the grounds, and running order. They are not available on the AKC website and you usually have to ask for them from the field trial secretary, but are a critical document to have.
Handler – the person commanding the dog on course.
Double handling – Someone other than the Handler commanding the dog or herding it with their horse. Not allowed in field trials or hunt test.
Pinning – when a dog self-relocates on a walking or running bird. Great for hunting, but an automatic disqualification for a field trial, and a judge’s discretion for a hunt test.
PHP - short for Piss Poor Handler, the number one reason a dog does not complete a brace, and when the handler makes an error causing his dog to react and become eliminated.
Dope On A Rope - This is the term for the walk of shame when a dog is picked up mid brace and has to come back to camp on a lead. Normally this situation is PHP, but occasionally the dog just does something stupid and completely contrary to any form of training.
Collar Wise - When a dog knows that the e-collar has come off, and that he no longer has to listen perfectly because he understands he will not be nicked.