If there is one thing you will learn running field trials it is that you never stop learning. There are thousands of variables at play with each running of your dog.
Weather is always a factor in sent conditions. I have run in 80 degree stagnant heat and 50 degree pouring rain with winds blowing 30mph or more. I have run on course into the wind and with the wind always at our back. So weather will always be a factor in how you handle your dog and how you move into certain “birdy” areas.
Wildlife is a variable as well. What will you do if your dog decides to chase game like deer, rabbits, or hogs? Has your dog been snake proofed?
Finds are variable. When you dog points a bird will it be deep in 2” thorns, or out in open grass? Will the bird fly right away, or will it run? What will you do if the bird is in a Mott and just runs from to the opposite side of the tree you are on and won’t flush? What if the bird is dead? (and yes this has happened)
The other dog can create a variety of unforeseeable combinations. Will the dogs honor each other’s points? Will they fight? If one bumps and chases a bird, will the other follow in the pursuit? Will the dogs play tag never hunting independently? Will your dog respond to the other handler’s commands or whistle? If the other dog interferes with yours on point, will your dog stay steady or will he break?
Call backs, as scripted as they are full of variables. Will the gunner kill the bird or miss? If they miss how will you handle it within the rules? When do you send your dog from the retrieve? Can you move after the dog has left for the retrieve? What if your dog can’t find the bird?
The course has its own personality and ability to throw a curve ball as dogs can find more than their fair share of ways to get off it. So where are the tanks, the fences, the obvious bird areas? Where are the ditches and ravines that might separate you from your dog?
Your dog’s personality is a big variable. Is the stud you know it is going to be on the course that day, or is the goofball personality going to show up? Will the dog handle the pressure and excitement of a new place, or will overwhelming enthusiasm cause it to run wild. Or perhaps not run at all.
You though are the biggest variable. Will you handle the competition? Better yet, how will you handle the competition? How will you handle the unexpected? Will you convey confidence to the dog and judge, or will you convey fear, loss of control, or show your rookie colors? All factor into a successful run.
And invariably when you begin to run field trials there will be some other variable not mentioned here. What is important to remember is that everyone out there is still learning from the most seasoned pro trainer, to the newest amateur. Most errors are handler related so do not give up or beat yourself up, learn from the mistakes and incorporate the variables into your work with your dog. It is impossible to train for every scenario so the handler must learn how to adjust on the fly and present his/her dog in the most favorable light.
And most important of all, if you encounter a situation you have never seen, or don’t know what the rules are concerning it… ask the judge. Usually he or she will give you some instruction, particularly if you are new at the game.