So the first question that comes to mind is what is a Novice AV Trial?

Well first of all its a competition run in the field, and is supposed to resemble a normal days shooting. So in all intents and purposes its run like a normal walked up shoot day. So in this instance the drives comprised walking up through cover crop on field margins, along hedge lines and through small woods.

As we know the spaniel’s job is to hunt up the game, sit to flush, and once shot if required to retrieve the game. For this particular competition the entries were all Novice Springer Spaniels. The ‘AV’ in the title suggests Any Variety of spaniel can enter. So Cocker Spaniels could enter but it is unlikely to see them in this type of competition because they work quite differently to Springers. Cocker spaniels would normally run in their own trials so competing against the same breed.

I was intrigued to learn how a spaniel trial would differ from a retriever trial and after the initial briefings and introductions we all got into our cars and headed out into the estate to find the start of the first drive. I was pleased to learn they are indeed a very similar format. So we started off with each judge on either side of a hedge.

Under Kennel Club Rules it states that “Where possible dogs should be run in pairs, one dog under each judge or pair of judges. In the first round, odd numbers will run under the right-hand judge(s) in consecutive order and, unless eliminated or discarded, will run in the second round under the left-hand judge(s) and vice versa.”

We watched as each dog was put through its paces with some dogs spending quite a bit of time before they flushed anything, some of the others flushing quite quickly. At times the Judges needed to go through the hedge to give their dog a retrieve from the other side when the birds were favouring a particular direction of travel. Usually this was because that particular dog had been hunting for a while, had already sat to shot, and waited while the other dog retrieved.

We learned the most appropriate way to check a bird to see it hadn’t been damaged by the dog after retrieving, how the dogs should cover the ground and not miss potential hiding places for the birds, and see how well the dogs stopped to shot and how the scent or sight of birds might pull them on to ignore their handlers cues.

Everyone was really friendly and helpful, those that came to watch and learn where actively encouraged to ask questions and get up close to see how the dogs were working and receive feedback on what the judge might be looking for. It was a great way to spend a day and I would encourage anyone to go along and learn as much as you can.

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