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Sporting Dog Performance Events

By Alan Davison
Thursday, May 15th 2014

"All I wanted was a hunting dog..."

I hear this a lot when out at sporting dog performance events and it usually comes from someone who's become totally ingrained—and perhaps successful—in their competitions. And this is a good thing.

I say this because I personally went down a similar road and am better for it. My first "hunting dog" was a very independent Weimaraner who excelled immediately, though in ways that I could not predict.

I wanted a hunting dog and I wanted to get us both trained, but had absolutely no idea how to do that. So my puppy's breeder, Susan, suggested that I come out on weekends to do some training with her and her husband and a few other folks.

It was great. I was training my hunting dog and myself at the same time.

What I didn't expect was that my puppy was turning heads and I had no idea why. That's when they told me about AKC Hunt Tests, Field Trials and American Field Horseback Trials. It was all pretty overwhelming, but my puppy was happy and I was having a great time. Long story short my "hunting dog" went on to win the WCA National Derby, win and place in many local, Regional, and National competitions and finally won the Weimaraner Club of America's National Amateur Championship. And in between, I was able to do a lot of great upland bird hunting with what turned out to be an exceptionally well-trained bird dog.

My point is that sporting dog performance events extend the amount of time and absolute enjoyment I am able to have with my hunting dogs. If you are so inclined, I truly suggest you give it a try. There are many different kinds of tests and competitions out there and all of them hold a specific appeal to different people.


If you want to stay as close to foot hunting as possible you may consider the following organizations:

  • NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association), a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to foster, promote, and improve the versatile hunting dog breeds in North America.
  • NSTRA (National Shoot To Retrieve Association) was founded by a group of dedicated bird hunters looking for a way to extend the fun they enjoyed with their bird dogs after their season ended. They are best known for their field trials that are run under hunting conditions.
  • AKC Hunt Tests are a great venue for folks who have hunting dogs and want to be introduced to performance events. Each dog is judged on its own merits (judged against a Standard) as opposed to how it does against a field of other dogs.

There are many other organizations that offer upland bird hunting competitions that are excellent and offer a great way for you to extend your hunting season, your dog training, and your overall upland hunting experience. Check into:


If you're competitive and like to challenge yourself, your breeding program and/or your gun dog training ability in a different environment, you may want to look into:

These offer great venues all over the United States for exhibiting class bird dogs using horseback as a means of conveyance over the course. The bird dogs in these events typically run larger than the average hunter desires but that's one of the traits that makes participating in these types of competitions fun and exciting. There's something about seeing a dog do what they were bred for, with impeccable manners and style, covering a tremendous amount of ground and sometimes over great distances.

I can tell you from personal experience that each of these events is exceptionally rewarding in what they have to offer:

  • Training advice from folks who have done it for years
  • Camaraderie with like-minded people who love their dogs
  • Competition against a standard or against a field of other well-bred and well-trained bird dogs.

Ultimately it's the quality time you get to spend with your dog, watching them do what they were bred to do using their innate abilities along with the learned lessons of a good trainer. And time in the field and the reward of being successful regardless of how you measure that success.

I have been fortunate to have had some good dogs over the years and have enjoyed them in one way or another during sporting dog performance events and in the field hunting our favorite upland birds of the day. Not everyone takes a similar path and certainly, life has a way of pulling people in one direction or another, but being involved with your dog year around is better than the few weekends you may happen to get during the hunting season. So if you want to extend your hunting season, enjoy time with the family and your dogs, and be introduced to new and interesting people then perhaps one of the organizations listed will be worthwhile for you and Your Good Dog.

As always, our goal here at Dogs Unlimited is to help you Make Your Good Dog Better.

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