Field Trial

field trial

About Field Trial

  • Invented: 1866
  • Highest Governing Body: American Kennel Club (AKC), Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America (AFTCA), National Retriever Club (NRC)

Field trial is a competitive sport for various breeds of sporting dogs, which tests their performance in various tasks that emulate hunting. Most field trials in the United States are held by the American Kennel Club (AKC) or the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America (AFTCA), while in Great Britain, the Kennel Club manages most field trials. There are multiple categories of field trials based upon the age and type of sporting dog, including puppy trials (for dogs under 18 months old), derby trials (less than 30 months old), all-age trials, shooting dog trials, and various others.

In a field trial, dogs perform various tasks based on hunting game, such as birds or other animals. A field trial is designed to test qualities such as speed, range, handling response, pace, retrieving, and many others. Certain tasks are more specific, such as testing the dog’s ability to hold point, retrieve game to hand, or even search for fallen game in the water. For hound breeds, field trials often test hunting ability, sense of smell, and the ability to follow a scent trail.

In contemporary sport, many field trial events are held yearly in the United States. The American Kennel Club hosts many of these events and estimates annual entries in field trials to be in the tens of thousands, with continual growth expected over the coming years.


What is field trial?

Field trial is a competitive sport where dogs of various breeds are judged on their performance of various tasks that mimic hunting. Many different breeds, including retrievers, spaniels, and hounds, participate in field trials. Field trials have been held across Great Britain, the United States, and other countries since the late 1800s. Currently, field trial events in America are managed mostly by the American Kennel Club (AKC), which holds hundreds of sporting dog events each year.

What hunting skills does field trial test?

Field trial tests a number of different hunting skills, depending on the type of breed being tested. For bird dogs, trials test qualities such as speed, range, hunting intelligence, handling response, game finding, and gun manners. For spaniels, trials test steadiness, holding point, pace, style, marking of fallen game, and retrieving. For retrievers, trials test tractability, steadiness with gunshots, handling response, and marking game. Finally, for hounds, field trials test scenting and tracking abilities.

How do you get your dog involved in field trial?

There are many ways to get started involving one’s dog in field trials. First, it is important to attend field trial events and gain familiarity with the sport. An important second step is getting involved with the local kennel club, which will usually be associated with a national organization, such as the AKC. Next, determining the type of sport for the eligible dog is key, and owners should observe their dog for signs of skill, such as appearance, energy, and response to training. Finally, in order to begin entering a dog into field trials, the dog must be registered with a kennel club, which will normally involve the dog receiving a number from various organizations, such as an AKC number, a PAL number, or an FSS number.