Introduction to Hunt Tests
Adapted from the Regulations for AKC Hunting Tests for Pointing Breeds
The purpose of Hunting Tests for dogs of the
Pointing Breeds is to afford an opportunity for a person to demonstrate
a dog's ability to perform in a manner consistent with the demands of
actual hunting conditions. Testing gauges the dog's natural hunting ability
For scoring purposes, the test is divided
into four categories for Junior Hunter and six for Senior and Master Hunter.
These categories provide a complete review of the dog's total performance.
They include Hunting, Bird Finding Ability, Pointing, Trainability, and
in Senior and Master, Retrieving and Honoring.
Dogs are scored from 0 to 10 in each category.
To receive a Qualifying score, a dog must achieve an average score of
7, and no less than 5 in any category. To achieve a Junior Hunter title,
a dog must receive 4 qualifying scores. For a Senior Hunter title, a dog
must receive 5 qualifying scores, or 4 qualifying scores if the dog holds
a Junior Hunter title; and for a Master Hunter title, a dog must receive
6 qualifying scores, or 5 qualifying scores if the dogs holds a Senior
1. Hunting: Desire, boldness, independence,
speed and a useful pattern of running are the elements of the Hunting
category. Dogs must demonstrate all of these attributes to qualify. A
dog that is out for a run in the field and does not seem to be hunting,
or a dog that does not leave its handler's side to explore the territory,
or which potters about slowly would be scored low in Hunting Ability.
Junior hunting dogs are scored more leniently than Seniors and Masters
which are expected to demonstrate experienced hunting ability.
In evaluating a dog's Hunting Ability, judges
should be looking for a good pattern, one that uses the wind and terrain
to best advantage and searches all likely objectives. If a dog happens
to cover a lot of ground in the process, so much the better, but range
is not the primary concern. The dog should demonstrate independence in
its search, but checking back to the handler should not adversely affect
a Hunting score unless it is excessive. The dog and handler should present
a picture of smooth and flowing teamwork, with the handler choosing the
general direction of the hunt and the dog responsive to the handler's
wishes, yet independent enough to maintain a good ground covering pattern.
Making allowances for extreme weather conditions and terrain, the dog
should maintain a fairly consistent range, not shortening toward the end
of the time period.
Range should be dictated by the type of ground
being covered, but a dog should never range out of sight for a length
of time that detracts from its usefulness as a practical hunting companion.
Dogs are expected to perform for the required length of the test taking
into account any extreme conditions affecting performance.
2. Bird Finding Ability: A dog must
demonstrate the ability to find game. A dog which does a good job of hunting
should find birds. A dog which is not hunting may stumble upon a bird
by accident, but this should be apparent based upon its overall application.
The number of birds a dog finds should not necessarily be considered as
important as the 'quality' of the finds. Scenting conditions, terrain
and cover should be considered when scoring this category. The course
should have sufficient birds (no less than two per brace but more are
strongly recommended) to insure that a dog with good bird finding ability
will locate them.
There are no provisions for calling back birdless
dogs; dogs must find birds on their own. A dog that does not find birds
cannot receive a Qualifying score. A dog which shows all the desirable
characteristics of Hunting and Bird Finding Abilities and yet only finds
one bird should not necessarily receive a 5 or less in Bird Finding Ability.
As stated before, it is the quality of the finds which counts. Finding
more birds than another dog should not necessarily result in a higher
score since the dogs are not judged against one another; their abilities
are being evaluated and scored numerically against the Standard.
3. Pointing: Pointing is more easily
defined than Hunting and Bird Finding Abilities. Scoring in this category
should reflect the style (intensity and staunchness) of the dog and its
ability to pinpoint birds, especially with difficult or confusing scent
patterns. In general, a dog which shows a complete lack of intensity or
staunchness should not receive a Qualifying score. This could be a dog
which has only stopped with a soft stance on a bird. A dog with a low
stance should not be scored lower than a dog with a high stance if it
demonstrates staunchness and intensity, particularly in difficult pointing
situations. Some breeds may not carry as high a head and tail as others,
and this should be weighed in determining a score. A 12 o'clock tail is
not necessary and, indeed is not found in any AKC Pointing Breed standards.
Flagging (lack of staunchness) on game is generally a fault in older,
more experienced dogs, but should not be reflected too severely in the
Pointing score of a Junior dog. A Senior or Master dog may flag when game
has left the area but a pool of scent remains. The actual presence of
game should be taken into account when judging a dog on point. Intensity
and staunchness may also be influenced by the distance at which a dog
is pointing game.
A flash point cannot qualify in any of the
three levels. What constitutes a flash point as opposed to an acceptable
point is of particular concern in the Junior hunting test where the dog
is allowed to break and chase after first establishing a point. A flash
point is generally a point in which the dog stops only momentarily before
chasing the bird. The question arises as to how much longer than 'momentarily'
the dog must remain on point. A Junior dog must hold point until the handler
gets within normal gunshot range. If you were hunting, you would want
to get close enough to shoot at the bird before the dog flushed it.
A Senior dog must point and must remain in
position until the bird is shot or the dog is released. A dog which breaks
before the shot cannot receive a Qualifying score. A Senior dog must be
steady to flush, but not to shot. A dog should be credited for relocating
on its own when it can be demonstrated it is attempting to pin the bird.
The dog may also relocate on command of its handler, but the dog should
not creep after or trail a bird that the handler is attempting to flush.
A Master hunting dog must demonstrate steadiness
to wing and shot on all birds and cannot receive a Qualifying score it
if breaks. The handler may caution a Master dog after it has established
point. The dog cannot be commanded to retrieve until positive steadiness
has been demonstrated. A handler may send his dog to retrieve after the
bird has hit the ground and the dog is seen to remain in position. A dog
that breaks at any time before it is commanded to retrieve cannot receive
a Qualifying score. Normally, a dog can move or turn in place to mark
the fall of the bird, provided no significant forward motion is made.
This allows movement if the bird should happen to fly behind the dog but,
again, there should be no significant forward motion. A question, 'How
much forward motion is allowed?' a few steps to mark the fall or out of
enthusiasm, if the dog stops without command, would be permissible. Blocking
a dog to keep it from breaking calls for a lowered score because it prevents
a demonstration of steadiness. If there is some question as to whether
a handler is deliberately blocking a dog, the Judges might want to caution
Dogs may occasionally point rabbits and other
small game, but their Pointing ability should be neither credited nor
discredited for doing so. Senior and Master dogs, however, are expected
to be under control, with the degree of control varying. Trainability
scores would be affected by uncontrolled chasing.
4. Trainability: In the Trainability
category, a dog is judged on its willingness to be handled, its obedience
to commands and its gun response. In Junior, this category is scored more
leniently than in Senior and Master, where these same elements are judged
with progressively less tolerance.
At the Master level, the dog must be under
control at all times, and handle kindly with an absolute minimum of noise
and hacking by the handler. In Junior, the dog must demonstrate 'reasonable
obedience' to commands and be willing to be handled. The Senior performance
level requires that the dog be scored with less tolerance than the Junior.
The scoring of 'obedience' and 'willingness to handle' should reflect
the level of response by the dog.
A Senior dog must stop on a wild flushed bird
and may be commanded to do so without receiving a failing score. A Master
dog must stop on a wild flushed bird without being given a command to
do so. A dog that fails to stop or a dog requiring a command to stop cannot
receive a Qualifying score in Master.
Gun response is also evaluated under Trainability.
Gun-shyness cannot be tolerated in any dog being evaluated as a hunting
companion. In the Junior test, a blank pistol must be fired if the dog
is within reasonable gun range when a bird is flushed. In the Senior and
Master tests, gun response is evaluated when the bird is shot, or when
a blank is fired over the dog on the backcourse. In Master, the handler
of the pointing dog is required to carry an empty shotgun and when game
is flushed, follow the flight of the bird with both hands on the gun as
if a shot were to be fired. Judges should never be overly critical of
the handlers manner of shouldering a shotgun and otherwise deserving dogs
should not fail to receive a qualifying score because of handler's error.
5. Retrieving: The Retrieving category
is applicable only in the Senior and Master levels. A good retrieve could
be defined as a directness to the bird, quick location, prompt pick up,
brisk, direct return to the handler, with tender delivery. In Senior,
the dog is not required to retrieve to hand, but the Regulations do not
specify how close is close enough to qualify. One or two steps would be
generally acceptable. In Master, a dog must retrieve 'absolutely to hand.'
A handler may not assist the dog on the retrieve
in either the Senior or Master tests by moving toward the downed bird.
There should not be excessive commands on the retrieve. Excessive hacking
through the retrieve should be reflected in the score, even to the extent
of scoring the ability as 0, especially in Master. In a difficult situation,
handling would be allowed, but excessive commands would result in a lower
score on Retrieving.
Mouthing is a serious fault in a hunting dog.
A mangled bird is not fit for the table. Any dog which renders a bird
unfit for consumption cannot receive a Qualifying score. Judges should
ask to examine any bird which they feel may have been damaged by a dog.
Both Judges must agree the dog alone was responsible for the damage.
Some unusual situations can occur in the retrieve.
For instance, the gunner fires a shot and the bird goes down. When the
dog is sent for the retrieve, the bird flies away. Some Judges say that
if a command is given to retrieve, the dog must come back with the bird
or the Retrieving score will be zero. In this circumstance, the attempt
should not be scored and the Judges should give a dog a chance to retrieve
another bird. The dog can continue on course for another find, or a callback
could be used.Two Official Gunners must be used whenever a dog is called
back to retrieve.
Another situation which can occur is the appearance
of a second live bird which pops up in the general vicinity of a downed
bird. The dog is sent to retrieve a downed bird and either grabs or chases
the second bird. Judges should not score the dog lower in Retrieving for
this action and should score the dog on its retrieve if it returns with
the bird. If the dog catches the bird and does not make an acceptable
retrieve, it should be scored lower in Retrieving. A dog should be able
to retrieve a crippled running bird. A dog which is able to complete the
retrieve of a running bird should not be scored lower for killing the
bird, provided the bird is not damaged to the extent of being inedible.
A subject, indirectly related to the retrieve,
is the delayed chase. A delayed chase means that after a bird has been
flushed and the dog has not been ordered to retrieve, it chases after
the bird when sent on in another direction. A delayed chase should detract
from the score in Trainability.
One more thought on the retrieve is the matter
of safety. Everyone involved in a situation where live ammunition is being
used should wear an article of blaze orange clothing. For many people
this is already commonplace, but the cooperation of all participants works
to the benefit of everyone involved and reduces the risk of accident.
6. Honoring: Honoring, like retrieving,
is a requirement in Senior and Master. If a dog is given an opportunity
to honor and refuses, it cannot receive a Qualifying score. Dogs which
have demonstrated an excellent honor should not necessarily qualify if
the handler has spent much of the time on course hacking, screaming or
shouting commands which reflects poor obedience and an unwillingness to
handle. (These actions would be reflected in the Trainability score.)
If the dog does not have an opportunity to honor, it should be called
back at the conclusion of the brace or the end of the test to demonstrate
its willingness to honor and its style. Style can be compared to that
discussed under the Pointing category.
In Senior, the handler may give a dog a verbal
command to honor but the dog must acknowledge that its bracemate is on
point before it has been cautioned to honor. Once the dog has established
its honor, the handler may collar the dog to prevent interference with
the pointing dog when the bird is flushed. But, remember, the dog must
clearly demonstrate it is honoring before it can be collared. A dog that
steals its bracemate's point cannot receive a Qualifying score.
In Master hunting tests, a dog requiring restraint,
either physical or verbal, when honoring cannot receive a Qualifying score.
Neither can a dog receive a Qualifying score if it steals its bracemate's
point. Be sure it is not a divided find when both dogs hit scent and might
go on point at approximately the same time. In that case, both dogs would
be pointing and neither demonstrating an honor. The Judges must determine
which one flushes the bird or gets to retrieve if it is a shooting situation.
The Regulations permit a dog to be called
into the vicinity of a pointing dog so it can see a bracemate on point.
However, the dog cannot be commanded to honor. Once the honor is established,
the Regulations also permit the handler to give a quiet verbal caution,
but loud vocal or physical restraint is not permitted. A Master dog must
honor through the entire flush, shot and retrieve. However, it may be
heeled off and sent on if the retrieving dog takes overly long, encounters
a running bird, or does not make the retrieve. Generally, this can be
considered a completed honor and the dog should not be required to demonstrate
an additional honor unless it again encounters its bracemate on point.
It must honor on each occasion and cannot receive a Qualifying score if
it fails to do so. Blocking of the dogs should not be allowed.The positioning
of the gunners, and of the handler of the pointing dog, can pose as problem
when they stand so that a dog called in for an honor cannot see the pointing
Whenever possible, the honor should be demonstrated
on the course. If the dog does not have an opportunity to honor on course,
it must be called back. In a callback for an honor, the Judges should
also make every effort to use as the pointing dog, one which was entered
in the test being judged. This may not always be possible and, in those
cases where it is impossible, the Judges must select a suitable dog. Whenever
a dog is to be called back for any reason, the Judges should notify the
handler in time to be ready. At the Judge's discretion, callbacks may
be held at the completion of the test or following the running of the
brace. This latter option simplifies matters as scores are then recorded
for each brace at the conclusion of the brace. Judges should use a pointing
dog which is staunch and intense on point to provide the working dog with
every opportunity to demonstrate an honor. Using the two dogs which originally
ran the brace is acceptable if both dogs had otherwise Qualifying scores.
The Judges of a Junior Hunting Test must score
the dogs on the basis of the following four categories of hunting ability:
HUNTING: A dog is scored from 0 to 10 on the basis of whether or
not it evidences a keen desire to hunt, boldness and independence, and
a fast, yet useful pattern of running.
BIRD FINDING ABILITY: A dog must find and point birds in order
to receive a Qualifying score. Dogs are scored from 0 to 10 based upon
demonstration of intelligence in seeking objectives, use of the wind,
and the ability to find birds.
POINTING: A dog is scored from 0 to 10 in this category on the
basis of the intensity of its point, as well as its ability to locate
(pinpoint) birds under difficult scenting conditions and/or confusing
scent patterns. A 'flash' point cannot be graded as pointing, however,
and a dog's score in this category shall not be influenced by its steadiness
to wing and shot.
TRAINABILITY: A dog is scored from 0 to 10 in this category on
the basis of its willingness to be handled, its reasonable obedience to
commands and its gun response. If the handler is within reasonable gun
range of a bird which has been flushed after a point, a blank pistol must
be fired. Gun response is included under Trainability in Junior, Senior
and Master for purposes of scoring since some degree of training is often
involved. 'Gun-shyness,' a component of gun response, cannot be tolerated
in the make-up of any dog that is being evaluated as a hunting companion.
A dog may be restrained (collared) to prevent interference with the dog
A Senior hunting dog must show all of the
attributes expected of a Junior hunting dog in HUNTING and BIRD
FINDING ABILITY, but must be scored in these two categories with less
tolerance than would be accorded to the Junior hunting dog. Senior Hunting
dogs must also be scored on the basis of the following four additional
categories of ability:
POINTING: A Senior hunting dog must point and hold its point until
the bird has been shot or the dog has been released.
RETRIEVING: A dog is scored from 0 to 10 based upon the level of
Retrieving ability demonstrated. A Senior Hunting dog must retrieve, but
a dog need not deliver to hand in order to receive a Qualifying score.
If the handler of the retrieving dog assists that dog by walking towards
the fallen bird, the handler will run the risk of having the dog's Retrieving
ability scored less than 5.0. The Judges shall call back any dog that
did not have an opportunity to retrieve during the running of its brace
in order to score the dog's Retrieving ability. The call backs to demonstrate
Retrieving ability should be limited to those dogs whose scores in the
other abilities would otherwise permit them to receive a Qualifying score,
but the Judges may call back all dogs that did not have an opportunity
to retrieve. Two Official Guns must be used whenever a dog is called back
to demonstrate a retrieve.
TRAINABILITY: As in the Junior Hunting Test, a Senior hunting dog
is scored based upon its willingness to handle, obedience to commands
and gun response, but the Senior hunting dog must be scored with less
tolerance than a Junior hunting dog. A Senior hunting dog must stop on
a wild flushed bird and may be commanded to do so without receiving a
HONORING: In order to receive a Qualifying score, a Senior hunting
dog must honor; a handler may give a dog a verbal command to honor. In
order to receive a Qualifying score, a Senior hunting dog must acknowledge
that its bracemate is on point before it has been cautioned to honor.
A dog that steals its bracemate's point cannot receive a Qualifying score.
After a dog has demonstrated its ability to honor, it may be restrained
(collared) by the handler in order to prevent interference with the dog
on point when the bird is flushed. If a dog has had no opportunity to
demonstrate honoring during the running of its brace, it shall be called
back by the Judges so that it can be scored on its Honoring ability. Call
backs to demonstrate honoring should be limited to those dogs whose scores
in the other abilities would otherwise enable them to receive a Qualifying
score, but the Judges may call back all dogs that did not have an opportunity
A Master hunting dog must show all of the
attributes of a Senior hunting dog in HUNTING and BIRD FINDING
ABILITY but must exhibit these abilities in the more exceptional manner
expected of a truly finished and seasoned hunting companion. Master hunting
dogs must also possess all of the attributes of the Senior dog in POINTING,
RETRIEVING, TRAINABILITY and HONORING. The Master Hunting Test requirements
for these categories are identical to those of the Senior Test, but the
Judges must score the Master with full expectation of the following refinements:
POINTING: This category, graded from 0 to 10, reflects a dog's
intensity and staunchness. A Master hunting dog must be steady to wing
and shot on all birds. A dog shall not be commanded to retrieve until
positive steadiness has been demonstrated. A dog that breaks cannot receive
a Qualifying score. It is permissible for the handler to caution a master
hunting dog on point.
RETRIEVING: A dog cannot receive a Qualifying score if it fails
to deliver promptly, tenderly and absolutely to hand. If the handler of
the retrieving dog assists that dog by walking towards the fallen bird,
the handler will run the risk of having the dog's Retrieving ability scored
less than 5.0. As in the Senior Hunting Test, a Master hunting dog must
be given the opportunity to demonstrate Retrieving ability, either during
the time its brace is running, or in a call back situation. The Judges
may elect to call back only those dogs whose scores in the other abilities
would otherwise permit them to receive a Qualifying score, or they may
call back all dogs that did not have an opportunity to retrieve. Two Official
Guns must be used whenever a dog is called back to demonstrate a retrieve.
TRAINABILITY: The elements of handling and gun response are viewed
more stringently in a Master hunting dog. Both handlers shall carry an
empty shotgun at all times during the running of the brace. In those instances
where the use of live ammunition is not permitted on the back course,
blank pistols must be fired. A Master Hunting dog must stop on a wild
flushed bird without being given a command to do so. A dog that fails
to do so, or a dog requiring a command to stop cannot receive a qualifying
score. When a game bird is flushed, following a point, the handler of
the pointing dog must shoulder an empty shotgun, and with both hands on
the gun, follow the flight of the bird as if a shot were to be fired at
HONORING: A Master hunting dog must honor; a dog requiring restraint,
either physical or verbal, when honoring, or a dog that steals its bracemate's
point cannot receive a Qualifying score. A Master dog may be called into
the vicinity of the pointing dog to demonstrate an honor. A Master hunting
dog shall not be commanded to honor. Once a dog has established an honor,
the handler is permitted to give a quiet verbal caution, but may not use
loud vocal or physical restraint. A Master dog must honor throughout the
entire flush, shot and retrieve. However, an honoring dog may be heeled
off and sent on if the retrieving dog takes overly long, or does not make
the retrieve. In such instances, this shall be considered a completed
honor and a dog shall not be required to demonstrate an additional honor
unless it again encounters it's bracemate on point (it must honor on each
occasion and cannot receive a Qualifying score if it fails to do so).
As in the Senior Hunting Test, a Master hunting dog must be given an opportunity
to honor, either during the time its brace is running, or in a call back
situation. The Judges may elect to call back only those dogs whose scores
in the other abilities would otherwise permit them to receive a Qualifying
score, or they may call back all dogs that did not have an opportunity
Started in Hunting Tests