AKC Field trials are one of many “field” sporting events that provide an opportunity for handlers and dogs to participate in a sport where Weimaraners (and other pointing breeds) perform their purpose, the original reason for the breed: to run, hunt, find prey, point and retrieve. Other field sporting events include AKC Hunt Tests, Weimaraner Club of America (WCA) Shooting Dog and Retrieving Dog Ratings Tests, and North American Versatile Hunting Dog (NAVHDA) tests.
In Field Trials, the handler and dog compete with one other handler and dog in a “brace”. Multiple braces make up a stake. Judges select the best performing dogs (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th placements). Live upland birds (usually quail on the East coast) are placed on the course for the dogs to locate. These braces are typically 30 minutes, but can run for up to an hour.
There are many levels of events or stakes. The most advanced dogs compete in Open All Age, Open Gun Dog, Open All Age and Amateur Gun Dog stakes. If the dog already has placements, they can run in Open Limited Gun Dog or Amateur Limited Gun Dog. These dogs must be steady to wing and shot. This means that the dog must remain pointing until the handler has flushed the bird and shot a blank pistol and then released the dog. Sometimes a retrieve is required for the dog to fetch and return the bird after the shot.
Most of us started in the sport by running our dogs in puppy stakes (Open Puppy, Amateur Puppy) through 15 months of age where the dog is judged on potential and natural ability. For up to 2 years of age, we can also run our dogs in Open Derby and Amateur Derby. In these stakes, the dog must find a bird and point the bird, but does not have to be steady to wing or shot.
There are walking field trials, where the handler walks behind the dog during the event. There are also horseback trials, where the handler rides a horse behind the dog. Handlers can walk in any horseback stake and will be paired with other walkers as available. There are often “wranglers” at horseback trials to rent for handling or to watch.
Our club and other pointing breed dog clubs host one or two field trials every year. There are also regional field trials held each year for Weimaraners only. Annually, the National Championship takes place in early December at Ardmore, OK. Our club has many successful field trial dogs. For the past several years, several dogs from our club have been in the Top Ten Weimaraner All Age Gun Dog List. Many of us use professional trainers and many train their own dogs and help others.
If you are interested, there are lots of ways to learn more about field trials and field work. Our club holds training events throughout the year. We can help you with your puppy or older dog. You can attend events to watch and admire the dogs as they run and find birds. It is a treat to watch them!
Detailed information on Field Trials, including class descriptions, rules and judging guidelines can be found on the AKC website: http://images.akc.org/pdf/rulebooks/RFTPNT.pdf?_ga=1.96236319.2055408621.1466429498