Competitive working trials for gun dogs have been held in New Zealand since the early 1900’s.
Originally administered by the NZ Kennel Club (NZKC) and policed by English Kennel Club rules, both purebred and crossbred gun dogs competed on equal footing until the NZKC introduced regulations relating to purebreds and registration in 1936. The first working gun dog in New Zealand won its title in 1936 ~ Dual Champion (Field and Show) Pompey, a Labrador from Christchurch owned by Mr C McBeath.
In the early days, gun dogs were trialed on game which was shot over them, but because of the growing popularity of the sport and the lack of wild game birds, it became necessary to substitute feral pigeons for the “real thing”. Thereafter in field trials, pigeons were shot over the dogs, until the practice was outlawed in 1954, with the passing of the Wildlife Bill.
Nowadays, “simulated” field trials are conducted using blank shots which are fired over homing pigeons released from cages to imitate flushing game birds or fired at cold dead game to test retrieving. Natural Game trials re-commenced in 1984 and are currently held for pointing or setting breeds and spaniels only. In these trials, only wild game is hunted. Game birds are shot over dogs within the gazetted hunting season according to license conditions. Trials on “wild” game can be held outside of the hunting season, but blanks are fired over pointing & setting breeds and fur only is shot over spaniels.