A Spaniel Natural Game Trial is a judged rough shoot with no simulation element and provides a handler with the opportunity to test their dog's abilities within a competitive environment. The quarry is typically Rabbits or Pheasants.
The trial starts with the expectation that the dog will thoroughly and systematically hunt the ground in front of the handler, typically hunting in a zig-zag fashion, called quartering. As the dog hunts, the dog is expected to stay within 'shot gun range', or within approximately 30m of the handler.
The aim is for the dog to find game and to flush it from the cover so that it can be shot. The dog should be steady to the flush and the shot, ie: should stop when the game is flushed and when the shot is fired, and not chase the game. Once the game has been successfully shot, the dog should be sent on command to retrieve the game and bring it back to the handler, delivering it to hand.
In essence a Natural Game trial is very similar to actual hunting, and is judged for the excellence of ability in the dog and courage in the face of cover in partnership with its handler. Dogs hunt two at a time, side by side but on different ground each dog having it’s own Judge. Judges are accompanied by a Steward and a “Gun” who shoots on behalf of the handler. Dogs will be judged primarily on their hunting ability, game finding, steadiness, control, and courage in the face of cover.
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