In a conformation show, judges familiar with specific dog breeds evaluate
individual dogs for how well they conform to published breed standards.
Conformation shows are also referred to as dog shows or breed shows.
Conformation shows are typically held under the auspices of a national
kennel club. At the highest levels are Championship shows, which have
separate classes for the majority of breeds. In addition, the show can
be breed- or group-specific, usually organized by a breed club and often
called a specialty show.
Strictly speaking, a dog show is not exactly a comparison
of one dog to another, it is a comparison of each dog to a judge's concept
of the ideal specimen as dictated by the breed standard, containing
the attributes of a given breed and a list of conformation points. Based
on this, one dog is placed ahead of another.
Dogs compete at dog shows to earn points towards the
title of Champion. Each time a dog wins at some level of a show, it
earns points towards the championship. The number of points varies depending
on what level within a show the win occurs, how many dogs are competing,
and whether the show is a major (larger shows) or minor (smaller shows).
A field trial is a highly competative event at which hunting dogs ususally
compete against one another. Field trials are usually organized by kennel
clubs or other gun dog organizations. Field trials are generally considered
more competitive than hunt tests in that success at a field trial requires
a higher level of training than success at a hunt test requires. For
example, in Retriever Field Trials, dogs retrieve over longer distances
with a more complex path than a Retriever Hunt Test would generally
provide. Field trial dogs must be "finished" in order to enter.
All dogs in the field trial are polished dogs and
the competitors are evaluated against one another, meaning that only
one dog can win.
Field Trials come in various grades including Open,
Amateur, Sanctioned and non-sactioned. An Open field trial permits entry
from any handler or trainer while an Amateur trial only permits non-professional
handlers/trainers. Sanctioned trials are ones that are held under the
control of a national kennal club, while the non-sanction can be organized
by a local club.
A hunt test is an event at which the ability and training of gun dogs
are evaluated against a standard; unlike a field trial in which dogs
compete against one another. Hunt tests are organized by the American
Kennel Club (AKC), the North American Hunting Retriever Association
(NAHRA), and the United Kennel Club (UKC). Generally, hunt tests are
considered less competitive than field trials, but more difficult than
working dog certification.
AKC Hunt Tests
The AKC awards the titles of Junior Hunter (JH), Senior Hunter (SH),
and Master Hunter (MH) for performance in hunt tests. The standards
for the various levels are designed to approximate the situations and
conditions encountered when hunting. Dogs are required to prove the
ability to retrieve and find birds. The AKC provides different hunt
test formats for different types of gun dogs. There are tests for nonslip
retrievers, flushing spaniels, and pointing breeds.
NAHRA Hunt Tests
The NAHRA awards the titles Started Hunting Retriever (SR), Working
Retriever (WR), Master Hunting Retriver (MHR), and Grand Master Hunting
Retriever (GMHR). The standard of training for the higher levels of
NAHRA hunt test require a more advanced degree of training than those
of AKC hunt tests. NAHRA tests are primarily for nonslip retrievers,
although many spaniel and versitile breeds may compete.
UKC Hunt Tests
The UKC awards the titles Started Hunting Retriever (SHR), Hunting Retriever
(HR), Hunting Retriever Champion (HRCH), Grand Hunting Retriever Champion
(GRHRCH), and Upland Hunter (UH). Like the NAHRA test, the UKC test
concentrates on the nonslip retriever skills, though the standards for
UKC titles differ significantly after the starter level.