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Master Hunter to Qualified All-Age: Part 3

A Look Into The Challenges Of Transitioning From Hunt Tests To Field Trials

Part 3 “Tips”

In Part 1 & Part 2 of this series, I spoke about improving specific skillsets to help you transition to competing in field trials.

In Part 3, I’ve written several additional tips that I hope will make both your training and trialing more successful. We have only scratched the surface. In our upcoming Purina Masterclass (June 15th…. register now!), you will have the opportunity to ask specific questions. Until then, here are some tips and final thoughts.

Just because field trials are challenging…

  • Don’t feel you have to immediately do harder things.

  • Be careful of too much early failure.

  • It’s very easy to discourage a dog transitioning to these challenges.

  • Look for ways to make hard things turn out positive.

  • Remember; “Success Breeds Success”

  • Be patient and take it slow.

  • More pressure is not the answer.

  • Pay extra close attention to the delicate balance between discipline and relaxation.

  • Field trial dogs need to be free thinkers in order to sort out complex field trial marks.

  • My personal mission statement is: “Never correct dogs for mistakes, only correct for a lack of effort”

The worst thing I can do as a trainer is make my dog afraid to think.

It’s easy to overwhelm a dog when you are exposing them to new and sometimes intimidating tasks. I suggest that you take notes on your daily training with intention of tracking success rates, corrections made and your type of setups. This will help you stay on course and make you aware of your dog’s progress. Review your notes weekly, as your notes will help you maintain balance in your setups.

In your effort to turn your Master Hunter/Finished Dog into a Qualified All-Age dog, don’t neglect therapy work. It is human nature to want to continually point your finger at your dog’s weaknesses. Even the most successful trainers invest time into therapeutic setups that bolster their dog’s attitude. A set of walking singles or a Y Drill will go a long way to boost your dog’s perspective.

One of the most profound Aha Moments I have had, is when I realized the value of looking for opportunities to reward my dog’s good behavior instead of always looking for opportunities to correct bad behavior. It’s very common for trainers to continually design scenarios to get your dog to exhibit bad behavior so you can correct them. One example is when you setup a water blind with the sole intention of correcting your dog for failing to come off a point. I was very guilty of that. I always looked for the most difficult water blind I could find. I went home feeling good about getting a great correction. Don’t get me wrong, there is great value in getting a dog to exhibit trial behavior in training. However, when most of your training focuses on the negative, you're heading in the wrong direction. At the end of the day, I want my dog to do the right thing out of habit, not out of fear of correction. Getting dogs to do disciplined tasks without acting like they are being disciplined is a skill of today’s top trainers.

“Your dog is only going to be as good as you are.” This was something Rex Carr preached constantly. The first step is upping your game as a handler. Sharpening our skills as a handler is the least we can do for our dogs. The timing and concentration required as a handler to successfully run many of today’s long blinds is no easy task. It takes a lot of practice to run a fast dog on technical blinds. Do your homework and be prepared when the moment comes.

When transitioning to field trials, you are going to have to change your mindset. You will come up short more often than not. That is the reality of field trials. The best dogs are lucky if they place a third of the time. You must take satisfaction in small victories. The first victory is likely to be just getting a call back to the next series or getting through a hard water blind even if you don’t get called back. Don’t measure success or failure on whether you were rewarded a ribbon. The journey you are embarking on can be daunting. I promise you that achieving your goal will be worth all the sweat and tears.

Thank you for taking the time to join in with me on this discussion. I hope it helps shed some light on a journey you are on or considering. Be sure to join us for our FREE Purina Masterclass: From Master Hunter to Qualified All-Age.

Thank you and happy training,



FREE Purina Masterclass! From Master Hunter to Qualified All-Age June 15, 2022. 8:00 PM Eastern Only on Zoom!

Join me & Colby Williams (Topline Retrievers) as we take a deep dive into addressing the challenges of transitioning from hunt tests to competing in field trials. Colby has a strong history of success in AKC Hunt Test, UKC Hunt Test as well as the Super Retriever Series. Topline Retrievers titled over 50 Master Hunters and achieved over 30 plates at the Master National. 6 of those dogs were inducted into the Master National Hall of Fame. In 2018 Colby decided to transition into competing in field trials. It wasn’t long before Topline Retrievers was showing up with awards. In 2019 Colby had 4 very competitive Derby dogs that totaled over 100 points that season. A number of those dogs have gone on to getting Qualified All-Age and are now running Opens. Colby and I will discuss the challenges he was faced with in the journey from hunt test to field trials. He shared with me a number of key points that will undoubtedly help you with your quest. You won’t want to miss this.

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