The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

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The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby John Lawton » Wed 26 Apr 2017 5:43 pm

Watch this video and make your own decision.

Is this the direction our Australian Retrieving Trials are heading.
No sagacity in any of our dogs - Whats that you say, might pay to look up what the word Sagacity means.
It means allowing the dogs to display their own natural hunting ability. i.e. Casting to wind, Slowing down at the depth of the fallen game and hunting it out . Effectively hunting and locating game out of site of the handler. etc

Are our future Trials to be held on racetracks, with TV coverage?

This is the way we are heading with nothing but STRAIGHT line runs in open cover.
It's a pity to see Australia heading down this track, maybe in the future we will have a ring next to dancing with dogs ?

Hopefully in the future, the Judges will re-read RULE 1 and apply it to the assessment of their runs.
Viewing judges with stop watches in seeing how quick a dog can effect a retrieve is NOT in our rule book.

Please consider and give it some thought.

John Lawton
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Re: The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby Trevor Stevens » Fri 28 Apr 2017 2:31 pm

Hi John
You must be having a quiet day and decided to throw out a bait and see what you can catch?
I don't recall any of the runs at Easter looking anything like this.
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Re: The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby Trevor Stow » Fri 28 Apr 2017 5:09 pm


Sorry but I don't understand. Is there a proposal to run the trials shown in your You tube video in Australia instead of what we already have? Is that what you are saying?
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Re: The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby Prue Winkfield » Sat 29 Apr 2017 3:22 pm

John from the title of your post thought this would lead into a good discussion on the future of our trials in light of the aging of our stalwarts, lack of new blood coming into the sport and the general decline in numbers of competitors across the country.
We have been discussing this a lot recently at trials without coming to any conclusion! Prue
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Re: The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby Ron Jackson » Tue 02 May 2017 8:09 pm

CJ here. Surely there is a way. Happy Medium? Grow the sport without the extremes? Use the new game drive dogs with the established, and well loved, natural hunting ability dogs. That door has been opened, it can't be closed. Can we find that happy medium? Are we strong enough to bend, or do we break?
We are such a small group of gundog sporting enthusiasts here in Aus, lets all move forward together, not apart.
We believe the perceived 'crazy dogs' have a part to play. We believe the Aussie scene is NOT the same as the USA scene. Lets find a solution. DO YOU CHOSE TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION, OR PART OF THE PROBLEM?
We hope this sport is a large part of our future. We hope you are all a large part of our future. What say you? TOGETHER we find a compromise; we thrive and grow; or apart we disappear into history????
Ron & Cathie.
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Re: The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby Kirsty Blair » Tue 02 May 2017 9:29 pm

I've been out of this sport for about 6 or 7 years and just came back this season. I miss seeing dogs working independently. I miss being blown away by how clever a dog is to solve a particular challenge or problem. To work the wind or to instinctively quarter in on a scent cone.

I stewarded for all age the other day and didn't see a single mark that was retrieved without whistle or direction from the handler. But my god those dogs were fast.

I'm not going to comment on whether the direction this sport is taking is right or wrong. Each of us participates for our own reasons. Entry numbers are up in NSW and I see plenty of new faces that have started competing while I've been away. I will carry on with my own breed of choice and continue to strive to have my own dogs perform to their best ability. What the judges make of that is up to them.

The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.
~ Helen Keller ~
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Re: The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby Ron Jackson » Wed 03 May 2017 4:12 am

Kirsty I had the pleasure of watching 7 All Age Stakes in the past 4 weeks across NSW and Vic. and I saw many of the dogs complete marks with no directions. Some runs were set up to particularly test this with dogs being out of sight and unable to be handled and still most dogs were able to complete those runs. There is nothing better than watching a dog at any level (I see dogs in Novice being handled) complete a Mark without direction. Regards CJ.
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Re: The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby Paul Hamson » Wed 03 May 2017 9:44 am

I suspect that the point John is trying to make is that there seems to be an increasing focus on “assessing the merits” of the dog’s performance in direct proportion to the straightness of the “line” that the dog took to and from the bird.

The ANKC “Rules for the conduct of Retrieving Trials for Gundogs” state under Rule 94 that “The principal points to be considered by the Judge in assessing the merits of performances in competitive work shall be the ability to mark, sagacity, and use of nose, steadiness, dash, perseverance, attention, control, courage, style, retrieving and cleanness of delivery.”

A “straight line” approach to assessing performance may be relevant to the “control” and “courage” points listed in Rule 94. Unfortunately, a strict “straight line” approach to assessing performance may not adequately assess:

• “Use of nose”. Drifting off-line downwind of the bird on a mark allows the dog to use its nose to complete the retrieve & in my opinion should not be penalised

• “Perseverance” often means the dog continues to hunt until it finds the bird – dogs don’t hunt in a “straight line”.

• “Sagacity” means being “wise”. Often taking a straight line to and from the bird appears to be anything but a sagacious/wise decision. If I instructed a human that a bird was 150 metres away on the other side of the river and asked them to retrieve it for me and that person immediately jumped into the water and swam 150 metres up and back as opposed to running along the bank for 150 metres and crossing the river opposite the bird I would think that human is anything but wise or sagacious.

• “Ability to mark” – Rule 3 states “Accurate marking or memory of falls is of paramount importance.” It is worth noting that the American “Retriever Field Trial Judging” manual (“drafted under the guidance of the Retriever Advisory Committee, Subcommittee on Rules”) states “Marking reflects the accuracy with which the dog locates and finds a fallen bird. Accuracy refers to the dog’s ability to remember the “area” of the fall… Generally the line to the mark is not nearly as important as the area of the hunt for the mark… A dog that returns with the bird “off-line” or runs around the water on the return should be not substantially outscored by a dog that returns by water, unless the avoidance is extreme.” I don’t believe there is anything in our rules that conflicts with this approach to assessing the “ability to mark”.

Rule 2 states “When ordered a dog should retrieve quickly and briskly without unduly disturbing too much ground.” Rule 89 states “The dog shall then proceed to retrieve the game with style and freedom as quickly and efficiently as the terrain permits.”

I have had several people explain to me over the years that the requirement for “straight lines” resides in the rules reference to “without unduly disturbing too much ground”. I am not sure using 20 whistles & loud vocal casts is less “disturbing” than a dog running/swimming slightly off line. I am also certain it is not “quick”, “brisk” or “efficient” and it doesn’t demonstrate “style” or “freedom”.

My personal approach as a judge is that I will continue to try and set runs that allow me to assess the merits of the performance of dogs in accordance with all the criteria set out in rule 94. If you are penalised for not taking the “line” it will be because you haven’t demonstrated “control” or the dog hasn’t shown “courage” or the fact that a significant diversion off the “line” leads to the dog genuinely “unduly disturbing too much ground” or “switching” game.

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Re: The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby Kirsty Blair » Wed 03 May 2017 9:44 am

I'm glad to hear that CJ. :-)

The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.
~ Helen Keller ~
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Re: The Future of our Australian Retrieving Trials

Postby Elio Colasimone » Sat 06 May 2017 7:57 am

Hi All,
Just watched the clip John provided.
John or others might be able to clarify where the events on the clip fit into the retrieving sports relative to what already exists in the U.S.A. e.g. Master Hunt tests, full blown Field Trials etc.

Also a bit curious to know under which umbrella these events occur i.e. the control body.

At first glance, the terrain shown is not as typical of what might be expected at normal trials. The handlers themselves are handling their own guns and firing multiple shots while crouching beside their dogs and large dokken ducks are being used.
Without knowing better I'm inclined to think they are likely to be participating in a unique 'stand alone' sport tailored specifically for pay TV audiences. i.e. lots of speed, lots of clean lines, lots of clear vision for viewers.

The retrieving sport here in Oz is somewhat unique and I think different to a fair degree to what is seen in the footage.
The current rules aren't perfect but on balance they are pretty good overall in providing a framework to help assess retrieving performance reasonably well in our environment.

As judges we don't want to be clones of each other but a number of handlers I'm sensing might be looking for more uniformity of interpretation when it comes to scoring the more significant parts of dog work such as marks.
The usual stuff. Has a dog done a better job of going in a perfectly straight line to pick up a mark or is it equally as good - perhaps even better - if a dog arcs to a degree to make better use of the breeze?

I know we are an amateur sport and judges are volunteers who are not required to jump through hoops like other sports where the performance of judges/umpires/referees are constantly monitored.
My feeling is that within each state, perhaps more effort should be put into organising 'Judges Forums' more regularly where some of these issues can be discussed amongst the judges and thrashed out.

As a judge the easiest to gauge still remains the directness a dog uses to pick up something. It is clear and obvious.
There would be differences of opinion between judges at times as to whether a more creative approach should receive as much scoring value or more.

The good control is critical and a bit of speed, style and panache is the value adding where most judges I would think are on the same page.

So it is not surprising dogs are being bred and prepared to achieve at times phenomenal directness.
'Problem solving' opportunities for the dogs tend to get pushed more to one side.

From a judging perspective it is a fair bit more complex than just imploring judges to give the dogs more independence and 'problem solving' opportunities to showcase their natural hunting/retrieving talent.

In the next little bit I'll share few thoughts on this forum, gleaned from what seems a lifetime of hunting, and competing and judging in Retrieving Trials and Field trials both here and overseas.
I hope a few others also share their thoughts.

It might go a little way in keeping most people happy with the way the sport is managed and run or at least look at avenues for modifying the sport to suit the participants.
Might be wishful thinking but it would be good to attempt to help stem the drop off in participation rates in some states and help lower the average age of participants..

Cheers all,
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