Code of best practice for breeds that hunt, point and retrieve field trial competitors

German Wirehaired Pointer looking into distance next to water

The Kennel Club field trial Regulations, sometimes known as the J Regulations, are vital reading. No competitor should enter a field trial unless they are fully conversant with the current Kennel Club Field Trial J Regulations relevant to Breeds that Hunt Point and retrieve. Find the J regulations here.

Regulation J9 (A) 4 For all subgroups required to retrieve. Regulation J(E) Breeds That hunt, point and retrieve. This section lays out what is required from your dog in a field trial for hunt, point and retrieve. It is important to understand these requirements. Take note of the eliminating and major faults under Regulations J(E)6. and J(E)7., respectively. Does your dog repeatedly show any of these traits? Is it ready to trial?

If you are in doubt, seek a panel judge’s advice. You can find a list of Kennel Club official panel of field trial judges on Find a Judge.

J Regulations training programme

This programme has been created to manage the understanding of the J Regulations for field trial judges, societies and competitors. This is done through a seminar followed by an optional multiple-choice exam. Attending a seminar is strongly recommended. Even if a candidate refrains from taking the examination, they should find the seminar useful and beneficial.

The seminar script for the hunt, point and retrieve sub-group is available on The Kennel Club website. Success in working tests does not mean your dog is suitable to be trialled. Working tests are great fun and a good benchmark to see how you and your dog are progressing. It also enables you and your dog to get used to competing in company and under the scrutiny of the judges, as well as being watched by other people. Although working tests and field trials are ‘poles apart', if a dog does not handle well on dummies, in most cases it is unlikely to handle proficiently on live game.

Offering to help (or request to view) before entering your first field trial is highly advised. Find out if there are any trials taking place near you. You learn so much from watching both handlers and dogs, and asking questions. Contact the field trial secretary prior to the trial.

Email us for a list of all the gundog societies and field trial dates.

Before you enter a field trial, ensure that your dog has been shot over and will hunt, point and retrieve and is steady to shot and un-shot game. Handler and dog must have had plenty of experience picking all varieties of warm freshly shot game. This includes picking wounded birds.

Should you be put out of the trial

Do not enter a field trial if you know your dog persistently commits any eliminating or major faults. A field trial is a competition, not a training day.

Dress appropriately

Wear conventional and acceptable clothes. No bright colours or denim jeans and no white baseball caps. Looking tidy and presentable in muted or neutral country attire shows respect for the event and the landowners. This is a country sport.

Manage your expectations

The extra pressure and nerves of working under a judge can affect your decision-making and handling. Mistakes often occur through ‘pilot error’ so be ready for disappointments. Never publicly impugn the decisions of the judge or judges. Neither should you criticise the host, ground or guns. If you are not sure why you have been put out of the trial, have a word with the judges at the end of the trial when they have completed their official duties. Questions should be restricted to the performance of your dog and not the dogs of other competitors. Social media should never be used to discuss grievances.

Should you be put out of the trial

You must not leave the trial ground without the permission of a judge or Chief Steward. It is courteous to stay till the end of the trial and you will learn a lot from watching other competitors. When you have qualified for open trials, continuing to compete in all aged stakes is an ideal way of giving an inexperienced dog (and handler) invaluable proficiency before you consider entering open field trials. A higher standard of work is expected in all open stakes, which carry a qualification for the title of Field Trial Champion.

Harsh handling of dogs will not be tolerated. The welfare of your dog is your responsibility. You may need to carry drinking water, especially in hot weather. Likewise, you may have to consider taking an appropriate dog coat for protection from wet and cold as well as from the sun. Have a drying towel in your vehicle should your dog need to be dried off before you drive home. Any concerning issues you may see at a Trial should be reported to the Chief Steward on the day, if possible.

Targets to achieve before entering a field trial

The following targets are voluntary and self-administered, and something novice handlers can strive to achieve before entering a field trial.

The purpose of these targets is to get novice handlers to read the J Regulations to gain a basic understanding of the rules of the competition they propose to enter. This will also encourage handlers to take a dog out on a proper shooting day instead of just relying on a few training days, which may give a false impression of their dog’s ability and suitability for field trials.

Targets to achieve before entering a field trial:

The handler:

  • Attends a Kennel Club seminar on J Regulations
  • Helps at a Kennel Club licensed field trial on three separate occasions
  • Helps on a shoot as a picker up, beating or at a day when dogs are being shot over for a minimum of one season

The dog:

  • Has worked on a shoot as a picking up dog, Beating or being shot over for a minimum of one season before being entered in a field trial
  • Has no recurring eliminating faults and has had sufficient experience on live game before being entered into a field trial

We recommend that these targets are achieved before entering a licensed field trial.