Code of best practice for pointer and setter field trial competitors

Pointer in a field with long grass

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. The J Regulations are mandatory and represent the basis upon which all field trials are conducted. Find the link to our field trials regulations here.

Regulation J(D) pointers and setters

This section lays out what is required from your dog in a field trial for Pointers and Setters. (See appendix one to this document for a glossary of terminology used in pointer/setter trials). In the UK pointers and setters are not required to retrieve in field trials. Credit points are listed under J(D)8. Take note of the eliminating and major faults under Regulations J(D)9. and J(D)10, respectively. Does your dog repeatedly show any of these traits? Is it ready for trial? If you are in doubt, seek a panel judge’s advice in advance of entering a trial.

Details of Kennel Club Panel field trial judges can be obtained by using the Find a Judge facility.

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 pointer and setter sub-group is available on The Kennel Club website. For further information check the events and activities section for the current Field Trials Seminar Diary.

Observing at field trials and pointer and setter training days

It is recommended that those interested in learning more about training their pointer or setter to participate in the field, should initially attend a few trials as a spectator and speak to experienced handlers and judges. Thereafter it is recommended that you should consider attending a training day. The Kennel Club and some other pointer and setter field trial clubs organise these days with assistance from approved field trial judges. A list of dates and venues of forthcoming trials can be found on The Kennel Club and pointer and setter breed club websites. If you would like to attend a field trial as a spectator, please contact the club secretary in the first instance for information about the venue, and what will be expected of you on the day.

Please email The Kennel Club for a list of all the gundog societies and field trial dates.

Standards that are expected

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. Before you enter a pointer and setter field trial ensure that your dog is not gun shy. Also, ensure your dog is steady to livestock as when running in grouse trials there will be sheep on the moor. A higher standard of work is expected in all open stakes, which carry a qualification for the title of Field Trial Champion.

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.

Field trial etiquette

As a competitor, you should never publicly impugn the decisions of the judge or judges. Neither should you criticise the host, ground or guns who give of their land and time freely. If you are not sure why you have been eliminated speak to 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.

Judges are not required to give a critique of each dog’s performance but should be prepared to discuss their decisions in confidence with competitors if requested. Social media should never be used to discuss grievances. If you are spectating or are eliminated from the trial you must not leave the trial ground without the permission of a judge or Chief Steward. You will learn from watching. Harsh handling of dogs will not be tolerated.

Dress appropriately

Please take into account the topography of the ground. Wear conventional and acceptable clothing and sturdy footwear. Bear in mind that there may be hidden hazards underfoot e.g. holes, deep heather. Wear muted colours. Weather conditions can change quickly so it is advisable to bring a change of clothing in your vehicle.

The welfare of your dog is your responsibility

You should always 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. Dogs should never be left unattended in unventilated vehicles/trailers in hot weather. NB The use of pinch collars, electronic shock collars, or prong collars, is not permitted at any field trial licensed by The Kennel Club.

Any concerning issues you may see at a trial should be reported to the Chief Steward on the day, if possible.


If for any reason you need to withdraw from a trial it is courtesy to inform the secretary in good time, preferably the day before at the latest unless there are unforeseen circumstances e.g. illness, vehicle breakdown, bitches coming into season. Any competitor not present when the Chief Steward announces the commencement of the trial risks forfeiting their run. It is essential for the smooth running of the trial that all competitors arrive at the trial's ground before the stated time for the commencement of the day’s proceedings. It is good manners to thank the host/landowner, club officials, judges and estate staff at the conclusion of the trial.

General points to be aware of at a pointer and setter field trial

  • It is important to remember that a field trial is being judged from a shooting point of view and handlers must at all times behave as if they are working their dog for guns:
  • When your dog gets a point you should not have to run to your dog.  The dog must wait until your guns are in position and ready to shoot.  At a trial, the judge will tell you when to start working the point out
  • When the first bird has flushed and your dog has dropped to wing and shot, your dog must wait until you are instructed by the judge to continue working the point out. Ideally, the dog should drop the wing and this is considered a credit point as it greatly enhances the safety of shooting over the dog. This is important on a shooting day as you must be able to make the dog wait until your guns have reloaded and are ready for any more shots
  • Handlers are expected to walk together in the centre of the beat with the judges and should avoid crossing sides unless there is a need to help your dog (do not cross in front of the other handler and their dog).  On a shooting day, the handler and guns will be together, this is important from a safety point of view, and enables the handler to organise the guns without shouting to get their attention
  • Once you have cast off your dog you must not hold anything in your hand that might be considered a training aid except a whistle. If you as a handler need an aid to help you to walk, you must be granted permission from the judges before your run commences
  • From the point of casting your dog off, until instructed by the judge to pick your dog up at the end of the run, you must not touch your dog
  • You will always be running as a brace in the Trial with another competitor and should be aware of your brace mate and their dog, for example: If your dog gets a point and your brace mate’s dog backs or is dropped, you should avoid walking in front of the backing dog to get to your point until the other handler is in position with their dog
  • If your dog commits a serious offence, it is good manners to apologise to the keepers, judges and your brace mate

In summary

Aspiring field trailers should consider:

  • Attending a few field trials as a spectator
  • Speaking to experienced competitors and judges is a good starting point
  • Research how pointers and setters are expected to work on a shooting day and the type of game birds, their behaviour and the habitats that you will be working your dog on
  • Attending organised training days
  • Attending a Kennel Club seminar on J Regulations
  • Be conversant with the terminology used in Pointer and Setter Field Trials (See Appendix 1 for Glossary of Terminology for Pointing Breeds)

The dog:

  • Has no recurring eliminating faults and has had sufficient experience on live game before being entered into a field trial

Appendix 1. Glossary for Pointing Breeds




Dog running at right angles to the wind to find game

Working into wind

Working with the wind into handler’s face

Working downwind

Working with the wind coming from behind, also known as backwind

Working a cheek wind

Working with the wind coming from either side

Turning back on the wind or back casting

Turning away from the direction of the wind

To hold game

To keep game fixed by staunch pointing

To back

To honour the point of another dog on sight

To draw on

To advance steadily on point towards game

False pointing

Pointing where no game lies

To road in

To work out a scent from point to production

Making good the ground

After the initial flush, finding and producing any birds remaining in the immediate vicinity of the original point


Catching unshot game

Ground game

Hare or rabbit

Sticking on point

Reluctance to flush pointed game

Blinking a point

Leaving a point when game is present


Cause game to take flight or break from cover