Code of best practice for spaniel field trial competitors

Spaniel sitting in a field

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 field trial regulations here.

Regulation J(C) spaniels

This section lays out what is required from your dog in a field trial for spaniels. Credit points are listed under J(C)4. Take note of the eliminating and major faults under Regulations J(C)5 and J(C)6, 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. J8.b. Handling and competing explains what is required on the day.

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 spaniel 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 or contact an approved presenter.

Things to consider before entering your first trial

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 judges.

Offering to help or requesting to view before entering your first field trial is highly advised. As a steward or game carrier you will be in a position behind the judges to observe all of the trial which is a great place to learn from. You will have the opportunity to speak to experienced handlers and judges.

If you would like to attend a field trial as a spectator or helper, please contact the club secretary in the first instance for information about the venue, and what will be expected of you on the day. Email us for a list of all the gundog societies and field trial dates.

Ensure your dog has been shot over. Dogs will need to be steady to flush and shot and the fall of any game. Handler and dog must have had plenty of experience picking warm freshly shot game. This includes picking wounded game.

Standards will be 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. A higher standard of work is expected in all open stakes, which carry a qualification for the title of Field Trial Champion.

Things to remember when attending a field trial

  • 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 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. This is imperative for safety where the direction of the line can change and to ensure ground is not disturbed
  • Dress appropriately - wear conventional and acceptable clothes, i.e. No denim jeans. Good footwear for all terrains is advisable, as is good water/bramble-proof proof clothing. Looking tidy and presentable in muted or neutral country attire shows respect for the event and the landowners. This is a country sport
  • 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
  • Harsh handling of dogs will not be tolerated
  • 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 to give others the chance of taking that run
  • Withdrawing within seven days of the trial may incur losing your entry fee
  • 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 
  • Be respectful at the end of a trial. A lot of people will have given their time to make your day take place
  • Regardless of what has happened to you, it is good manners to thank the host/landowner, club officials, judges and estate staff at the conclusion of the trial  
  • It is important not to forget the guns
  • To say ‘thank you’ costs nothing, but goes a long way. It shows good sportsmanship by congratulating the winner and those in the awards
  • Respect your environment. It is your responsibility to make sure you pick up after your dog, especially in public places, hotels, car parks etc and if requested at the meet area
  • Be aware many field trial venues meet out in the field and do not have toilet facilities
  • Take your rubbish home

Targets to achieve before entering a field trial

The handler

  • Attends several field trials as a spectator/helper
  • Attends a Kennel Club seminar on J Regulations
  • Be conversant with the Kennel Club J Regulations
  • Has experience of working dogs in the shooting field
The dog:
  • Has sufficient experience in the shooting field on live game and has been shot over
  • Has no recurring eliminating or major faults

The Kennel Club recommends that these targets are achieved before entering a licensed field trial.