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"The handler of a dog in competition shall not be allowed to run to his dog when it finds, but shall proceed to kill only under instructions from the judge, who may require him to shoot over his dog..."

An interesting feature of all trials for pointing dogs is that the handlers are not permitted to move in front of the dog when it is on point. This is still the case today in both Pointer & Setter trials and Utility Gundog trials. The dog must locate the game and come on point, road or draw on, if necessary, and flush on command. The handler may not flush the bird himself and the dog must not flush until commanded to do so.

Since the 1950ís, a lot of Continental breeds of dog have been imported into Australia. Because these are basically pointing dogs, they initially trialled with the Pointers and Setters. However, the handlers of these dogs did not subscribe to the "seek dead" rule or the knock out system. So in the mid 1960ís, they formulated their own rules which require the dog to retrieve from both land and water. These breeds are termed "Utility Gundogs" in Australia and include: German Shorthaired Pointers, German Wirehaired Pointers, Munsterlanders, Brittanies, Hungarian Vizslas, Italian Spinone, Lagotto and Weimaraners - although of some of these breeds have never competed in the field in Australia

In the spaniel field trial arena, as long as rabbits were plentiful, the knock out system with itís accent on direct competition between dogs, was a success. It was not until the arrival of calici virus (RCD) that the situation (and the rules) changed.

"The accent is still on the dog-handler-team relationship rather than the individual dog."

The knock out system had its advantages as well as its disadvantages. Certainly the dog that eventually came out the winner was fit and strong having worked hard in each round for most of the day. Depending on the number of dogs entered, this could be anything from four to eight heats for the day. However, since the system was geared to shooting the rabbits produced, it was clear that the best shot with a mediocre dog was always going to triumph over the best dog with a mediocre shot.

As rabbits became more difficult to find, luck also became an important factor. In 1993, the rules were changed from the multi round knock out to a two run scored system with more stress on the dogís ability rather than on the amount of game shot. The accent is still on the dog-handler-team relationship rather than the individual dog. Handlers still have to shoot the game that is produced by their dog. The dogs still run in pairs and compete directly against each other in the field.

Many elements of the original system have been retained, the dogs are still drawn in pairs immediately before the start of the trial, there is still only one judge and the dogs work the same ground (the handlers walking side by side). Handlers are still expected to shoot over their dogs and the accent is still on competition between the dogs for whatever game is there.

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