Spaniel Journal Home Page

Conversely, if my dog has two easy finds and retrieves, that might be "bad luck', because my dog did not get a chance to prove his strengths. Other examples: dogs with great noses don't mind difficult scenting, they will stand out when scenting conditions are poor. Let us say my dog has a great nose but doesn't run as big as others and scenting is excellent. All dogs will be finding birds and so mine will be left behind for lack of a big run. Luck of where you come down in the course, the planting of the birds, the ability of the gunners, the weather; all are variables "luck" plays a role in.

As our trial entries have increased, so too the luck factor. The time element has expanded little. The ability of Field Trial committees to process double the amount of dogs and handlers in the same time frame was unimagined 30 years ago. For the judges to keep pace they find themselves making decisions quicker, but with less evidence. Handlers and dogs are given less opportunity to be tested as judges, who might have kept you down for an extra opportunity to answer any questions left hanging, cannot afford the time and so you can only hope "luck" is with you for your "two finds and out".

"Those who judge do so out of love for the dogs and the sport..."

Earlier I mentioned the physical and mental toll that field trials, especially National Field Trials, put on Judges. Handlers, Guns, Field Marshals, Shaggers, even Bird Planters, get breaks. The Judges arrive at sun up and don't leave the field until sundown. The most important decision makers are allowed no time to reflect or to recover. Those who judge do so out of love for the dogs and the sport but the unyielding pace strains the joy of doing so.

Smaller Nationals mean more time to test those who are there, allowing weakness and strength to show itself more profoundly. I have not seen the perfect Spaniel yet and time to thoroughly test will show us the complete animal. Time to test gives the judges a chance to let the element of luck work its way out of the equation. For instance, at the Canadian National of 1999, I had the opportunity to watch a Cocker make unbelievable retrieves. The first time I thought, "Was he lucky to make it - or is he that good?" The second time luck gave this dog another long one and he nailed it, seeming to confirm it was ability. The last big time retrieve left no doubt of this dog's expertise. We also came to learn after five series that the dog was a handful and the handler had to use his voice loud and often to keep him steady. Thorough testing gave us a fuller picture of this dog. Can our Nationals, at the size they have become, give future judges the same opportunity for evaluation?

My opinion is the limitations of time and the increase of trial size has given luck too large a role and it is time to change the qualification criteria. Not surprisingly, I have discovered many disagree with me. They point out that excellent dogs are still winning trials so "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I say let's do a little preventive maintenance; get something in place before it's really broke.

At the delegates meeting it was suggested a committee be formed to investigate and evaluate. Let a committee be formed then. Open discussion and ideas need to come forth. I had no alternative to offer at the meeting other than to raise the point qualifications. I have since thought a solution might be to forget designating a point total and allow

Page 2

| Spaniel Journal | Previous Page | Next Page |

Copyright © Spaniel Journal 2002, all rights reserved