Your Labrador Retriever is a lean, mean, retrieving machine! He was bred to help his human companions hunt. A Labrador Retriever has the instincts and the skills to follow his nose and retrieve downed game. Many hunters and handlers train their retrievers and then use them not only for hunting, but to compete in what is called a 'field trail'. These competitions test a retriever's hunting skills. Specifically, they test your dog's ability against other retrievers to bring game back to his handler. Dogs compete against other dogs and are judged based on their ability to wait for game to be harvested, mark where game falls, follow directions to retrieve downed game they did not see, and retrieve the ducks. Other field trial events measure other hunting abilities that your Labrador may also compete in, depending on the scope of your dogs talents and training. These may include scenting, pointing, and flushing. These trials are designed to simulate a day's hunting in the field and are not only a competition for sporting dogs, but they also set standards for producing the best hunting dogs.
Field tests judge your dog's ability against other dogs. Retrieval distances will be greater as handlers and dogs strive to prove who is the best. There are a variety of different field trial events and most events will have between 50 and 100 participants. Handlers and dogs work together in a field trial to exhibit their retriever's patience and ability to follow directions.
A successful field trial Retriever will know how to wait patiently behind a blind, not causing distractions, and will be attentive to mark the location of fallen birds, or to perform blind retrieves, by following their handlers directions to retrieve the game bird. Retrieval abilities are tested in a variety of terrain and a winning field trial dog will bring a game bird immediately back to his handler. Dogs are marked down if they are slow, hesitant, noisy, inattentive, or fail to follow direction. Training of dogs for hunting and field trials should begin at a very young age, with basic skills that can be developed so that he makes an able hunting companion and a fierce competitor when he matures.
Before training or competing in field trials, your dog should be well socialized and used to the sound and smell of gun fire. Your dog will also need to be in good physical condition, able to cover rough terrain, and be a proficient swimmer. While training retrieval skills, you may employ toys such as tennis balls and then graduate to bumpers which are training dummies that resemble ducks in weight, size, and shape. You will need an outdoor environment that resembles a hunting environment. Equipment like a check rope may also be employed to teach your dog to steady before being released to retrieve.