In conclusion certain points can well be repeated and some additional observations added to the discussion of field trials.
The purpose of field trials is to emphasize the natural qualities of breeding and of training that produce the best dog afield. Certain qualities such as scenting ability, game finding, stamina, and responsiveness to the handler are highly to be desired along with that eagerness and spaniel quality which is so attractive and adds so much to the pleasure of a day in the field.
Tendencies in these qualities are inheritable traits. If the breed is to improve, bad tendencies should not be rewarded. These include barking while questing, hard mouth, extreme willfulness and others that will occur to each reader.
The degree of training is a matter of both the ability of the dog and of the trainer. Training cannot put into a dog the natural, genetically passed qualities; it can take them out. And yet natural qualities are not useful unless accompanied by a degree of control that makes a team of dog and man.
Therefore, the purpose of training is to produce control while at the same time fostering and encouraging the natural qualities of the hunting dog.
INFORMAL AND SANCTIONED TRIALS
The host of informal trials that are held throughout the year are a valuable contribution to the experience of both dog and handler. The stakes can be varied to suit the local conditions, pigeons used to save expense, and many other details varied to encourage participation of the inexperienced. Particularly in Puppy Stakes, Prospect Stakes and Field Dog Stakes the requirements are relaxed as to steadiness and control in order that handlers my not feel it necessary to force the training of young dogs. These stakes are `experience' stakes; they are intended to give an owner the opportunity to compare his puppy with others; much as the novice stake is helpful to handlers in determining their own capabilities.
Much of the above applies to sanctioned trials, particularly as to the choice of stakes and the application of standards. Errors and faults that would be grievous in a championship stake are overlooked if the contender otherwise displays desirable qualities. However, judges should bear in mind that, though the requirements be relaxed to the extent that the dog is forgiven much and hence not eliminated from the stake, the performance of a dog that is steady to wing and shot and gives other evidences of control is entitled, other things being equal, to a higher rating.
THE WORKING CERTIFICATE
There has been a continuous effort to keep the working qualities foremost in the minds of breeders of Spaniels particularly those interested primarily in bench shows; hence the Working Certificate announced in June, 1960 by the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association (Parent Club of the breed).
Information on the working certificate is available from the E.S.S.F.T.A. The name and address of the current secretary of the E.S.S.F.T.A. can be obtained from the American Kennel Club or on the E.S.S.F.T.A. website
THE HUNTING TEST
The Hunting Test was set up by the A.K.C. in January, 1988 to provide a noncompetitive performance test for all spaniel breeds. Successful completion of a number of test results in degrees (junior hunter, senior hunter, master hunter). More information and the rules are available from the A.K.C. in the booklet "Regulations for A.K.C. Hunting Test for Spaniels."
MORE ABOUT INFORMAL STAKES
The official stakes in A.K.C. licensed and member club trials are Puppy, Novice, Limit, Amateur AllAge, Open All-Age and Qualified Open All-Aged.
In such trials the important stakes are the Open AllAge and the Amateur AllAge. Whenever possible a full day or more should be given to the Open so that full justice is done the dogs contending. So crowded were some Open Stakes that the A.K.C. rules pertaining to championship trials have been modified to permit a Qualified Open AllAge Stake when desired (as an alternate to the Open AllAge) in which qualification is earned by placing in a minor stake in a licensed trial.
Since the Amateur AllAge Stake carries championship points toward the title of Amateur Field Champion adequate time should be allotted to this stake to assure the thorough testing of the dogs entered.
Though there is no official recognition of member stakes and a number of similar stakes, these are frequently held at trials and give beginners opportunity to compete with less experienced handlers. So long as the stake in a licensed or member club trial is listed in the entry form, dogs placing in such stakes (puppy stakes accepted) qualify for entry in a Qualified Open AllAges.
In prospect and other stakes held at sanctioned trials the beginner has his heyday and the Parent Club and the A.K.C. grant a very free rein indeed to the local committee in prescribing the conditions and the stakes. It is here that the proving ground exists for the future Field Champion.
More and more amateurs are raising, training and running their own dogs. If this booklet clarifies in any degree the procedures approved by experience, it will do its part in helping to develop the best type of spaniel for hunting in the field.