On Saturday Pritch and I attended our first hunt test in Fort Lawn, S.C. The event was hosted by the Carolina Boykin Spaniel Retriever Club, and I entered Pritch in the puppy division (6 to 12 months).

Our first test was a land retrieve. There were three birds thrown–one to our left, one directly in front of us, and one to our far right. And we were downright awful. Pritch needed to hunt up the first bird but eventually found it…then decided to pluck it on the spot. I eventually ran out to her and brought her back in. She marked the next two birds well but still wouldn’t pick them up–more plucking, a little tossing, and no retrieving.

Can you say “dejection?” How about “mortification?” Maybe even a little “despair?” I felt them all.

At least I knew the water test would play to Prtich’s strengths…mainly because she loves a water retrieve and really has no choice but to pick up the bird. The test (photo above) was pretty straightforward. The bird was launched from a bank about 15 yards to our right and the dog would need to swim about 25 yards or so for the bird. I’m happy to report that Pritch hit the water like a thundering buffalo and retrieved the bird. However, she hit the bank about 5 yards from me and decided to drop the bird, take a whiz, and have a drink. Not perfect by any means.

Here’s what I took away from the event:

Birds, Birds, Birds! The land retrieve debacle was nothing more than a reflection of my training mistake. I have not put Pritch on enough birds, especially fresh birds. She would have aced that test if bumpers were tossed…but last I checked shooting bumpers out of the sky was not hunting.

Force Fetch: I have held off on the force fetch training until now. It would also solve the problem of picking up birds. Can’t hold off any longer.

Take Your Time: Stepping up to the line at a hunt test or field trial is downright nerve wracking. My knees were practically bumping. It pays to take a deep breath, relax, and make sure you’re not rushing your dog.

Have Fun: At this age, a club hunt test or field trial can serve as an excellent training session for the pup. Take advantage of that even if things go south. I came away knowing exactly what we need to work on. That alone is worth the entry fee.

Ever had a field trial or hunt test you’d like to forget? Did you take anything away from it or have your weaknesses exposed?

Speaking of, excuse us while we get to work…we’ve got a load to do.