Advice on how to set up practice trials

IMG_8723Every now and then a group of us put together a practice trial and it is so incredibly successful every time! In obedience, practice trials are really common. You get to try out the competition environment, having a steward telling you what to do and you get to practice keeping your nerves in check. It’s not as common in the hunting world, but at least as important there too. When you’re nervous, you might behave completely different to your normal self, affecting your dog who will in his turn then behave differently. A practice trial is an excellent way to get to work on your trial nerves, your trial preparation (how do I prepare my dog and myself in the very best way, so that we can do our very best?) and to see what level you are on. The purpose of the practice trial is thus not to be able to perfectly complete the entire test, even though that of course is the final goal and something you strive for.

We usually do this during a weekend, so we met already on Friday night and started planning for the Saturday practice trial: How we wanted to do, if there were any particular distractions we wanted, something we really wanted help with and so on. I had prepared a template that you could fill in and give to the officials (so that we would not have to explain our plans before each start, but instead could focus entirely on the start, making it seem more like a real competition). The template is available for download on the page  Extras for the book .We had two different templates: one for beginner class and one for open class .You can see what the template looked like further down.

Vattenapportering SagaWe ran a beginner class and an open class and took turns being the officials. Before the practice test, I had sent out a letter with information and a start list and prepared a hunting test protocol with a code key (used at Swedish B-type trials), in order to make it feel as much as real competition as possible. (Examples of the letter and start list can be found at the end of this post)

The place we were at this time was absolutely fantastic; perfectly prepared for retrieving workouts with streams, lakes, ponds, floats, forests, etc.

In short, the practice trial went really well. We had 3 teams in beginner class and 6 in open. In addition, we had the luxury of having Peter as a judge, and Jan who helped us as a shooter all day. In the beginner class we had plenty of officials, but would have needed one more for Open. If you do not have the luxury of two people who stand in as shooter and judge all day, I think the ultimate number is six starting teams in each class, with a break between. Then you have even pairs in open class and in each class a shooter, a judge, a record keeper and three throwers (one on shore, one on water and an extra that throws other marks).

Instruction to officials
Open class / Elite class

Distractions / things to consider

(I want these extra distractions, I will do this or that before casting, etc)

If something goes wrong

(what do I do if a mistake happens, what do I want the official to do, eg picking the game up, etc)

Double mark on land
Double mark on water
Blind on land
Blind on water  
Passivity / Steadiness

Want to be filmed Yes             No
Want protocol Yes No

IMG_8692The day after we continued the training and worked on what had gone less well on Saturday. In addition, Ludde retrieved a crow, which in itself is a wonder because he really does not do that ? (the first time he retrieved a crow, he carried it by the feet (!!)) and since then it has not been possible to get him to take game, but seeing how heavily rewarded all the other dogs were for retrieving game, he walked off to the game storage and came back with first a pheasant and then a quay. After that, I tried a mark with a crow and then a blind retrieve with a crow, and he retrieved happily. Then he thought his work was done ?

Below you see an example of our letter and start list.

Letter: Practice trial Location Date

Welcome to our practice trial!

The trial will be presented as a real trial in beginner class and open class / elite class, but you choose how and when you want to reward the dog. Fill in the template before starting so that the officials know if you want any special distraction or if you want help with something. The idea is to get to try out a trial, but that you’re able to break to reward when it suits your own dog. Think carefully about what you and your dog need. The template is just as much for you as the trainer, giving you an opportunity for well planned training, as for the officials to get directions on what you need.

We run the dogs one at a time in beginner’s class and in pairs in open class / elite class. If you’re not starting in the class, you’ll have a role as an official (so elite / open class are officials for beginner class, open / beginner for elite class. Between classes we take a small break so that the first starting team has a chance to prepare and warm up. For those who want their trial filmed, we try to do so, focusing on the trainer and the dog’s interaction, so that the trainer can analyze and see what worked and what might need improvement afterwards.

IMG_8712After each team, the “judge” will give a short review, focusing on what worked well and hand out a more detailed complete protocol (let us know if you do not want a protocol). It is training and we are here to have fun, but we will be nervous anyway. Therefore, it is particularly important that we do not give any negative comments, not even constructive criticism just after the test, if the trainer does not explicitly ask for an opinion. We want a nice and constructive training day where we lift each other. Everyone is therefore encouraged to applaud loudly when every team is done!

Food and accommodation

We will stay at XX. Bring swimwear, towel, bed linen, mosquito repellent and possibly wine / beer for Friday night.

The accommodation costs XX, payable when we arrive. The price includes two overnight stays, sandwiches, tea or coffee on Friday evening, breakfast and lunch Saturday and Sunday, dinner with beer or wine Saturday and a snack as we close on Sunday afternoon

Directions from Gothenburg

Address: xxx, GPS coordinates

For those of you who are interested in driving together, we leave from xx at 6 pm.


We all bring game in accordance with the list below. The game costs SEK 30 per piece and is paid to the person who brought it. We expect to need about 5 game per start (some game we can use several times, total needed about 12 game per class), which will be 150 SEK per person in cash or game ?

Meet up

Friday night: HH: MM: 00 (coffee, planning, socializing)
Saturday: HH: MM, first start in beginners HH: MM, open start approximately HH: MM (approx. 30 min per start in beginnersl, about 1 hour per pair in open / elite, trial goes on until we’re done, then free training)
Sunday: HH: MM (free training, we decide together what we want to work on)

Contact details


Boat: borrowed on site / taken by xx

Shots: xx brings loose shots and gun, as a group we pay xx kr per shot (or as an alternative, xx brings a dummy launcher, we pay XX per shot)


Starting list

Judge: Peter Andersson


  1. SE VCH Gilliam’s Gold Kenos Spades Äss (Saga) SE43025 / 2011 flat bitch Carina Loyd, Hindås
  2. Ingmos Vina Herminia (Mio) SE13503 / 2011 lab tik Åsa Davidsson, Gothenburg
  3. Nike Nike (Nike) S52829 / 2008 lab bitch Molly Hedmo, Västra Frölunda

Open class

  1. Seabirds Earl of Snowdon (Snoddas) S66867 / 2008, lab male, Ingela Hammar, Torslanda
  2. SE U (U) CH Lorca´s In Your Wildest Dream (Izza) S32374 / 2009, lab tik, Carina Olausson, Sävedalen
  3. SE VCH RLD N Wild Silk’s Flake (Diesel) S35586 / 2008, golden bitch, Elsa Flowers, Landvetter
  4. Greenbriar Tennessee (Izzie) SE13051 / 2011, lab bitch Iris Thelander, Härryda
  5. Stargames Thracher (Vinga) S50311 / 2008, lab tik Eva Manning, Gråbo
  6. SE VCH Posters Yellow Rose (Wilda) SE16978 / 2011, lab bitch, Carina Olausson, Sävedalen (custom open class)


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.