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Hunting Dog Information

Hunting Dog & Hunting Dog Excellent Tests

The purpose of these tests is to show the usefulness of our bench setters as hunting dogs, not to qualify them as AKC field trial dogs.  We are looking for a dog with natural instinct in hunting game birds for a handler on foot
 The amount of time and effort required for a Hunting Dog title should be similar to that of obtaining a C.D. degree in obedience.   The commitment involved for the Hunting Dog Excellent title would approximate that for earning a U.D. degree in obedience.

Club Procedure

Any ESAA member club or qualified group of ESAA members is eligible to conduct the Hunting Dog and Hunting Dog Excellent tests upon application and approval by the ESAA.  Tests may be offered in conjunction with an AKC event or as a separate event.  (AKC events require strict adherence to AKC rules for procedure.  Consult AKC rule books for particulars.  Test rules will be the same.)

Application for the approval to hold the Hunting Dog and Hunting Dog Excellent tests shall be made to the ESAA Hunting Dog Test Chairman at least two months prior to the first day of the test and shall include the date or dates of the test, the exact location, the names of the judges, the types of birds to be used, the name of the sponsoring club or group, and the names and addresses of the test chairman and secretary.

 The ESAA Hunting Dog Test Chairman will forward to the local chairman copies of the test requirements, judges signature forms, score sheets, passing score ribbons, and guidelines for holding the tests. 

Within fourteen (14) days following the event the test secretary shall submit to the ESAA Hunting Dog Test Chairman duplicate copies of each entrant’s score sheet signed  by the judges, the judges signature forms, and a report  of the event indicating any change in judges, or other information which might affect eligibility, or future tests.  Any unused ribbons must also be returned. 


Judges should be AKC approved Pointing or Field Trial judges.  However, the primary criteria will be their understanding and commitment to judging on the basis that these tests are designed to show the quality hunting instinct and ability of our show setters as personal hunting dogs, not to compare them with AKC field trial dogs. 


Any AKC registered English Setter which has reached the age of six (6) months on the first advertised day of the test may compete.  FDSB or foreign registered English Setters may compete in non-AKC events, but must be registered with AKC before title certificates will be awarded.

Spayed bitches and neutered dogs are eligible to compete.

Bitches in season may compete after all other dogs have been tested.  This information must be published in the premium list, if these tests are held in conjunction with an AKC field trial.

Qualifying Passes for Hunting Dog & Hunting Dog Excellent

Three passes per title are required under at least four different judges. In addition to passes in the H.D. and H.D.X. tests, the following can be substituted for a H.D. pass:

1.  A placement in a Derby stake at an AKC field trial, or

2.  A Junior Hunting pass at an AKC pointing test.

3.  An AKC Senior or Master Hunter pass may be substituted for an HDX pass.

At least two of the three passes required for a H.D. or H.D.X. must be earned at an ESAA H.D. test.

 Field trial placements and Pointing test passes must be verified by sending a photocopy of the Gazette page.

Application for Certificates of Titles –

          Hunting Dog or Hunting Dog Excellent

The ESAA Hunting Dog Test Chairman will be responsible for awarding title certificates to qualified dogs.  Upon receipt of photocopies of the AKC registration and three eligible passes, equivalents, or combinations of the two, a certificate for the appropriate title will be issued.  Upon receipt of the certificate, the initials H.D. or H.D.X. may be used following the dog’s name in advertising or on pedigrees. 

The ESAA Hunting Dog Test Chairman will notify the ESAA newsletter editor periodically of those dogs who have earned their titles.  Owner’s names will be included.


Entry forms must include the registered name of the dog, sex, date of birth, AKC or other registration number, country of registration, sire, dam, breeder, owner’s name and address, handler if different from owner, stake entered, and specifications for shoot to retrieve (live round) or non-shoot to retrieve (blank pistol).

 If tests are offered with an AKC event, pre-entry only is permitted.  When the tests are run as a separate event, day of entry may be accepted at the option of the host group.

There will be no horseback handling.

 Two judges are required per stake and both must judge every dog.  Dogs will run in braces but should they go in different directions, judges must have pre-selected the dogs they will follow.

 Upland game birds must be used in all tests.

The tests will be given on a single course with birdfield.  Time in the backfield must be at least 12 minutes and at least 8 minutes in the birdfield.

Dogs may continue to compete after earning a title, but may not be entered twice for the same test in any one event.

Rules Applicable For Both Tests

The purpose of this test is to show the usefulness of our bench setters as hunting dogs, not to qualify them as AKC field trial dogs.  We are looking for a dog with natural instinct in hunting game birds for a handler on foot.

The dog must show a desire to hunt, must have an attractive style of running and must demonstrate not only intelligence in quartering and in seeking objectives but also the ability to find game.  It should show intelligent use of the wind and terrain in locating game.

The dog must be under its handlers control at all times at a range suitable for a handler on foot and should be attentive and check in with its handler frequently. 

It must cover adequate ground but never range too distant or out of sight for a length of time that would detract from its usefulness as a practical hunting dog

The dog must find game and it must establish a point.  A flash point is not acceptable.  A dog that is gun shy or a dog who fails to finish the course, will automatically fail the test. 

If the judge is in doubt whether the dog has pointed, or similarly, if there has been no opportunity to retrieve when the retrieve option has been exercised, the dog may be called back.  However, in order for the judge to allow a callback in either case, the dog must originally have made some contact with game.

Hunting Dog

When game is flushed within reasonable gunning range in the backfield, a blank will be shot.  In the birdfield a shotgun or a blank pistol must be used when game is flushed within reasonable gun range.  A retrieve in the birdfield is desirable, but is not required to pass the test.

Hunting Dog Excellent

The dog must be steady to wing and shot.  If the opportunity presents itself, the hunting dog must honor the point of its bracemate.  When game is flushed within reasonable gun range in the backfield, a blank will be shot, and in the birdfield, a shotgun or a blank pistol must be used.  A retrieve in the birdfield, is desirable, but is not required to pass the test.

Definition of Terms

Run, Range, Cover, Search:  Run is the manner in which the dog moves across the ground.  The run must have intensity and the dog should be obviously running for the purpose of finding game.  Range is the distance the dog works from the handler and is determined by the type of cover the dog is working.  He should work far enough out in open cover to check distance objectives using the wind to his advantage.  The range should be adequate to minimize the amount of walking for the handler. In heavy cover the dog should work correspondingly closer.  The dog should identify and search likely cover, that is, cover where game might be expected to hide.

Responsiveness to handler:  The dog should take direction willingly but not be totally dependent on his handler.  This test is intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of bench setters in finding game for a hunter on foot, so the dog should quarter and be in the control of the handler at a suitable gunning range.

Point:  On finding game, the dog must establish point.  To qualify, the dog must find and point game.  A slight hesitation (flash point) is not acceptable.

 Steady to wing and shot (H.D.X. only):  Upon locating game, the dog must hold point, until he is sent for a retrieve, or released by the handler.  A dog is allowed a reasonable move to mark game, but breaking point or chasing a flushed bird is an automatic failure.

Honor (H.D.X. only):  When a dog sees his bracemate on point within the same gunning range, he must stop his own work and back his bracemate and remain stationary so as not to interfere with the other’s point.

 Retrieve:  When the bird has been shot, the dog should mark its fall and once released by its handler go promptly and eagerly for the retrieve.  Upon finding the bird, he should pick it up gently and return directly to the handler.  The retrieve is a popular requirement for a personal hunting dog, but is only optional in both of these tests.

 Callbacks:  A dog may be “called back” (i.e., given another chance to perform).

For more information, please contact:
Karen Lishinski, 517-740-8563 or