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Retriever Titles Explained

Retriever Events & Titles Explained

Over the years, I have received questions from customers about Retriever Events. They don't fully understand the events and the titles associated with AKC or UKC pedigrees. Below, we have explained the events and the titles associated with each event. 

Understanding Field Trial Stakes

In Field trials, the dogs will compete against each other. A trial aims to determine the relative merits of Retrievers in the field. The dogs should be judged on their natural abilities, including memory for marks, intelligence, attention, nose, courage, perseverance, and style, and skills acquired through training, including steadiness, control, response to direction, and delivery. There are two categories of Field Trials: OPEN & AMATEUR. Four stakes can be offered at an AKC Licensed or member club field trial: Open, Amateur, Qualifying, and Derby. In the field trial vocabulary, the terms "major stake" and "all age stakes" are used interchangeably to refer collectively to the Open and Amateur championships. The term "minor stakes" refers collectively to the Qualifying and Derby stakes.

Open Stakes

An Open stake is "open" to all retrievers at least six months of age. Either an amateur or professional handler may handle dogs in an Open stake. 

In an Open stake, the dogs should be tested on marked retrieves on land and water and blind retrieves on land and water. Typically an Open stake will consist of four separate tests starting with multiple land marks, a land blind or blinds, water blind or blinds, and finally, multiple water marks. However, marks and blinds can be combined, and there is no requirement for the order of the tests. Also, there is no specified limitation as to distance for either marked or blind retrieves. After each test or series, the dog's work is evaluated. With no preset numbers or percentages, the dogs that exhibited relatively better work are called back to continue the trial, and all other dogs are excused from the competition. This process is continued until the remaining dogs have been tested on the four required areas and until the dogs have separated themselves as to the relative quality of their work to the point where the best four dogs can be determined and ranked for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th placements. Suppose more than four dogs should finish a stake and exhibit outstanding work after the four dogs that earned the four places are determined. In that case, the judges, at their option, may award the dog with the next best work a Reserve Judges Award of Merit (RJAM) and may award any remaining dog a Judges Award of Merit (JAM).

Amateur Stakes

An Amateur stake is open to all retrievers at least six months of age. The only difference between an Amateur and an Open stake is that Professional trainers/Handlers are not allowed to handle a dog in an Amateur stake. 

Qualifying Stakes

A Qualifying stake is open to all retrievers at least six months of age. However, a dog may not be entered in a Qualifying stake if that dog has been awarded a place or a JAM in an Open, Limited, Special, or Restricted stake; or has been awarded a place in an Amateur or Owner/Handler Amateur stake; or has been awarded 1 st place in two Qualifying stakes. Both amateur and professional handlers may handle dogs in a Qualifying stake.

A Qualifying stake parallels the Open and Amateur stakes in that the dogs should be tested on land and water retrieves and land and water blind retrieve. The primary difference is that typically the difficulty of the tests is somewhat less than the All Age stakes, and judges are allowed the latitude to be more tolerant concerning abilities acquired through training relative to the major stakes. 

Derby Stakes

A Derby stake is open to all retrievers at least six months of age and not yet two years on the first day of the trial. Both amateurs and professionals may handle dogs in Derby stakes. The dogs in a Derby are tested on marked retrieves on land and water. While the dogs must exhibit sufficient training to deliver to hand and be reasonably steady at the line, the emphasis is on natural abilities related to marked retrieves. Typically, a Derby stake will consist of four tests, two on land and two on water, each a set of double-marked retrieves.

American Kennel Club Field Trial Titles


NFC – National Field Champion

FC – Field Champion


NAFC – National Amateur Field Champion

AFC – Amateur Field Champion

QAA or QA2 – Qualified All-Age 


NDC- National Derby Champion

Understanding Hunt Tests 

Hunt tests are a non-competitive event. Dogs are not competing against other dogs; instead, the dogs' natural ability and training are evaluated against a written standard. Each dog that meets the standard is awarded a 'Pass.' So essentially, all dogs entered could pass. Generally, earning four to six 'passes' in a level will earn a title. That title is then recorded at the end of the dog's formal AKC or UKC name.

Junior / Started Tests

For Junior and Started level tests, the dog marks and retrieves the bird on land and water. It will be single marks. Depending on the test, birds need to be delivered to the hand or immediate area of the handler. The dog can be restrained at the line, so they don't need to be steady.

Senior / Seasoned Tests

For Senior or Seasoned level tests, the dog marks the bird on land and water. It will be a double-marked retrieve. The dog must be steady at the line, and the bird must be delivered to hand. Each test will have a diversion, a walk-up, and a water and land blind.  

Master / Finished Tests

For Master or Finished level tests, the dog will mark the bird on land and water. It will be a triple-marked retrieve. There are land and water blinds; the dog must be steady and deliver the bird to hand. There are diversions, walk-ups and an honor added to each test.

Below are the most common organizations that host hunt tests. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC). Each of these organizations has slightly different testing standards.

American Kennel Club Hunt Tests Titles

MH – Master Hunter 

SH — Senior Hunter 

JH —-Junior Hunter

Note: Some dogs may have the title MNR, which is also a significant accomplishment. The Master National Retriever Club awards it to dogs that have passed the Master National 2 times.

United Kennel Club / Hunting Retriever Club Hunt Test Titles

HOF-Hall of Fame  4 Grand Hunt Passes & 1000 Championship Points

GRHRCH – Grand Hunting Retriever Champion 

HRCH – Hunting Retriever Champion 

HR — Hunting Retriever 

SHR — Started Hunting Retriever

UH — Upland Hunting Retriever

Understanding the Super Retriever Series

The dog must have an advanced title to enter an SRS field event. These include American Kennel Club Master Hunter, Hunting Retriever Club Hunting Retriever Champion, and AKC Field Champion. SRS Retriever Trial events feature multiple hunt tests and field trials, emphasizing and replicating common sporting and field scenarios. The events aim to develop the best all-around retriever and handler teams through challenges in an advanced competitive format.

Each event consists of four series with points added for errors along the way. All competitors who successfully retrieve all marks will complete series #1 and #2. After the second series, the 12 competitor teams with the lowest combined score in each division move on to run series #3. Each division's lowest six combined scores are invited back to run the 4th and final series.

The dog/handler team with the lowest combined score from all four series wins the event. Placements are recognized for 1st through 6th place in professional and amateur divisions.

Super Retriever Series Titles

SRSC — Open SRS Title 

SRSAC— Amateur SRS Title 

SRSCC  — Open SRS Crown Champion 

SRACC — Amateur SRS Crown Champion

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