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Retrieving Certification Test

By Retrieving Certification Test Committee

Addressing Issues This article is hoped to be the first in an ongoing series designed to address issues and concerns with various aspects of the AWS Retrieving Certification Test, better known as the RCT. It is hoped that the series will develop into a guideline for judges, sponsors, and participants involved in conducting the AWS Retrieving Certification Test. Let’s get started with some of the recent concerns expressed by participants in the first and only set of tests held up to this time.

Before we get into specific rules, we will look at a few criticisms that do not directly pertain to the running rules of any particular test level. The first such criticism is that the RCT was developed, indeed mostly taken, direct from the American Kennel Club (AKC) rules for Retriever Tests. This is not at all false information. When it comes to the actual rules of each test level, essentially, they come from the AKC Retriever Hunt Test rule book. Why?

The RCT is a retrieving test and is being used, in conjunction with the AKC Spaniel Hunt Tests, to earn an AKC title; therefore, it made some sense to use the AKC Retriever Hunt Test rule book as a basis for the running rules. Further, generally speaking, the AKC rules do not vary that much from the rules of the other organizations. Yes, there are some differences but nothing that significantly changes the flavor of the tests or their intended purpose. The reason we know this is because the AKC rules were not the only ones referred to when drawing up the RCT.

rules. Test setups that do not closely simulate actual hunting situations or that seem to be outside the confines of the rules and their intended purpose will not be allowed. It will be the responsibility of every sponsor and hunt test committee to see to it that this basic principle is adhered to.

Comments have been made that suggest the first running of the RCT had judges interpreting rules according toAKC guidelines and not our own guidelines. While one person’s guideline is another person’s rule it should be stressed that the only guidelines that are to be followed are those contained in the RCT. Guidelines serve as a point of clarification for all parties involved in the test process and are developed over time to address problems that arise during implementation of the rules. The RCT did not have specific guidelines, other than the actual rules, when it began because there was no history to show where problems might develop. Since the running of the RCT in August we have begun to develop a set of guidelines to assist both the handlers and the judges with rules interpretation.

All of the retrieving hunt test programs are designed to simulate actual hunting situations but, of course, none of them can do exactly that. Unlike what has been suggested by some, the AKC Retriever Hunt Test rules are not developed to be more like field trials than other organization’s retriever hunt test rules and do not make the RCT more difficult than it should be. Actually, the RCT could have been developed from any of the three major retriever testing organization’s rules and they would have been, essentially, the same. In fact, a variety of rules from NAHRA and UKC/HRC were incorporated into the RCT, in one way or the other, and effectively created a test which is specific to the AWS and created for the AWSC.

Further, with regard to the use of the AKC Retriever Hunt Test rules as a starting point for the RCT, it has been said that, “Many aspects [of the AKC Retriever Hunt Tests], much to the chagrin of novice and intermediate participants, are just too contrived.” The rules for the AKC program do not lend themselves to the implementation of “contrived” tests anymore than the rules of any other testing program. Contrived tests are the purview of the individuals that setup the tests rather than a product of the

AWS Cody retrieving a duck (Jean and Duane Wright)

With that said though there are two other points that should be noted. One is that there are some specific parts of the rules that guide judges and handlers in an understanding of exactly what should be done and expected, so it is not as though the RCT gives either party carte blanche when it comes to interpretation. The other point is that, no matter how many guidelines are developed, the rules and the expectations of the performance are subject to the interpretation of the judge. As long as the human element is a part of any testing program there will be differences in interpretation, expectation, and implementation of such programs. All we can do is to work hard to minimize the extent of such differences.

A few AWSC members have questioned why sponsors of an RCT must request approval to hold the test no later


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