Spaniel Hunting Tests, May 8-9

MSDA will hold two days — two separate events — of hunting tests at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton MD. The entry limit for each day is 55 dogs in total, and each day there will be two fields and judging panels operating simultaneously. Both Saturday and Sunday, judging begins promptly at 8 am and continues until completion, typically ending after 3 pm. A midday lunch break will be taken as decided by the judges, and ribbons will be awarded at the clubhouse after the end of the testing.

These events have been approved by the AKC. However, entries are not yet open. We’re working on the premium and other details now and are aiming to post much more information and open entries probably in early March. Once available, premiums will be available here along with entry forms as well as an easy on-line entry and payment option.

Not just for spaniels, the hunting tests are open to all eligible flushing breeds. Currently, these are: Airedale Terrier, American Water Spaniel, Boykin Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Field Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Poodle, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Standard Poodle, Sussex Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel. Dogs of these breeds recorded with the Purebred Alternative Listing Program/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP) or dogs with Conditional registration are eligible to participate. Spayed and neutered dogs are eligible to participate. Bitches in season are not eligible to participate, nor are they allowed on the grounds. Dogs with Limited Registration are eligible to participate.

Tests will be conducted according to the American Kennel Club’s Regulations for AKC Hunting Tests for Spaniels available at

This seems like a good place to put in a shameless plug for the Advanced Flushing Group at MSDA’s Annual Field Day. It’s held in the same location (Rebel Ridge) and is a great hunt test practice opportunity for those who live in the region.

AKC JUNIOR HANDLER PROGRAM: Anyone up to the age of 18 is eligible to compete as a Junior Handler in hunting tests and other AKC performance events. MSDA welcomes Junior Handlers and offers a reduced entry fee for dogs handled by a Junior Handler. To participate as a Junior Handler, you must obtain a number from the AKC by having a parent or guardian submit this form. (If you don’t yet have a Jr. Handler number when you enter, send in the AKC form and meanwhile write “applied for” in the space on the MSDA hunting test entry.)

WORKING DOG TESTS: Before there were AKC Hunt Tests, MSDA held the first Working Dog Test for English Cocker Spaniels in 1977. In keeping with that tradition, we are once again offering our annual Working Dog Tests (WD, WDX) on one of the weekend days. You do not have to be entered in the AKC Hunting Tests to participate in Working Dog Tests, though we offer a discounted entry fee to dogs signed up for both WD and either Junior Hunter or Senior Hunter, since those can be judged simultaneously.

If you are interested in working dog tests, please note that approval to hold these tests must be obtained separately from each breed club. We try to obtain approval at least for Clumber Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, English Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Field Spaniels, Sussex Spaniels, and Welsh Springer Spaniels. We recommend signing up early to be sure that we have time to get approval for your breed. (WD and hunting tests entries will open soon.) Other breeds are welcome to run in the separate WD test, but they will not receive parent club recognition. Please check with your breed’s parent club for WD/WDX upland hunting test requirements and judging guidelines. Such information is usually on the parent club’s website.

BLAZE ORANGE REQUIRED: The AKC, the State of Maryland, and MSDA require that all people in the field (where there is live fire) wear blaze/fluorescent orange clothing. This includes judges, gunners, handlers, marshals, bird planters, seminar attendees, and observers in the field. A cap by itself is not sufficient to meet this requirement. You need a “vest or jacket containing back and front panels of at least 250 square inches of solid fluorescent orange color (worn as outer garment at all times) or an outer garment of camouflage fluorescent orange worn above the waist which contains at least 50% fluorescent orange color.” If you are a spectator remaining outside the fields, blaze orange is not absolutely required. It is also not required during hunt dead and water portions of tests. However, blaze orange is strongly recommended for everyone on the property and it is the favorite fashion statement color for these events! A very limited number of plain blaze orange t-shirts will be available for sale on site for $5.00 each.

PANDEMIC MITIGATION STEPS: We expect to still be taking Covid-related precautions in early May. While these have not been finalized, and will depend on regulations and guidance at that time, you might want to visit our Field Day page to see what precautions will be in place at another event a few weeks earlier. We will be sure to make the rules clear in advance of the hunting tests; if you are not comfortable being around other humans under the circumstances or are not willing to cheerfully comply with the rules of the day, please do not sign up for our events.

SEVERE CORRECTION OR DISCIPLINE will not be allowed on any part of the grounds at any time. TRAINING by dogs and handlers entered in the hunt tests is not permitted. Dogs can be aired or exercised only in designated areas (areas that will not be used during the course of the tests). Please scoop poop from where people will be walking and deposit the poop bags in trash receptacles.

LOCATION: Once again our hunt tests will be at Rebel Ridge Farms located at 295 Woods Road, Elkton, Maryland 21921. Convenient to I-95, a variety of restaurants, hotels that welcome dogs, and an RV/camping site, this beautiful property provides more than 250 acres of fields, ponds, and woods as well as a heated and air-conditioned clubhouse. (Unfortunately, due to the continuing risks associated with Covid-19, we may not be using the clubhouse this spring.) Most GPS will find Rebel Ridge easily using the address. After you turn in to the property, drive very slowly approaching the dip before the bridge! Follow the driveway in and stay right at the fork. The clubhouse is the last low building on the left. Pull in there to pick up a hunt test catalog, get field assignments, and ask questions.

A note about blue-green algae: There has been much attention paid to toxic algae blooms, especially in waters that collect a lot of fertilizer run-off. This has not been a problem at Rebel Ridge Farms. Experts from Aquatic Engineering complete periodic examinations of Rebel Ridge’s man-made ponds and, to date, have not seen any evidence of algae blooms. The owners swim their own dogs (including their puppies) regularly, and there are events scheduled at Rebel Ridge before our hunting test date.

WHERE TO STAY: In late March or early April, we will be updating our list of area hotels, including information on pet policies and approximate per-night rates. Please do not call Rebel Ridge to ask for hotel recommendations!

Much more information is coming soon. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about how the hunt tests are conducted or would like to volunteer to help, please contact the Event Chair, Steve Roth.