Locals and interstate visitors took part in The Shire of Wellington Classic Retrieving Trial for Gundogs in Sale last weekend.

More than 60 dogs and 100 contenders from New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria gathered to take part in novice, restricted and all-age stakes.

Retrieving trials have taken place in Victoria for more than 100 years, with judges appointed to ascertain which was the best dog, as competitors and their gundogs took to paddocks in rural Victoria to hunt game in the early days.

While retrieving trials are still held in country paddocks, today, no game is harmed, and competitors use shotguns loaded with blanks.

Judges set up runs of up to 150 metres to replicate hunting; throwers launch the game, the handlers shoot it, and the dogs retrieve it.

The judge allocates points for obedience, control and the efficiency with which the dog hunts for, finds and returns the game. These are highly trained dogs that any hunter would be proud to own.

The novice category is for inexperienced and young dogs who retrieve one item of game at a distance of up to 100m.

As the dogs gain experience, they move up to the Immediate stage, retrieving up to two items of game per run, adhering to their owner’s whistle commands.

Garrick Bridges (left) discusses the run with all-age judge Bob Tawton. Photos: Contributed

The best, most experienced dogs compete in all age competition. Gundogs in the all-age stake retrieve and remember up to three items of game at a time, including blinds, which are items of game that the judge has put out without the dog’s knowledge.

Handlers can control and direct their dogs onto these blinds using whistle and hand commands.

Many breeds of dogs compete in these trials, but Labradors tend to dominate the trials as they are intelligent, natural hunters and easily trained.

A golden retriever handled by Jim Hargreaves was the winner in the all-age competition at The Shire of Wellington Classic Retrieving Trial for Gundogs in Sale.

Several German shorthaired pointers also performed admirably at the trials.

Competitors at Sale were able to hone their skills in preparation for the National Championships set to be held in the next six weeks.

The Gippsland Retrieving Club (GRC), established in 2014 and the largest Retrieving Club in Australia, ran the event with the support of Wellington Shire.

The next gundog trials to be held in Sale by the GRC are in February, followed by a three-day trial over Easter, with competitors and judges coming from across the country to participate in the ‘must attend competition’ for triallers.