Tips for Clubs Holding WC/WCX Tests
By Glenda Brown
There are many factors involved in a club holding successful WC/WCX tests. The first consideration is to get good, knowledgeable judges. This may seem obvious, but often it is left to the last minute. Clubs can end up with very nice people for judges, but they may lack the WC/WCX knowledge and judging skills necessary.
It is important to find judges who are good with people as well as with dogs, especially for the participants running a WC or WCX for the first time. Judges who answer questions in a good natured manner and a smiling face, and are honestly “for” the dogs, set the tone for the event.
Judges need to read and thoroughly understand the rules and the intent behind them. They must understand the level of the dogs they are judging. Judges need to know about the problems presented by certain gun placements and the effect terrain or high winds have on the dogs. Occasionally, tests are set up which are unreasonably hard due to the configurations used. This could be avoided by having judges who understand exactly what a WC/WCX represents and how to properly set up tests which accomplish this purpose.
It can be a challenge for clubs to find good help in the field. It’s not enough just to find club members who are willing to come out to the test but who have no experience or training and aren’t familiar with the WC/WCX program. With untrained volunteers, it can be frustrating for the judges and handlers, unfair to the dogs, and an unhappy experience for the new volunteer, who likely will not volunteer again.
A club can greatly benefit from having a training day beforehand to train workers, and give the handlers and dogs a preview. Throwers need to learn how to throw birds properly. Each throw should attempt to be as uniform as the one before it, and the one after it, to create a fair situation for all the dogs and handlers. Many of these dogs are very green, especially in a WC. Repeated episodes of birds that go backwards over a thrower’s head, throws that are very short, or birds thrown at the wrong time, can ruin an otherwise well planned event. Have new workers practice throwing. Have a contest where the most accurate new thrower gets a prize.
During the WC/WCX, try to rotate the throwers in and out of the field so no one is stuck out there all day. Let all the workers know how very, very much you appreciate their doing this for the club. Well trained, well fed, and well thanked workers happily come back another day.
One of the most important requirements is to have very good gunners for the live flyer station. Birds that are repeatedly missed add to club costs as well as being very detrimental to the dogs being run. If a club does not have enough members who qualify for shooting the flyer, call around to some of the local hunt test clubs and gun clubs. They often have members who are very good shots and would enjoy shooting at WC/WCX events. A free ticket to the tail gate party and hearty lunches, combined with effusive thanks and a followup thank you note usually means you will have eager volunteers for your next test. Keep a list of these people and treat them like the jewels they are.
Good marshals are another critical component of a smooth running WC/WCX test. They make it easier on the judges, more pleasant for the handlers, and can keep the WC/WCX running like a well oiled machine. A club should provide marshals with a list of responsibilities in advance, especially for first-time marshals. One of the most important functions of a marshal is to make sure that workers who are also running their own dogs, are rotated out of the field in a timely fashion. They will need time to view a few of the dogs working, air their dogs, and time to catch their breath and focus on their own turn at the line.
Clubs can increase the rate of dogs passing their tests in style by offering Training Days. Knowledgeable members can take turns being in charge, with the more advanced helping those with less experience. Try to shoot flyers so the dogs become used to them. Work on the dogs being steady on line, both while honoring and running. Help handlers to become successful on doubles (WC) and triples (WCX). Be sure to include a question and answer session.
Training Days not only benefit WC/WCX hopefuls, but Hunt Test beginners as well, and many owners who earn WC/WCX titles get the bug and move on to hunt tests. Clubs should make an effort to provide a variety of upland game birds and ducks for their Training Days in order to expose the dogs to various scents, body weights, and tastes. It’s unfortunate when a handler arrives at a test to discover their dog has never seen, let alone retrieved, the birds being used that day. That’s when handlers panic, their dogs sense that something’s amiss, and the dogs are unfairly tested on unfamiliar birds.
GRCA’s WC/WCX Video helps new handlers and new workers learn about the program. This video (available in the GRCA Store on the GRCA website) and other training videos are excellent for club meeting programs.