Types of NAVHDA Tests

Local NAVHDA chapters sponsor three kinds of tests:

Natural Ability (NA) Test is designed to evaluate young dogs on their inherent natural abilities with a view to gaining an insight into their possible future value as versatile gun dogs. No game is shot, and no retrieves are required during the Natural Ability Test. The Natural Ability Test is organized into four main segments, or phases, as follows:

  1. Field Phase – The dog is hunted for a minimum of 20 minutes and evaluated on: Use of Nose, Search, Pointing, Desire to Work, Cooperation, and the dog’s reaction to gunfire (Not Gun Shy, Gun Sensitive, or Gun Shy).
  2. Tracking Phase – The ability to concentrate on a track is an important trait of the versatile hunting dog. It’s this ability that permits the prompt recovery of cripples. The dog is given an opportunity to track a flightless running pheasant or chukar. The dog is evaluated on: Use of Nose, Tracking, Desire to Work, and Cooperation.
  3. Water Phase – A truly versatile hunting dog must possess the desire and confidence to swim. The dog is evaluated on: Water Entry, Desire to Work, and Cooperation. The dog is NOT evaluated on its swimming speed, style, or ability to retrieve.
  4. Judging Physical Characteristics – See note.

Utility Preparatory Test (UPT) is designed to evaluate dogs midway between the Natural Ability Test and the Utility Test. The dog’s level of obedience and training should demonstrate that it is on its way to becoming a Utility dog. The Utility Preparatory Test is organized into two main segments, or phases, as follows:

1. Field Group:

  • Field Search – Each dog will be hunted for at least 25 minutes over typical hunting terrain. The search should show some maturity and purpose at this stage of development. As always, desire is critical to the productive hunting dog. The dog must apply itself in an enthusiastic manner, leaving no doubt that it is in search of game. Objectives should be checked and the wind should be used to advantage.
  • Pointing – Judgment of pointing begins when a convincing point is established and ends when the dog is aware of the handler’s presence. Points must be intense and productive.
  • Steadiness on Game – Steadiness requires that there be quiet confident teamwork between dog and handler through steady to wing Dogs in the UPT are not required to be steady to shot.
  • Retrieve of Shot Bird – A good versatile dog happily and promptly retrieves shot game. The dog should pick the bird up and return it directly to his handler.
  • Retrieve by Drag – A versatile hunting dog is expected to be a reliable retriever under all hunting conditions. He should retrieve game as directed by his handler. Because the game is placed out of sight of the handler, where the dog is on his own, with no urging or control, the drag primarily demonstrates the dog’s cooperation and allows judgment of obedience. The game must be retrieved.

2. Water Group:

  • Water Search – This is a test of the dog’s ability to locate downed game. It tests primarily desire and allows judgment of cooperation and use of nose. The dog is expected to intelligently and diligently search the area for the duck. The dog is given sufficient time to allow for evaluation. A retrieve is not necessary unless the dog makes contact with the duck.
  • Walking at Heel – This is a test of practical obedience. The dog is to be walked at heel, on or off lead, for approximately 25 yards to a position by a blind set up on the shore.
  • Steadiness by Blind – This is a test of the dog’s reliability in the presence of game while in the exciting atmosphere of gun fire. The dog is expected to stay until sent for the retrieve.
  • Retrieve of a Duck – The dog is expected to mark the fall of the duck and complete his retrieve with desire and enthusiasm.

Throughout the UPT test the following areas are also judged: Use of Nose, Desire to Work, Cooperation, Obedience and Physical Attributes.


Utility Test (UT) is designed to evaluate


To be truly meaningful, tests for versatile hunting dogs must meet certain criteria. They must be conducted in an environment that reflects actual hunting conditions and situations. They must test the important qualities of a good versatile dog. Judges must be knowledgeable, consistent and objective. All testing and evaluation is to be within the context of judging dogs as useful, productive hunting companions. NAVHDA tests have been designed with these requirements in mind. In addition, our record keeping provides an accurate, complete performance evaluation on each dog tested.

In order to eliminate direct competition between dogs, entrants in a NAVHDA test are judged one at a time, by three judges, with their performance scored against a standard. The only exception to this is the Invitational Test, in which dogs are braced in the field so each dog can demonstrate his willingness to back and work effectively with another dog. Prizes are awarded on the basis of numerical scores achieved in the test. Each dog that meets or exceeds minimum standards in all areas of work is placed in one of three categories: Prize I, II or III. Prize I being the highest classification. If all dogs entered in a NAVHDA test perform well, all can receive a prize.


*Physical CharacteristicsNAVHDA recognizes that establishing and monitoring physical standards for a given breed are the sole prerogative and responsibility of the breed club concerned. Therefore, evaluation of coat and conformation by NAVHDA Judges should be regarded as a courtesy service to assist owners and breeders by pointing out any apparent defects that might hinder a dog or its progeny from attaining maximum efficiency in the field [hunting enviroment]. While physical attributes may affect performance, they are NOT considered in awarding prizes. The dog’s Bite and Teeth, Eyes, Testes, Coat, and Temperment are evaluated.