On July 1, 2013, the American Kennel Club (AKC), in what they call a “crossover,” allowed two additional retriever breeds to participate in spaniel hunting tests. Which breeds? The Labrador and golden!

AKC previously allowed other retriever breeds to run in spaniel tests, starting with the Irish water spaniel on March 1, 2011, followed by flat-coats and curly-coats on Jan. 1, 2012. Nevertheless, this addition, especially of the Lab, will have a greater numerical impact on spaniel hunting tests than all the other “crossovers” within the AKC hunting test programs combined.

Why? Because the Lab has been America’s most popular breed since 1990. And the golden has been in the top 10 for years. Both breeds have big numbers! Most retrievers spend almost as much time in the uplands as they do in duck blinds, so large numbers of these breeds already do spaniel-like work (quartering, flushing, and retrieving in the uplands). Thus, the admission of these two breeds to spaniel tests can and probably will bring about a deluge of new entries in such competitions.

Wisely, AKC has made provisions to prevent overflowing numbers of retriever entries from keeping spaniels out of their own tests. The club sponsoring an AKC hunting test can specify on the entry form the maximum number of entries to be accepted, and give priority to spaniel breeds before accepting any entries from retriever breeds.

Of course, these crossover retrievers can continue running in retriever hunting tests, too. So now they can run in two hunting test formats, as can all crossover breeds within the AKC Sporting Group. More on these other breeds later.

To better understand these crossovers, you should first know how AKC segregates breeds into “Groups,” and then “Classifications” within Groups.

Club Classifications 
AKC has divided its recognized breeds into the following seven Groups, based on breed function: Sporting (breeds that hunt feathers); Hound (breeds that hunt fur); Herding (breeds that herd farm animals); Working (breeds that do specific jobs like water rescue, guarding and police work); Terrier (breeds that hunt burrowing animals); Toy (small lap dogs); Non-Sporting (all other breeds).

AKC has divided the Sporting Group into three “Classifications” based on the differing hunting styles: pointing breeds; retrievers; and (flushing) spaniels.