I’ve always said that the main reasons I test my dogs are: 1- hunt tests are like seminars from which I can learn, and 2- they give me a way to gauge how well I train; I also enjoy the camaraderie of hunt tests. After this past weekend of testing, I now know where I stand and I’m seriously debating on whether or not I’ll enter my dogs in another hunt test.
In the past, AKC judges have been very helpful in giving me tips for improving my dogs’ hunting skills and pointing out mistakes that I made. Therefore, I viewed it as my fault that the guys were failing all their hunt tests on Saturday. That is, until I was told by the owner of a Setter, “they don’t like dogs with long tails” (Setters), and another individual told me that these were some of the most biased hunt tests he’d encountered anywhere in the country.
Even though my Spinone out-hunted most of their German Shorthair Pointer and Brittany Spaniel brace mates – especially considering the number of dogs that were disqualified – they failed every test in the same category: Hunting. The criticism against them was: 1- they hunted primarily within shotgun range, and 2- did not show enough independence (from time to time, my dogs check in with me).
Don’t get me wrong, everyone testing their dogs were great people and I enjoyed the camaraderie. So Saturday night after watching my dogs fail every test, I had a lengthy conversation with an AKC judge and learned a great deal. Such as:
1- A pointing dog must hunt outside of shotgun range because any dog can find birds within shotgun range, and hunters themselves will stumble over anything within shotgun range. Since Spinone hunt at a medium distance unlike German Shorthairs and Brittany Spaniels, this was a guaranteed failure.
2- Dogs need to build muscle in order to run big, and a good way of doing that is to attach a 3-foot log chain to their neck and let them drag it around for a few minutes. Eventually they will build enough muscle that they will want to run big. While this is apparently used on German Shorthairs, don’t expect me to hook my Spinone to a log chain.
3 – But there was one Senior Hunt Test rule that I found hard to believe: the handler is allowed to hold their dog by the collar when honoring. Now, I always thought that by the time a dog gets to their Senior Hunt Test, they were a “finished” dog, but since when does a “finished” dog have to be held by the collar to honor their brace mate?! My dogs may have failed every test, but I never once had to hold their collar to honor a brace mate. I guess that makes them more “Finished” than the AKC standard.
So after watching my dogs being insulted by their test scores for two days, I ripped into the judge of my final hunt test and told him exactly what I thought of their test criteria and obvious bias. Yup, I burned my bridges big time but it sure felt good.
Stay tuned as the next three posts will summarize each of their hunt tests.