I just got back from Sugar Brook Field Trial Area in Plainfield, CT, serving as an apprentice judge for the first time at the Irish Setter Club of New England spring hunt-test. Between it being early in the season and Easter Sunday, it was a relatively small turn-out with only 14 braces of dogs running in Junior Hunter.
With the class split into two groups (A+B), it meant that me and the two judges I was apprenticing with, Lou and Carol, got to see 14 dogs -- several German Shorthairs, several Irish setters, an Irish red-and-white setter, a Gordon setter, and a couple of Portguese Pointers. None of the three of us had ever seen a Portuguese Pointer before -- and while one was a pup on his first run in birds (and didn't produce a point), the second one we saw ran well for what is a relatively short, solid dog and put up a great, staunch point in the trees.
As soon as I pulled in the parking lot, though, I recognized one handler as the guy who had run Momo's almost-nemesis back in September. And while this big German Shorthair had learned some pointing manners, his handler still hadn't figured out that if you holler a lot at a hard-headed dog and it doesn't listen to you, hollering more isn't going to do much (especially not for a dog's trainability score).
As I mentioned in a previous post, there are a number of changes in the Junior Hunter requirements that will likely eliminate marginal performances from dogs and handlers. (Now, if less dogs qualify, perhaps there will be a longer-term fall-off in the numbers of folks who enter AKC hunt tests.) And while we were a little nervous that some dogs at this test might not qualify as a result of the rule changes, things were pretty cut-and-dry out in the field. Happily, the final brace featured a pair of German Shorthairs that performed just great. The upper picture is of big beautiful Baldur, while the cutey sitting in the lower picture is Ava... who especially at just 7mos old has a great future ahead of her.
All in all, it was very interesting to see this hunt test from a very different angle, this time as a prospective judge rather than as a nervous handler. If you are thinking about either hunting your dog in the woods or handling your dog on the hunt test circuit, keep in mind that your dog is smarter and better equipped than you. So, do your dog a favor, whisper it sweet-nothings, and get out of its way. (And if you're putting a dog on the ground that you know doesn't either know or listen to its 'come' command, then that's poor planning on your part.)
Before I left this morning, I did do some blind retrieves with The Mominator. Again, I juiced up a frosty quail, but this time lobbed it over a log so that he could see direction and gauge distance, but couldn't see the final drop. With one exception (where I think he could have been looking at me and missed the quail-lob), he went out and retrieved the out-of-sight quail to hand. We'll need to keep working on this in the meantime because, while he has been trained to sight retrieve, I'd love him to feel confident going out on a vector I've given him.
In his honor, here's a picture of an ad I just eBayed. It's from the December 1959 issue of Outdoor Life -- and is for Dr. I.S. Osborn's kennels in LeSueur, MN. Osborn was one of the primary importers of vizslas into the United States in the 1950s --and wrote one of the first major papers on the use of X-rays to predict congenital hip dysplasia.
"The world's finest and most beautiful all purpose shooting-dog..."