I'll be honest and say that yesterday was a little bit of a let-down. I didn't see a genuinely great performance all day (although to be fair, hunt testing is about qualifying not amassing points); having said that, though, Pixie, this German Shorthair, executed and held the best point of the entire day. She set up a good 60yards from her owner and just held for the full 2mins it took for him to get up there and flush the bird. Lovely. Incidentally, this pic is of her subsequent point which, while staunch, was not quite as impressive.
To be fair to the dogs, too: for those of you considering handling your dogs in JH tests: some judges may advise the handlers of a given brace before it is sent out not to 'hack' their dogs, ie. constantly call at it and give it an opportunity not to obey you. This seems to have been internalised by a fair number of folks to mean turn your dog out and ignore it. You are really doing your dog, especially a young dog, a disservice by doing that. If your dog is doing something that isn't appropriate -- like grabbing birds on the ground and chomping them, then you owe it to the dog to correct it. The problem will not go away if you don't address it there and then. And if you don't think the dog will listen to you if you speak firmly to it, then pick up your dog, ie. collar it and remove it from the test. You may not be able to train over birds before your test, but at least work on your basic obedience commands (on a long-line if necessary): stop, come, stay, leave and drop.
Grabbing birds on the ground and chomping them isn't, by itself, grounds for not qualifying in JH -- if your dog points more birds than it runs in and chomps then your dog can still qualify. Some owners may only go to the JH level because they don't want to deal with the idea that they are directly responsible for a bird's death. At the risk of sounding like Pat the Terrierman at his most vociferous, this is a rather thick piece of denial. A gamebird's role, whether farm-raised or wild, is to be eaten. If a bird doesn't die from the repeated stress of being hunted in a hunt-test, it will in the vast majority of cases be eaten by a raptor of some kind. I know there aren't vast coveys of bobwhite quail hiding out like survivalists in the woods around Nod Brook, or any other field-trial area.
If a bird-dog chomps a quail in a hunt test, the handler shouldn't get queasy that the bird was killed, but was killed in such a way that the bird was rendered inedible. We should pay respect to the gamebirds we kill by eating them -- and if our dog chomps them, then it's time for a conversation and some more training time with the dog.
Pat the Terrierman referenced a post by Christie Keith at the Dogged Blog about why being pro-breed dogs doesn't mean you're pro-puppy mill... or to build on Pat's own rant, why being pro-gun, even pro-Second Amendment, doesn't mean you have to be a card carrying member of the NRA. For my part, I can't give money to the NRA. I enjoy guns, I use guns. But I will not be made to live in paranoid fear, the kinds of which Dahlia Lithwick at Slate should stop pushing as journalism. A colleague today said that he supports the NRA because 'they're the only game in town,' to which I replied 'then that's the problem.' Like Pat, I believe in both the broad meaning of the Second Amendment and gun control. Not everyone should be entitled to own a gun. I don't know why that's a problem for some folk.
Part of why I am in the process of becoming a NYS hunter safety instructor is because I think hunters are the cachement group that can do the most to ensure land conservation and reasonable levels of legal gun ownership. If I can do my part to encourage new hunters to be safe, reasonable, and respectful of both private property and the priviledge of public conservation areas open for hunting, then I'm happy. And part of why I am in the process of becoming an AKC hunt test judge is also to ensure that, even if folks don't hunt their dogs (and only test them), they can still be advocates for responsible, breed-specific dog ownership.
I've made a few rants of my own about HSUS, especially -- but, on the flip-side, I will not be made to feel that every or any piece of journalism or legislation concerning dogs is a floodgate to further legislation restricting my love and respect for pure-bred, sporting dogs. As an example, Oprah's recent piece on puppy mills was exactly, and really only, that. I also happen to agree with the story that "If you are thinking about adopting a new pet, make your first stop the local shelter or animal rescue office." I may be a hypocrite because, after providing a family for two homeless dogs, we didn't get a pure-bred dog initially for his genetic abilities per se... but this blog is a testament to Momo and Jozsi's compelling abilities and their ability to transform lives.