The Spring 2014 Natural Ability test held by the Illowa chapter of NAVHDA ( http://www.illowanavhda.org/ ) , was a smashing success.
In case you don’t know, NAVHDA stands for North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association. See (www.navhda.org/) for more information about NAVHDA and it’s testing standards and procedures. NAVHDA strives to test and quantify the abilities of Versatile pointing breeds. Unlike a field trial, the NAVHDA way is to test each dog against a standard, and not have dogs competing against each other. The goal is to promote the training and breeding of high-performing and healthy versatile pointing dogs. As opposed to the indiscriminate breeding of inferior dogs that have plagued certain breeds over the years.
What made the day a smashing success? For starters you couldn’t have asked for better weather to conduct a hunting test. The morning started off slightly cool with mostly sunny skies. A light breeze out of the west helped move bird scent. As the day wore on it warmed up a bit, but it never became so hot that the dogs were stressed.
The test sponsors Mark and Michelle Wilbers of Brush Dale Farm’s ( http://www.brushdale.com/) did a superb job of putting on the test. The testing process was flawless; with the exception of a couple of rooster pheasants who made a jail break during the tracking part of the test. The Illowa chapter members who volunteered to help out at the test did a fine job as well. The sack lunch provided for a mere $5.00 was quite good, with a generous amount to eat, and included a small soda or water. My Thirteen year old son Grether was with me for the day, and he thought the meal was quite tasty.
There were 8 dogs entered in the test. ( The maximum number of dogs allowed per test is 10 due to the substantial time allotted to each dog to test.) The following is a list of the 8 dogs entered. It is really interesting how creative people are in coming up with a name to use to register the dog in a Stud Book. Check out the creativity in just the short list below.
Marshland’s Hanna Roxi, Call Name: Roxi, Breed: PudelPointer
Qauttro Zampa Salto Di Fede, Call Name: Alea, Breed: Spinone Italiano
Brush Dale’s He’s Got Game, Call Name: Ike, Breed: Small Munsterlander
Standing Stones Lil Miss Trigger, Call Name: Trigger, Breed: German Shorthaired Pointer
Ruger Feldt, Call Name: Ruger, Breed: German Wirehaired Pointer
Doree Die Tochter Von Meistern Call Name: Doree, Breed: German Shorthaired Pointer
Camkota I’m Your Huckleberry Call Name: Charlee Breed: Spinone Italiano
Tegan Call Name: Teagan Breed: Brittany Spaniel
If you have spent at least five minutes on this website, the reader has noticed that one of the authors GSPs’ is on this list. When I was trying to come up with a name for my dogs, I wanted something that expressed the championship heritage that my dogs represent. And since my dogs are a German breed I decided to use German terms to name them: Die Tochter Von Meistern means; the Daughter of Champions. However, since I have two women at home, wife and daughter, I was forced to use names of cartoon characters for the call names. Really, they held a gun to my head. Gun or no gun, I’m putting my foot down on the next one. They want me to name it Olaf. NO WAY!
Getting back to the topic! Another reason the day was quite enjoyable was the pleasant conversation, mostly about the dogs of course. Everyone seemed to get along well, and lots of enjoyable conversation was exchanged by the participants.
A quick summary about the test itself. The Natural Ability Test is for versatile breeds under 16 months of age. The Test is divided into three parts; field search, tracking, and water. There are seven areas of evaluation, they are as follows; use of nose, search, water, pointing, tracking, desire to work, cooperation. Each area of evaluation has a point maximum and index value, which are multiplied together to give a point total for that area. For example use of nose has a maximum score of 4, and an index value of 6 ( which is the highest index value ) for a maximum of 24 points. The index value for any given area of evaluation represents NAVHDA’S view of the importance of a particular skill or ability. Recall that this is a test for young dogs. Cooperation is only given an index value of 2. Which makes perfect sense, since the test is geared towards evaluating inherited abilities.
How the test is conducted. First is the field search. Each dog gets 20 minutes in the field. Three birds were planted in a prairie grass type of cover. Then the first dog is released to search out the three birds. The dog must find and point at least two of the birds in the 20 minutes allowed. The point doesn’t have to be a long solid point. The evaluation areas the judges are looking at are: use of nose, search, pointing, desire to work, and cooperation. The dog is also tested for gun shyness. This process is repeated for all the dogs.
Next is the tracking part of the test. A rooster Pheasant has some flight feathers pulled and some downy feathers pulled. Then the rooster is released on a hill-side and encouraged to run off. The downy feathers are placed on the ground where the rooster started off and the dog is called up to start the track. The dog is shown the feathers and released to start the tracking of the bird. At our test we had ideal conditions, six to ten inch grass with a nice breeze.
Most of the dogs at the test did extremely well on the tracking section. My own dog Doree was outstanding. She tracked the bird quickly and caught and then retrieved it. You don’t get any extra points for catching and retrieving however. On the tracking section the dog is evaluated in the following areas: use of nose, tracking, desire to work, and cooperation.
Finally, there is the water test. This test evaluates the dogs desire and confidence to swim. The areas of evaluation are water entry, desire to work, and cooperation. More detailed information on the test goals, test procedures, and test scoring can be found at http://www.navhda.org/testing/natural-ability-test.
Six of the eight dogs entered did very well. The two that did not do well overall, still had some good things going for them. Overall, I would have to say that there are some really fine bird dogs being breed in the US.
Which leads to one of the entry’s that I am going to feature in this article.Camkota I’m Your Huckleberry also known as Charlie is my featured dog from the NA test. I picked Charlie because of his impressive test run, and because of his friendly and outgoing but calm nature. He was especially impressive in the field part of the test. He ran right behind my dog and found five Chukkars to Doree’s two Chukkars. I hunted Doree a lot last fall and she did a great job finding pheasants. So the fact that Charlie found and pointed five Chukkars really impressed me. Charlie is a Spinone Italiano. He is the third of the breed that I have tested with and by far and away the most impressive. He received a maximun of 112 points on his test.
I asked his owner Dave how he came to choose a puppy from the Spinone Italiano breed. He said that he first learned of the breed by reading an article on hunting dog breeds at http://www.pheasantsforever.org/page/1/dogbreeds.jsp
He went on to say quote:” In general, when I factored in what I wanted out of a bird dog, and what fit in with my families lifestyle, the Spinone seemed to fit the bill. If well-bred, they are good hunters and they have a calm temperament in the house which is important for me. There are not many breeders in Iowa. Bobbi Benson of the Illowa Navhda chapter did not have any litters available at the time and referred me to Stu and Mary Campbell out of Aberdeen SD (Camkota Spinone). After a lot of phone calls, research, trying to learn about the dam/sire, etc I went with Mary. She knew I wanted a male, and a hunter, and she did her best to look a the characteristics of the pups and pick a good fit for me. Going on a year old in June, I have found him receptive to training, and he seems to show a lot of natural instinct towards birds with a good prey drive. This is my first bird dog, and to have a receptive learner has been a big help for me as I learn this process.”
I think Dave hit the jackpot on the first try. If we all could be so fortunate! Congratulations Dave and Charlie on a job well done.
The June issue of the Versatile Hunting Dog, which is NAVHDA’s member magazine recently arrived. It lists the test results of the various chapters. Most of the spring testing is NA oriented. Our group was very strong with our dog’s results, compared with other chapter’s test results. Either our judges were very lenient or we had an outstanding group. Based on experience I think we had an outstanding group.