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Thread: Are trials and hunt tests geared for Labradors?

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    Default Are trials and hunt tests geared for Labradors?

    7 New breeds have been added to AKC hunt tests as of 9-1-2011 .
    American Water Spaniels (effective 4/1/11)
    Chesapeake Retrievers
    Curly-Coated Retrievers
    Flat-Coated Retrievers
    German Shorthaired Pointer (effective 9/1/11)
    German Wirehaired Pointer (effective 9/1/11)
    Golden Retrievers
    Labrador Retrievers
    Irish Water Spaniels
    Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers
    Spinone Italiano (effective 7/1/11)
    Standard Poodles
    Vizsla (effective 9/1/11)
    Weimaraner (effective 9/1/11)
    Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (effective 7/1/11)

    It seems to me that Retriever tests, both field trial and hunt tests, have always favored Labrador Retrievers as far as the set up of the test. For some time in field trials shear speed and straight lines placed the dogs. I got out of field trials in 2002 when my main interest switched to family time. I continued to train and run a few hunt test but lost track of what was really going on at trials. It seemed that hunt tests were a little more balanced for the Retriever breeds, Labs, Chessies, and Goldens, but I donít think they show up in the master level in representative numbers. Itís still predominantly Labs. Qualified for this yearís Master Hunt Test in Maryland are mostly Labs. Out of 697 dogs listed as of July 31:
    76 are Golden Retrievers, 20 are Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, 6 Flat Coated Retrievers, 2 Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, 1 Poodle, 1 Curly Coated Retriever and 1 American Water Spaniel.
    590 are Labradors About 85% .

    Do you think the tests should be reviewed and altered to allow for other breeds strengths?

    Linda Henning
    Alaska Dog News.

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    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    So long as the tests emulate hunt conditions then leave them be. The "problem" with such competitions is eventually they become a thing unto themselves and mutate away from their origins like so many working breeds that were "ruined" by being bred for looks instead of function and ability.

    With regard to the numbers you posted, I would think they simply reflect the sheer popularity of Labs. How do the percentages of Master Hunters by breed align with overall breed popularity? I would think the more specialized breeds would tend to be somewhat over represented in the qualifiers because a greater percentage of their owners had performance and hunt testing in mind when they selecting those dogs.
    If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today

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    I wouldn't say they are geared solely for retrievers. But I would say "like field trials they aren't what they used to be". With better breeding and improved training techniques that evolved over the years. Those that ran the test saw a need to make the test more challenging. Thus more distance and other factors became a normal part of the test.
    A retriever field trial of the 60's and 70's is nothing like it is today. The Open and the Amateur looked more like our
    Master hunt test of today(100 to 150yd marks). So I would say the test have evolved over the years. Field trials today have distances of over 300 yds. I haven't seen it but I've heard of marks near 500+

    With that being said a previous poster had mentioned about breeding for looks instead of field ability. From my
    experience there is a split between the two that also has evolved over time. More prevalent in labs than other breeds. A few proud chessie owners will quickly tell you that there breed doesn't have the split and are able to compete in
    both field and show. True but with out careful management a split will come. Goldens can do both as well but a split has already evolved there amongst breeding lines.
    I would say this split( show lines vs field lines) has caused and will continue causing a lot of controversy.

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    What are the percentages on each dog for yearly entries? Likely, in a car race, if exponentially more Chevies show up, I'm betting on Chevy to come out winners. Why would we expect dog competition to be any different? At one time Labs were one of if not the most sought breed in America. There were simply more of them around.
    Look at Police dogs. What breeds prevail over others? Why? I remember reading somewhere that Labs were used in Korea quite a bit due in part that they handled cold ok. But today I would not say that Labs, or any retriever for that matter are the primary K-9 patrol dog. My guess is that goes to the Belgian Malinois. In that arena (patrol & drugs), the dogs I get to work with really shine, even over other breeds that specialize in one or the other.
    Labs do not tend to fight you during training, nor do they tend to get sulky or fall apart under pressure. Their normally gregarious and forgiving nature is why I gravitated to them 33 years ago. My experience is that it takes fewer repetitions to train a lab on a new field concept. I think that those inate abilities are part of the reason that they shine in the field.
    With all that said, I would not be adverse to listening to ideas on how to set up field tests differently. Right now I can't see how that could be done to take away the Labs lead in successfully completing field questions.
    Great discussion. Makes for some good food for thought,
    ARR

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    In a word - No. They are RETRIEVER field trials/hunt tests, but not geared for Labradors even though Labs constitute the majority of entries. Although the parent clubs of pointers/spaniels have petitioned AKC and been granted the okay to enter retriever hunt tests, the tests are STILL retriever hunt tests. AKC retriever hunt tests used to have quartering and trailing tests in senior & master, but they got dropped due to reportedly being too subjective. Marking is still the key factor, but dogs have to score a minimum average of 5 in marking, style, perseverance/courage & trainability, AND have an overall average of 7 to qualify/pass an AKC hunt test (Junior, Senior or Master). I don't score breeds differently when judging HTs -- look at the work, not the breed.

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    Whoops. I meant to say "not solely for labradors"

    Now put down your tomatoes !!! I corrected my typo.

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    Didn't mean to sound like I was throwing tomatoes, Baron. Sorry if you took it that way!

    Meant to emphasize that they are retriever tests, as opposed to general gun dog tests, or geared to any specific breed. AKC supposedly was approached several years ago about holding general hunting dog/gun dog hunt tests, but that didn't fly with the Board evidently.

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    It wasn't you Karen. It was some of my other training buddies that brought it to my attention. They are all getting a kick out of my screw up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Linda View Post

    It seems to me that Retriever tests, both field trial and hunt tests, have always favored Labrador Retrievers as far as the set up of the test
    Sorry folks, I know this will ruffle some feathers. First off, we are talking about retirevers, not pointers, flushers and other bird dogs. AKC Retriever Hunt Test and Field Trials are geared for and designed to test a dogs abilities in retrieving. Other types of bird dogs have their own trials and hunt tests. They are now welcome to run and compete against labs and other retirevers, but I am opposed to watering down a test so that a pointer can compete. Labs are most popular in retrieving because they are consistantly the best retrievers, period, as shown by their record. Yes, there are Chessies and Goldens and other breeds that have some individual dogs of their breed that can compete with labs, no questions about that. I hear the phase, "that dog runs like a lab" often around my house refering to my wifes Golden. A friend has a great Chessie that has heard that same comparison on numerous occasions also. However, if somebody who does not know much about different breeds asks what breed should I get for duck hunting and retrieving and have the best chance of getting a good hunting dog, lab would be the answer, hands down. A lab bred from hunting or field trial lines would produce the very best chance of getting a super dog for hunting, that is why they are so popular and much of this is due to their being even tempered, very trainable and their natural hunting abilities all being suburb. Bud
    Wasilla

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    Like everybody has pretty much said, there's a reason labs gravitate to the top of the field trial and hunt test game. They are good dogs with a can do attitude. Chessie's and goldens can have some darn nice individual dogs but their numbers aren't there. You can find an FC x titled b* of some kind, litter most any day in labs. Ain't possible with chessies and goldens. An FC x FC golden breeding would be a once a year event and slightly less so in chessies.

    I'm really curious what shorthairs and wirehairs will bring to the hunt test game here in Alaska. I watched Sid Sherwood years ago train a border collie for hunting. He was fine at the started NAHRA level but started to fall apart on memory birds and his blind work was less that sterling. So I doubt he would have made a top of the line advanced retriever.

    I don't think that any of the new breeds will knock labs out of the top place number wise in AKC Retriever Hunting Tests. Labs are just to good at what they do.

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    "A retriever field trial of the 60's and 70's is nothing like it is today. " Baron, did you run tests when you were 5 years old?:-) I ran trials in Ore,Wa,Id and BC in the 80's then in Fla, Mi, In, Ohio, Ontario CA in the 90s and the Qual in Wa 2001-2 (before my dog couldn't do the work , the pro really ground him up.) Since the terrain is so different in each place its hard to judge the distances. Sauve Island trials in Portand doesnt have a lot to work with but distance. Circa 1986, Eva, cant remember her last name but her dog was Jamima Super Cakes I think, Eva had to be told her dog had the bird on a blind, and she was using binoculars.She was still whistling to stop and sending her back. I couldn't see it either with my young eyes. I'd guess a 400 yard water blind , talk about watching grass grow, it took forever. There were a lot of tests with such shallow terrain there wasn't a high spot to stand and the dog went out of sight, as you prayed for him to come up on line. One of my favorites was a 300 plus blind through a 15 ft wide hedge at 150 yards. In Ontario most of the Quals really looked like a Master Hunt test due to the wetlands we were in.
    I think the big test for the new breeds will be to see if they have the tenacity to go far, fast and straight. The marks I saw at the Versatile test were very short but I think it was more of a control test. The other difference is that with the top field labs you spend the first few years holding them back,teaching to retrieve your way. They want that bird more than anything else. Once they are released to fetch they will drill through anything to get there.I've seen some of the pointing breeds act that way at upland tests, just shuddering with frustration at point until they are released. I didn't see the pointers with that same mania for a just mark or a blind.
    I think it will be interesting. You have to admit though Lab field competitors have not been that friendly or accepting. ,At least it was said to me in the 80s when I showed up at a Puget Sound picnic trial with a show dog, that I wasn't welcome. I trained people who had show Goldens for a while. When Bailey had seizures I got my first Field Trial bred puppy and never wanted to go back. Then later I got crap for having a yellow even though he was out of 2 FCs. But he worked really well. Hopefully people will be more courteous. We'll see what happens when I show up at NAHRA with a "Wire Haired Retriever". He does not have the same drive as my labs but he gets there, eventually.

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    I have some of the Fairbanks Retriever Club's field trial catalogs from the 1950s & 1960s that include test descriptions. Very, very different from what you see at trials today.

    Interesting stats for the 2011 Master National hunt test from http://www.retrieverresults.com

    Total Qualifiers
    697

    Age
    Average - 5.9 years

    Youngest Ė 2.2 years
    Oldest Ė 12.1

    Breeds Represented
    85% Labs

    11% Golden
    3% Chesapeakes
    1% Flat-Coats
    In addition, one Poodle, one American Water Spaniel and two Nova Scotia Toller are represented.

    Sex
    58% are male

    42% are female

    Titles
    94% MH-only

    4% MH-MNH
    1% MH-MNH4
    In addition one dog has its MH-MNH5 and three dogs have earned their MH-MNH6.

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    I usually stay away from this topic but since it was already brought up I will join the fracas.

    I wouldn't give a plug nickel for a lab. And it's not the dogs fault, but rather the owners of labs. This
    super inflated Lab ego that you all have about your dogs is comical. Good Lord when you register 100,000 dogs a year with AKC you ought to get more FC's and MH's than any other breed.

    But other than the few "champions" how about talking about the thousands that swallow the bird before they return to the blind, are completely insane to be around in a blind or boat, spend more time rolling around in dead animal carcasses, and flinching to retrieve in ice filled waters.
    That's the norm, let's not get carried away and elevate these dogs to the potentate level over other breeds.


    They are a product of the numbers, simple as that.



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    Quote Originally Posted by MCAT View Post


    I wouldn't give a plug nickel for a lab........... This
    super inflated Lab ego that you all have about your dogs is comical.........

    But other than the few "champions" how about talking about the thousands that swallow the bird before they return to the blind, are completely insane to be around in a blind or boat, spend more time rolling around in dead animal carcasses, and flinching to retrieve in ice filled waters.
    That's the norm, let's not get carried away and elevate these dogs to the potentate level over other breeds.


    Get out the popcorn, this should be interesting Bud
    Wasilla

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    Default so much for a tread killer.

    Quote Originally Posted by akblackdawg View Post
    Get out the popcorn, this should be interesting Bud
    Simple is right. Let it be.It's not worth a response.

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    Linda, I am still waiting for your suggestions on how to change field trials to be a more positive testing environment for all dogs entered. I am dubious that we could all agree on a solution, but am willing to listen to a well laid out plan for change.
    I've traveled as far away as Australia, hit numerous countries along the way, and everywhere I go I find good people to set standards by. Sure, there are the people that I would not travel back for, but I do not intend to judge everybody by the jerks I come across. So I will disagree with you here and admit nothing about people that may be found at any competition that are less than pleasant to be around. You hurt your argument by pulling unsubstantiated emotion into the discussion, and bringing up points that have nothing to do with your initial thoughts on testing dogs.
    As far as competition goes, I'd expect it to see changes over time. Sports change. Training improves. New ideas come out. Why would we expect to see the same exact thing year after year after year? The goal of a trial is to find the best dog there. Simple. It is not a forum to spread the wealth. The best dogs, handled by the best handlers, will normally come out on top. I personally don't see the problem, but again, promise to listen to any proposal you make.
    Don't let the thread die just cause somebody decided to ramble on inanely in a diatribe that can not be proven. You did not start this to be negative, don't let a hate monger end it.
    ARR

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    I'm a novice waterfowler and new "serious" retriever owner and I intend to enter my girl in hunt tests here in AK when she's ready. I really never had any interest in competition but some knowledgable friends have encouraged me to get involved. They insist the hunt tests will help her develop as a retriever, me as a trainer/handler and us as a team. And, because I have been told the retriever clubs here in AK are run by good people who welcome and encourage newcomers. So for those reasons I'm interested.

    As a guy looking for a well mannered and reliable working dog I would like and hope to see the tests mimic field conditions. I suppose it's possible for a wounded duck to get 400 yards away but that scenario is improbable and I will never subject my dog to such pressure. I expect the birds I shoot to generally fall within 50-60 yards of the blind. I expect my dog to hold until sent, work her way through the decoys, get the duck, and back through the decoys without making a mess. I expect her to stay in her spot in the boat or blind. I expect her to use her nose and overcome reasonable obstacles like brush, tall reeds, or blowdowns.

    I want fetching ducks to make her a happy dog. If the hunt tests reasonably measure those things then we'll give it whirl.
    If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today

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    Eric, if I were you I'd give it a whirl too. I do not feel my time spent with the local retriever club, traveling w/ pros, training, competing, and spending time with my dogs was a waste. Quite the contrary. I met great folks around the country, saw some incredible athletes work (they thought it was play) and my dogs were better for the time I spent.
    Keep in mind any test or trial is a game. Period. To me, the most important aspect, is the time you spend getting there. How good the training you do is will help you and the dog regardless of what you are doing later. The big focus should be on training. Most folks that start out with a dog just don't realize what is possible if they just work at it a bit and pay attention to what is going on. That is one of the really good things about working with a group of folks who have done some of the work you'd like to do.
    Have fun with the pup, and if/when the time spent, politics, effort, etc just aren't fun anymore, then head off w/ your pup and a select friend (maybe a spouse or kid) and go train on your own.
    I love working the dogs. I got to the point I did not enjoy the time spent w/ people whose directions and attitudes distracted me from my goal. Again, that is not to say there were not some awesome folks along the way, but after doing it pretty much full time for 15 odd years I'd just had enough.
    Now it is just me an my dog. I rarely train with anybody except my daughter or one good friend, and then normally we do simple singles. The rest of it I do in the yard, or occasionally go to a spot and just play with the dog.
    Go get her done, have fun,
    ARR

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    Erik, what you describe as your goals for a dog are exactly what training for a AKC or NHRA hunt test will give your dog. While no form of training and tests will repblicate hunting situations exactly, especially the excitement and confusion of incoming ducks from either in front or behind you, it will be a good start for you. I am not a great shot, and every year I put a couple pellets into ducks that continue to fly away, often landing200-500 yards away. Sending a dog after those birds and finding them takes advanced work, and a highly motivated dog, which you may or may not have the time and abilities for. In any case, a dog will be a great assit to your hunting and picking up almost all if not all of the birds you down this fall. The tests are over for this season, however, training groups will be working with their dog all winter and spring. You need not feel compelled to be at every session, or even every season, many do not start serious training until spring and avoid the sub freezing temps, but you will be welcome. Bud
    Wasilla

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ak River Rat View Post
    Keep in mind any test or trial is a game.
    Not having the experience most of you have at field trials, I'd like to add that what I've seen of it, it is different than the field. It seems that the dogs know this too. The human comparison may be something like trap and skeet shooting as compared to hunting. I've improved as a shooter on the range, but it is NOTHING like the field. Too much time trap shooting, and I have an un-natural expectancy for the game and not the real life scenario.

    ... and I have a lab that is a great companion and retriever who, when presented with the unknown, looks to his relationship with his owner for his cue. A good relationship with a dog is worth about as much as a field trial in my mind.

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