History & tradition
Using dogs for hunting is not a recent development. The partnership between man and dog is one of the foundations of hunting, dating back to 8,000 years B.C. A few millennia later, Greek writer Xenophon wrote “Cynegeticus (Hunting with Dogs)”. Today, Cynegetics designates everything related to hunting. In 1387 Gaston Phébus III, the Count of Fiox and Béarn, wrote “The Book of Hunting”, one of the first essays on the sport. In it, he listed the nomenclature of hunting dogs, particularly trackers and bird dogs. Their role was to search for game in fields and hedges, find out where it was hiding and get it to fly so that birds of prey could swoop down and seize it in their talons.
Raising hunting dogs
Good hunting dogs are generally products of conscientious and passionate breeders, people who have often chosen, through their own taste and affinities, one or two dog breeds that they themselves use as hunting companions. These dogs are usually the result of crossbreeding between genitors who have demonstrated their abilities on the field, in recognized hunting tests and competitions, as well as in real hunting situations.
The demand for puppies is generally based on the qualities of their parents, grand-parents and the breeder’s reputation. The pups usually join their new families at the age of 7 or 8 weeks.Some breeders offer training services or advice for the new masters.Several hunting clubs also offer facilities, advice and coaching to members who wish to train their dogs themselves.Professional trainers also offer dressage and hunting training services. They can accompany the masters and their dogs on practice runs or board a dog for the training period.
Dog competitions (what are they used for, who organizes them?)
Competitions and tests for hunting dogs are organized regularly by approved hunting dog clubs. Some competitions are friendly ones between members, and others are formally recognized by organizations such as the: CKC (Canadian Kennel Club); NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association); and NSTRA (National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Association). These activities serve to enhance the value of the dogs and to evaluate and/or classify them. During the tests the dogs may get noticed, demonstrating their qualities as hunters and whether or not they will be promising genitors for the breed.
In a competition or field trial (NSTRA and CKC), the dogs are in competition against each other. They are evaluated by judges, based on official rules established by the organizations, and their results rank them as first, second, third, and even fourth. This ranking allows the dog to accumulate points and eventually a title.
In hunting tests (CKC and NAVHDA), the dogs are also evaluated by judges, based on the official rules of each organization. However, each dog is evaluated on the abilities it demonstrates in a simulated hunting situation. Depending on the kind of tests and the results, the dog may obtain a corresponding title, such as Junior Hunter Title ((JH); Senior Hunter Title (SH); Master Hunter Title (MH); Grand Master Hunter Title (GMH); Natural Abilities (NA), I, II, or III.; Preparatory Test (PT), I, II, III ; Utility (UT) I, II, III ; Versatile Champion (VC). For retriever dogs, Junior; Senior; Master.