Hunt tests are a terrific way to see how a retriever stacks up against a certain working standard, but frankly, a lot of owners do it for the joy of being outside with their dog and watching him or her do something they enjoy. There are many levels of competition, and the more advanced the title, of course, the harder the test.
From the dog’s perspective, hunting tests are games they can play with their people. From the perspective of a breeder or fancier, it’s a way to prove that their dog isn’t just another pretty face, but a dog that can do the job for which its breed was developed. From the perspective of an owner who is also a hunter, it’s a great way to extend the bird hunting season, as well as an excellent way to test their dog’s level of natural ability, while helping gauge their own abilities as a trainer and handler.
Many individuals and their dogs will pursue advanced tests after junior titles have been earned; In the AKC, one of those titles is the SH, or Senior Hunter title earned by receiving five passes at the Senior level in a licensed Hunt Test (or pass four AKC Senior level hunt tests if a dog already has a JH title). This is the level in which a dog needs to demonstrate much more stability, marking, and handler control than in Junior tests. The dog must be off lead during the entire test which involves a land double, a land blind, a water double, and a water blind. The dog may encounter a “diversion bird” thrown near his or her return path from a mark, as well as a “diversion shot” during the test. The dog is also required to honor at least once during a Senior test.
So now that you know all this, meet “Maddie,” a 5 year old Irish Red and White Setter who finished her Senior Hunting Title just this year, and is now working on her Master level hunting title. Not “just” a working dog, she is another pretty face who owns a Grand Champion title, and competed at Westminster in 2016. Her owner, Sandra Klein, writes, “Like most setters, “Maddie” is extremely intelligent and active, and very bonded with her humans. So hunting/hunting competitions is a great sport for us to do together as a team. I trust her to find and point the birds and she trusts that she will get to retrieve the bird and bring it to me (or her handler). I get great pleasure from seeing these dogs working a field so intelligently as they are bred to do.”
“Maddie” is the first in a series we’ll be doing on purebred dogs that can indeed do the job for which they were bred. What we love about “Maddie” is that several of her pups are either now titled, or nearing titles as well, underscoring that heritage breeding done right matters.
Photo credits: “Maddie Steady to Flush,” and Maddie’s “cover girl” shot by Diane Costello of FogDog Photography