Evaluating Pointing Dogs
The following applies to all pointing dogs, as well as German Shorthaired Pointers:
A good all-around pointing dog is nothing short of pure pleasure to the upland bird hunter as well as many waterfowl hunters. But producing that kind of dog is, to say the least, difficult at best as we strive to balance a variety of required characteristics. And most give up far short of the goal and justify it every way possible. Unattainable, to difficult, unnecessary, requires compromise, whatever. Besides the one dimensional specialty dog is much easier to produce. Which is absolutely true. But then who wants to take three or four different kinds of dogs to the field. One that points. One that retrieves. One that tracks. And one that will cross the creek. The good Shorthairs we had in this country up until about 30 years ago were all you needed when you went to the field. They were all around multi-talented dogs. Dogs that could do everything and anything. Dogs that had all the characteristics necessary to produce the abilities required to perform the work that had to be done. Those dogs are still available.
Needless to say my dogs are working dogs where performance defines the dog. My dogs are legally identified, legally DNA’d and health guaranteed. They are also evaluated in fifteen different categories for fifteen different characteristics (an Aptitude Test). Five bird work categories. Five ground work categories. Five fundamental categories. Having passed this Aptitude Test they can then be given advanced training in order to further test their skills and sort out the best of the best in order to further define and refine the breed and its abilities.
But first a few basic things need to be kept in mind:
- The dogs breed regressively with regard to all of their desirable characteristics. (All fifteen characteristics listed below)
- This natural regression is defeated by forcing the genes that define those desirable characteristics to dominance. (The continuous “uphill” battle)
- Dominance requires rigorous line breeding to these desirable characteristics over many generations. (A minimum of 50 generations or something well over 100 years)
- As dominance is achieved the breeding or reproduction of the dogs becomes more and more predictable and reliable. (And the value of the dogs increases accordingly)
- Conversely, anything that negatively impacts dominance decreases the predictability and reliability of breeding or reproduction (and negatively impacts the value of the dogs). The most significant negative impacts are out crossing to other breeds, failure to rigorously enforce the standard, failure to line breed the dogs, repetitive changes in the standard or anything that negatively impacts the integrity and performance of the breed. Definitions for each of the fifteen categories follows: A range of 0 to 20 in each category was chosen in order to give a larger spread. Thus it would appear that a perfect score would be 20 times 15 or 300. Or the higher the score the better the dog. We would caution you to be careful in making this assumption. While true that a higher score means higher proficiency or more advanced skills in that category such may not be what you desire in a dog. For example: a dog with a score of 20 in range is about a 1000 yard dog. Perhaps not what you want in the South Dakota pheasant fields or New England grouse coverts. But perhaps exactly what you want for northwest chukars or Montana sharp tails. Again a dog that scores 20 in speed would be an extremely fast dog. Again perhaps not what you want. Another example is a dog that scores 20 in drive and desire. This may be a dog that is so head strong as to be difficult to train and handle. Same with a score of 20 in temperament. These dogs maybe so bold as to again be difficult to train or handle. An example: a very good thoroughbred race horse usually does not make a nice comfortable easy to train and handle weekend trail horse for your teenage daughter. But they do have drive, desire, speed and are usually bold, head strong horses.
- Definitions follow and then a link to a chart showing the Aptitude Test results for a group of my dogs:
- Range: Range shall be consistent with grounds, terrain, cover, objectives and the ability to find and point game birds.
- Speed: Speed shall be consistent with terrain, cover, objectives and the ability to find and point game birds.
- Stamina: Stamina shall be consistent throughout the duration of the brace, course or test.
- Pattern: Pattern shall be consistent with cover, objectives and grounds.
- Hunting: The dogs shall hunt with drive and desire, intelligence, purpose and class that is consistent with the ability to find and point game birds.
- Pointing: The dogs shall point with style, intensity, staunchness and class.
- Backing: The dogs shall back with style, intensity, staunchness and class.
- Swimming: The dogs shall swim and have the ability to find and retrieve dead or wounded game birds in water with speed and desire.
- Tracking: The dogs shall track and have the ability to find and retrieve wounded and running birds on land or water with speed and desire.
- Retrieving: The dogs shall have the ability to find and retrieve dead or wounded birds on land or water with speed, desire, promptness and tenderness.
- Conformation: Conformation shall be a progressive standard determined by a composite of the dogs that win or are finished in the field.
- Drive and Desire: The dogs shall have an intense drive and desire to find, point and retrieve game birds as well as respond to and please their owner or handler.
- Temperament: The dogs shall have a good, sound, stable temperament that can withstand the rigors of training and discipline necessary for a fully finished dog in the field.
- Trainability: The dogs shall display a willingness and ability to be trained and handled by their owner or handler as a fully finished dog in the field.
- Class: The dogs shall not only be good, but look good. A class bird dog that has all the abilities and style to make it an asset and/or credit to the breed.