The whole sport and world of pointing dogs, field trials, and bird hunting has confused me since I got a Vizsla. Growing up in the suburbs of Toronto with an immigrant family, we knew nothing of animals and hunting and were instead stereo-typically concentrated on good math scores and playing piano. Jump to a couple years ago when I was looking for what kind of dog I wanted, I kept realizing I was drawn to working bird dogs. I was attracted to their sleek and fast physique, their work ethic, velcro and gentle demeanor at home, and endurance to keep up on long hikes. We chose a show-dog line as we didn’t want a firecracker who needed to work everyday and Whiskey turned out to be one of the most mellow Vizslas, but then she really likes to work. We’ve been lucky enough to get Whiskey introduced to birds a year ago, but haven’t done anything since. Outside of birds I’ve been working on sniff training, and Whiskey is also very eager to fetch balls and sticks.
|Happy 2nd birthday Whiskey!
|my foray into the world of bird dogs
So all put together, we had a very clueless human, a dog that was almost new to birds, and out of curiosity, for Whiskey’s 2nd birthday I decided to sign us up for a training day and some tests with the BCABPC (British Columbia All Breed Pointer Club). I was really nervous on our first day since we still didn’t understand what the test was, and what was involved. We arrived for the training day with about 15 other humans/dog pairs, some with more or less experience than us. During the day we worked on different stations that started from just a “stay”(or “whoa”), a “stay” with a bird, finding a bird within 5 meters of high grass, finding a trapped bird in a small field, and finding a free bird in a small field. Everyone there was so nice and helpful but there weren’t enough trainers to go around and we waited quite awhile between stations. There were several people that had travelled from quite afar (one from Calgary?) some in trailers to attend the 3 day event and title their dogs.
|working dogs staked out
|bringing the birds and bird dogs out to the field
|the first step is to stay in place on an object
|bird on a stick method (I feel bad for the birds!)
|lining up to watch and try
|really nice instructors today
|Lovely working dogs
|a gsp puppy
|a family event
|puppies play while adults work
So this is what I found happens in field test in layman’s terms:
- You approach the field with your dog on leash and wait until your turn and a judge comes up to you with a clipboard and will walk you to the “start”. When the judge tells you you’re starting, you unleash your dog (put the leash in your pocket) and tell your pup to start looking for birds. You cannot have anything in your hands and your starter pistol is supposed to be in a holster (oops). Your dog is supposed to run off and look in a good searching pattern until they find and point a bird. The dog is not supposed to rush the bird, pick it up, and is supposed to hold their point until you arrive. You are then to flush the bird in the air (pick it up and release it) and shoot the pistol while the bird is in the air. Ideally your dog is supposed to hold their point while you do all that (not expected in Juniors). Then you go off and find another bird and do the same. After 20-30 minutes your judge will tell you you’re finished and you put your dog back on leash.
|higher levels have two dogs running together in a test
|“planting” birds is a strange concept for me
|hitching a ride to the field tests
Whiskey took a couple minutes each time to establish her searching pattern (all her sniff training paid off!) and over time she got into her groove. She found 2 birds on each test and pointed 3 times but almost caught one the 4th time. Her points were steady but as soon as I flushed the bird, she went after it. On the other hand, the shots didn’t seem to phase her too much (especially since this was new). At the end we got a score sheet with everything broken down but I won’t receive a copy until later. I did notice she did get perfect marks for responding to her handler (me) so yey!
|first test was in very high grass
|we were the first test of the day
|getting some feedback from my judge
|I’m terrible at flushing and shooting
|Whiskey on point
|galloping around finding birds
|I’ve never seen her run for so long
|demonstrating to the judge
|thankful to have nice judges tell me what to do!
There are several different levels of testing and as we were brand new we did the easiest one- the JFD (junior field dog). You need 3 passed tests to acquire your title and move onto the next level. In order to properly train a dog for the higher levels, people work with their dogs several times a week and keep birds at home for that purpose. Seeing as we live downtown and have so many interests, we likely won’t take this to the next level, but if we do have an easy opportunity to find birds again I’ll take Whiskey out.
|it’s a bird dog life