Field Trial Dog vs. Meat Dog

You don't have to spend too much time bumming around the gun dog world before you hear people pitting field trial dogs against meat dogs. The way I often hear it related, the field trial dog is one of style, grace, speed, and good looks, while the meat dog is a nose to the ground, hard charging, no-nonsense workhorse. Almost a white-collar, blue-collar distinction, if you will.

A fellow in the field trial camp put it this way (in a hunting forum) when it came to bird dogs recently:

"Given a perfect world, I'd rather hunt over the trial dogs…Life's too short to hunt with a boring, ugly dog that barely hunts out of shotgun range."

No doubt that field trials/hunt tests are an excellent way to train for real hunting situations. And they demand a level of training that forces the amateur to focus and to follow through. In fact, some of my most intense training with Pritch was prior to a hunt test (as I didn't want to be totally embarrassed.)

But I find myself leaning toward the meat dog camp. When it comes to retrievers I don't mind a dog that skirts the bank on its way back to the blind as long as it brings back the duck. And a stylish delivery to hand is a beautiful thing, but I'm pretty happy to have the duck dropped at my feet, too. (Yet, I wouldn't mind one of those snazzy blue field trial ribbons…)

You tell me. Can a great field trial dog also be a good meat dog? Can a meat dog hack it in a field trial? Which do you prefer? Or do you think a dog can be both?