Hunting Dogs photo

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?