Last year I wrote a Field Notes blog about the first standard poodle in the nation to earn a spot at the Master National Retriever Club trial. Now qualifying for the Master National is an impressive achievement, to be sure, but the hook to that story was, of course, the breed of dog. Currently there are 11 breeds of dog eligible to take part in the American Kennel Club retriever hunt test program. Those dogs are: American Water Spaniels, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Curly-Coated Retrievers, Flat-Coated Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Water Spaniels, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Spinone Italiano, Standard Poodles and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons.
But the overwhelming majority of the dogs taking part in hunt tests are from the big three retriever breeds: labs, goldens and chessies (and probably in that order). And of the three, labs – by dint of sheer numbers – tend to dominate the ranks. It’s not unheard of but definitely uncommon to see minority or continental breeds at a retriever hunt test.
However, it appears that AKC’s governing board will shortly be considering the addition of several new breeds to the eligibility list for hunt tests. German Shorthaired Pointers, German Wirehaired Pointers, Vizslas, and Weimaraners might soon be able to enter AKC retriever hunt tests and show the black, golden and brown dogs what they can do.
It’s caused a fair bit of discussion over on the RTF forums, which is probably the web’s biggest forum dedicated to hunt test and field trial retrievers. Some people are for it and others are aghast. Personally, I’m all for it. The more the merrier, and in my opinion anything that increases opportunity and participation in the hunting-based dog games is a good thing.
The only thing is, while I’ve seen some fantastic retrieving shorthairs, I’ve never personally seen one (or any other versatile dog, for that matter) that’s been trained to run blinds and handle in the manner necessary to compete at the Senior and Master Hunter level. I’m not saying it’s not possible, I’m just saying I’ve never seen it. I would, however, love to.
So, provided the AKC does vote to allow some versatile and pointing breeds to compete in AKC hunt tests, are there any shorthair, vizsla or wirehair owners out there who’d be interested in doing it? You have to admit, it would be a point of pride for you versatile/NAVHDA guys to be able to hang with the retrievers at their own game, no?