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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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The avid outdoorsmen would be enlightened as to the differences between show and field bred gundogs by simply attending each event. The two events could not be more different and so are the dogs that compete in them. While attending a field trial, it would become immediately apparent that dogs are not judged on physical appearance. They are judged against other dogs for their performance in the field. In contrast, show ring competitors are judged against a confirmation standard, not for hunting ability or trainability.

This past year I had the fortune to attend numerous National Field Trial Championships and saw some of the best dogs in the world compete for both the English and U.S. National Championship honors. Field trials where established to offer breeders a chance to evaluate suitable dogs for the breeding purpose, with the goal of improving the sporting breeds through "selective breeding". It’s at these field trials, were breeders can compete their dogs, one against another, and make sound breeding decisions that influence their strain of spaniel and the future of the sporting breeds. Reputable breeders are always looking for ways to improve on weaknesses in their breeding program. Every dog has some type of weakness, regardless of the titles he or she holds, whether it’s bird finding ability, mouth, marking ability, intelligence, trainability, or confirmation. There are always areas to improve on, and field trials offer breeders the best opportunity to evaluate these strengths or weaknesses and find suitable breeding stock for future generations.

Over the years, selective breeding has done its job; it has created two different types of gundogs, field and show, each the very best at their particular discipline. When clients ask field breeders if their dogs could be shown in the ring, often it would be a mistake for field breeders to proclaim such a possibility. The same could be said for show breeders when asked if their dogs can compete in field trials. However, without proper education, an avid outdoorsman may buy his next hunting companion based simply on the common breed name and end up with a dog that has about as much hunting ability as a Miniature Schnauzer. Remember as my business school professor used to drill into our heads, "Caveat Emptor" - Beware Buyer!
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