Essays from the Edge
"The Purina Award Site as always, invites well written, cogent, dissenting opinion.
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A Soon To Be Contrary Position? Perhaps
A Midsummer Field Trialer’s Day Dream
The Bird Launcher
Single Course Grouse Derby Trials
The Grouse AND Woodcock vitational: The Meaning of "AND"
Galton's Law And The Minor Leagues
Naming Trials "In Honor Of…"
Broken Branches -- DNA Essay Part 1
A Tale of Two Setters -- DNA Essay Part 2
Solutions That Will Never Take Place -- DNA Essay Part 3
"The CaseAgainst Tracking Collars" Revisited
Well its come up again on the forum: tracking collars. Apparently some people were fortunate enough not be around when we went 15 rounds on this some time ago, I wish I had it written down exactly when. I wrote in essay that appears on the Foster Site called "The Case Against Tracking Collars" and became the point man for a lot of emotion... had to have been at least five years ago. I wish I could remember.
But a little more history for those of you who missed all of the action. The matter was debated heavily and passionately, to put it mildly, on the forum a few years back. In the midst of it, I wrote "The Case Against....", which many proponents wave off and dismiss completely to this day. In summary, it said among other things that TC's might be mistaken for a shock collar, that the comparative ease of recovering lost dogs might lead to more dogs with that tendency running to run off and so might lead to changes in judging standards, winners and might affect the breed. There was also concerns about possible cheating, which is quite easy to do, and the essay also expressed some thought as voiced by me and others that we have long-held traditions at trials that need to be respected and changed only for a compelling reasons. Most of these points were bolstered with examples and anecdotal evidence.
All these concerns and potential problems, I wrote, had to be balanced against the compelling benefit of TC's, the recovery of lost dogs. TC's would save dogs' lives we were told and it was a matter of safety. In the minds of most everyone including me, recovering dogs that would be lost or killed trumped most every other possible concern. Saving dogs lives was, and is, a compelling reason. But I and others who have been around the block for a while simply were not seeing dogs that were lost and not recovered in our trials. And as we discussed the matter on message boards, no one on either side of the issue could cite one dog in cover trial history that was ever lost and not recovered or killed at a trial in a manner that would have been saved with a TC. Not one from some eighty years of history up to the point where tracking collars were introduced.
The most recent thread has been quite telling, and unfortunately typical, about how tracking collar proponents often look at things. Proponents of TC's tout over and over again the safety benefits of TC's, using tales of dogs lost IN WORKOUTS, and claiming that dogs are put at risk in cover trials as well, but that we do not allow them in some trials because of "tradition." The reality is that this perspective is about 100% backwards: We in cover trials have a long "tradition" of NO dogs lost and not recovered without TC's, and so NO compelling safety reason to accept TC's. Those in favor of tracking collars who disagree with this are welcome to show me I am wrong by coming up with a few names of dogs lost from cover trials without TC's and not recovered. I invited proponents to tell me about these unrecovered dogs that TC's might have saved, years ago and have been patiently waiting all this time. Plenty of people have claimed I am wrong in my perspective, but the "no lost dogs" matter is what my case is based upon. The essence of "The Case Against..." was that we were risking a lot of possible negative side-effects, for a perceived BIG safety gain, when there was absolutely no evidence at all that the sport was unsafe in the first place. But I will continue to wait.
I italized certain key words above for emphasis, because the argument from me DID NOT STATE FOR SURE, even with real-life examples to support it, that these potential concerns were definitely happening or definitely going to happen. I did this deliberately because I knew most proponents would reject it out of hand (and they exceeded my expectations). This rejection of "The Case..." DID NOT mean that they were rejecting the concerns that I wrote about (as most of them thought and still do think they were doing), but rather were rejecting THE POSSIBILTY that any of these things MIGHT occur. That's a whole different 'bag-o-fish,' as, obviously, the future is notoriously hard to the predict anyway. A person who rejects out of hand all possible negative concerns , along with the denial of the historical tradition, and what you have is a person that cannot be reasoned with on this matter, and these have been all too common in this debate.
Any reasonable dialogue from proponents of TC's in cover trials must begin with, "I realize that without TC's we never lost dogs in our trials that have not been recovered as far as anyone knows, but it could happen and it has been inconvenient at times to have to stay around and wait for a lost dog to turn up. Let's look at these possible pitfalls that you and others have seen indications of to see if we can come up with a way to avoid these potential problems, still value and emphasize the things that we do that have kept dogs safe over the years in cover trials, and on top of that still enjoy the added margin of safety that TC might provide." That would have led to fruitful dialogue by which we may have come to some sort of compromise solution.
Since the original "Case Against..." appeared, I was actually hoping to share notes with some 'safety preaching' TC proponents who might actually be genuinely concerned about safety enough to express a desire to discuss what might be happening on the ground at cover trials that has resulted in no dogs being permanently lost, and thus the enviable safety record that we all should be proud of. I have been waiting for this truly safety minded person for some time too.
If there was a type of car that had been driven by a lot of people for 80 years and no one had ever been killed in an accident in this vehicle, people GENUINELY CONCERNED with automobile safety would be looking at every aspect of this vehicle to determine why it was so safe to apply the lesson to similar vehicles. But I am patient.
When I wrote "The Case Against..." I perhaps way overly optimistic in hoping that some one would step forward to write a consistent, reasonable case FOR that might at least attempt to explain the need for TC's for cover trials, with hopefully an effort to get beyond, "everyone else is using them" and "I lost my dog in a workout... so we have to have them in trials" and actually come up with reasons that hold water. After all, someone saying, "I didn't have a shock collar on my dog, he chased a deer in a workout and I lost it. It was hurt when I got it back. We need to allow shock collars in field trials" has offered a more valid reason than most the case for TC's based on stories from training sessions, and no one is advocating shock collars on trial dogs since dog that is not handling or dhasing off game can be stopped before it gets lost, which can't be done with a TC. But a written case FOR TC's, at least, had it come at the right time, might have encouraged dialogue and fruitful discussion. I would have insisted that it be put up along side mine at the Foster Site for all to see and where I might respond to it as a whole instead of snippets, and where I can show most proponents by example that I do not simple wave off or ignore contrary points of view. But such a written case FOR never happened and frankly, that it has not yet happened likely indicates that it cannot happen.
What really destroyed any chance that both sides might come to some sort of agreement by which we might enjoy the benefits while avoiding the possible pitfalls was the anger and vitriol, particularly on the internet back when when clubs were debating it more vigorously and where the Grand National finally voted not to accept. I have known for a long time that in a reasonable discussion of ideas, anger is a sign of weak argument, but this level of anger even surprised me. The nice fella that had worked for Tracker electronics even posted his opinion that anyone who turned a dog loose with a tracking device were doing something "stupid," and about anyone who opposed TC's was accused at one time or another of delibarately putting dogs in danger and not caring about dogs.
Going into the Grand National Directors meeting that year, everyone knew it was going to be a close vote. There were some directors "for" and some "against," but there were a few undecided and a few others that were leaning toward "FOR" that ultimately were cautious, knowing that accepting TC's was a one way street, and that the chances of banning them once they were established was virtually nil. So they wanted to be sure that it was the right thing to do. There was also a working experiment underway as many cover trials were allowing TC's and their impact good, bad or indifferent, could be assessed and their impact on other circuits could be assessed too. There seemed no rush to approve, that could be done at any time in the future, but again: a bad decision could likely never be overturned. The board thus voted to continue not to allow electronic devices on dogs.
In the wake of the Grand National director's vote, however, there was so much vitriol directed at these directors on the forums - from repeated assertions that they didn't care about dogs, to one who asserted that the directors will someday die and then things would be different, or something to that affect.... it was not pretty. And all over having to run in trial the way ALL trials ran for century. I, who had by then become the point man against TC's because of my essay and frequent forum debates, could not help but smile as widely as I could as I watched and read the vitriol. I knew exactly what was happening. The directors that were on the fence, even those leaning with caution FOR...thereafter, wanted no part of the TC camp, and no part of being on the same side as people who would say and insinuate such things. Most were quite open about this. They, as responsible directors, were taking the decision seriously with the best interest of the sport and the Club in mind, as were the directors who voted to allow tracking devices. Many felt that, like a trial judge, people should disagree without impugning the people involved. But now those who had been on the fence and even at least one that voted to accept, said that they would not vote FOR again. Others who leaning FOR but voted NO out of mere caution now could not vote FOR because to do so would have appeared that they were shamed and coerced into changing and knuckled under. Those directors in favor of the TC were HORRIFIED at the treatment of their colleagues and did not want to even bring it up again and risk subjecting their fellow directors to further abuse. The most strident supporters knew and some openly acknowledged to me, that the supporters of TC's killed them for the near future in the Grand National. So it has not been brought up since at the Grand National.
Of course, in this general era, most every other cover dog club and most every other championship would allow TC's. I suspect that some of these clubs early on were caught off guard, knowing that TC's were accepted by the American Field, the AFTCA, other circuits were embracing them and they had no rule in place against them. But some clubs certainly did discuss TC's and vote to accept or reject. When these clubs decided to accept, neither I nor any other TC detractors got furious and in no case did any of us post on a forum that these clubs were wrong to allow TC's, that the people who voted in this change were unknowledgeable and uncaring about trials and their history and such. Nothing like that ever was done. We detractors, to a person, respected the decisions without complaint, and have not faulted publicly the people who made such decisions. But have a club decide that they think TC's are not a good idea and all manner of anger, venom and vitriol appears impugning these people and their decision.
This level anger which spewed forth both after the Grand National vote and in the other heated internet discussions quite puzzled and troubled me at first. Happily, I soon put my finger on what I believe was happening, and am neither puzzled not troubled any longer. Denied the use of a TC for a short time, the handlers SHOULD merely shrug and say, "I'd rather have tracking collars on these dogs because I am more comfortable should something unusual happen, but, realistically, the chances that the dog would fall into a well or get hurt out there or something like that is very slim . Dogs ran every trial for over a century this way with few problems and we should be okay for a short stint without one..." TC proponents have also repeatedly insisted that TC's would not change trials, the type of dogs being run, or the judging standards. So a trial without shouldn't be much different at all from a trial with. Shrug. No anger.
If there IS anger, then one of the two parts of the equation is no longer correct, either the part about "120 years of no TC's and without angry handlers," or the part about "TC's will not change trials in any way, alter the dogs, and judging standards." And since for much of that 120 years, TC's has not been invented yet, I strongly suspect that something about the second part is proving to be incorrect. It seems to be a handler's way of saying, "I NEED to have this on my dog or my string of dogs. I can't get by without it even for one trial." Of course this will be denied. It is like a person who is hooked on some substance but in denial. He claims everything is the same as before, but asked to do without the substance for even a short period of time, he predictably gets angry and fights all attempts to ban the substance from his life, even for short periods.
My whole perspective, which many others share as well, is colored by the following background. The time-honored, historically stated purpose of field trials was not only to produce dogs that win field trials, but to also be the source of high class hunting dogs. It is the purpose of cover trials, therefore, to produce good grouse dogs that hunters might also enjoy afield. I somehow suspect that a dog NEEDS a tracking collar to take him a field, is not what most grouse hunters want.
I suspect that some other circuits are TC dependent already, and the handlers can no longer get by without them. I have seen handlers at "walking" quail trials lose as many dogs as they finish time after time and without apology, even with a mounted scout, birds guarenteed on the course, and little chance of deer. These handlers have told me that they can't win with a dog that looks back at its handler and several are quite open in admitting that they select dogs that do not check back. I care about cover trialing enough to not want anything close to that from happening.
But how would an inquiring mind know if trials have changed with TC's? Is there some way to allow TC's but have also have safeguards to prevent dependence? We in cover trials might very well have part of the solution already: For some of our prestigious stakes, no TC's are allowed. Can handlers get by without TC for these few trials? Again, If you sincerely maintain that tracking collars makes no difference in the type of dog being campaigned or put up as winners, ask any handler anywhere to NOT run a tracking collar on any of his dogs every now and then and see how he reacts. See if he even runs the same dogs.
The howling instead of a shrug when TC's are denied even for one trial, by and large, represents a tacit admission by the staunchest proponents of TC's to what we detractors have claimed would happen all along: "Trials have changed. Or the type of dog I am now running has changed. I can't run a dog without a TC. It's now way too dangerous and way too inconvenient. Things have changed with these dogs and am forced to strongly howl in protest at the prospect of running having to trial without a TC like they did for 120 years. I absolutely have to have them and I am going to howl and whine when I can't even for one trial."
No other explanation for it. So howling and anger makes me smile and I now say, when I see the anger, "thanks for your independent confirmation of my concern about TC's changing trials and dog, which I wrote about in 'The CaseAgainst...'"
Paradoxically, if not for the anger and the vitriol stopping the issue from coming up again as has already been mentioned, I strongly suspect that TC's would have been allowed by the Grand National by now. In the years since the Grand National vote to reject, I have noticed a couple of things "on the ground" at trials that may well have moved some of the Grand National directors off the fence and into the FOR camp in these recent years. TC's are NOT a hot topic of debate at cover trials, and are seldom even discussed there. Tracking Collars are NOT taking over, like bells did. The vast majority of dogs that run do not use them even when they are allowed and I saw only a handful of them in the National Amateur Grouse Championship and the PA Championship last Fall. The three largest pro strings, Hughes, Formans, Minard, don't use them.
So things have gone along, the years are slipping by way too fast, and with the subject again coming up on the forum, I looked back at some of the other specifics of "The Case Against..." essay again to see what the years have brought and to see if any parts of my position from then remain valid. I am happy to report improvement in at least one area. The dogs no longer look like cockroaches like they did when the long thin attenae protruded up in the air around them.
But my first point from the essay, that tracking collars "could" be mistaken for an e-collar is just as valid if not moreso. The original essay was from the pre-Garmin Tracker days and those units were small and light. The Garmins in use now are heavier than the e-collars that we use. By itself, it still does not make the case that dogs reliably mistake tracking collars for e-collars, but for daggone sure, if one could time travel back a few decades and walked up to the line with a unit that looked just like a Garmin, claiming that it could not possibly be mistaken for a dummy collar or an e-collar, you would have been run right off the grounds! I further mention a lost dog at a horseback futurity several years ago, and a handler riding around looking. Asked why the dog did not have a tracking collar on the handler replied, "He won't run with tracking collar on."
The original essay further mentioned the possibility of cheating and I have heard some rumbling about things that may have happened...but again, it is virtually impossible to get caught, so you wouldn't expect to hear much.
I nevertheless would ask: Is it possible for a dog to be recovered with a tracking collar at a field trial...and still place? If you said NO, you would be incorrect...and it is, as far as I know NOT cheating. In several trials that I know of, (none of them cover trials) the dogs in question were gone for a spell toward the end of the heat, time was called in the heat, and the handler given the tracking collar to recover the dog. In each case, the dog was called back. This happened several times to my knowledge and because no one batted an eye when it happened, I can only presume that it is an accepted practice. I looked at the tracking collar rules and they state essentially that a tracking device cannot be used to recover a dog under judgment, and in these circuits, as it was explained, when time is called the dog is no longer considered to be under judgment. Nevertheless, dogs that do not finish with their handlers are getting placed and this is one thing that at least some propononts of TC assured us would not happen. And down the slippery slope we go!
The original essay warned that taking the sting out of looking for lost dogs could result in more such dogs being run in trials. The old somewhat misunderstood cliche from David Rose, "A trial dog is one who runs away but not quite..." has in some places likely resulted in a strategy of turning a string of dogs that don't look back, most of which "Run away...quite" but a the couple that happen to get around in that trial have "run away, but not quite" and so win. The rest are recovered with a TC and a mounted handler and onto a different trial where a different few dogs will barely finish possibly even with TC after time. I maintain that such a tactic does not result in better breeding stock and believe it is not possible without a TC. So the bit in "The Case Against..." about TC's possibly altering trial placements and the breeding stock and as discussed earlier, this is still a concern and with 'anger evidence' to support this concern.
And now onto another serious concern that I wrote about in the original essay which the intervening years have done nothing to dispel: safety. Yep, that's right; the same issue that proponents of tracking collars tout as its biggest benefit. Proponents say that the longer a dog is lost, the higher the chance that something could happen to him. True enough, but equally true for the same reason that a dog is even more safe when he is not lost at all. I repeat. A dog is safest when it handles and finshes reliably with its handler. If a dog is lost with a TC, many things could still happen before he is recovered that could hurt him, he is less safe. Moreover, a big part of the "quick recovery" in most circuits involves a tracking collar AND a mounted person galloping off in the indicated direction and so can get in the vicinity of the dog before the dog can get too far away. This benefit is lost with a walking handler as a dog with even a short head start cannot be caught by a human being on foot if the dog heads off and keeps going in that direction. Moroever, TC are reliable, but are fallible. Antennaes break off, batteries go dead, and there is always the possibility of human error meaning that there is risk to relying on them. One trial I read recently about reported a number of dogs where the handler "asked for the tracker," and apparently all dogs recovered in short order, but one was lost for two days, the tracking unit, it was reported, was not functioning. A dog was actually killed out west this year after it left the trial grounds and was eventually shot by a man after the dog had killed a number of chickens, and it was reported that the receiver was not programmed to the collar.
To me it is an "if all things were equal situation." All things equal, tracking collars really do offer an extra measure of safety. A dog that reliably handles and finishes is further safeguarded against the odd incident or very infrequent negative occurrence, and even a tracking collar that is not working. Dogs that run off or otherwise do not finish with their handler can be more quickly retrieved with a TC than not. And if all things were equal, I would likely have no objection to TC's at all. But all things are NOT equal which I noticed early on their use. "I probably shouldn't turn him loose at this trial, but, it's okay. I have a tracking collar on him..." sums up well what I saw early. And when I saw the sheer number of dogs being lost to judgment in some other circuits in trials that I was attending, I became concerned. I speculated years ago, that as more dogs were lost, more danger would result. Observation from the intervening years of the cover dog and other trial circutis have strongly suggested to me, if not definitively proven, my concerns about safety. The more we come to admire dogs that don't look back, the more will get lost. The more we place dogs that do not finish with their handlers, the more will get lost. The more a dog wins this trial because "he was on the edge the whole time" that ran off four of the previous five trials, the more dogs are going to be lost. The more that dogs get lost, the greater are the chances of injury or other incident.
Which leads me to the following concerning safety, which I hesitate to even mention. I get no thrills out of this and contrary to the beliefs of many, this is not some sort of intellectual exercise and I have no hidden agenda. Hard as it is for some to believe, there are some of us who have seen the downside of this device, oppose tracking collars on what we think are legitimate grounds, and have the betterment of trials and dogs in our minds. But again, I really am not comfortable mentioning the following and for a couple of reasons. In making a case for tracking collars, several posters to the recent thread on the forum offered a number of examples of dogs lost and not recovered without tracking collars in workouts/training sessions. I therefore have no doubt, given this observation combined with all of the accusations and insinuations that I and others have heard (saying that we do not care about the safety of dogs and such), that I can virtually guarentee that the first time a dog disappears from a cover trial without a tracking collar and is found dead much later, many will pounce on it as proof of our the uncaring and cruel, unreasonable nature of our position. And it will happen eventually that a dog will be lost and not recovered without a TC in trial. But even though I know proponents would not hesititate to bring up a case to their favor immediately of one should transpire , it is still with great reservations that I do the same in reverse. In the years since that essay "against" and the infamous Grand National vote, two dogs that I know of disappeared off of the cover trial courses, and were subsequently found dead. One was hit by a car, the other's bones were found some time later by mushroom hunters. Both had tracking collars on. This, of itself, proves little because the sample size is too small. But it confirms my skepticism of the added margin of safety promised by these devices since, in the first 80 or so years of grouse trialing, no one could cite a dog lost and not recovered and none of them wore TC's. In the most recent couple of decades, give or take, still no one can cite a dog lost and not recovered that did NOT have a tracking collar on. Since tracking collars came into use in the last fifteen years or so ago, they are still only used on a substantial minority of cover dogs, and this minority of dogs is supposed to be enjoying a higher margin of safety than than the vast majority which do not wear TC's.... And yet we still have the only two lost and dead dogs with tracking collars on. Again, I get no thrill out repeating this. Only one of these incidents made the message boards, and none of us anti-folks pounced on it at the time to make any case against tracking collars out of it. The other did not make the boards, nor did I or anyone else who oppose TC's post it, though I have no doubt that had the lost dog not been wearing a TC, the forums would have filled with venom as they often are on this issue.
As I happily near the conclusion of this follow-up essay, I will include a 'more personal' example that might make difference in at least one internet TC proponent of a more recent vintage, though probably not. The trial I wrote about where the handler lost nearly every dog and did not apologize for losing them... was a walking championship that had a winner. The champion was a strapping setter dog that had eight quail finds and one woodcock find, all done high and tight and with no bobbles. The fellow who lost the dogs grumbled when the winner was announced, "Where I'm from, we shoot dogs like that." Now there, my friends, is a complete and very strong difference of opinion on the matter of a good trial dog, with the dissenting opinion from someone who uses a TC in trials as a matter of necessity. Lloyd Murray, who was among a number of people who heard the comment, fortunately, did not listen. The champion that day was Cracklin Tail Speed, and his son Long Gone Boston shares the size and the lofty intense poses of his dad. Some of you who might have had good experiences with Boston pups might not have been so fortunate had his sire been raised and campaigned elsewhere, checked back now and then and was disposed of for such a terrible offense! We breed what we value.
The stigma increasingly attached to dogs that check back is thus worrisome to me. Historically minded as I tend to be, it is curious to read an on article by the immortal Clyde Morton that a dog needs to look for his handler. Then I read the Amesian standard, "he must hunt birds and not the handler hunt the dog." And, "He must be regularly and habitually pleasingly governable (tractable) and must know when to turn and keep his handler's view of the course in view, and at all times keep uppermost in his mind the finding and pointing of birds for his handler." But it was the late all-age handler Earl Crangle who summed it up best for me when he said, "We don't need the exagerrated ability to find lost dogs. We need lost dogs with an exagerrated ability to find YOU." That's an important trait worthy of breeding for.
To the extent that these ideas are "traditions," I personally find them worthy of upholding. These are the qualities that hunters appreciate too. And if these qualities also keep a dog as safe as possible too, it's a no brainer for me which way I lean on the tracking collar issue.
And, by all means, keep that anger coming, and keep up the howling because, now that I know what it really means, it is music to my ears!
A Soon To Be Contrary Position? Perhaps
There is a rather well-known old story in these parts about a grouse dog trainer of yesteryear, long since deceased. He had one dog that was considered a tremendous prospect, but who loved to chase deer and, at age four, after having slipped away from his handler once again, the dog was found dead in front of an automobile. Some time later, early versions of the shock collar became available and this trainer got one. These early units were notoriously unreliable and shocked the dog at one level: high. Garage door openers, power lines and other stimuli frequently set off the collar resulting in the dog being shocked at this high level unintentionally. One day this trainer was working with a dog that had done a considerable amount of winning at competitions and was still very young, when a plane flew over and set the unit off. The dog was shocked for several minutes until the trainer could gather up the dog and removed the unit. The dog refused to hunt thereafter, and it was only after many months of patient rehabilitation that he , very slowly, came back to form. Many dogs in similar situations were ruined. And the e-collar got a very bad reputation as a result.
I write this story to lead into a training notion that I still believe in strongly; a notion that was once mainstream, but is increasingly putting me quite against the stream, that being that the use of e-collars and other negative tools in dog training is effective and morally correct, done properly. The growing trend contrary to this is “positive only” methods of dog training, which is fine if that is your choice. But increasingly, those who advocate “positive only” also believe that any sort of punishment is either ineffective or cruel. One recent book, which was also the subject of a PBS series, claimed that shock collars were harmful to a dog and used by trainers not willing or able to use other more humane methods. When a pro trainer claimed that a shock collar would neither hurt the dog or the trainer/dog relationship, the author declared him a liar.
This book is NOT an extreme example, but is becoming alarmingly common. Other books have advocated this same position and I have even seen it creeping over into bird dog training. Having battled ridiculous “kennel reforms” designed by animal rights people in positions of power, and knowing that some countries have already outlawed e-collars, I am concerned about the future and in fact, concerned on behalf of dogs.
The story about the bad e-collar experience that I introduced this column with is much more in tune with the real picture. First, the story shows that punishment does work to deter behavior. But we who, as bird dog people, live with a more realistic view of the natural world, already knew that. We deal with skunks and porcupines who should not even exist according to these 'experts' who claim that negative experiences are not effective. The undeniable fact is that the very survival of porcupines, skunks and many other creatures depends upon supremely unpleasant experiences for those that threaten them. But as the bad e-collar story also proves, if punishment is misapplied, intentionally or otherwise, serious problems can result. The most common problems for us bird-doggers in improper, or accidental misuse of punishment, are the dog who shuts down or runs to the truck and no longer wants to hunt, the dog that blinks or avoids birds, and the dog that is gunshy. Just as a saw can cut fingers as well as wood, punishment is tool that needs to be used with care, caution and a lot of wisdom. But make no mistake: punishment is an effective, useful tool.
So, I tell people who advocate, “positive only” training methods, “You can train them that way, but they are still going to learn from negative experiences.” If a dog comes running out of a room with a carpeted floor, can't stop on the hardwood floor and slides into the refrigerator, he figures out to slow down the next time in that situation. Dogs have experiences like this all of the time. It's how their ancestors learned to survive too. In fact, I'll go a step further and state my never humble opinion that shielding, particularly puppies, from everything bad and negative makes for many dogs that are inordinately fearful and sensitive of more things the remainder of their lives when bad things inevitably happen. Expose a puppy to noise at the right time in the right situation and they are fine with it. Shield them from any startling noise and and many are noise sensitive the rest of their of their lives, which is a much more cruel thing to do to a dog in my opinion. Hook pup to a tie out at three months old and he challenges it for a few minutes and then gives in and is fine with it. Tie him out for the first time when he is 2 and he battles it for hours and days. Putting through a lot of experiences, positive and negative, of all types at an early age inoculates the dog from being devastated from a more severe bad experience the rest of their lives. Failure to do so can make a certain dog sensitive and fearful the rest of its life, which a consider a more cruel option.
And the irony continues because while many are stating and publishing opinions that e-collars are cruel, I can make a case that it is cruel NOT to use them in some situations. A dog that isn't listening, runs off, chases deer and other off game is potentially in danger from vehicles, high walls, an angry farmer with chickens and a shotgun, glass and refuse piles, hidden wells, drop offs and high walls, and any number of other hazards, not to mention snakes and porcupines. In my experience, no food treat is going to even come close to luring him away from a deer when the dog is locked on that prey and is in full chase. The e-collar is BY FAR the best way to give a dog maximum freedom to do what he loves to and has been bred to do: hunt for game, AND keep him safe and reasonably under control. My advice to my bird dog buddies is to use the e-collar responsibly and defend its use strongly when it is questioned. Failure to do either of these, may get them banned at some time not far off.
A Midsummer Field Trialer’s Day Dream
Jeffrey W. Crum
A recent call from my friend Laura describing her latest breeding venture to a young stud dog “somewhere in Tennessee” set in motion a trip through the heart of field trialing history. After some further discussion this “somewhere” turned out to be located near Memphis, which instituted my offer to help her with the lengthy drive, knowing that there might be an opportunity to visit the Bird Dog Museum in Grand Junction. Besides, I needed a couple days away from work.
After a long day’s drive across four states, a quick breeding and an overnight’s rest, I found myself driving south on Tennessee Route 18. Passing a road sign for Hickory Valley, my thoughts of field trialing in the days gone by started to fill my head. Knowing that this was once the home of James Avent “The Fox of Hickory Valley”, eight time winner of the National Field Trial Championship and handler of many of the early setters still carried on in the pedigrees of my dogs left at home.
Our first stop of the day was at my original intent for this trip, the Bird Dog Museum. While admiring the statuary surrounding the front of the museum, we were warmly greeted by a father and son grounds keeping crew, in what was to be the first of several southern hospitality greetings throughout the day. Entering through the glass front doors another friendly greeting and bright smile from the Bird Dog Foundation’s Secretary Barbara Sweeney, told me this trip was going to be well worth it and we have come to the right place. She happily leads us back to the museum, where we are introduced to the busts of the Foundation’s founding fathers. As we round the corner, with Barbara pointing out the many highlights she says “and this is our proudest display.” pointing towards a diorama of Count Noble. My response to Barbara was “I grew up with this dog.”
Growing up in the heart of Pittsburgh, a young boy’s opportunity for enjoying the out-of-doors, much less the pleasure of seeing a bird dog swapping ends as it sucked in the scent of its quarry was hardly a thought. But many a rainy or snowy afternoon were spent walking around the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, where little did I realize that the dog display I walked by many times would be in the direct lineage of the dogs that would become my adulthood pursuit.
After an hour or so spent admiring the forefather and mothers of field trialing along with their memorabilia, it was a short drive around the corner, delayed only by a short wait as a trainload of Tennessee coal traveling west passed. Like a stage curtain opening, the passing of the train revealed what appeared to be a 1960 circa red brick school building, our next destination. Inside that building was to be found a heritage just as rich, as we had just left. Walking in the front door, with its bell alerting those inside of our arrival, our attentions were drawn to some horse saddles sitting out in foyer of this make shift store. As I reached out to rub my hand across the leather, a voice with a southern draw from the other room said, “That’s a very nice saddle and I’d be happy to sell you one.” Strolling around the corner emerged Wilson Dunn. We had been forewarned about the salesman/owner in this store, who was determined not to let you leave his store without buying something, with his warm inviting manner. I soon learned that touching an item was his cue to start a sales pitch and one must even be careful where their eyes might wander. He was proud of his store, the field trial dogs, their trainers and owners that all became his friends through 90 years of life. He was willing to share all of it and encouraged questions about field trialing history, taking us to the back of his store where he had his own little bird dog museum. In the end, I couldn’t resist his charms and purchased a new blank gun.
Leaving Wilson Dunn behind, I accidentally turned South on Route 18. Seeing a sign that indicated we were only four miles from the Mississippi State line, I continued on knowing full we were headed in the wrong direction. I have “never” been lost in my life, maybe a little “disoriented” but never lost! A few minutes later we crossed the state and 10 yards over the line I corrected the course, turning around and headed back north. I guess crossing the state line gave me some sort of mental reason for heading in that direction, so now I can add Mississippi to my list of states I have visited. Discussion in the car revolved around how seeing the Bird Dog Museum was great, but visiting Wilson was a live interactive museum, that added a personal touch to the whole trip.
Just a few miles north of Grand Junction, we turned westward into the Ames Plantation. Traveling along the roads through the plantation we discussed the terrain and how it compared to other field trial venues we had both been to. We never made it to the plantation’s home perhaps that is better left for another time. Besides the time change and our stomachs were starting to call us elsewhere.
After lunch and some bass fishing at our hostess Marsha’s home we received a call from neighbor Blake Kukar inviting us over to his farm. A short trip down the road we arrived at his house with some Pointers and Vizslas running over to greet us. Blake began showing us around his plethora of kennels with various breeds, including some local wayward dogs that he has taken over their care. After a tour of his farm, we hopped in his car and were taken up the road to an old southern homestead that has been converted over to the West Tennessee Field Trial Clubhouse. The doors were locked, but peering in the window’s I could see the pictures on the walls, documenting the field trial history of the club. It was not all that dissimilar to club houses I have come to know, somewhat bare in comfortable furniture. But that’s not what “true” field trailers need, their comfort is in the seat of a good saddle following a brace of dogs around the fields that surround the clubhouse.
Back into the car we toured around the fields that make up the courses for the field trials hosted here. Driving down one country road we turned right into the only driveway to be found. Towards the end of the driveway a large granite tombstone proudly bearing the name Rebel Wrangler marked our next stop. Working in the garden directly behind the burial site of the great pointer, we were to find Bill and Linda Hunt. I have met Linda on several occasions at amateur championship events, but this would be the first time I got to spend some time with Bill. Bill gave me a tour of the garden that he is cultivating and then we were escorted down to the kennel where he is also cultivating his next generation of field trial hopefuls.
With the young litter of pointer pups stretching up against the fence, trying to draw our attention, I spoke with Bill about raising dogs for field trials. One particular liver and white bitch from the litter caught Laura’s eye that she quietly conveyed to me she thought was a nice one. A few minutes later Bill confirmed Laura’s eye for a good dog, when Bill pointed out that same bitch and said that’s his favorite one. I asked Bill what he looks for in a dog when trying to choose a pup from a litter. His response was “Intelligence and Style”, advice that I will carry with me for a long time. Into the foyer of their home we were find something that not many field trailer homes can bear, three Field Trial Hall of Fame plaques. Reminding us that these friendly down to earth people have a life long commitment to the sport I have come to enjoy.
Upon return to Blake’s kennel he let a group of dogs out of their pens and we jumped onto his quad, where we shared a ride around the river bottom as we gang ran this group of dogs that consisted of Pointers, Setters and Vizslas. Halfway around we stopped at a pond and let the dogs play in the pond as they cooled off from their summer evening run. Back to the kennel it was time for me to call it an end to my day through the heart of field trialing country and its history. As I was leaving down the driveway, I spotted Blake on his quad like a modern day cowboy, gang running another group of dogs into the fields as the sun lowered itself behind the tree line closing the curtain on a day of surrealistic field trialing history.
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The Bird Launcher
by Travis Gellhaus (as told to Ryan Frame)
I grew up around bird dogs. Pointers specifically. My father was a dog trainer and a carpenter too I suppose. His successful veterinary practice, however, meant that dog training and carpentry were, to my father, hobbies rather than professions, and without getting into more detail than is necessary, that was probably a good thing.
At some point, Dad decided that we needed a bird launcher to help us train the dogs and, even though he could have easily paid to have one delivered, no thought entered his head other than to build it himself. He had no directions or even photos to work from - that would not have been any fun., I suppose. As a base for the launcher, he chose a choice piece of maple that was lying around waiting for its purpose in life.
Unfortunately, the block of maple was about two inches thick, weighed some sixty pounds, and probably, had he sold this nice cut of maple, he would have made enough money to pay for a bird launcher. But again, that would not have been any fun.
Anyway, setting this hunk of maple on the garage floor, he bolted down a homemade cage to it, hooked up a piece of canvas to springs, devised a tripping mechanism, and rigged up a servo engine that he had laying around somewhere. Soon this rather unsightly device had taken shape and was ready for testing. We lugged it outside into the yard and rigged it up with a pigeon encircled in the canvas. The cage, however, was open at the ends and the pigeon merely crawled out the opening and flew off. So it was back into the garage for more ‘adjustments.’
With that little design flaw corrected, we decided to do further preliminary testing right there in the garage. We convinced ourselves that it was wise to test indoors before moving to the field (neither of us was quite ready yet to admit that this device was a bit cumbersome to lug back and forth). Dad put a plastic bottle inside the canvas, and, folding it in, set the mechanism. While he was still hovering over it however, it sprung unexpectedly and threw that bottle right into his face with such force that it caused a bloody nose and put a small cut above his eye. Naturally, this just made Dad more determined. I can still him working through the blood and bruises to make the final adjustments to the release mechanism. Then it was ready for testing again. Dad stuck the bottle in the canvas (making sure that his head was well out of the way) and hooked up the latch.
We stood back and he pushed the remote button. VAWOOOM! It shot the bottle up immediately. Success! Or …. Uh… success for the most part. The bottle, even though it was just plastic, had caused some light injuries to my Dad on the first test. Then the second test had resulted in a pretty good sized dent in the garage ceiling. Perhaps we should have taken these observations as a hint that more adjustments were needed. We didn’t.
Any way it was time to take it to the field for a real life test. I lugged the thing out into the yard, we rigged up a pigeon inside, and we check corded a dog into its vicinity. The dog pointed the bird, took a small step and Dad hit the button. VAWOOOM! The bird went up like a rocket, unable to even spread its wings until it was more than fifty feet in the air. That pigeon went up so fast that the dog never even saw it go by, never looked up, and never saw the bird fly off. Nevertheless, we had our bird launcher… with due emphasis on "launcher." Sure it required some muscle and effort to move it around. And sure… it scared the crap out of some of the dogs when it went off. And, sure, you could not put it near a tree or you would just splatter the pigeon on a branch. And even though, in short order, it just sat in the garage gathering cob webs and dust, we still were proud of it.
Together (mostly him) we managed to finish two pointer field champions. We also gathered up a lot of memories along the way but none stands out more than the ordeal of the building of that homemade bird launcher.
(Note: Travis Gellhaus is a pro trainer and chief proprietor of Hawkeye Creek Kennels Of Thunder Bay, Ontario.)
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Single Course Grouse Derby Trials
When I wrote the narration for the video "The Wonderful World Of Cover trials," I noted with some pride that no dog had ever placed as champion or runner-up without having pointed a wild bird. To be perfectly honest, I was no 100% sure of that statement.
But I have never seen nor heard of one in the modern age, and ditto for the trials of old of which I have read the accounts of.
Placing dogs on wild birds has never been an easy task to accomplish. Wild bird trials are, to a large extent, at the mercy of the land, for that is what produces the birds. In the old days, "title withheld" was often the result of trials run on years where bird numbers were not adequate for the running /scenting conditions. The Judicial Guidelines allow for placements to be made on race alone (Page 29: "In multiple course trials when running on native game, acceptable bird work may be impossible at times to obtain, and placements on class and ground heats are acceptable." ) but cover champions have , as a rule, not placed dogs on race alone and that is a good thing. It is also good that we have held fast and not placed dogs in title events without them pointing grouse or woodcock.
A considerable amount of course work needs to be done on multiple course wild bird trials. The key words are 'cover' and 'multiple.' What is generally called "transitional forest" and/ or "second growth" are often used to describe 'cover.' This means that the cover is often thicker and changing. These factors necessitate course changes to keep the dogs in the vicinity of good cover, and frequent maintenance to keep each trail open. "Multiple" means that your work is multiplied by a factor of 3, or 7 and 8 as is the case at many of the major venues. Anyone who has dropped sweat and blood on a trial course at the summer workdays does not need to be told this.
It would be much easier just to do one course and not have to worry about routing it to where birds are likely to be, but that is not even a consideration. The reason is perfectly obvious: Quail trials are not grouse trials. If they were the same, or even remotely similar, cover trailers would have taken the easy route years ago.
In more than fifteen years of attending cover trials, I can count on one hand grouse or woodcock that I have seen caught and/or retrieved, and I would still have several fingers to spare. By contrast, I see more birds caught and/or retrieved at an average quail championship. Grouse trials are not 'planted quail' trials because grouse are not planted quail; not even close.
Some have nevertheless suggested that, quail need to be released on a single course the derby courses at cover trials. They call single course/call back trials 'glorified puppy stakes.' Of course, puppy stakes are NOT the same. Most judges expect more ground maturity out of a derby. And, of course, there are no call backs for puppy stakes. In addition, I cannot remember a puppy that was winning puppy stakes each week, and also winning derby stakes each week at the same venue, which would be the case if the two stakes were so similar. In fact, it has been my observation over the years that more puppies win derby stakes by being one of the few to point a bird in a multiple course derby.
I am thus opposed to salting the course with quail and will offer several other reasons below, but I want it understood that, underlying these reasons, is this notion that is hard to argue with: planted quail are neither grouse nor woodcock and even a dog that points ten quail may not be able to point one grouse.
Reason #1 not to seed courses at a cover trial: Derbies catch planted quail. In senior stakes dogs are ordered up for chasing birds, retrieving birds, and not backing. This is called "interference" because it could hurt the brace mate's chances or undo its training. But the rules of derby stakes allow for MORE interference at an age when the training is less set. Fall derbies do not have to back, nor will your bracemate be automatically taken up for rooting and chasing. If your dog is fairly good on quail coming into a fall derby stake, with the wrong brace mate, and often poor flying birds, your dog could be much worse by the end. Catching birds at trials at that tender age is not what most people want to have happen. Bad habits get started and ingrained. Training regimes are set back.
In derby stakes, There are only three ways to minimize the carnage; first, to do extensive training on quail to get the dog more advanced on quail. Some dogs aren't ready for that level of training at that age and so a trainer risks causing harm by pushing the dog along before it is ready. Even if the youngster can take the training required, the training is still required, and that means time in a bird field on quail - time that is often better spent on wild birds in the in native cover at a critical time. The third option is to not risk long-term problems caused by bird catching simply by not participating in derby stakes with planted game.
Reason #2 not to salt the course with quail:
A grouse dog, derby or otherwise, is judged to great extent on where he goes to hunt birds. A cover dog needs to hit the proper cover, and should be judged by where he goes. Imagine a dog that is on his way to a nice poplar stand but spins on a quail before he gets there. He offers a lusty chase, away from the cut- he's just a derby after all - and then on his way back toward the cut, he hits another quail. Now a judge faults him for not hunting the cut properly. You can put quail in logical grouse cover and woodcock cover, but rarely will they end up there. The presence of a lot of quail on a course, often in unlikely cover, can muddy the judgment of proper application.
Reason #3 is that, because wild birds are usually not easy to come by, good dogs need to hunt for long periods without finding any. Many trials at the senior level including some big ones are won with but one bird for the. That means a dog has to hunt hard over long birdless stretches. I know of several grouse dogs that were sold because , if the dog did not have snoot full of bird scent up his nose every few minutes, he would slow, quit or lose focus. For grouse trials we need a dog that hunts hard without having a bird behind every bush to motivate him, because there isn't a bird behind every bush. I therefore do not see a birdless derby course as a problem, but as part of the test of what a dog needs to do to be successful at the next level.
In a single course trial, the dogs are compared on the same course.
The bird field work is only to establish if the dog can point, and if he exhibits acceptable style. In a call back, there is no meddlesome brace mate, and a derby dog taken up after one piece of acceptable work. The bird field situation therefore allows a measure of control that is not available to a handler on a half hour run with a number of quail, and the possibility of an unruly brace mate. The potential for bad habits is thus minimized.
I have attended Cover trials in nearly all quadrants and if there is anything true about them it is that, for all-age dogs, it is often difficult to give dogs a fair and equal opportunity to show on wild birds. This issue is multiplied 5 times for the lesser experienced derbies. So much greater is the difficulty that, in the Grouse Futurity, three of the four dogs placed last year were placed in the birdfield on quail. The year prior at Kilkenny, NH, it was also 3 of 4. In Michigan the year before that, it was 4 of 4.
Is the single course derby with a birdfield call back ideal or perfect? No. In a perfect world there be wild birds for every derby course, the exact same amount for each dog, and every course would be identical as well.
Am I glad that there are also derby stakes run on wild birds? Yes. Multiple course or single, the goal is to place the derby with the best ground race and acceptable bird work, and a good dog should be capable of winning both. The single course/call back format however, more than any other format, more often results in that goal being met. It's in the design.
In conclusion, if you are lamenting the fact that there are no quail out on the course, I have good news. There are plenty of trials that throw quail out for derbies. They are called quail trials and they are great fun. They will welcome your entry.
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Recently I was asked to verify or disprove a statement made by a long time bird dog fan and author of a recent training book. The man was claiming that , not only were the early dogs all ‘dual dogs,’ but that they were not allowed to run in trials until they had placed in a bench show. I asked immediately, "Did the man who said this give you a source?"
"No," came the reply, "He said he read it somewhere but couldn’t remember where."
"I can assure you," I said, "That A. F. Hochwalt writes a lot about those early dogs and was familiar with both bench shows and trials. Many times in his classic The Modern Setter, Hochwalt cites the bench show records of noted trial dogs. On many other occasions there is no bench record at all. So the statement that a trial dog had to win on the bench is simply not true."
People who are fans of certain type of dog, or fans of a certain line of dog are often in a curious and contradictory position when it comes to writing the history of their favorite breed or type of dogs. On one hand, they are usually the only ones sufficiently interested to learn and write such a history, but on the other hand, they often are not objective enough to set down that history accurately. Frequently, not so surprisingly, and for the most part not intentionally, their rendition ends up being slanted.
Of course, everyone has prejudices and, and so it is imperative that anyone who would read the early literature to do it extensively, and to document any conclusion with quotes, pictures, other expert opinion etc.
Other claims about so-called "dual dogs" appear now and then in bird dog literature and these claims also need to be looked at critically. The claim that has been repeated quite often is that the early setters were dual type setters that competed successfully on the bench and in field trials. Then, they claim, field trials went awry by emphasizing speed and range and a different type of English setter was created. In 1998, for example, an article appeared in Field Trial Magazine called "Renaissance of a Classic: Renaissance of a Classic: Return of a Bench-type English Setter to Field Trials." In this article, writer Vince FitzGerald makes the claim that the early field trial winners were "classy dual purpose, bench-type field English setters." He also claims that "modern dual type dogs are much the same as those beautiful setters which dominated American Field trials from the 1870’s to the outbreak of World War I."
More recently in 2005, comes John Taylor’s history of the Ryman setters called "A Gentleman’s Shooting Dog." Like FitzGerald, Taylor also claims that early setters were field trial dogs AND bench dogs. George Ryman, he claims, recognized and appreciated these these dual dogs and when both field trials and bench shows went astray, it was Ryman who he kept in his sights the dual nature that setters were supposed to be. In the case of Ryman setters, an interesting transformation takes place in the definition of "dual setters." Originally, ‘dual’ applied to dogs that were successful on the bench AND in field trials. But Taylor now applies the term to dogs that have been successful at neither. Thus the word cleverly changes to ‘dual type.’
Both of these writers, after asserting that early setters were all dual setters make the same assumption: That the dual type circa 1900 is the same animal as a dual dog of 2005. To Taylor the dual dog is a Ryman setter and to FitzGerald the dual dog is a show setter. And as those two types of dog are not exactly the same, either Taylor or FitzGerald are incorrect.
Nevertheless the three assertions about early ‘dual-setters’ that I will now analyze against the historical record are:
1) That the setters of of the 19th and into the early 20th century were "dual dogs" in the sense that a great many of them competed successfully in both field and bench events.
That by 1907, the the split between field and show factions had not yet occurred. (Note: That is a split between these factions occurred is not in question. FitzGerald says that the split occurred sometime around WWI. Taylor asserts that it happened sometime after George Ryman was getting started in English in 1907 or 1916. The timing of that split is important since both claim the overwhelming dominance of setters in that era is a function of their dual nature.
And 3) That, before the show/field split, setters were more like dual dogs of 2005 than field trial dogs of 2005 in terms of looks and size.
There were several major sources that I looked at. First was Major J.M Taylor’s rare and monumental "Bench Show and Field Trial Records and Standards of Dogs in America 1874-1891." This source contains complete records of every dog that placed at a bench show and every dog that placed at a field trial from 1874 to 1891. There were also pictures, drawings and other charts that were pertinent. Secondly are the writings of Alfred Frederick Hochwalt and in particular the Modern Setter (1918 and revised again in 1923). Hochwalt was a massive authority in that era. He judged bench shows and field trials and was quite familiar with the machinations and trends of both. My third major source was Joseph Graham who was another early authority. His book "The Sporting Dog," (1904) offers a concise snapshot of the bird dog world in the era in question including a lot of the pertinent history that the author himself actually lived. Other sources will be introduced where necessary.
After reviewing these sources I offer the following general overview:
The Llewellin setter dominated early field trials in the era in question (1874-1907) while the so-called ‘Laverack’ was more dominant on the bench and won in trials only seldom. As a result of this fact, as most of the early writings verify, the Llewellin was even nicknamed "the field trial breed." Comparing Laveracks to Llewellyn's, Hochwalt notes on page 25 of The Modern Setter: "The two classes of English setters are probably more at variance here in America than in the mother country and the reason for this is quite obvious. To suit our hunting conditions we require a dog with speed, range and stamina. Followers of field trials found, very early in their career, that the field trial breed was nearer the requirements…" Notice he writes that the split came "very early" and that the "field trial breed" was the preference based on practical results. Writing further of Llewellyn's, Hochwalt writes that "…taking the middle of the road, we have a fairly good-looking utility dog as a general average, with specimens interspersed here and there that are good enough to win championship honors on the bench."
Of note here is that, among the Llewellin setters, were some "specimens interspersed here and there" that could win championship honors on the bench. This indicates that ‘dual dogs’ were not that common. Both Graham and Hochwalt stress the fact that the practical field dog in America essentially stemmed from of two famous setters namely Gladstone and Count Noble, both Llewellyn's. Hochwalt called Gladstone, "…this early progenitor of the American-Llewellin." Gladstone’s weight varied between 48 and 50 pounds and he stood 22.5 inches at the withers. Hochwalt notes that "He won many times on the bench , but it is just possible that the glamour surrounding him because of his great field ability may have been responsible for his many wins, for in the bench show sense, he was not the type of dog that the standard of the day called for, nor would he even fit the modified standard of the present time. In utility parts no particular fault could be found in him, for he was remarkably good in chest , legs and feet, although, for his size he carried too much weight in his shoulders. His muzzle was too snippy, his ears were set too high on the head and entirely too short for proper proportions." Some three decades after Gladsone’s passing, Hochwalt noted that due to Gladstone’s "unusual prepotency," both his good points and bad were passed on so that "To this day we encounter the snippy muzzle, the high set ear…" The other major progenitor, Count Noble, had no bench record at all. Graham writes on page 13, "The tide of preference for Llewellin setters and for Gladstone and Count Noble blood is, therefore, conclusively shown by the setter figures of this studbook; because the leading bench show specialists prefer the Laverack, and are often inexorable in condemning the Llewellin."
Indeed the appendix to Graham’s book contains two distinct standards one called the "STANDARD OF ENGLISH SETTER CLUB" And in parentheses he writes "America. Called the Llewellin Standard. Adopted in 1900. Followed by field trial or Llewellin men" (Page 303). The other standard is also called the "STANDARD OF ENGLISH SETTER CLUB" but underneath is written "(England. Followed by Laverack men in America)"
So by 1900, there are already two distinct standards, one followed by field men in America and the for Laverack men following English standards. This is important for two reasons. First of all , there are two distinct standards long before either John Taylor, Vince FitzGerald or many other writers have claimed, and this fact compromises their position. Secondly, in many instances where a trial dog did have bench success, the club running the bench show may have been conforming to the standard written for the "field trial men," with bench wins that in no way suggest a dog that is a typical show dog such as we imagine today.
Even so, to state that most of the setters of that era were dual setters is overdone. Among the early field trial dogs, none of the sources mentions a dual champion. Mr. FitzGerald mentions an ‘almost dual champions’ but neither he nor Mr. Taylor nor any of the other sources claim any. While I do not have complete documentation of all bench or trial wins, here are some of the early National Champions and what the sources have to say about them:
Count Gladstone IV (1896): Hochwalt list his win record and progeny with no mention of any bench record.
Championship cancelled (1897)
Tony’s Gale (1898): Hochwalt does not mention a bench record. National Field trial Champions (Buckingham and Brown) describes him as "handsome utility-type setter."
Joe Cumming (1899) Hochwalt mentions no bench record. Brown and Buckingham note ‘ Joe Cumming was princely in appearance, a handsome setter with attractive markings, his body conformation somewhat similar to that of Tony’s Gale, the 1898 winner of the National, though Joe was better finished in head properties. There is no question that in repose as well as in action, Joe Cumming had strong eye-appeal for the practical sportsman and field trial fan."
Lady’s Count Gladstone (1900) Hochwalt: No bench record mentioned. Brown and Buckingham: "handsome conformation and pleasing personality."
Sioux (1901 & 1902). No mention of bench success, conformation or looks from either Hochwalt or Brown/Buckingham.
Geneva (1903) Buckingham/Brown: "good size, attractive conformation."
Hochwalt no mention of any bench success.
Mohawk II (1904) Hochwalt gives this dog nearly four pages of coverage but mentions no bench record.
Hochwalt: "Alambaugh was a white, black and ticked dog of of excellent utility parts, though from a bench point of view he could scarcely pass muster." (99)
Brown/Buckingham:"In appearance he was of more than medium size, with considerable daylight under him; his head was clean-cut and typical of the field trial setter family…" (69)
Hochwalt: "The dog was white and orange and a very handsome setter." Nearly a page of coverage and no mention that the dog participated in any bench shows. 131.
Brown/Buckingham: "Pioneer, tall, rangy, with a roach in his back, and extreme arch of the coupling which gave great power…" 75.
In addition, Pioneer’s handler Er Shelley wrote a popular training book and devotes several pages to Pioneer’s career with no mention of the dog competing in any bench shows.
That covers about ten years of English setter National Champion setters that were the most prominent dogs in the nation and won, at least according to the fans of the ‘dual setter,’ prior to any show/field split. I could find no bench record for any of these dogs in the sources, and neither Taylor nor FitzGerald claims any dual record for these dogs either.
VitzGerald comments on how "The quality of the English setters exported by Llewellin in the early years was high, and many of the early American Field Trial Champions were dogs of great beauty.
"For instance, Druid (AKC 95) won three show awards in America, and Paris (AKC 182) nearly became a Dual Champion. The quality of field trial dogs was once so high that three remarkable field trial champions, Mohawk II (Hall Of Fame), Lady’s Count Gladstone (Hall Of Fame), and Prince Rodney can be found in the pedigrees of current show dogs."
Though he specifically says "for instance" after a line that says "early American Field Trial Champions" of "great beauty," the fact is that neither Druid nor Paris was an American Field Champion. His other examples, Mohawk II and Lady’s Count Gladstone, as has already been covered in the National Champions section above, were not dual dogs at all. And as their pictures testify, they look much more like field trial dogs of today than bench dogs of today.
Based upon these sources I know answer question
"That the setters of of the 19th and into the early 20th century were "dual dogs" in the sense that a great many of them competed successfully in both field and bench events.
Answer: That there were more dual dogs back then, but there still were not many. Some that were dual dogs were shown on bench compared to a Llewellin standard, which called for a dog "forty to fifty-five pounds, for bitches thirty-five to fifty pounds" noting that "the most useful setters, as a rule" are midway between the extremes mentioned." The height at the shoulders "should be about twenty-two to twenty-three inches at the shoulder in dogs, and twenty-one to twenty-two in bitches." Under the section for "Color and Markings" it reads "color is a matter of fancy, and too much stress should not be laid upon it."
Question #2: "That by 1907, the the split between field and show factions had not yet occurred. (Note: That is a split between these factions occurred is not in question. FitzGerald says that the split occurred sometime around WWI. Taylor asserts that it happened sometime after George Ryman was getting started in English in 1907 or 1916. The timing of that split is important since both claim the overwhelming dominance of setters in that era is a function of their dual nature."
Answer: Writing in his 1904 book The Sporting Dog, Joseph Graham writes, "There has been a conflict, sometimes bitter between those who would adhere to strictly to English ideals and standards and those who would press into recognition the American changes." He continues "English setter men have conducted the factional contest most sharply." He indicates that the split came: "Soon after the introduction of bench shows" He writes that "Twice a club has been organized to formulate a new written standard. The first was organized fifteen years ago, the second in 1900-1901. The conservative side has been upheld by Messrs. John Davidson…. And other judges. Usually the Westminster Kennel Club has alternated from year to year in selecting its English setter judges, to give each side a chance to illustrate what it means by type."
And 3) That, before the show/field split, setters were more like dual dogs of 2005 than field trial dogs of 2005 in terms of looks and size.
The story that actually emerges from the sources cited is that both field trials and dogs shows started in 1874 in America and both were a few years catching on. Some dogs from 1874 to the turn of the century were shown on the bench and also field trialed but many others were not. In short order, two things happened: First off, it was clear that Llewellin setter was distinguishing itself by its field prowess and the so called Laverack’s were much more successful on the bench. There were two types with limited crossover, almost from the beginning. By 1900 there were two distinct standards in print, one being followed by practical folks and one by show folks. There were also dog shows and judges that adhered to the "Llewellin standard" and these groups were not, by and large, those that evolved into the bench show dogs of today. To the extent that there was bench success, it came from these practical standards judged by field men.
Over the years, the gap widened but it is the bench dog and the Ryman that separated themselves. The emphasis on coat and Belton markings and a progressive increase in size are the two most notable features. Most of the early dogs, including Gladstone, Count Noble, Mohawk II, Lady’s Count Gladstone had body patches and would be considered too small by today’s Ryman or AKC Show setter breeder. Indeed, according to Mrs. Ellen Ryman, who I personally interviewed, had any of the above dogs been born at Ryman kennels, they would have been culled (killed) at birth because that is how George Ryman dealt with dogs with body patches.
That the size of show dogs was considerably smaller in the 19th century than a Ryman or a show dog today is easily discernible from the literature. Joseph Graham writes in 1904 of a "Mr. Dager of Toledo, Ohio, who bought two puppies, Cincinnatus and Toledo Blade…" Graham notes that "Both of these dogs were white-black-tan and of superior bench type." Graham writes, "Cincinnatus was not highly regarded by field trial men, but was placed in good company. On the bench Cincinnatus quickly won a championship." Graham continues, "He was rather flat in chest and weak in back ribs, but was otherwise good and a remarkably fine specimen among large dogs." According to measurements taken at at the time, Cincinnatus was 23 ¾ at the shoulders. That a dog of that height was considered ‘large’ should give fanciers of both Ryman setter and show setters of today pause. And if Graham considers Cincinnatus "large," he also describes what he considers of a dog of medium size writing, "I have never hesitated in calling the nearest to faultless among dogs of the general Laverack type." He writes "She was a blue Belton, weighing forty-five pounds…" If 45 pounds was considered "medium sized," what was considered ‘small?’ I couldn’t find a place where Graham specifically attaches a height or weight to a dog he considers ‘small.’ But we can infer that it must be smaller than 45 pounds. Graham does describe a dog called Paul Gladstone as "small" but who at somewhere under 45 pounds nevertheless was "almost unchallenged on the bench for two or three years."
All of this is pertinent to this discussion since since the Ryman Standard calls for a setter 60 to 75 pounds and the Current show standards calls for a setter of at least 25 inches at the shoulders. Though both VitzGerald and Taylor claim that field trial dogs evolved from a ‘dual’ dog into a different sort of animal, the written standards for both the Ryman Setter as cited by Taylor and the standard for show setters as appears in the "The Complete Dog Book," the AKC’s official publication, show that it, in fact it was show dogs that evolved into a significantly bigger setter than a dual dog circa 1890 to 2000. Indeed, John Taylor calls Gladstone "small," and compared to his beloved Ryman Setters, Gladstone, at 50 pounds, must seem so. But records show that Gladstone was one of the bigger among noted show AND trial dogs of his era.
Finally, and perhaps most convincingly, is the pictorial evidence. Most of the noted trial dogs of the 1874 -1907 era in question would not look out of place on a tie-out at an American Field trial today. A number of these early English setter field dogs have already been pictured. A particularly important example is that of Prince Rodney. Hochwalt referred to him as a prototype Llewellin "in both physical and temperamental qualities." Hochwalt also cited a bench record for the Prince, "particularly under practical judges." Even Mr. FitzGerald cites Prince Rodney’s bench success in his article on Dual setters, also touting the Prince’s ability to produce bench dogs. The following is an actual photograph of Prince Rodney. Again, he looks nothing like a bench setter of today and if he were on a chain gang at a grouse trial today, he would not look out of place.
As a post script, Ed Morgan recently came into possession of some AKC records and pedigree and claimed on the Cover dog Message Board that and concluded that the setters were "bench bred" from that era. After claiming that Gladstone was a bench champion, I checked the records and noted that Gladstone’s meager 3 bench wins came in 1878, or 6 years prior to the start of the AKC in 1884. According to Major Taylor, the AKC went back and recognized some of these dogs as champions .. sort of an institutionalized revision of history. Gladstone was a significant dog. That the AKC chose to name him champion many years after the fact was a smart thing to do. But it changes nothing about what a Gladstone looked like, what Llewellins looked like, and what bench shows were like in the nineteenth century, most of which I covered above. To suggest that Gladstone was a bench dog like an AKC bench English Setter of today is pure fancy.
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I May be Nuts
But Gimme A Passionate Bird Finder
When someone has an opinion that is very much against the grain sometime it is better just to keep it to himself. Probably I should exercise my right to remain silent.
Nevertheless, at great risk to my credibility, I am here and now, NOT going to remain silent and am instead going to go firmly against the grain: There are in fact several situations that if they occurred in a field trial today, a great many, if not every, judge would not hesitate but to order up the dog involved up. Not me.
My opinion, for what it’s worth (not much), simply differs greatly from the mainstream in these situations. The overused cliché tells us "judging is subjective," we understand and accept that different judges will see and interpret things differently from others. Of course, when the judges DO see it differently from us, we often get upset. "What the heck were THEY looking at!" we grumble. Apparently, judges are allowed to see things differently… but not TOO differently. But some of us do see things very differently. Here are those situations where I go against the flow and will NOT pick up the dog if I were judging:
Situation number 1: At a planted bird quail trial (it has happened at wild bird trials too), a dog is pointing and the bird flies at the dog. Without leaving the spot, the dog shags the bird like an outfielder (or tries to). OR, the bird is wet or cannot fly and makes the mistake of running right into the dog and literally, into the jaws of death.
Situation #2: A dog is hunting his merry way along when a grouse or a woodcock happens to come flying by, perhaps the gallery moved it; maybe the other dog moved it , or a deer, whatever, but dog in questions sees, turns with it, watches it land, works over in that direction and points it.
Situation #3: A dog is pointing, and the handler, after flushing considerably, intensively, and extensively, decides, much against his wishes, to relocate the dog. The dog is tapped on the head, or whistled up. The dog moves up hard and, after taking several step forward, a tight sitting woodcock flushes in its face and the dog stops in its tracks.
None of these actions would get the dog hooked with me judging. Before you call a loony bin to have me hauled off allow me to explain: We are, or should be, breeding BIRD DOGS, dogs with an INTENSE DESIRE AND DRIVE TO FIND AND POINT BIRDS.
That desire to find birds is what takes a dog through briar paths, over rocks, and up hills, and to the birds.
Once upon a time dogs that ‘sought the easy footing’ were not even considered for placement. Dogs that made an error on game, particularly an error of passion, were still favored over ‘errorless mediocrity’ as they called it. It is quite an education to read old American Fields and read about dogs chasing birds that were not automatically picked up and, if they were still the best dogs overall… they won.
By contrast, blinking, avoiding or being afraid of a bird, was the unforgivable sin. From the summary of the 1953 National Championship book (William F. Brown and Nash Buckingham) comes the following apt description of this passion that a trial dog should possess, "but since the days of of Colonel Arthur Merriam, with remembrances of Manitoba Rap and others, it has always been demanded that fire, drive, hunting zeal, and unquenchable determination to find birds be reflected in the work of the dog." Nothing in the passage mentions complete steadiness. A dog that didn’t LOVE to hunt birds was the one that was NOT considered.
Then things began to change. Dogs that chased a bird were no longer considered; they were ordered up and removed from the competition. Dogs that ran the paths and avoided cover, and generally were not hunting hard, by contrast, were NOT ordered up. Some of them, by golly have even been placed over the years. Not that judges WANTED to place dogs that were not hunting hard, but lots of judges have a hard time judging what is termed ‘application.’ Even when a judge DOES recognize a lackluster hunting effort, sometime there is little choice but to place the dog as it is sometimes the case where there are not many "clean" dogs to choose from.
'Clean' has become the name of the game. It is my contention that ‘no movement on birds’ has, in the minds of most field trial judges today, replaced the various manifestations of blinking as the most serious fault that a bird dog can exhibit. And after surpassing blinking, the trend toward motionlessness on game has continued right along: Dogs that didn’t chase, but moved just a little began to be ordered up. And Nowadays, in many circles, DOGS THAT EVEN TURN TO MARK A BIRDS FLIGHT are ordered up.
When we arrived at the point where, under many judges, a dog could not win if it budged even the slightest bit at flush or shot, even to mark a bird, many thought that the trend would have run its natural course. After all, dog that doesn’t move at all, by nature, can’t move any less. Right?
Wrong. In many places now if a dog wiggles its tail or drops its tail AFTER the bird is gone, there are judges that won’t use it. Then, in many circuits the ‘no movement’ trend moved from all-age dogs to spring derbies and then to fall derbies. It’s not much of a joke to imagine a dog being ordered up someday for 'blinking’ not because it avoided a bird, but because the movement of its eyelids was considered excessive. But then, even if your dog stands like a statue before, during and after the flush, doesn't move an eyelash, shows absolutely no inclination at all to go with the bird... your still not clear. If after your dog is released to go on hunting, your dog goes in the direction that the bird flew, it is called by many a "delayed chase" and will more often than not get you on the hook. Remember, however, that hunters follow up birds, have their dogs to mark and retrieve or point dead, and for much of field trial history pointing the coveys and having the dogs mark and work the singles was part of what a trial dog should do. Trying to mark and rework a bird was never a deadly sin until the label 'delayed chase' was put on it...'
Path runners and other wussies still are running merrily along and there less and less people who even recognize them for what they are. Moreover, if I have a dog that lacks either nose or concentration and bumps 1 out of every 4 birds, my chances of winning with that dog are greatly increased these days if he is NOT a good bird finder. If he finds lots of birds he is going to get ordered up every trial. If he finds 3 or less he’s got a shot at winning. Moreover, a dog obsessed with finding birds will sometimes fulfill that obsession and fall victim to what both hunters (for whom we trialers are allegedly providing breeding stock for) and most trialers of yesteryear would find sad if it weren't so comical: "the judges said they didn't place him because he found too many birds" or "he hunted too much."
For True Believers The Bible Sabbath Association (bible sabbath.org) is offering six prizes ($100 to $500) for essays supporting the seventh-day Sabbath -- that is, Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Only high school and college students who keep the Sabbath and are Christian may enter, and every applicant gets a free one-year subscription to The Sabbath Sentinel. This year contestants are invited to discuss what they would do if they were compelled to work on the Sabbath or lose their job. Essays must be handwritten, with a typed copy attached for easy reading by the judges.
For Dog People The Dog Writers Educational Trust (dw etinfo.com) is offering $1,000 college scholarships to at least a half-dozen essayists who produce 250 compelling words on why people own dogs. It helps if the writer is also a dog owner or, at least, has worked with dogs. One of last year's winners, for instance, trained military working dogs at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In the contest's 25 years, has a mutt -- or a mutt owner, to be precise -- ever won? ''I doubt that,'' says Hal Sundstrom, chairman of the trust.
For Wilde Fanciers Promoting its backlist, Penguin Putnam (penguinputnam.com) is offering five $1,000 scholarships for the best essay by a high school student on Oscar Wilde's ''Picture of Dorian Gray.'' Winners also get a Signet Classic library for their school. (Last year's book was Mary Shelley's ''Frankenstein.'' One winner lamented Victor Frankenstein's egotism and selfishness, clearly putting her out of the running for the Ayn Rand award.)
For Diplomats Giving peace a chance is the timely subject of two essay contests for high school students. The professional association of the United States Foreign Service (afsa.org) will pay $2,500 for the best essay describing how its members promote United States interests ''by participating in the resolution of today's major international problems.''
The United States Institute of Peace (usip.org) is offering a $10,000 college scholarship for the best 1,500-word essay about rebuilding societies after conflict. Essayists must provide ''practical recommendations on how to design and conduct a program of postconflict reconstruction that leads to stability and reconciliation.'' Perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize (upward of $1 million) would be more appropriate.
For Devoted Children Unfortunately, the most effortless essay competition has been canceled. Last year, College Parent Magazine (collegepar entmagazine.com) offered a $500 scholarship for an outstanding essay that had been submitted with a college application. ''Simply send us your favorite one, or if you are especially proud, send us all of them along with the topic assigned,'' the magazine's Web site urged parents.
Deluged with more than 45,000 submissions from readers, the publisher changed the topic this year. But, at least for parents, it's still heartwarming. The essay question: ''What was the most valuable way your parents helped you with the college application and selection process?''Continue reading the main story