Not a lot to say, other than we had an exciting time and definitely found our share of birds. We hunted hard and the girls did some excellent work and upped their game to meet the edginess of the mid-season birds. Not to be mistaken for the puppy friendly early season birds... Each dog was able to work and point Pheasant, Hungarian Partridge, and of course, Sharptailed Grouse on this blitz style 5-days of hunting trip. Sadly, I started off by missing some great opportunities to take game I had been gifted with. However, I managed to find my mojo at an undisclosed location and started filling the bag and completing great hunting sequences for the girls - which was nice. Here are a few shots, in no particular order, from the trip.
During hunting season, we have been taking some time to moonlight for Sage Canyon Outfitters guiding discerning clients on preserve hunts. I get to hunt the girls at least twice a day for some really good folks. The sets are rather generous, and we can easily expect 25 to 50 points per hunt... tailgate photos are about half the birds taken on each hunt (I must do a drop and call for support). Tule likes to sneak in for the group shots, while Ila and Powder prefer to lay in the shade and drink water, Fizzy tends to be all business unless there is mud to roll in. Here are only a few of the group photos from that vigorous five days! Enjoy
Mountain grouse, as they are called in Montana, are not for those weak in the knee or faint of heart. Sure, you don't need to be in Boston Marathon shape, but that would help a lot. I stayed with my longtime friend and we hunted with our collective friend who is seventy-six years of age! I hope to be at it like him when I get there! The easiest Dusky Grouse habitat in their area isn't really easy. You just take it easy, one step at a time, and trust the dog(s) to do their work. Since we don't sluice birds off the ground or out of trees, the shooting is a real challenge and means hard found birds can be lost as they make their escape through thick cover. A change in temperatures for the better, read coolerr, got the broods moving and we made good contact each day. Ila had injured a toe on the last day of her prairie hunting, and so it was eighteen-month-old Fizzy who hunted every day from the start to the end of the trip. Ila did get to hunt in the mountains for the morning hunt before we left town.
My Air Force career kept me from doing many of the things I wanted to do with my dogs. Long hours, working on my days off, deployments, travel, etc. A real sob story. So being able to do the "field work" I wanted to do with them was a far-off dream. These days, as long as things are working halfway decently, "playing with my dogs" is what I do.
Powder was initially trained by Dan Hoke of Dunfur kennels just outside of town. Dan is a GSP guy and has a field trail resume few can equal. Moreover, when Dan was a young fellow, he was an apprentice to Sigbot "Bodo" Winterhelt - The Bodo Winterhelt! Dan is a gifted dog handler for sure, and I will forever love watching him handle a dog I believe. He has a gift that is just magical! Still, he wasn't able to steady Powder up for whatever reason.
Powder has been a great companion to me. She is MY dog without question, and well in tune with me as one would hope (expect) from a Medical Alert Service Dog. In the field she has been a consistent producer, best yet she has become more proficient with each passing year. I have always wanted to do more with her steadiness for a long time now and this summer finally presented the opportunity I have been looking for!
This little video is kind of a big deal since Powder has spent most of her life treating gunfire in the field the same way Usain Bolt treated a starter's pistol sounding off! I had hoped to work on this last season, but she was injured, then pregnant, and went straight into hunting season just after the pup left. At 8 years of age, and only 4 dedicated training sessions for her this training season she now understands being steady to wing, shot, and release. So here we are, Team Hunting with Tule and Powder. This is their first co-session together. Tule did a great job of supporting Powder's initial point, so I gave her permission to come up and establish her own point, which she took advantage of. They worked well (even though Powder was a bit slippery as I walked in) and were nice and steady, overall, I'm really happy with them both. We use structure over force and high pressure. For her to demonstrate this level of steadiness with another dog in the mix is pretty awesome.
by Mark Dinsmore of L'Etoile du Nord Kennels
Well maybe not, since I am borrowing this from a breeder I have followed for the past decade, and odds are he has been inspired by other serious breeders and maybe a serious client… So, these aren’t my words, but we do share sentiment on how many prospective clients give too many breeders (fill in the breed of your choice, this isn’t a Drent or Spinone specific thing) an easy pass. I have permission to post this and have made a few light edits, mostly grammar and format for readability since this was originally a multi-part post. I will identify any additional thought(s) I have added with (Ed.). So without further ado:
One Breeder's Perspective
There has been an explosion of people starting to have litters (most certainly since the pandemic, Ed.). So how do you know if they are knowledgeable and have dogs that are worthy of breeding? Frankly, you don’t and many are not. I have decided to give my perspective on what someone looking at getting a puppy should be looking for, and some of the questions you should be asking.
I see a lot of people advertising puppies out of "Great" hunting parents. In fact, I don't think I have ever seen someone advertise anything less than that. Really? Every one of those dogs is a GREAT hunter. Says who? Sorry but reality is such that they all can't be great. Secondly, who is making that judgment?
Questions that should be asked:
First and foremost, can you go see the dog hunt? It is the old adage, seeing is believing. At a minimum, the breeder should be able to have a video for you to see of their dogs hunting.
What are they hunting? Wild Birds? Pen raised birds. It does make a difference. Wild birds are by definition wild. They will not tolerate a dog that is a sloppy hunter. A dog pressures the bird too much, the bird leaves. A pen raised bird will often just sit there. It doesn't matter that the dog is inches from it, frankly it has very little survival instinct or skills, it has never needed them. I have often seen where someone has had to pick up the bird and throw it, to get it to maybe fly. Also, a dog often doesn't need to hunt to find birds that have been put out for it. It is just an Easter Egg hunt. I understand that it can be hard for some people to hunt wild birds, and hence hunt planted birds. I will say at least the dog is getting to see some birds, but please don't say it is a great hunter, as you have no way of knowing if that is true.
How often do the dogs get to hunt? A couple of times a year for an hour or so? Doesn't really tell you much about the dog’s ability. To know just how good of a hunter a dog is, it needs to get out A LOT. It needs to hunt when the birds are plentiful, and more importantly when the birds are scarce. The truly great dogs will hunt all day to find that one bird, and not only will they be hunting, but they will also be hunting HARD.
I would caution you to take what you hear about their dogs being great, with a grain of salt. Remember, it is one person's opinion. Ask hard questions.
A bird dog is just that, a hunter of birds. But without training how can a dog rise to its true potential? Not all dogs are created equal. Training separates the wheat from the chaff. A Breeder needs to train their dog, before they can brag about how good they are. It is a question a prospective buyer should be asking.
Training shows a breeder a number of things. Does the dog have the brain and mindset to be able to handle training? Training is stressful for dogs, just as it is for humans. Not all dogs can handle that. It shows how quickly a dog can adapt to new situations, and trust me, they must be able to adapt in the field while hunting. It shows what level of intelligence a dog has. Dogs are not robots; they must be able to think in the field and make decisions while they are hunting. They must be able to learn where birds are likely to be. Training also shows biddability, the willingness to work with you.
So, your dog is a "Natural" and doesn't need to be trained. Sorry but NOPE. No one can tell me their dog wouldn't be better without training, not to mention without training you are not able evaluate to the afford mentioned comments on training. Case in point. Many of you have probably heard of a dog by the name of Vernon de L'Escarbot. Vern was a "Natural" at 4 months of age. He ran the field well, quartering, and always turning into the wind. He found and pointed birds and was staunch. He retrieved to hand starting with his first ever shot bird. Did he need to be trained. ABSOLUTELY. He would never have achieved the heights without the training, plus I would have not known just how good he truly was. ALL dogs will benefit from training. When asking a breeder how well their dogs are trained, don't accept them saying they are "Naturals", frankly in my opinion that is just a copout.
So, you are not as lucky as I am to live in the country with wide open tracts of land to run on, nor birds to train with. Send the dog out to a trainer. How can you say it is too expensive to do that, if you are making money selling the puppies out of those dogs? There are things I can't do training wise. Right now, I have a young dog with a trainer to be trained to be handled off a horse. I don't have a horse at this time, so I can't train him. I went online, posted what I was looking for, Found, met with and dropped off Styx for training with the trainer, all in less than 24 hours. (We too needed a trainer with a horse, we did our own search, made the appointment, and was part of the training event. We did what was needed to ensure our dog was set up for success. It was a super cool afternoon to boot, Ed.).
A reputable trainer will have trained the dogs they are breeding. That doesn't mean they have to fully broke, but they need to go through some level of formal training to learn their strengths and weaknesses, and suitability for breeding.
Knowledge of the breed
A reputable breeder should possess a good amount of knowledge of the breed. It doesn’t mean they have to know everything, but they should have a good grasp on many subjects.
At a minimum:
A breeder should know the history of the breed.
What the conformation standard of the breed is and where their dogs fit in that. They should be able to articulate why their dogs are in standard and not just say they are in standard. Be able to list strengths and more importantly weaknesses, and EVERY DOG has weaknesses.
What the working standard of the breed is, meaning how they are supposed to hunt, and not simply say their dogs are good or great hunters. Every single one says they have good or great hunters. Do you really think every dog is great? They should be able to tell you exactly why they are great, based on the working standard, not based on what their opinion is. Sadly, most people don’t know how the dogs are supposed to hunt.
A breeder should know the lineage of their dogs, not just say they are great lines, but rather why they are great lines and what the titles mean. I am amazed when someone says they are “Champion lines” but then don’t even know what the titles mean and the requirements to achieve them. Always remember a pedigree is just a piece of paper. Too many people just breed dogs based that piece of paper, not based on the actual dog. Remember, you are buying a dog, not a piece of paper!
Do your due diligence and ask questions. A reputable breeder wants questions (Ed.). If they can’t answer your questions or give you vague answers, is that what you want? I suspect you aren’t looking for a vague dog.
Conformation, aka the breed standard.
What is conformation, and what does it have to do with the breed standard? Is it important?
The simple answer to the second question is a resounding YES!! A breed standard is how we define a dog breed. It lists out the attributes a dog is supposed to have to be considered a particular breed. Without breed standards, simply put, we don't have individual dog breeds. Surprisingly, and more so, sadly, a lot of people breeding dogs don't think it is that big of a deal. SERIOUSLY??!! All they care about is function in the field (or some other narrow band of traits, Ed.). That is a ridiculous assertion.
A breed standard dictates how a dog moves in the field and hunts (and quite possibly much more depending upon the breed and its standard, Ed.). If a dog is out of standard, it may not run properly, and that leads to decreased stamina, and wear on the dog's joints. Which can lead to increased (number of and severity of, Ed.) injuries and shorten the hunting career of a dog. In this regard a breed standard is vitally important.
Conformation is how well a dog adheres to the breed standard. No dog is perfect, let me repeat that, NO DOG IS PERFECT! All dogs have areas where they are weaker, as well as areas where they are stronger. In France, I don't know about the rest of Europe, to be registered a dog must go in front of a Conformateur, after the age of one. If they don't meet a minimum standard, they cannot be registered. (This is not common in Europe, I've shown dogs in the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, but I see a tremendous amount of value in such a system. The Dutch have Breeder's Day where mated pairs of dogs are invited to be shown with their offspring as a unit and individually in an effort to gauge the success of creating the next generation of Drents. This is an ideal time to learn about the breed, Ed.). In the show ring dogs are rated, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Insufficient. At the CEB-US dogs are given a written evaluation so a breeder can know the strengths and weaknesses of their dogs (At Breeder's Day and other similarly formatted shows Drents are given a detailed written evaluation much in the same way, Ed.). Remember, the evaluation is only as good as the Judge (italics, Ed.), so things do have to be taken with a grain of salt (No truer words have been spoken or written! Ed.). They don't always get an expert for the breed to do it, and yes that can make a difference. (In North America there are no qualified judges for the Drent, and for the Spinone not all approved judges are well versed in the breed standard oftentimes selecting a few elements and hanging the whole enchilada on that versus a balanced approach...but I digress. In short don't rely on a judge to be the one to tell you about your dog - learn the breed, what's right and what's not, Ed.).
How does this all apply to breeding, you ask? Well, if you don't know the weaknesses of your dog, how can you improve it? Knowledge is power, the more knowledge you have of your breeding dog, the better decision(s) you can make when it comes to pairing dogs. One of the purposes of breeding is to better the breed, you need that knowledge to be able to attempt to do that.
Sadly, right now, as far as I can tell, the purpose of a lot of people breeding dogs is to make some money (Breeding dogs to make money in my experience is laughable, Ed.). It is not a bad thing to make money, but it is a bad thing if you don't really know anything about the breed or the dogs you are using, because then you are only doing it to (try to, Ed.) make money. Remember, you should also be trying to better the breed. Without a doubt some breeders have a lot of knowledge about the breed, but sadly most do not. Try asking the breeder you are talking to, "Where are your dogs lacking?" I would be willing to bet you will be greeted with a pause, if you even get an answer at all, and then a response that says their dogs have great conformation, or something like that. That is not an answer to what you asked. I can tell you the strengths of all my dogs, and more importantly the weaknesses, any breeder should be able to do that (we can as well and happily bore you to tears talking each dog's ups and downs, Ed.).
Remember, knowledge is power.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of participating in my first ever IABCA Show with Ila. The IABCA has a unique format where they limit the number of entries, so each exhibitor gets some one-on-one time with the judge. Also, the judge will provide a limited written critique on your dog against its breed standard. Judges are both foreign and domestic, some are new, others may have quite the resume!
The IABCA format allows you to show your dog a lot, if you signed up for everything that your dog is eligible for. Our two days were composed of four shows, two each day! Judges evaluate an entire Group, e.g. Sporting group, one breed at a time, then judge the group as a whole. With a brief lunch break, Groups are rotated to a new judge and then you show again. At the end of the day the first show gets all its "Best in Show" dogs run, then the second show follows soon after. It makes for a full day of dog showing! On day two, with shows three and four, everyone is rotated again, so your dog gets seen by a new judge. The only difference is there will be a few special categories run, and then at the very end any dog who earned a Best in Show placement from any of the preceding shows can compete to see who won the whole enchilada!
For a rare breed there is no other way to build that much ring time! In all Ila was shown seven times on each day (in the blazing heat I might add) and should have been shown at the final event, but I was unaware of her eligibility to do so.
The IABCA has multiple categories which are treated as their own individual show. I find this to be interesting, and depending on your situation, you can enter your dog under multiple categories and squeak out an extra show and the possibility to win!
The downside for a rare breed like the Drent (or super low entry breed like the Spinone), just as in conventional showing (AKC or UKC), judges truly have little or no knowledge of your breed. Most assuredly they have not taken Judge's Education for the breed! Sure, they have the breed standard at their side, but that alone isn't sufficient to make a full and legitimate judgement. Of interest Ila's judges stuck to what they knew - movement. Then quickly perused the standard and went back over certain aspects of her during the write up phase to see if she matched what they believed they had read. All in all, most observations made were pretty good, and mostly accurate.
There were a few observations that were a bit comical. For example, one judge would have liked to see Ila with more muscle! In reality, she is the most well-muscled female Drent I have ever seen. She has surpassed her mother in that department, which is saying something. I'm not sure what she was expecting, but I took a moment to explain to the judge that Ila was a hoss for her breed. The other item that sticks out at the moment is the judge would have liked to seen more hair on Ila's ears... I of course explained to her that what she was seeing was a correctly groomed Drent, and that Drents with shaggy ears were in fact ungroomed savages living at the local homeless camp - this got a lot of laughter from her.
In principle you show your dog like you would at any other dog show, but you get face time with the judge and a critique. Dogs are rated on a scale of three to one (one being the best) on their overall conformation to the breed standard. The judge can grade some, all, or none the top grade and so on. Still there will be only one winner from each breed, with placements of first through third... At the group level, be it "Bred by" or regular, Dogs can be placed first through third with the first-place winner being able to go on to compete in the Best in Show. There are more classes to compete in, and each class is treated as its own show, and consequently there are more opportunities to win rosettes at the end of the day.
If your dog receives good grades, you can apply for IABCA titles. If anything, this is the one area the IABCA could be more protective of. The number of top grades needed is surprisingly low. If you have a nice dog, odds are it will grade well enough, and therefore become eligible in short order for a title. It then should go without explanation, Ila qualified for her International Champion title, and only needs one more point for her second IABCA title.
The titles are not what will bring me back though. Overall, the shows were well organized and ran efficiently. Their group awards, little medallions, are a tad outdated/silly. But their Best in Show rosettes are quite nice. For me it will be the ability to put my dog in the ring and have fun talking about her and educating others about her breed. There were plenty of people excited to see and pet their first Drent!
We used to send this by email to our clients many months in advance, now it lives here getting updated from time to time and the link finds its way to your inbox. Yes, we know, it could be a year or more before a new Two Gun pup will cross the threshold into your home. Which means, right now is a wonderful time to start looking into different training options and methods, as there is little pressure. You can read, ask questions, seek out advice, find a local trainer: observe training sessions, etc. and really see what is going to work for you. Making these kinds of decisions once you have the puppy is a whole lot like attempting to fix an airplane while it is in flight...generally not advisable. So here it is, I have dusted off the Recommended Reading list yet once again.
What do these books have in common? They are in tune with modern canine behavioral science vs. the old school ways. We believe in working smarter and not harder whenever possible and these resources will certainly help you to do so.
Don't Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training, by Karen Pryor
The Puppy Primer, by Patricia B. McConnell
- for that matter, any Patricia B. McConnell book on training/dog behavior
How to raise a puppy you can live with, by Clarice Rutherford
When Pigs Fly! Training Success with Impossible Dogs, by Jane Killion, founder/creator of Puppy Culture. This book picks up where we left off with the Puppy Culture protocols, we used with our puppies and isn't just for "impossible" dogs! However, those who are intending to develop your Drent for field work please disregard pages 80-84 her ball & tug games run contrary to your aim.
Dog Sense, by John Bradshaw
The Genius of Dogs, by Brian Hare
Absolutely Positively Gundog Training, by Robert Milner. To learn the mechanics of "Positive/ Force Free Training" and developing a retrieve based on stimulus control.
The Drentsche Patrijshond for the North American Fancier, by B. P. O'Connor
Since we have you here in the mindset to learn and read. In short, the "early" pediatric spay/neuter is being strongly implicated/tied to joint irregularities, tendon injury, and even increased the risk of many cancers, amongst many other developmental issues, please take some time to review these scientific articles:
There are also some great training resources on the internet:
Leerburg / The Michael Ellis School for Dog trainers: Michael Ellis is considered by many to be one of the World's Greatest dog trainers. He uses LIMA principles to achieve incredible performance from a wide range of dogs for all types of dog sport. Michael's system covers a wide range of topics and is both highly effective, humane, and applicable to all aspects of canine sports.
McCann Dog Training: I am a big fan of McCann as they offer a wide range of well put together videos covering all manner of training challenges using Rewards and Markers, and even offer online courses here.
Dog Training by Kikopup: Run by Emily Larlham, owner operator of Dogmantics. She shares her impressive skill with easy to learn and follow videos for the regular person. Solving unusual problems suddenly got easier, if not surprisingly fun using her methodology.
Higgins GunDogs: Mr. Higgins has used his experience and background in training falcons for the benefit of gun dogs. This method hinges upon a dog's natural cooperation with his boss/co-hunter. The Higgins method isn't exactly 100% fully force and pressure free as its creator pitches. However, the Higgins Method presents stress to the dog in a minimalist and constructive fashion and is without question the best overall and most humane, system for training and managing a high drive gun dog! We use the Higgins Method with all our dogs.
Regular visitors to this spot will note I have included Standing Stone Kennels, removed them, reinstated them, and now note they are off again... They have been moving in the right direction. It is important to note that SSK pays their bills by producing content on a rapid production cycle. So, it is important to recognize that the quality of their content varies widely. A knowledgeable trainer can easily sort the wheat from the chaff whereas the novice may not. Therefore, my best advice is to use their content with objective care, or leave it be if you don't know what good training looks like.
How do you make long arranged and much anticipated breeding plans sweeter? Well, you have the stud you selected over two years ago win big! Bono Cooper van de Bezelhonk, aka, Bono recently won the 2022 Vereniging De Drentsche Patrijshond Championship Club Match, #1 of 106 Drents present for the event! We couldn't be happier, or prouder!
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I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Forty some years later this is what you get.