Vizsladogs, Ltd.

The AKC's Junior Hunter

By Jane Toadvin (Shong)  This article (among others) "were sent by Jane Toadvin (Shong) with the goal to educate us new to the hunting talents of our vizslas. If you are wondering who Jane Toadvin (Shong) is…. well she is a many faceted woman. To me she has been sort of a guidance counselor. One who offers advice that comes from years of experience and has nothing to gain personally from me following it. I have only met her once but that meeting has changed my life. She introduced me to the world of the vizsla through her knowledge and friendship. She steered me toward the right choice when my impatience sent me in other directions." Don Bonnice We are glad that permission was granted to reprint the article here.

 Describing JH

  • I am sure there are plenty of folks who can do a better job of this than me but I had a couple talks with folks earlier today about this and guess I'd better give it a shot. As we are discussing asking for a JH leg at Nationals for a BRB class...guess it would be nice if folks knew what a JH was and how you get it. (Deb. Stern....jump in here any time!) JH stands for Junior Hunter. by Junior the AKC means it is not a broke gun dog yet. This means the dog is not obligated to be steady to wing and shot(Stand still and not chase the bird) or honor(back up a pointing dog) or retrieve (bring a downed bird to you). In fact, for the MANY folks out there who object to killing things....all you shoot in JH is a blank pistol. It is a WONDERFUL thing for everyone with Vs to try.

  • How JH is evaluated

  • JH is judged in 4 different areas....
    1. HUNTING: This means the dog DOES NOT actively goes forth and seeks birds.

    2.BIRD FINDING: this means the dog uses it NOSE to locate birds and actually finds at least one.

    3.POINTING: this means the dog actually HOLDS the point long enough for you to get at least into gun range.

    4.TRAINABILITY:this means the dog shows adequate ability, RESPONDS to the handler, and has the MANNERS that it could become a good hunting dog.

    The most wonderful thing about the JH is that a TOTAL novice can do it. That MOST show bred dogs CAN do it. And that it is FUN! You do NOT need a PRO trainer. You do NOT need to spend lots of time training the dog. It is at it's most basic, a measure of Natural Ability in all 4 areas being evaluated. MOST Vs can do this with NO problem!!! Even most show bred Vs! The point of the QIF for the BRB class is to identify those FEW DOGS that cannot do this...and no matter how pretty...BE AWARE of the problem in the future breeding of the dogs.

    Ok...lets start with hunting ability: While there is certain to be some disagreement from judge to judge. Basically a dog that heels around the course will not pass. With many judges if the dog gets out there and tries it will. By gets out there and tries I mean the dog is at least 50 feet away...going back and forth, covering ground and ACTIVELY LOOKING FOR BIRDS. The dog that is out for a walk in the park us NOT what we want.

    Bird finding ability: Here the judges are evaluating the dogs he using his nose to locate the game? Or is he walking along and sight points a bird walking down the road? What most judges want to see is a dog who is able to "make" a bird with his nose.

    Pointing: Ok....the judges want to see a dog that LOCKS into a point when it finds a bird and stays there until you flush the bird. Foot up or whatever, pretzel points are allowed. Usually in JH, depending on the judges, you can still pass if the dog busts the bird and chases it But a FLASH point will not get you a pass.

    Trainability: This one is more subjective...more up to the individual judge. It combines manners...did your dog bust the other dogs bird? Does it chase flushed birds into the next county? Will your dog come when it is called? Potential .oh we get VERY vague but I think it means the judge can see in his mind that this dog is gonna be a good hunting dog. This call is based on the judges experience having seen many young dogs starting out. And finally, to some well you and the dog work together. AND Folks...I don't know it all...any of you judges want to add or correct PLEASE feel free to do so!!!! I'm trying to keep this down to the basics though at this point.

  • Scoring

  • First off...any hunt judges that want to expand on or correct any of this stuff...PLEASE FEEL FREE!

    Scoring...Hunt tests are judged on a scale of 0 to 10 against the judges interpretation of the standard for a hunting dog per AKC. . I used to say 1 to 10 but I have since seen a V completely zero out...twice. Each of the two judges watches your dog and rates it, 0 to 10, in each of the 4 areas we have discussed. They are required to kind of agree. One judge can't give you a 2 while the other gives you a 10. Both judges scoring is then added together and averaged. The thing that gets confusing here is that you would think that an average dog would be a 5. Not need an average score of 7 to pass (with nothing less than a 5)so the MINIMALLY ADEQUATE dog is a 7. This applies across the board from JH to MH so you can see that just having the title doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. Because the scoring is so skewed you also tend to see an exponential scale in how good the dog is upwards from 7 to 10. So with 7s being a minimally adequate dog. 8s are then generally a good average hunting dog. 9s a really good dog. And 10s...well, in the words of former AKC president , GSP President Ken Marsden "As fine a dog as your gonna see." Of course all this does depend on the judge. <G> Some of them are kind of "out there" when it comes to what is minimally adequate.<LOL>

  • Comparative scoring.

  • Ok...I'm going to try and describe several dogs performances and give you an idea of where these dogs would score. AGAIN...different judges...different scores.<G> Feel free to jump in anytime. Ok...this is a real case. Hunting: the dog healed throughout almost the entire course at a flat walk Score 0. Bird finding: the dog walked through a covey of birds, was frightened by them and hid behind his handlers knees. Score 0 Pointing: no point at all. Score 0 Trainability: On top of everything else...The dog laid down in the shade and wouldn't come when called. .This dog has had multiple tries at JH. Score 0 Average score 0 Outlook for this dog...give it up.

    Dog number 2 Hunting: the dog runs out happy and tail wagging about 50 feet...turns around, runs back to the handler, does a bounce off, runs out again, and back again, and out again and so on. Score 4. the dog is not hunting, he's just out for a walk. Bird finding: in the process of happily running back and forth the dog scents a bird...obviously starts acting birdy and follows the scent for some distance and goes on point. Score 7. He did a nice job on finding the bird with his nose, behavior was consistent with a bird dog. Pointing: Point is pretty nice , good Intensity and style, and is held for a reasonable amount of time but when the handler tries to approach and flush the bird the dog busts it and takes off chasing it, eventually returning when called. Score 7, in JH they do not have to be steady. Trainability: Based on the above...the dog did not hunt very well but did show more enthusiasm once a bird was found. He did chase the bird but eventually answered recall. There is some potential being shown but the dog needs more experience to know it's OK to go out and hunt and to not chase the birds. Score 6, almost but not quite. Average score 6 not quite a pass, plus the 4 in hunting would preclude a pass. Outlook for this dog...try again!!!! the dog has the potential, just needs to figure out the game!

    Dog #3: Hunting: the dog breaks away at a lope and gets out about 50 feet. He makes nice side to side casts and is actively seeking the objectives within the range that he is working in. He's not running fast but he keeps moving and is actively hunting. Score 7. Bird Finding; The dog has multiple finds, making the birds at a good distance away and carefully zeroing in on them. He is not however hitting all the objectives because of his close range. Score 7 Pointing: the dog has a really pretty point and no problem holding it but when the handler approaches looks at the handler and wags his tail. He does hold through the flush until sent on but there is a distinct loss of intensity. Score 7 Trainability: This is a nice well mannered dog. He handles well. Is probably gonna make a real nice meat dog. He's having fun but is just not showing a lot of fire. Score 7 Average score 7. PASS! Outlook: Keep going!

    Dog #4: Hunting: the dog breaks away fast and to the front, covering ground making big wide casts and eating up the entire course from side to side as well as to the front. The dog is actively seeking every cover objective and nose up using the wind seeking birds. The dog is an absolute red flash, hunting hard and smart. The judges are standing in the saddle to see the dog 100 yards or more out there. The handler whistles to change direction and the dog instantly responds running to the front again , making big wide casts and still hunting hard. Score 10. Bird Finding: The dog is pushing the limits of the course and hitting objectives fast, almost but not quite over-running his nose. He has multiple finds in places the other dogs are not even getting to and slams hard pretzel points. He is making birds 20 to 30 feet away or more and turning on a dime and zeroing in on them. This dog is sucking up every bird on the course. Score 10 Pointing: This dog is jamming points...incredible intensity although some of them are absolute pretzels the ones he hits straight on are picture perfect. He holds his point while the handler approaches, which takes a while because the dog is out there, and he holds through the flush until released by the handler to go on. He never moves a toe or loses intensity. Score 10 Trainability: The dog has responded to his handlers every wish quickly and with great manners. Despite running big and hunting hard he has maintained contact with the handler and the two were a well oiled bird finding machine. When the dog approached its bracemate also pointing a bird the dog slammed into a solid back more than 50 feet away and held through the flush until sent on. Score 10 Average score 10...Outlook: get into field trial too.

    Ok., we have covered a lot of what is expected of your dog in order to get a JH. Soooo... How about YOU the handler? The best thing a novice can do running JH is shut up and trust your dog. Do not call your dog back when it goes out to hunt. Do not call your dog off a bird. Do not say "find the birdy"(unless you LIKE seeing judges laugh themselves out of the saddle). Do not keep talking or whistling at your dog and distracting him. LEAVE HIM ALONE . He has better senses than you and certainly better instincts. Just go for the 15 or 20 minute walk with the dog, let him do his thing, and when he finds a bird, go kick it up and shoot your blank pistol. Can you HELP your dog?...certainly. Go walk a brace a couple ahead of when your dog is being run. If you know the course you can help your dog by being able to walk quickly and with confidence. This will translate into a better more confident run on your dog. If the dog turns to come back to you...walk quickly TOWARD the dog and let him know it's all right to go on...this will push him out more. And if while you were out there on the course you happened to notice where the bird planters where putting the birds<G>....well, it always helps if you can get your dog to where a bird is. Also, if you have a dog that is not showing a lot of fire...go to the breakaway a brace early and HOLDING ON TO HIM...let him watch what is going on. He will see the other dogs break away. And depending on the course...maybe see them find birds. ..see birds flying...smell those birds from the distance and hear the shooting. This should help get him excited...fired up to go find those lovely birds. I have seen this make the difference between a 7 and a 9 in an ALL show bred dog.

  • Getting ready

  • what do you need to run JH?

    #1You need a starting can get these at a gun shop or do mail order. Costs start at about $20 and go up to about $180. I f you have one dog and are just doing this for the one title and do not intend to get MVD...skip it and borrow one. The Hunt Test Secretary(the person sitting at the table doing all the work)<G> will help you find one to use. Just ask. They might be stressed but they are nice people. If you want your own...still one dog and no MVD, go with the $20 one. If you think you are gonna get into this...the $20 gun is a piece of junk...find one in the $60 to $80 range. Gonna go PRO? Buy the best there won't break on you when you need it.

    #2 You will need crimps (Blank bullets). These come in several LOADS. The green are a little tiny pop...yellow is louder and red is a pretty good KABOOM. Check you dog for sound sensitivity. Come up behind him with a kettle and wooden spoon and BANG! If he dives under the table...go for the green. If he turns around and wags at you, go for the red. If you don't know, stick to green. BTW...always hold the gun behind your back and shoot. Do NOT hold it up cowboy style by your ear. That Hurts YOU. not the dog. Oh, costs on crimps are about $5 a 100. CHEAP. Oh, if you can use red, do so...more closely approximates the shotgun blast at the advanced levels.

    #3 you need a already have one right? A short leash you can clip to your belt is best though. I actually like horse tie downs the best. I can adjust them really short so I'm not tripping on them on the course. #4 You should have 2 ORANGE and one another BRIGHT color(Hot PINK is even OK). The dog at the top of the brace(first listed) dog gets an orange collar...the dog at the bottom gets the other color. Don't worry about it unless you are braced with another V...the judges use the collars to identify the similar looking dogs, so if you are braced with Brittany, no problem. Collars cost about $5 each. can borrow one if you need to. Pester the poor Secretary again<G>.So...if you show up and borrow stuff(DON'T feel's NORMAL<G>) Your cost are $0. If you really want to get into it you are still looking at less than $200.

  • Prepping Your Dog.

  • are one of those people who are always prepared...a good boy scout(or girl scout). So you want to have your dog prepared as well. 1st: make sure your dog is in good health and physical condition. Like on any couch potato, a 20 minute run can be pretty hard on him so you want him in shape. Ideally...not too much excess fat...a little leaner and more muscled up than show condition but most dogs do fine in show condition as well. Nice thing about a V, you can run hunt test one day and show the next. 2nd: your dog is going out to hunt birds. If he has never met one it might be a little hard for him to figure out what's expected of him. Most dogs therefore might blow their first attempt at JH but have it figured out pretty well on day 2. IF you can...get him a quail and introduce them first. There are a LOT of ideas on how to do this but on a dog that has never met a quail before I treat him like a puppy. Now don't call the animal rights people on me!!!! What I do is pull the flight feathers out of the bird and let the dog get it. Just toss it for him and let him chase it down and GET IT! Yes...I sacrifice the bird. I also make him give it back to me when he is done having fun and skin and clean it and cook it with wild rice and scallions.(if the dog didn't eat it first) This is intro one. Intro 2 is go hide the bird , it's called "planting" it. You spin and dizzy the bird (yes, a FRESH bird<G>)and hide it in a bush then let the dog go and find it. Hopefully the dog will point. If the dog busts it the bird will fly away...a few times of this and the dog will learn that if he busts the bird he doesn't get to enjoy it anymore because it is gone.... so he learns to hold point. You can also put a long rope on the dog, called a checkcord, and if the dog tries to bust the bird correct him with a pull and yelling whoa. I do not like to do this at JH but at SH/MH you may have to. Or if you can't get quail that will fly.... you don't want the dog to learn he can catch the birds. It's called "breaking" the dog and , just don't want um so broke they won't hunt at all anymore. At JH, I'd rather the dog be having fun. JH is not the place for control freaks. Intro 3 is go plant several quail on a course and take your dog out to find them ...simulating the JH event as much as possible. Even running him with a strange dog will help. Can't get quail? how about pigeons? Nope?....try quail scent on a rag. Still no?....don't worry about it...your dog will still probably do just fine!!!!! Remember... he's a bird dog! 3rd: feed yourself and your dog a good high carbohydrate supper and drink plenty of fluids the night before. You won't want either of you to eat a lot before you run. I do give my dogs Nutrical about 20 minutes before they have to run . Not a necessity though. Oh, and make sure he has a potty stop first.

    Still feel like you need an edge? Chances are your local club had some Field Fun days....go, try, listen, learn. Real competitive???? Another trick is to prep your dog for the breakaway. The breakaway is where the two dogs in the brace are released side by side to go and find the birds.

    We'll discuss some tricks here next. Any of you judges out there....or HT/FT people...PLEASE feel free to throw in your opinions and training tricks too!!! First of all...this is NOT something you have to do in order for your dog to earn his JH. Most dogs can do fine without this. But it looks good to the judges right from the start so keeping in mind first impressions couldn't hurt if you have the time and means to do it. And it isn't my idea....I heard about it from Jim Busch. A nice man who is always more than willing to help newbies. As I said, the breakaway is the starting point of the JH course. The two dogs in the brace are brought to the starting line...then released at the same time to start hunting. Your dog will look the best if he takes off running and hunting immediately as opposed to playing with the other dog. So how do you get your happy lovely V puppy to do this? The best way is for your dog to KNOW that when you let him go there are going to be BIRDS out there to find. This means getting some MORE birds to expose him to. To give the dog the idea...I have someone hold him TIGHT(you can also crate him just so he can see you)...and show him a bird. Then I walk out a ways and plant it. Always try to plant the bird in some kind of objective...this means a bush or line of brush or something that visually gives your dog a clue, as birds will move to protective locations anyway and a bird planted in the open is going to leave. Come back and release the dog. The dog had been watching and is going to go straight to the bird....FAST! I then pick up the dog and praise him and put him up for awhile to think about it. Then repeat the process but planting the bird FARTHER away. I will do this over the course of several training days until when I go to plant the bird I am walking clean out of sight of the dog. Then I up the ante to 3 birds planted along a 15 minute course. Finally, I brace the dog with another dog and repeat the 3 bird course. What you have now taught your dog....break away fast...get out there and run...and find the birds. And the dog FIRMLY believes that there will be birds to find. Plus YOU have now walked about a zillion miles planting birds and are in a lot better shape than you used to be<LOL>. I also know people who use hotdogs for the first part of this process then switch over to birds. If you can, vary the location where you do the training perhaps even using the grounds where the hunt test will be held. You want the dog to believe that no matter where you are...when he is released there WILL be birds to find. So, no birds, no time, no place to train? NO PROBLEM! Odds are good that your dog will do fine ANYWAY! But the training time is half the FUN! BTW...a lot of people like to use a whistle(like a coaches whistle) to TOOT the dog on at the breakaway. communicate with the dog in the field, and tell him to come at the end(this is called picking up your dog). So if you want to add a whistle to your shopping list they cost maybe $5. You use different tweets to mean different things. If you can't yell loud...go with the whistle. I prefer to use my voice because the dog is not going to confuse my voice with the other handler out there like he might do with a whistle. I only use 4 commands..."All Right"...this means GO. "YO DOG" this means pay attention to me, used for changing directions and stuff. "Whoa" this means stay still and hold. Used on a point or a back or honor. And "Come Dog" when it's time to pick him up or if you need to call him off chasing a bird. The rest of the time I shut up, walk briskly, and trust my dog. The command "find the birdy" is kind of not what you are going for here.<G>

  • Manners...for YOU not the dog.

  • Every sport has it's own little quirks and mannerisms. Hunt test is no different.
    Some DOs are; DO show up early so you can figure out what is going on and you and your
    dog can get used to things.

    DO check the running order so you know in advance where your brace is so you can be prepared.

    DO make sure you get to the breakaway ON TIME...making the judges wait for you is NOT the way to impress them.

    DO make sure you have all the stuff you are going to need together in advance. Starting pistol Leash whistle(optional) dog(not optional)<G>

    DO tell the judges you are new so they can help you...they ARE there to HELP you qualify.

    DO give the secretary a chance to total the scores before you start bugging her/him.

    DO congratulate those who qualify.

    DO show up in field appropriate clothing....jeans and hiking boots or sneakers.

    DO bring a chair and a cooler of drinks and stuff and a place for your dog to be.(crate or stake and chain)

    DO, if possible find a shady spot where your dog can wait his turn in relative comfort.

    DO allow your dog a chance to go pee and poo before he runs.

    DO allow people their space...sometimes folks get kind of focused and you can always visit afterwards.

    DO remember to say thank you and buy a beer for anyone you had to borrow stuff from.

    DO hang out after everything is done and talk to the experienced people there.... "pick their brains" if you will. And DO buy them beer too so they will want to bother to talk to the Newbie<LOL>.

    Some DON'Ts

    DON'T mess around with other peoples dogs. You may see some dogs out on chains or chain gangs and it is not good manners to walk through them making them all bark like crazy.

    DON'T argue with the judges. Rule #1 The judges are always right...when the judges are wrong see
    rule #1.<BG>

    DON'T be a pest...listen, watch, and learn.

    DON"T let you dog off lead until the breakaway, or after the pick up.

    DON'T throw a fit if you doesn't qualify. Look at your scores and see where you can improve your dogs performance. In case where the judging is off the wall...just don't run under that judge again. and DON"T say "find the birdy".<LOL>

  • In conclusion

  • To conclude the series on getting started in JH there are several things I would like to emphasize:
    1st...most Vs can do JH with no training at all. The training ideas are just things that will help you and your dog get the idea and it's half the fun. It is NOT something you have to do. But it is a kick doing it.<G> 2nd...even all show bred Vs, mostly, can do JH. 3rd...JH is a great way for anyone, young or old, with no experience, to get into field events. If you can go for a 20 minute walk you can do it. If you can't, there are often new found friends there who will handle your dog for you, for free. 4th...If you have never had the opportunity to see your dog do what is was meant to do, get ready to see the V at it's most beautiful. It is a breathtaking experience to see your dog run and hunt and then lock into point! 5th...JH is best described as a natural ability test, so relax and have fun! 6th..Spayed/neutered/ and out of standard Vs can run JH so everyone can come out and play! Pet people too! find out when and where Hunt tests are being held, contact your regional V club. If you don't know who to get in touch with ,e-mail me privately, I have the US club listings anyway. also get a really nice JH Certificate from the AKC, suitable for framing, and some nice big orange rosette ribbons. Ok, so this is not a big deal to everyone but for those just getting started in the sport of dogs it's pretty nice.< G> can also run JH at GSP, Brittany, and any other pointing breed test.

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