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.
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....
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.
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 NOSE....is 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 wow..here 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 degree..how 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.
First off...any hunt judges that want to expand on or correct any of this stuff...PLEASE FEEL FREE!
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.
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.
Ok...so what do you need to run JH?
#1You need a starting pistol...you 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 is...it 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 leash...you 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 collars....one 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. Again...you can borrow one if you need to. Pester the poor Secretary again<G>.So...if you show up and borrow stuff(DON'T feel bad....it'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.
Ok...you 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 , well...you 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.
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 count...it 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.
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>.
DON'T argue with the judges. Rule #1 The
judges are always right...when the judges are
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>
To conclude the series on getting started in
JH there are several things I would like to