Show Gundog Working Certificate day
HPRs prove their worth on bench and in the field
In an effort to maintain the working capabilities of gundog breeds, Kennel Club rules state that until a dog can be regarded as a champion, it must provide evidence of its working ability if its qualification has been gained solely in the show-ring. Until that time it can only be described as a Show Champion.
The Show Gundog Working Certificate was introduced to enable dogs to attain the qualification without both dog and owner being exposed to the stress of field trial pressures. It has often been derided in certain circles and doubtless not without some justification, as a watered-down qualification or an inferior route to full championship status.
However, this attitude was certainly given the lie at an event, which took place in Norfolk on Tuesday January 8th. This was the first SGWC day organised by the Large Munsterlander Club and held by kind permission of shoot captain Steve Brieth on his excellent Watering Farm estate.
The full card of twelve entrants was made up of a good selection of HPR breeds with three Large Munsterlanders, three German Wirehaired Pointers, two Hungarian Vizslas, two Brittanys, a German Longhaired Pointer and a Weimaraner. Of these, four were Show Champions.
Before the off, the contestants were promised by the judges that since it was a dedicated show gundog day, rather than being tagged onto a field trial as is usual, each dog would be given ample opportunity to demonstrate its working ability. They were also warned that there would be no giveaways and every certificate would have to be earned.
Throughout the day the action took place in woodland varying from birch scrub to stands of mature of spruce with dense beds of dry bracken and patches of bramble. The weather was ideal, overcast with a fresh breeze, which was mostly neutralized by the trees except in clearings and rides.
The quality of the ground was quickly made evident when the first dog down encountered pheasant, woodcock, hare and muntjac on its beat and this steady supply of game continued throughout the day with only short interruptions. The pheasants gradually became scarcer as the day went on but this is hardly surprising with January birds.
However this deficiency was more than compensated for by the presence of woodcock and it soon became apparent that this was a favourite woodcock roost, which was confirmed by the fact that a total of 54 was counted during the day. This fact gave every dog exposure to the bird on its own beat and in virtually every case this was the dog’s first encounter with the bird. Indeed the birds were so numerous that during one dog’s run, two birds jumped out of bed whilst the dog was going forward to make a retrieve on another.
Woodcock have established a well deserved mysterious reputation for themselves in the shooting world for not only being difficult to shoot on account of their ability to vary their flight from apparently slow and moth-like to rapid diving and zigzagging thereby making a right and left at woodcock a highly regarded achievement but also for the confusion they can induce in a dog’s scenting abilities, with some dogs completely refusing to pick them.
In this instance their deceptive flight presented little difficulty to the marksmanship of Steve, the host and his head keeper Robert, whose skill ensured that there was a reliable supply of game to retrieve with a final total of nine in the bag. (The total bag was 13 – nine woodcock, three hen pheasant, one cock pheasant).
There was, however, a striking demonstration of the bird’s effect on dogs when a dog was brought forward to make a blind retrieve on open, flat ground, with a good mark and a favourable head wind over a distance of about 40 yards. Despite pointing the bird from about ten yards, the dog failed to retrieve, which was hardly surprising, as he had previously exhibited distaste for woodcock. What was remarkable was the fact that the next dog brought forward onto the retrieve was totally unable to detect the bird’s presence, despite passing within two yards of it on the right side of the wind and having demonstrated the quality of its nose with some stylish pointing.
On moving forward, the bird was found to be in the exact position of the mark given, lying in the classic posture attributed by reputation; lying on its back with its wings closed.
As is always the case with this type of event, Lady Luck was in attendance and some dogs were just unfortunate, on the other hand, some dogs benefited
from the clause in the rules that states that absolute steadiness is not essential. Ultimately, five dogs were taken to the water - four of which completed the test successfully. In all, the judges were in agreement that not only was the ground the excellent, the dog work observed was of a higher standard than that at many field trials and all of the dogs demonstrated that they were competent gun-dogs and would not have disgraced themselves in any company.
Although there was no winner as such, mention must be made of the dog, which ran number two – a Hungarian Vizsla named Bitcon Gold Coast at Northey JW, handled by Andrew McDonald. This dog covered his ground efficiently, at the optimum pace, found and pointed two woodcock staunchly, remained steady to shot and fall and retrieved tenderly to hand in copybook style.
That his owner is Our Dogs gundog correspondent Christine McDonald is pure co-incidence. He is obviously a chip off the old block and not only has he inherited the excellent conformation of his famous father, he is also capable of performing a vizsla’s true function in life with style - truly a once in a lifetime dog and Christine and Andrew should be justifiably proud of him.
Four dogs out of 12 passed - Sh Ch Bareve Bonnabee with Sashal Alex Friar's GWP, Bareve Beesterkraal, Sharon Pinkerton's GWP, Raycris Pips Magic von Tarkanya, Helen Evans's LM, Bitcon Gold Coast at Northey, Christine McDonald's HV, handled by Andrew McDonald.