First NAVHDA test as handler.. Observations

sureshotshane

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On Thursday I tested my French Brittany pup in the NAVHDA Natural Ability test.

Not new to hunting dogs but it was my first time as a handler in a test. I used to have the attitude like many - I just want hunting dogs that can get me on game day in and day out. I don't need to test. However, I started to see the real value in NAVHDA and similar hunt tests so I'm starting to invest considerable time into it.

She scored a 102 (prize 3). She received high scores in everything except water. She wouldn't swim when I threw the bumper and I had to use a bird to get her to enter the water twice so automatically the max she could get was 2 points for water and hence the prize 3. Some folks were saying I could just retest in the spring and get a full score of 112. I'm not sure there is a point though? Except to boost my and the dogs ego. I'd like to move on to UPT training. I'm not concerned she won't retrieve in water in the future on whatever object I need her to retrieve. I'm not going to breed this dog, she has great potential for an excellent hunting dog but has an underbite and I'm set on fixing her. Anyone see a point in retesting?

To be honest I think the judges were quite forgiving. I would have been much harsher on my own and other peoples pups. I've seen my dog work and I would describe my pups performance as okay. Apparently the judges thought it was satisfactory. I cannot help but think how a numbered scoring system doesn't capture the nuance. The highest scoring dog you couldn't pay me to own, whereas the only dog that didn't prize I thought had more potential than most the rest of the lot.

You inevitably get to spend a lot of time with other handlers pups while waiting for your turn. In this regard you actually are around other pups more than the actual judges, just observing behaviour. There is a box about temperament but all the dogs were judged as normal. However, one of the dogs was truly a hazard. Both people and dog aggressive. Another pup was just dog aggressive. Both are complete non-starters for me. In general, most the pups were what I would describe as not well socialized - or maybe perhaps they were but just had mental instabilities. The scoring system does not capture this. But it is extremely important.

This test helped solidify that I think drive is the single most important factor to see in a pup. Followed by just being a good citizen that you can take everywhere and it be comfortable and well mannered. There is nothing you can do if a dog lacks the desire. If your dog has it, don't thwart it. Not everyone wants a hard charging dog. I hear people say they like the dog within shotgun range because they aren't as fit as they once were. I think there is a big difference between a close working dog and one that lacks desire so is close at hand because it doesn't know its purpose, and they can be confused. A dog can be super close working and have extreme drive. I like a dog that goes out and finds birds.

I'm not however knocking NAVHDA at all. I think we need a standardized system and I will keep with it. The main takeaway - I think the numbers start to make more sense at a broader scale but if a guy is just looking for a pup nothing can replace seeing the parents of a potential litter, and getting to hunt with them ideally.
 

Camdu7

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Thanks for sharing sureshot.

I'll be taking my PP for his NA test in a couple of weeks. I have never been part or watched a test so it will be all new to me. He is a pretty good little guy so far so I'm sure he will do fine.

Cam
 

fleabagmatt

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I ran my Griff through the NA test last month. She did better than I was expecting, considering I struggled to get her to training days. I mostly just joined and tested to get access to people who could help me learn how to train Ruby, she is my first bird dog, as well as to get access to live birds to train with.

My take is that to a certain extent, the testing really is a feather in the cap for breeders, they can show all these prizes won by their dogs. I am super proud of how Ruby stepped up and performed well, but it has no bearing her life as a hunting dog. I will not be breeding her. Had she scored lower, I would not have tried to retest her. Gaining the feedback on what she needs to work on would be enough for me. That being said, the test day was a positive experience and I'm now considering going on and training for the UPT with her in the future.

I remember at the first training day I went to, one of the volunteers told the group, "Trust me when I tell you that you will be much more critical of your dog's performance than the judges will. They want you to succeed." I found that to be true, at least for me. Skimming through the test results in the back of the NAVHDA magazine, I do recall seeing notes of dogs being marked down due to not being able to go through the physical exam because they could not be calmed down enough for the judges to handle.
 

JT13

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I've put several dogs through NA and even got a "Breeders Award" for having every dog in my last litter get a Prize 1. That being said, its just a puppy test that hopes to serve as an entry into the world of NAVHDA. Passing a NA test means nothing other than that you "may" have a dog that hunts. Hopefully you get involved in a chapter and it spurs you on to more intensive training and meet some interesting people along the way.
 
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Steelsearchin

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Congrats on a fun day! There is no point in repeating an NA test.

It's worth what you paid for it, but in my opinion you a should skip the UPT and just train for the UT test. Might as well get the dog steady and just work toward the goal. Test when the dog is ready and dont rush stuff. A lot of the NAVHDA stuff is just pure cooperation, but dont over train and make it boring for the dog. It's far from a perfect system, but I think it's a good one and I like how the dogs are judged on a standard.

Most of the judges I've dealt with have been great. As most of them tend to say, "we get to see your dog for a brief moment on one day, so take it all with a grain of salt."

We did have one senior judge years ago who decided to run all 10 NA pheasant tracks from the top of the same little knob, regardless of the steady wind direction. We had a virgin 40 acre field reserved for tracking that day (where each dog/phez could be run downwind), but he would have nothing of it. I think he was just being lazy and didn't want to walk 100 yards! The other judges agreed with me that it was dumb, but not until after he departed the following day.

My 12 year old is running our pup in a few weeks for his first NAVHDA test and we are getting excited! Gotta get that outta way before the real fun (and puppy frustration!) starts.
 

JLS

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I agree, there is no need or point in retesting. Really, the NA tests are more for the breeder to see how a litter performed.

You are correct, judges only get to see a small snapshot of your dog. It may be on a good day, bad day, or average day. It is what it is. Dogs will do shit on test day you’ve never seen them so before. It is what it is.

One thing is for certain, if you train a dog through a utility test you will 1) become a better trainer/handler, 2) build a better partnership with your dog, and 3) have a dog that is better trained than most any other dog in the field. Having the test on the schedule prevents you from saying “someday I’ll train my dog to do that”.
 

pointingdogsrule

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I did two of my dogs many years ago. I like NAVDA for what they do. I have never tested another dog.... no sour Grapes. I was turned off when the judge told me that my Griffons should gave hunted like GSP's. Apparently he has never seen a close working Griffon as opposed to a further ranging GPS. As a note I also have GSP's.
I have tested under AKC and also like that organization. Jmho
 

JLS

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I was turned off when the judge told me that my Griffons should gave hunted like GSP's. Apparently he has never seen a close working Griffon as opposed to a further ranging GPS.
That’s unfortunate, and is more reflective of a close minded judge. I can’t say for certain for NAVHDA but in the JGHV testing system judges don’t rate based on what they think the dog should do. A search is scored on hell well the dog ranges out, works in pattern, works with the handler, does he slow down in denser cover, range out more and open cover? A judge shouldn’t necessarily care if a dog is 80 yards out or 200 yards out.
 

crock239

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Not to hijack or sidetrack, curious if there's an alternative to NAVHDA for flushing dogs? With a focus on similar skill sets?

Early on I reached out to local NAVDHA (Iowa) chapter bc I was interested in meeting experienced dog trainers, upland hunters, etc. I could possibly learn from...and was told to take a hike bc I have a lab and not a pointing breed.

Found a local hunting retriever group and they're welcoming and great, but their focus / dog skill set is strictly waterfowling / retrieving.

I really like the NAVDHA system, and having a dog that will hunt upland, track downed birds, and retrieve on land and water is my goal.
 

JT13

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Not to hijack or sidetrack, curious if there's an alternative to NAVHDA for flushing dogs? With a focus on similar skill sets?

Early on I reached out to local NAVDHA (Iowa) chapter bc I was interested in meeting experienced dog trainers, upland hunters, etc. I could possibly learn from...and was told to take a hike bc I have a lab and not a pointing breed.

Found a local hunting retriever group and they're welcoming and great, but their focus / dog skill set is strictly waterfowling / retrieving.

I really like the NAVDHA system, and having a dog that will hunt upland, track downed birds, and retrieve on land and water is my goal.
I think AKC has some options for that kind of thing
 

huntnpack

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Not to hijack or sidetrack, curious if there's an alternative to NAVHDA for flushing dogs? With a focus on similar skill sets?

Early on I reached out to local NAVDHA (Iowa) chapter bc I was interested in meeting experienced dog trainers, upland hunters, etc. I could possibly learn from...and was told to take a hike bc I have a lab and not a pointing breed.

Found a local hunting retriever group and they're welcoming and great, but their focus / dog skill set is strictly waterfowling / retrieving.

I really like the NAVDHA system, and having a dog that will hunt upland, track downed birds, and retrieve on land and water is my goal.
Where part of Idowahio are you located? PM if you want.
 

2ski

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Bozeman...Seeley when I can be there.
Not to hijack or sidetrack, curious if there's an alternative to NAVHDA for flushing dogs? With a focus on similar skill sets?

Early on I reached out to local NAVDHA (Iowa) chapter bc I was interested in meeting experienced dog trainers, upland hunters, etc. I could possibly learn from...and was told to take a hike bc I have a lab and not a pointing breed.

Found a local hunting retriever group and they're welcoming and great, but their focus / dog skill set is strictly waterfowling / retrieving.

I really like the NAVDHA system, and having a dog that will hunt upland, track downed birds, and retrieve on land and water is my goal.
I've watched an AKC hunt test. I don't remember everything but to be a Master Hunter the dog had to be steady through the flush, shot, and fall I believe. They had to sit on the flush. There was a water portion as well but I had to leave before they did that.


I ran my dog earlier this summer. 100 prize 3. I was disappointed. Less so now because everything was a prize 1 but tracking. Ive been around tests a little more to see that people so think a 100 prize 3 is good. The wheels fell off. I panicked because of the very strong wind and didn’t do my job to make him successful. I see that now. If I could've gotten in to retest I probably would've.

I will train for UT, as mentioned, he'll be a pretty good dog in the field if we train for it. I did an introductory duck search a couple weeks ago and it went awesome!
 

fleabagmatt

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Not to hijack or sidetrack, curious if there's an alternative to NAVHDA for flushing dogs? With a focus on similar skill sets?

Early on I reached out to local NAVDHA (Iowa) chapter bc I was interested in meeting experienced dog trainers, upland hunters, etc. I could possibly learn from...and was told to take a hike bc I have a lab and not a pointing breed.

Found a local hunting retriever group and they're welcoming and great, but their focus / dog skill set is strictly waterfowling / retrieving.

I really like the NAVDHA system, and having a dog that will hunt upland, track downed birds, and retrieve on land and water is my goal.
I don't know anything about this group, however, someone in my local NAVHDA group posted about this. Sounds similar to NAVHDA, but I think they take all kinds of dogs maybe.

Versatile Hunting Dog Federation
 

Steelsearchin

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Kzoo, MI
My memory could be off on this one, but I think that VHDF group started when NAVHDA stopped allowing pointing labs to test. Pretty sure it was only for a brief period, but once upon a time you could run pointing labs through the NAVHDA testing system.

That sucks you got the cold shoulder Mike. Like any group, you get a variety of personalities. Back when i was more active with our chapter, we welcomed anybody to come train, breed didnt matter, and i met a lot of good people (and a few idiots!). The turnover in that organization at the local level can be a real thing as there are quite a few first time owners learn how to train and quit and the lifers/breeders can burn out after a while.

I can say that the people I met through NAVHDA definitely helped me get more out of our first dog than I could have in my own. He was the first male vizsla in michigan to qualify for the Invitational back in 2007, which was a great feeling. I still regret not taking him, but my wife and I had a new baby at the time and I was just having too much fun hunting to mess with training for versatile doggy Olympics. I don't have many regrets in life, but that one makes the list.
 

Jmnhunter

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Baxter, MN
we just wrapped up our last training night last night. I'm not sure what to think of NAVHDA, overall it was positive. Our PP breeder required us to to take the NA test and since this was my first versatile dog, I joined the group this year. Quite a few guys with experience there that was helpful and having birds to train with. I have no interest in pursuing UT, as I just want a meat dog, but I got blank stares by the guys running it when I told them this 😆

Having only chukars for training was frustrating to say the least. Every book and training resource stresses that having a young pup catch birds is like taking 10 steps backwards, and of course chukars are one of the worst fliers. Not being able to train with pigeons was disappointing
I took my NA test this past June and every dog out of the 10 caught the birds that were pointed and flushed were chased down and caught as they only flew 40-50yds. I wish they would use pheasants for this portion but the reason I heard that they do not is because of the expense.

The NA test was a great experience, alot of standing and waiting but you get to talk to other handlers and check our their dogs. My pup did great during the test, I was worried about her cooperation as I thought after she would chase and catch a chukar that she would not return to me, but she did. I was mad at myself for the tracking portion. We were 2nd to last on a 85 degree day (yes an excuse I'm using) and my pup was panting before we started but I failed to give her the "dead bird" command at the pile of feathers because I thought you could not say anything, but I further learned that you can in the beginning...

It was a good experience to get my feet wet in the versatile hunting dog world. I got the feeling our chapter (or maybe its all Navdha) is more interested in testing vs hunting

@Camdu7 is your test at Kelley Farms?
 

Camdu7

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Sep 29, 2015
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we just wrapped up our last training night last night. I'm not sure what to think of NAVHDA, overall it was positive. Our PP breeder required us to to take the NA test and since this was my first versatile dog, I joined the group this year. Quite a few guys with experience there that was helpful and having birds to train with. I have no interest in pursuing UT, as I just want a meat dog, but I got blank stares by the guys running it when I told them this 😆

Having only chukars for training was frustrating to say the least. Every book and training resource stresses that having a young pup catch birds is like taking 10 steps backwards, and of course chukars are one of the worst fliers. Not being able to train with pigeons was disappointing
I took my NA test this past June and every dog out of the 10 caught the birds that were pointed and flushed were chased down and caught as they only flew 40-50yds. I wish they would use pheasants for this portion but the reason I heard that they do not is because of the expense.

The NA test was a great experience, alot of standing and waiting but you get to talk to other handlers and check our their dogs. My pup did great during the test, I was worried about her cooperation as I thought after she would chase and catch a chukar that she would not return to me, but she did. I was mad at myself for the tracking portion. We were 2nd to last on a 85 degree day (yes an excuse I'm using) and my pup was panting before we started but I failed to give her the "dead bird" command at the pile of feathers because I thought you could not say anything, but I further learned that you can in the beginning...

It was a good experience to get my feet wet in the versatile hunting dog world. I got the feeling our chapter (or maybe its all Navdha) is more interested in testing vs hunting

@Camdu7 is your test at Kelley Farms?
Yes at Kelly Farms
 

WoodMoose

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Every book and training resource stresses that having a young pup catch birds is like taking 10 steps backwards, and of course chukars are one of the worst fliers. Not being able to train with pigeons was disappointing

yes, my first drahthaar I used pen raised quail in her initial "training" and she caught the 3rd one - it was ON after that, took a while to get her out of "I can catch this" mode

so for the next two, they never see a pen raised bird till the test day (JGHV not NAVHDA) as I don't need the headaches. Went out of my way to ensure access to homing pigeons and have been happier with results
 

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