A right of species: Let's get those Sporting dogs out working -- by W. D. (Sandy) Gunn

      Your area of Canada and mine don't likely enjoy the same wonderful climate in which to live with our sporting dogs, not if you are in the Maritime provinces or on Vancouver Island and I'm here in Eastern Ontario. Whether you enjoy temperate climates or the extremes of hot and cold, we are all caught up now in that favourite time of the year, no longer the heat of Summer and not yet the rigours of Winter--hunting season.

      Whether your passion is waterfowl anywhere across our country; ptarmigan in Newfoundland, northern British Columbia and the Northwest Territories; ruffed grouse, woodcock, snipe and the wary pheasant in the Maritimes and a choice areas of Quebec and Ontario; or Hungarian partridge, sharptails and pheasant in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, let's get those pointing, flushing and retrieving breeds out "working."

      Not being into doesn't cut it as an excuse to deny our Sporting dogs the pleasures of the pursuits for which they were bred. You might not all have guns, nor wish to, but I'll bet there is hardly a reader of this column who is incapable of taking an outdoor photo. And who hasn't wished to have taken a camera along on that picture-perfect day in the past? Even those of us who enjoy the hunt and the taste of the game brought to us by our dogs, regret having had a gun instead of a camera sometimes.

      The point is to get the dogs doing their thing. The outdoors is still their natural environment, despite centuries of being made to conform to our domestic lives and families. Let them strut their stuff for you in their element, with their noses to the wind and heaven knows what images coursing through every nerve and fibre of their bodies, as they range far and wide sifting through the scents we can never hope to appreciate. This is where the plans of past breeders show themselves to have survived, or fallen to the fickle demands of fashion.

      Misguided conformation exhibitors and judges have, for too long, remained ignorant of what these animals should be capable, and what physical and mental attributes are necessary--not options or preference, like colour and size, but "must haves," like sound structure, proper muscle tone and correct temperament.

      Okay, you and I are the exceptions, the keepers of our breeds and the rear guard fighters to maintain the very reasons for these dog's existence. An onerous position to be in, and one in which we owe more to our dogs and the folks who may appreciate them long after we're gone than to the field trial and conformation judges who wield the power to bestow titles. Let's not have trial dogs whose owners would not dream of actually working those field champions for the fear of losing their edge in competition. And let's not have show dogs whose owners dread the loss of coat that might be incurred in a joyous romp of wild abandon through burdocks, briars, or swamp grasses and reeds. We must all work toward the goal of functional and fit animals that are as proud of their own natural abilities and skills as we are. It's up to each of us to do our part, whether we are owners, breeders or judges. Those who are all three have even more for which to be held accountable.

      While I've said we should "work" our dogs, this is a totally inaccurate term. For true Sporting dogs, there is no work involved in the hunt. For them, it is one of the principal sources of joy upon which their lives thrive. Let their joy also be a source of your pride and do what you can to see that no dog is deprived of what should be an innate right for its species.

W. D. (Sandy) Gunn is a Pointer breeder, judge and active exhibitor in the field as well as in the conformation ring. You can write to him at Gunnstalk Kennel, 1412 Yorks Corners Road, Edward, Ontario, K0A 1V0 Canada.
e-mail sandygunn@doglover.com

We thank Mr. Gunn for allowing us to share this wonderful article that applies to any working breed with us.

Good luck and good hunting!