15 Standards of Performance

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15.1 Marking

15.1.1 Marking, or memory of falls, is of paramount importance. However, this does not imply that dogs which excel in marking shall not be scored lower, even to the extent of not receiving a qualifying score, for deficiencies in, or a lack of the other required abilities.

15.1.2 Ability to mark does not necessarily imply pin-pointing the fall, but a dog should proceed directly to the area of the fall and establish a hunt. A dog that misses the fall on the first cast but recognizes the depth of the area of the fall, stays in it, then quickly and systematically hunts it out has done both a creditable and an intelligent job of marking.

15.1.3 Even with marked birds, a handler may be able to render great assistance to the dog by giving it a line in the direction of the fall. However, there is nothing he or she can do, short of handling, to aid the dog in recognising the depth of the fall.

15.1.4 Often a dog gives definite indication of marking ability at or after delivery of a first bird, by aligning itself toward, or by looking eagerly in the exact direction of an unretrieved fall; at times, even leaving at once or leaving on command, but without benefit of a precise line to the fall given to it by the handler. There is no invariable method by which marking can be evaluated.

15.1.5 What precisely constitutes the area of the fall defies accurate definition; yet, at the outset of every marking situation, each judge must arbitrarily define its hypothetical boundaries for himself, and for each bird, so that he can determine whether dogs have remained within his own concept of the area of the fall, as well as how far they have wandered and how much cover they have disturbed unnecessarily. In determining these arbitrary and hypothetical boundaries, due consideration should be given to various factors:

  1. the type, the height and the uniformity of the cover;
  2. light conditions;
  3. direction of the prevailing wind and its intensity;
  4. length of the various falls;
  5. whether there is a change in cover (as from stubble to plowed ground, or to ripe alfafa, or to machine-picked corn, etc.) or whether the fall is beyond a hedge, across a road, or over a ditch, etc.; and, finally, and most important;
  6. whether one is establishing the area of the fall for a single, or for the first bird a dog goes for in multiple retrieved, or for the second or the third bird; since each of these should differ from the others.

15.1.6 Since there are so many conditions and variables to be taken into consideration, it is obvious that each judge must attempt to define for himself a hypothetical area of the fall for each bird, and then numerically evaluate the dog's marking ability according to that definition. Individual evaluations should take into consideration the distance which a dog wanders out of the area, the frequency of such wandering, the number of birds mismarked and the amount of cover disturbed in these wanderings.

15.1.7 A dog which disturbs cover unnecessarily, clearly well out of the area of the fall, either by not going directly to that area, or by leaving it, even though it eventually finds the bird without being handled, should be scored lower on its marking than if it was handled quickly and obediently to the bird.

15.2 Style

15.2.1 Style is apparent in every movement of a dog by the gaiety of its manner, by its alertness, by its eagerness and speed on retrieves, by its water entry, by its pick up of birds, and by its return with them. Style and marking constitute the most important abilities of retrievers, but this does not imply that a dog which excels in marking and style should not be scored lower on other abilities, even to the extent of not receiving a qualifying score for lack of or serious deficiencies in those required abilities.

15.2.2 In any hunting situation style includes:

  1. an alert and obedient attitude,
  2. a fast determined departure, both on land and into the water,
  3. an aggressive search for the fall,
  4. a prompt pick-up, and
  5. a reasonably fast return. The absence of these components of style should be reflected in a dog's score, even to the point of scoring a dog zero (0) on style.

15.3 Perseverance

15.3.1 Perseverance/courage/hunting is shown by a dog's determination to stick at it and complete the task at hand (i.e. systematically, aggressively, and without faltering) to search for and find the bird it has been sent to retrieve.

15.3.2 It is also displayed by a willingness to face without hesitation, and repeatedly, rough cover, cold or rough water, ice, mud, or other similar conditions which make the going tough.

15.3.3 A lack of perseverance may become apparent whenever:

  1. a dog returns to the handler, voluntarily, and before finding the bird;
  2. a dog either stops its hunt, or continues it in a slow, lackadaisical, disinterested manner,
  3. the dog pops-up or looks back to its handler for directions on a marked fall and before it has hunter for a considerable time;
  4. it switches birds, and
  5. it "blinks" a bird (i.e., fails to pick it up and leaves it after making the find)

15.3.4 Switching birds implies that a dog gives up in its hunt after a search, leaves the area, and goes for another bird, or when it drops a bird it is retrieving and goes for another. Except in the latter case, a dog should not be scored for lack of perseverance unless it goes to the area of a fall, hunts, fails to find, and then leaves that area to hunt for another fall. It should not be considered as a lack of perseverance, if, while on the way to one fall, the dog sees or finds another bird and retrieves it first; or, if on the way to one fall but long before it reaches the area of the fall, it changes its direction and goes for another bird.

15.3.5 On being sent for a marked fall, a dog may be confused as to whether it was really ordered to retrieve and may then return after a few steps, thus requiring a recast or direction to continue. In such cases the dog may not have displayed a lack of perseverance or marking ability.

15.4 Trainability

15.4.1 The final attribute to be evaluated by judges is trainability, which includes those abilities which dogs acquire through training (steadiness, control, response and delivery). While not to be underestimated, acquired abilities must be viewed in a different perspective being of somewhat lesser importance than natural abilities even though a Master Hunter must exhibit all that is desirable in a finished retriever. The level to which acquired abilities are developed will vary in different test categories. For example, a reasonable degree of steadiness and general obedience are the requirements in the Junior Hunting Test. A greater degree of steadiness and some degree of the other qualities are expected in the Senior Hunt Test. There should be expectations of full refinement in acquired attributes in Master Hunt Tests.

15.4.2 Trainability, or the abilities acquired through training, is generally understood to be composed of four (4) components - steadiness, control. Response and delivery. A discussion of each of the elements which characterise trainability follows.

  1. Steadiness
  2. Dogs on line sometimes make various types of movements when game is in the air (and/or when it is shot). These movements may be interpreted as efforts by the dogs to improve their view of the fall, and some occur through sheer excitement. Except for an occasional change in position in order to better see a fall, all such movements could be viewed as unsteadiness - with trainability scored depending on the test being judged and the extent and the frequency of the unsteadiness. The requirement of steadiness is a very important factor in evaluating the trainability of a retriever.

  3. Control
  4. Control is closely allied to the dog's response to direction but it also includes obedience and line manners. Control in the Senior and Master Tests also includes walking tractably at heel, of lead, assuming and staying in any designated position on line, as well as remaining quietly on line beside the handler after delivery of the bird. When called, a dog should return promptly to its handler particularly in those instances where judges decide that it shall be tested again, at a later time, either because another dog broke or due to any of a variety of other circumstances.

    Except for extraordinary circumstances, noisy or frequent restraining of a dog on line by its handler is sufficient cause not to award a qualifying score in the Senior and Master Hunting Tests. In less flagrant instances, the trainability score should correspond to the extent that the dog might be deemed to be out of control.

  5. Response
  6. Response is all-important in handling tests, and in situations where a dog must be brought back to the area of the fall when it has mismarked. A dog that responds to direction should take the original direction given to it by its handler and continue on it until it either makes the find, or until stopped by the handler and given a new direction. The dog should then continue in this new direction until it finds, or is given further directions.

    1. Lower scored, even to the extent of grading a dog zero on trainability, based on a lack of response, may be the result of the following:
      1. not taking the direction originally given by the handler;
      2. not continuing in that direction for a considerable distance;
      3. failure to stop promptly and popping up and looking back for directions;
      4. failure to stop promptly and look to the handler when signaled;
      5. failure to take a new direction (i.e., a new cast) when given; and
      6. failure to continue in that new direction for a considerable distance.

    2. The trainability score for any or all of the foregoing will vary with both the test being scored and the extent to which a dog might be unresponsive. Before scoring a dog lower on trainability for its failure to stop promptly at a whistle, judges should determine whether the wind, the cover, or the distance seriously interfered with the dog's ability to hear its handler. In general, the response displayed should be considered in its entirety; an occasional failure to take and hold a direction may affect a trainability score only slightly, if offset by several other very good responses.

    3. To the extent that a dog might not receive a qualifying score, a trainability score must reflect repeated and wilful disobedience of the handler's orders. In addition, but to a lesser extent, a trainability score must show that, after taking the proper direction, the dog did not continue on it as far as the handler desired. Stopping voluntarily to look back for directions, in an isolated instance, may warrant a moderate or slight lowering of a trainability score, but frequent stopping can result in a zero (0) score.

  7. Delivery
  8. Delivery of the bird in each level of hunt tests must be made to the handler directly upon return from the retrieve; in any test it should be given up willingly. A dog should not drop the bird before delivering it, and should not freeze, or be unwilling to give it up. It should not jump after the bird once the handler has taken it. A faulty delivery may, depending on the test, range from a slight lowering of the trainability score for an isolated offense, to the withholding of a qualifying score for a severe freeze or hard mouth. (See Chapter 12, Section 9 (b))

    1. Hard-mouth is one of the most undesirable traits in a retriever. Once a dog has been charged with this trait, it carries that stigma for life. Hard-mouth should only become the judges verdict when there is incontrovertible proof of it. Torn skin or flesh alone is not sufficient evidence, in almost all cases, to constitute proof of hard-mouth. Damage of that type may be caused in a variety of ways, such as by sharp sticks and stones, etc. in the cover. Dogs can unintentionally damage birds when making retrieves from heavy cover, as well as by their fast, positive, pickup. Furthermore, at certain times of the year, birds are particularly susceptible to such damage. Crushed bone structure usually can be accepted as trustworthy and sufficient evidence of hard-mouth. This is the only evidence offering such proof, in the absence of a particularly obvious, flagrant, and unjustified tearing of flesh.
    2. Other undesirable traits are frequently confused with hard-mouth, although, in reality, they are entirely separate and distinct from it, even though the dog may actually be hard-mouthed. Freezing, in particular, falls into this category. A hard-mouthed dog may have a gentle delivery and certainly, a reluctant or sticky delivery does not imply hard-mouth. Rolling a bird or mouthing it while making the retrieve may be erroneously associated with hard-mouth even though the bird may not be damaged. Such mouthing may not necessarily call for lowering a trainability score.
    3. Judges should remember that a dog either does or does not have a hard-mouth, and if it does, the dog cannot receive a qualifying score.

    While not required, it is a considerate gesture on the part of the judges to keep separately any bird which formed the basis for their decision that the dog could not receive a qualifying score in order that it might be inspected by the handler at a later time.

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