Field vs. Show – What’s the Difference?

by Geoffrey A. English

Field breeders are producing the athletes and show breeders are producing the models.
Field breeders are producing the athletes and show breeders are producing the models

This past winter I performed numerous hunting dog demonstrations throughout the northeast , showing the versatility of the English Springer Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers. What amazed me while speaking to the average outdoorsmen was not the fact that they were unaware of a spaniel or the Labrador Retrievers’ versatility, but rather that they were unaware that there was a difference between show and field hunting dogs.

During the show I was absolutely amazed at the number of avid outdoorsmen who had little, if any, understanding of the qualities that go into breeding world-class gundogs. Throughout the course of these sportsmen shows and meeting tens of thousands of avid outdoorsmen, I would venture to guess that better than 70% of the folks I met were unaware that such a difference existed. Ask those same individuals what gauge or shot size they would use to hunt a species of upland game or waterfowl and they could easily rattle off the pros and cons of each.

So, why do these individuals have such a keen understanding on selecting the appropriate guns and loads but do not demonstrate an understanding in selecting a suitable hunting companion? The answer is a lack of education on the difference between show and field bred gundogs. Manufacturers spend countless dollars each year educating outdoorsmen on why one particular model or brand of shotgun is better than another when hunting their favorite quarry. However, when speaking to breeders about selecting a suitable hunting companion, many will claim their dogs are “bred to hunt”. That simply may not be true! And I am reminded of phrase that echoes in my head from business school, “caveat emptor”, literally translated “Beware Buyer”.

For better than a half-century, the sporting dog breeds have gone in two separate directions when it comes to qualities sought after by professional breeders. With most sporting breeds, the “dual champion”, a dog that has attained the champion title in both the show and the field, is harder and harder to come by. In fact, the last Labrador Retriever to achieve a dual champion title was in 1984, Ch-FC/AFC Highwood Shadow, sired by FC/AFC Highwood Piper. According to 2001 AKC reports only 26 show champion Labrador Retrievers have achieved the Master Hunter title. The first lab to do so was Ch. Topform Edward, MH, owned by Larry Reider of Independence, Missouri and trained by Bobby George of Blackwater Retrievers in Warrensburg, Missouri. (Read more)

Breeding World Class Gundogs

by Geoffrey A. English

Start with the best possible bloodlines you can afford and your days in the field will be more enjoyable.
Start with the best possible bloodlines you can afford and your days in the field will be more enjoyable

I am often reminded of how much time and effort goes into building a successful breeding program when examining the pedigrees of the top performing dogs at local and national field trials. Field trials have been and will continue to be a place breeders turn to evaluate and prove their breeding program and bloodlines.

Competent breeders seeks to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all the dogs in a four-generation pedigree and carefully evaluate each dog in the pedigree of a potential mating. The goal of any breeding program should be to the continual improvement of the breed. Breeders have an ethical responsibility to do everything they can do to ensure that future progeny are free of both physical and performance faults. He or she must also be willing to eliminate breeding stock from his program that exhibits substandard traits.

Physical Traits and Genetic Testing

Responsible breeders check the genetics of all the dogs in a four-generation pedigree. He or she should have proof of hips being certified and eyes checked for congenital defects. Do not accept a puppy from a breeder who has not taken the necessary precautions to ensure at the minimum that both the sire and dam are genetically clean and can produce the documentation to back up this claim. Ask the breeder for a copy OFA and CERF certifications. If he or she cannot produce such documentation, look elsewhere. Some breeders will proclaim, “My dog’s hips are good” or “My bloodlines have no genetic problems” but cannot produce the certifications on their breeding stock to prove such claims.

Some breeders even breed generation after generation without checking either the hips or eyes of the sires and dames in their breeding program. This is simply irresponsible and can have ramifications that affect a client’s family for many years. Just imagine getting that gundog of a lifetime, which has become part of the family, just to find out that he/she has bad hips or eyes and his/her quality of life is significantly impacted. Don’t get me wrong, genetics are not foolproof, but taking proper precautions can dramatically reduce the risk of genetic problems in breeding programs. (Read more)

Bringing Your New Puppy Home

by Geoffrey A. English

Can you guess which puppy is the Alpha dog in this litter?
Can you guess which puppy is the Alpha dog in this litter

Alright, the big day is finally here. If you’re like most new dog owners you have been counting down the days since you have made the big decision to bring a new puppy into your home. Are you ready? Rest assured, if you’re not, you’re not alone. Through this article I hope to accomplish two goals. First, let’s make your home a safe environment for your new puppy. Second, I’d like to give you a concrete set of techniques you can use to begin teaching your puppy to be a good citizen in his/her new home.

Most new puppy owners underestimate just how much mischief their little four legged friend can get into in a few short minutes alone. I cannot tell you how many stories I hear of “Missy” ruining an expensive Italian-made pair of leather dress shoes. My standard reply is, “Did you leave these shoes in a place where she could get to them?” To which they sheepishly answer, “Well, yea… I just thought…”. “Wow, those sure are expensive chew toys you’re leaving for your new puppy.” The point is this: When left alone, even for a few short minutes, a young puppy, with his razor-sharp teeth can ruin or destroy furniture, carpeting, etc. Worse yet, it only takes a single chew on a lamp cord to harm and electrocute your new puppy. (Read More)