King’s Herald Winter 2003
Saturday afternoon was for the land segment of the Retriever Test. AKC Hunt Test judge Peter Kaufman of Westlake, Ohio judged the tests. In the Retriever Test, the dog and handler come to the line to watch for birds being thrown or shot from a distant blind. On the judge’s signal, the handler sends the dog to retrieve the bird. Junior dogs do one single retrieve. Senior dogs must be “steady to wing and shot,” that is, sit-stay without being restrained by the handler even when they do “doubles,” the exercise in which the dog holds steady while two birds are downed; must “mark” (remember) where the birds fell; then is sent to retrieve them both. Seniors must also do an extra “dead bird” retrieve in which they bring in a bird they didn’t see fall by following their nose and handler’s signals. Master dogs do all that, but extra finesse is expected.
The difficulty of these tests reflects an early decision by the H/W Committee to model the Parent Club tests closely on AKC Hunt Tests rules rather than run simplified “instinct tests” for which no special training might be needed. Since terrier owners usually aren’t familiar with sporting dog training techniques, many owners started with the plan of entering an untried dog “just to see what he can do.” The judges soon advised them that the test situation is not the place for preparatory training.
To that end, the Nationals weekend also includes training work- shops intended for Airedales and owners with no prior hunting expe- rience. Hal Standish, professional spaniel trainer from Three Rivers, Michigan, conducts a lively course of introduction to game and train- ing techniques. Even owners who have no intention of continuing as recreational hunters enjoy the workshops as a chance to see how their Airedale takes to the field.
On Sunday, Airedales and owners returned for the third and final day of the Nationals. This was the day for the water retrieving seg- ments of the Upland Game and Retriever tests. All the dogs who had passed the requirements of the land portions of the tests were called back to do the water work required for the test qualification.
With the team of judges working together, each dog and handler was called to the line on the bank of a pond. Across the pond, bird handlers behind a blind would release a duck which gunners dropped in the pond. Junior dogs are required to willingly enter the water and bring back the duck. Senior dogs must be steady on the line for the “double,” in which two ducks are downed while the dog “marks” their fall and is then is sent to retrieve both. The Master dogs do the even more difficult triple retrieve. Like the double, two ducks are put in the water and the dog has to bring both in. While the dog is bringing in the second bird, a third shot rings out and another bird drops in the water. The dog must complete the second retrieve, then reenter the water to bring in the third duck.
This year two Airedales qualified for Junior Hunter Flushing [JHF] titles. There were three Senior Hunter Flushing [SHF] qualifiers, and two Master Hunter Flushing [MHF] qualifiers. In the Retriever Test, there were two Junior Hunter Retriever [JHR] qualifiers, one Senior Hunter Retriever
[SHR] qualifier, and one Master Hunter Retriever [MHR] qualifier. Even while participants were congratulating themselves on this year’s success, there was an undercurrent of tension when consider-
ing the future of Airedale hunting events. When the AKC admitted Standard Poodles to AKC Retriever Tests in June, 1998, it seemed a precedent was set for Airedales to make a similar request. This was even more obvious when the H/W Committee looked at Poodle statis- tics. Compared to Airedales participating in ATCA hunting events, there were relatively few accomplished Poodles in the field. Nor was there an extensive involvement by the Poodle Club of America or a wide regional distribution of Poodle hunting events and interest.
So with confidence, the H/W Committee submitted a 167 page “Proposal for the Admission of Airedale Terriers to AKC Spaniel and Retriever Hunt Tests” in April, 1999. It took only three days for William Speck, Vice President of AKC Performance Events Division, to send a letter of refusal, dismissing all the Parent Club’s evidence without due consideration.
In July of 1999, the H/W Committee resubmitted the admission proposal directly to the AKC Board of Directors. That brought about a compromise result, or so it seemed at first. AKC Hunt Tests would not be opened to Airedales, but instead the AKC proposed the develop- ment of a new kind of Multi-Purpose Dog Hunt Test, which would be open to breeds which could handle fur, flushing, and retriever work. This should mean that all terriers and any of the continental all-pur- pose sporting breeds such as German Wirehair Pointers, Vizslas or Weimaraners might participate, as well as any other breed that could do the work.
However, once the AKC Performance Event team was left in charge of working out the details of the tests with ATCA representa- tives, the concept was shifted through a series of more and more restrictive stipulations. In the most recent round of negotiations, dur- ing the sanctioning stage, there would have to be twenty Multi- Purpose Dog Hunt Tests per year with a minimum of 40 dogs entered per test. Considering that each test must have grounds, game, and staff for fur, flushing, and land and water retrieving, these would be dif- ficult to implement. An added caveat was the AKC declaration that any breed that could already participate in AKC Performance Events (not including obedience, agility, or tracking) could not participate in the Multi-Purpose Hunt Test. That eliminated all sporting dogs, herding dogs, lure coursers, and all terriers breeds which are eligible for Earth Dog Tests. As a postscript, the AKC Performance Division reps faxed their list of only 16 breeds they felt should participate in the new Multi- Purpose Dog Hunt Tests. The list included Airedales, Irish Terriers, Kerry Blues and Wheatens. It also included apparent non-hunters, such Portuguese Water Dogs, Akitas, and Chows.
As one H/W Committee member remarked, “First they raised the bar so high we couldn’t get over it, then they cut us off at the knees to boot.”
However, ATCA president Steve Gilbert leads a tough group of terrier people who will not give up.
“It’s clear we won’t get anywhere with these tests as they stand now, but with some modifications, they are worth pursuing,” Steve said. “After all, the traits that have their purpose in hunting – a dog’s prey drive, his gritty determination, a good nose –are things that will fade away if they aren’t preserved and promoted. We’ve seen that in breeds such as Cocker Spaniels and conformation lines of many