Bedrock Qualities Over A Century Of Bird Dog Field Trialing: Intelligence, Strength and Courage
Our experiences in life in general and with bird dogs in particular form our opinions regarding how we pursue, develop, display and analyze bird dog performance. Our collective gravitation to the great American sport of Field Trialing has taken many different roads with a vast array of experiences, opinions and visions.
The subjective interpretation of bird dog performance has been applauded as the sports’ strength, as well as cursed as its weakness. Often the focus has moved from one superficial preference to another over the span of a century. Traditional performance standards work to hold constant that which outside forces steadily and assuredly pressure. Rather than maintaining a constant, class and style have been defined in the eye of the beholder leaving them open to various interpretations.
An analytical review of a thousand American Field newspapers would expose those interpretations in an array of colorful reports throughout the 20th century. But in the end that monumental effort would only be a diversion from the focus of what is certainly in the genetic bedrock of Stud Book All-Age Champions through the ages—the truly enduring qualities of intelligence, strength and courage.
Similar to admiring monumental classic buildings in all their awe and magnificence, what we don’t see at first—the underground structure critical to the splendor above—will ultimately determine whether this beauty will transcend time or collapse under its own weight, quickly loosing its appeal.
As definitions, I use “class” to mean how the dog goes about his work while “style” is how he looks doing his work. All-Age tradition tells us that more range requires increased intelligence, strength and courage to sustain the performer’s class and style for the heat’s full duration. Traditionally if given an hour, the good handlers have used their developing and displaying skills to exhibit their charges’ intelligence, strength and courage by managing and displaying range in many challenging, thrilling and productive ways.
Like range, a test of extraordinary stamina for more than an hour draws deep on these same genetic qualities in order for the dog to sustain class and style over an extended period of time. In endurance stakes these same handlers’ strategies may change; less than one might think when the dog possesses great intelligence, strength and courage; more than one might care to undertake when lacking any one of these qualities.
While the dog’s class and style in his pursuit, handling and presentation of birds are readily and immediately visible to the eye, intelligence, strength and courage lie hidden like bedrock within. The dog’s true quality or lack thereof is only apparent in reviewing the entire performance. Time has shown that range and stakes of long duration are indiscriminate in their insatiable appetite for these three critical genetic qualities, and both tests provide a meaningful way to distinguish between dogs whose genetic foundations have cracks and those whose run deep and true.