Points from the Pros ~ Jack Harper on Field Trial Bird Dog Attributes
In addition to the long-recognized qualities of speed, range, style, endurance, nose and bird brain (sense), there are others which are not mentioned a great deal that are equally necessary. These are excellent eyesight, keen hearing, desire to please, and all around intelligence and reasoning power. Desire to please my be the greatest of these. Super eyesight is also extremely valuable because without it the dog cannot spot objectives far away or pick out his handler’s directive signals at a long distance. An in-built compass or the ability to orient to the country is a big plus. Hearing ability is sometimes hard to determine because some dogs throw their ears out of gear once the excitement of the hunt overcomes them. It is well to remember that a dog’s eyesight or hearing is sometimes discounted because his head is usually only 18 inches above the ground, and even moderate cover will often block his vision or sound waves. This is why a dog may occasionally be accused of failure to back. He cannot see the dog with his eyes at that level. The judge’s eyes are seven feet above the ground, but the dogs’ are only 18 inches.
A dog that tries to please will not be evasive or play tricks on its handler. It will not be bullheaded about learning obedience training, and be willing to take the handler’s directives in order to stay on the course as much as possible and still hunt likely objectives. A dog that strives to please will be subservient but not servile. It is easy to spot a dog that desires to please by close observance.
Some dogs, with great desire to please otherwise, will be hard to steady on game because of their tremendous hunting instincts. Although they may have natural pointing and holding instincts, when the handler comes up to them, they believe that finders should be flushers. It is natural instinct for a bird dog to pause and estimate the situation before charging in. It is also instinctive for the dog, when he sees another animal coming in to steal the prey he has found, to leap in and secure it for himself. No matter what his desire to please his master, the primal law of the hunt takes over at this moment.
The Texas Ranger by Wesley Dennis
Jack Harper with John Oliver and The Arkansas Ranger, American Field Purina Ad, circa 1950s.
Winning the 1962 National Championship with Home Again Hattie.
Jack Harper’s truck displayed near Bryant Hall, Ames Plantation, Grand Junction, TN.