Having been involved with multiple sporting dog breeds, all have wrestled with the ongoing debate of how to not split the breed in to show lines versus hunting lines. My primary sporting breed has managed overall to produce dogs competing in the show ring that are also hunting dogs by far and large. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons have often sent their top ranked dogs off to Westminster with the vast majority of them having some type of field title, and many with advanced titles such as AKC Senior or Master Hunter or NAVHDA UPT/UT Prized dogs as well.
]We are also involved with an FSS breed, the Bracco Italiano, and have watched the struggle for those of us wishing to move to full AKC recognition against those who fear AKC recognition will cause this division. It’s the #1 argument used against it. It shouldn’t be.
There are many other sporting breeds that strive hard to maintain the duality of their breeds form and function. The art of maintaining correct dogs for the show ring while preserving the instincts to do the job they were bred to do is not always an easy one. I am a firm believer that it’s our job as breeders to do this. No club or entity can do this for us, we have to do it.
The first question as individual breeders is why we should. First, the concept that breed characteristics for hunting are inherited and equal across a litter of puppies is entirely false. No litter produces fault free show dogs that are all the same in show quality simply because they are purebred and well bred. The same is true for hunting instinct. Dogs that are not hunted in the field, are not tested in the field, and haven’t seen a bird in decades of breeding programs are a complete unknown. They might have it, they might not. You don’t know, that is the point. A breed does not preserve these instincts, breeders do! When you stop evaluating your puppies and breeding stock in the job they are supposed to do, you’ve given away the real reason your breed was founded in the first place. A breed standard was written to define how the dog should be built to do it’s job. That being said, that blueprint does not tell you about their instinctive prey drive, biddability, nose, search or retrieving instincts. Only being in the field can do that.
Establishing solid hunting lines also opens up an entirely larger pool of people to place puppies with. Every litter we’ve produced has had full waiting lists before the pups even arrived, only a very small percentage of which are show homes. Finally, dogs love to do their job they were bred for. The joy you will feel when they point their first bird or make a difficult retrieve, is better than any day at the dog show. (They think so too!) You are not a hunter? Well, that’s OK! I hope to share in my next article HOW to do this, whether you hunt or not.