Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Dual Dog dilemma

Many breeds have agonized over the question of which path they, and influential breeders, have wanted to proceed along.
All the Setter breeds have had their share of difficulties along these lines.. But, are they always truly difficulties?
I see many "Show" only breeders competing in the ubiquitous AKC hunt tests in hope of putting a "field title" on what is basically a show dog, to increase the value of their puppies and attempt to pass them off as "duals"... But, that's not what we're really talking about here... With thye qualifications necessary to achieve an AKC JH title basically the dog's ability to fog a mirror placed beneath it's nose, that question is a moot point.
What I am more interested in is the attempt by field breeders to hit the "sweet spot," where the designations between true field dogs and larger show dogs overlap. As far as the Gordon goes, the breed I'm most familiar with, I'd be in favor od splitting the breed, having the Field side conform to the 1939 standard, and giving the show side full reign to increase their standard, which continually calls for a bigger and bigger dog, to whatever degree they feel necessary.. Why give up any field performance for pure eye appeal, if that is the appearance that one likes?
Now, we've discussed this before on these pages, and I won't speak to the English Setter where the situation is a bit different, or the Red... again a bit different, but has taken a road pretty similar to the demise of the Gordon, but was thankfully saved by forward thinking individuals.

Which way would you take a breed? Are folks taking the right path seeking unification of the two factions??

Everyone is entitled to run the dog of their choice, but field performance should be "Job 1" as in the old Ford commercial...


  1. Well, Bill, you know I'm no expert, but you also know I have a dual-type setter and an opinion. :)

    I don't know as I see it as much of a dilemma. Not because I think show blood should be introduced to field lines for the sake of looks, but because I can see the utility, amongst different types of bird hunters, in different types of field dog. As long as the goal of breeding dual-type dogs is to produce dogs that hunt, I don't think you're sacrificing performance, as I would define performance, which is the ability to find and handle birds. If all other things, such as nose, bird sense, biddability, retrieving, etc., are equal, then the only difference between dual dogs and trial/cover dogs (to my pretty novice way of thinking) is in speed and range. A well-bred dual dog should be able to find as many birds and handle them as well, just not as quickly.

    So, I would not hesitate to take a breed down the so-called dual-type path as long as I could find the right genetic material to do so. I would be afraid (although I certainly don't know this to be a fact) that modern bench dogs have gone so far down the path of non-utility that they no longer provide that genetic material, and the gene pool of existing dual-type lines is so narrow that it needs an infusion of some new blood. If I were to breed dual setters, I'd look for that new blood in a field line, not a bench line. I have wondered what a pairing of a good dual line and a good field line would produce. What do you think? Pinecoble x Grouse Ridge?

  2. Dual Dog, the term. Part Deux.
    Its pretty darn obvious that the 'Dual Type' dog most referred to these days, is a reference to the 'type' that resulted from Ryman and Old Hemlock breeding programs and not dogs having dual champion papers.
    Don't get me going. I came real close to getting angry recently over a broken record or tape set on repeat regarding this.
    I'm thinking maybe a nice bit of Llewellin blood infused into a Ryman type.
    Then again I've been biased of late.

  3. It seems to me that there are few things to clarify:

    a) I've said it on my own blog, but I'll say it again. And I am an AKC hunt test judge. If you believe that a JH title means any more than a placement ribbon in a field trial'Puppy' class, then you are misguided. On the one hand, they are both good indicators for potential; on the other, I'm sure we know lots of great puppies that never made it beyond either JH or their puppy and Derby careers as adults. Nor is that necessarily a failure of the dog.

    If JH is the way that non-hunters engage the genetics of their sporting dogs, then all power to them. Have I seen a lot of just barely good-enough dogs? Sure.

    I'd agree with Dave about 'performance' -- and that when considering the potential in a new dog, you look at as many variables as possible (and ideally how both parents actually hunt). Titles can only tell you which games a dog has successfully competed in -- so if you want a FT dog, then look for FT titles -- and every litter has a range of personalities.

    b) it seems to me that there are looks and there's conformation (meaning good, sound body mechanics rather than just size or shape of head). The latter should reflect an ethical commitment on the part of every breeder; the former, however, it seems is much more dependent on taste at any given point in history.

    I'd probably think about a Broad Run + Snow Ridge cross myself... sorry, wrong dogs. 8-)

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