Some thoughts on NAVHDA and training a hunting dog
By: Phil Swain
These days, our focus on hunting is very critical. The number of people, who have actually hunted, in a variety of conditions, and for a variety of upland birds and waterfowl, is on the decline. This statistic is often very obvious in the people who are entering NAVHDA tests. While the lack of knowledge these folks have can be frustrating, we need to remember that it is important to gain allies for our sport--especially in these times when attacks on the hunting community and pet owners in general are increasing. All of us, we should remember, had to start without much knowledge at some point in time.
In order to build our chapter and increase awareness, while being open to helping inexperienced or new members, we need to work to develop knowledge and integrity in some of the following areas:
1. We have to be hunters ourselves. Without the knowledge working a dog in the field on wild game brings to us, we will, sooner or later, and probably often, be at a loss to understand what our hunting dogs are doing and why. We handicap the dog and ourselves when we don't try to increase our knowledge of what it takes for a dog to put together a successful hunt on wild birds.
2. We need to constantly stress the conservation aspects of our activities. From participating with the Ruffed Grouse Society, Pheasants forever, Quail Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited and so on, we need to stress our participation in developing habitat and conserving game and non-game species. This advocacy of conservation needs to be reflected in every aspect of our NAVHDA events, from how we handle the birds used in the test (before, and importantly after use), how we treat our dogs and the general environment we create around all of our training, testing and hunting events.
3. NAVHDA is an expensive activity. Generally, people involved have discretionary money and therefore have some level of success in their life. In any event, they understand the value of a dollar. This means we, as representatives of NAVHDA and our sport, must ensure people believe they have received good value for their investment of money, time and effort in our activities. We need to be good communicators, knowledgeable and approachable by each other and by people who come to observe and participate in our activities.
4. Above all, we must work to increase our knowledge and our ability to care for and enhance the performance of our dogs. From nutrition and conditioning to training, we must strive to do the best we can for the dogs. After all, without them, we wouldn't have NAVHDA and our related activities.