Poodles are a very old hunting breed and many still possess the instinct to hunt. A trained hunting dog is indispensable to the bird hunter. The dog participates in locating game and retrieves downed birds on both land and water. The dog plays a very important conservation role by preventing the loss of crippled birds. Some pheasant clubs, in fact, require hunters to use a dog for this reason.
Hunt tests attempt to duplicate real hunting situations. Gunners stationed out in the field shoot the birds. The dog relies on his sense of sight and smell to find his retrieve. Dogs must not be gun-shy and are expected to swim through decoys and cover such as reeds. In advanced tests, the dog may be required to stay with his handler in duck blinds, get into and out of boats, or run through heavy brush and gullies. The more advanced dogs are also given hand and whistle signals for direction to unseen birds by their handlers. The hunt test provides a way to determine hunting ability in breeding stock, encourages owners to develop their dogs' working abilities, and showcases impressive dog work for the interested public.
Hunt tests are conducted by four organizations in North America: the North American Hunting Retriever Association (NAHRA), the United Kennel Club (UKC), the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), and the American Kennel Club (AKC). The four hunt test programs are similar to each other in that the dogs are tested against a standard and do not compete for placements. Also, each program offers several levels of tests of increasing difficulty. Poodles may compete in hunt tests offered by each of these groups. At this time, only dogs included in the Sporting Group can compete in either the AKC or CKC competitive field trials.
In June, 1993, the Poodle Club of America (PCA) approved the awarding of a Working Certificate (WC) title to Poodles for passing scores attained in any recognized Retriever Working Test; approval of a Working Certificate Excellent (WCX) followed several years later. While the tests differ somewhat between different breed clubs, many local retrieving breed clubs allow Poodles to participate in their tests, often adapting the setup for Poodles to meet PCA requirements. The PCA rules for the WC/X are available from the Versatility in Poodles (VIP) website http://www.VIPoodle.org.
Field Training is one of the several areas from which points can be accumulated in order to achieve the VIP Versatility Certificate or Versatility Certificate Excellent award.
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