Not that she expected anything less from her own dog, but Tracy Jenson was more than a little proud when Goose recorded a perfect score on a recent natural abilities test for bird dogs.
Goose, a 15-month-old small munsterlander, scored a perfect 112 points in the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association's natural abilities test, confirming to Jenson he indeed is a special dog. The small munsterlander is one of the newest versatile hunting breeds to gain popularity in the U.S., but small munsterlanders have been around since the 13th century in Germany. It's one of the oldest recognized hunting breeds.
"He's a very versatile dog," Jenson said. "He's a great pointing dog, very good in the water and on retrieve. He's a wonderful retriever. And they're sweeter than Labs."
The test, conducted under North American Hunting Dog Association rules, covers about 20 minutes and tests a dog's ability to use his nose, conduct a big search and track, his desire to work and cooperate and his willingness to jump into water for a retrieve.
Jenson has been training Goose by using her special techniques, including just letting him be a dog in a field and pond.
"He'll go into the tules there looking for a bird for an hour if I let him," Jenson said.
She's training him, but she's applying the least amount of pressure on him to perform. She's letting him develop at his own pace, which is naturally quick.
Jenson is a big believer in the NAVDA approach to training dogs.
"I like NAVDA because it prepares your dog for a certain level of testing," Jenson said. "You get a well-trained dog in the end because it gives you goals to achieve with your dog. And NAVDA is a tool in the long run to find a well-bred dog. NAVDA is for the hunter, a great association to get into and get a dog trained."
Jenson said early exposure to training and birds is the key to getting a bird dog interested in hunting and fetching birds.
"It's important to get them a lot of water exposure, a lot of field contact, but they have to think that it's fun," Jenson said. "The worst thing to do is to put pressure on them. These dogs will develop on their own. It takes so little to turn them into quality hunting dogs."
To illustrate her point one day, Jenson opened the doors of the kennels for several dogs in her care at High On Kennels. The dogs knew it was play time and ran ahead of her down the hill to the ranch pond, a cool respite on a very hot late-summer day.
The sight of dogs jumping around and flopping into the water on their own was like seeing the results of a basketball coach throwing out the basketballs and just letting his players play. Like seeing a baseball coach tossing out the bats and balls and saying, have fun, guys.
That's the environment at High On Kennels, and that's why Jenson is renowned for training all dogs, whether they're well-bred, stubborn or problem dogs.
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Oct 8, 2000; Ed Zieralski