NA Test

North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association Tests

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NA Test

Postby AverageGuy » Wed May 29, 2019 8:32 am

Stretch's thread over the last couple of days has raised an aspect of the water test portion of the NA test that I have pondered for some time.

I am a big fan of the NAVHDA test system and I think it fits the way most North American hunters utilize their Vdogs. The NA test when used for the designed purpose of evaluating puppies inherited natural ability can be a great tool in a conscientious breeding program. Including a water portion in the NA test is critical in my view and sets the NAVHDA NA test a cut above other puppy test venues.

But I have always wondered about a specific aspect of the Water portion of the NA test. Specifically I have contemplated as to why a pup is so severely discounted when a bird is used to entice it to swim vs a bumper. I don't think I support that line of thinking but am interested to hear if anyone knows what the specific thinking is behind from those who setup the test evaluation in this manner.

I think a puppy which convincingly jumps in and swims eagerly for a bird tossed in the water has no lesser genetics for water than one which will do the same for a bumper. The difference is not the dog's aptitude for water work but rather its interest in a bumper before training enters the equation. Given the end game I don't think this important aspect in the evaluation is getting to the right conclusion, but am interested if anyone has insights into it. Obviously at least some educated dog persons disagree with my view on this.

An example is my current dog. He showed the normal for his breed, strong natural retrieve at a young age and would retrieve a bumper on land and water early on.

Image

But at around 7 months of age he hit a period where he was far more interested in hunting and searching than he was in bumpers. Birds he continued to retrieve with vigor at each and every opportunity, but he became hit and miss on retrieving bumpers from water, sometimes choosing to go looking for something alot more interesting than plastic or canvas. (Down the road to current day he will cross water out to 250 yards on blind retrieves and do some basic handling on land and water using bumpers, dolkens, dead or live birds.)

Here he is at 4 months on a pigeon he hunted up, pointed and retrieved in the cover surrounding the pond and then we ended the session with a couple of water retrieves. It illustrates the subject I am teeing up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO_CXVV375Y

Is it the right conclusion to evaluate a 4 month old puppy doing this as automatically inferior (Prize 3 Max) to what we want to see in our puppies inherited genetics?

Same dog at 8 months. Retrieved a 2 man limit with marked retrieves out to 75 yards through whitecaps in 30-40 mph winds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0lA7tIJ95M

I do not get why using a bird vs a bumper is so severely and automatically scored down in the NA test.

Any insights from those who know how this criteria was arrived at?

Is it serving a useful purpose in breeding better dogs for hunting?
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Re: NA Test

Postby orhunter » Wed May 29, 2019 9:24 am

Agree 100%. Ellie loved the water but a bumper wasn’t a good reason to go in. Gross training error on my part when she was very young. If a bunch of geese swam by up at the lake, game on. She’d chase ‘em around till her head was just a dot, 250+ yards out in the lake. Get a 4 at the water test, no way.
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Re: NA Test

Postby Dmog » Wed May 29, 2019 9:50 am

This is a great question and I look forward to answers and discussion on this one. All previous answers I have received I tend to believe show that the pup has the ability to be trained and not necessarily natural ability. I am just short of crying foul when a pup loses points in water and cooperation when it goes in wholeheartedly after a bird in the water but not a bumper. Again, as in my previous posts about NA testing, I am a supporter of NAVHDA and believe the NA test is very useful but the water portion is one of those areas that the trainer can mask the natural ability or inclination to swim of the dogs. How important is the natural inclination to swim? It may make training easier but I tend to think not much if you can train your dog to be 100% reliably on water retrieve and they do it because its their job and not because they love the water.
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Re: NA Test

Postby ryanr » Wed May 29, 2019 11:15 am

AG, I think it's because the retrieve is not the focus, the judges could care less if the dog even touches the dummy. What is solely being judged is the pup's WILLINGNESS and CONFIDENCE to enter water and swim a few strokes on it's own, exit the water completely and show the same willingness again. Hesitation during either attempt will likely result in the judges asking for yjr dog to enter a third time because that's what is being judged, willingness to enter water with confidence. So I believe the thinking is they want to see the pup do this with a minimum amount of added enticement. The dummy is just the means to facilitate this quicker and move on to the next dog.

I introduce pups to water repeatedly but I purposely do not focus on using a dummy at least for a while. The dummy is the last thing I care about. And I don't force the issue, ever. Both of my dogs showed a good amount of initial caution with water although it was evident they liked it but just weren't to sure of actually swimming. I start out right away too, going on hikes where we might encounter small ponds and tiny streams to cross. Again, I don't force but I don't coddle either. I'll walk thru that tiny brook and keep going whether thr pup follows it not. Eventually they cross (and I give lots of praise) and start to get comfortable. We keep doing these casual encounters for weeks or months, the dogs don't even realize this exposure is "training." We're just out exploring our surroundings. I am always taking them to public hunting lands and state parks. etc and we'll walk by a pond and hopefully something is in it to entice them in. Or if it's hot enough I'll go right in too. If they go in I'll praise them up, if not it's okay we'll try again tomorrow or at another spot on our hike. My drahthaar didn't actually swim until he was 7 months old and it was late February but there were some mallards on a drainage pond and he just finally decided to charge in after thrm and started swimming. You couldn't keep him out of water after that and still can't. My female GWP loves water, now, but even she is still gaining confidence with being way out there swimming (I live along a large lake.) I'm not worried, we're about to start duck search so I'm confident that will build up her own confidence because she's actually a fantastic swimmer. Again, I honestly believe the best way to prepare a young dog to become a great hunter in the field and water is just by repeated "casual" exposure to as many environments as possible.

DMog, I think a dog's natural confidence in water is very important to it's success as waterfowl dog. Having that just makes it a stronger water dog and more reliable retriever in the water, especially on difficult pursuits of crippled ducks. But we can do a lot to help build and develop that confidence together with the dog.
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Re: NA Test

Postby JTracyII » Wed May 29, 2019 1:00 pm

The theory is that a dog that will go in after a bumper has a greater confidence in the water than one that requires a bird.
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Re: NA Test

Postby Dmog » Wed May 29, 2019 1:55 pm

Why does a dog go in the water for a duck? I would say prey drive. Where does the bumper come in? One of many tools to get the cooperation and simulate the prey? Every instance you use a bumper, you could use a bird. Its not convenient and expensive. Confidence in the water can be developed with birds, ie duck chase. Leads to why such a harsh deduction on the NA test for using a bird? Because its a pain to have every dog swim for a bird and maybe not give it back? Wasteful if no dog onsite gets it before it sinks? Takes too much time on a very limited long day? The NA water test is testing more than just if the dog will swim. I would argue it tests prey drive, cooperation, retrieving instincts, and if the handler has been exposing and working with the dog. I have struggled with this concept that we are testing if the dog will swim. The water creates a barrier to the desire to go after something. If you walk up to the water and your dog runs in and starts swimming like many will, will the judge say okay call him back and send him again with no bumper and if he leaves the water completely and goes back in and swims, you get a 4? Conceptually by the AIMS that would be a yes. In practice, that would be a no, they want you to throw the bumper and the dog go in and swim after it and come back to you with or without bumper completely out of the water upon being recalled.

I will say this, the most hooping, hollering, and good boys comes from the NA water test site when that pup swims on test day!
Last edited by Dmog on Wed May 29, 2019 2:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NA Test

Postby ryanr » Wed May 29, 2019 2:09 pm

No Dmog, the dog is only tested on it's willingness to enter water and swim (3 things are under judgement at the water: water entry, desire to work, cooperation.) Nothing else is being judged here. If your dog will enter the water without you throwing the bumper then there is no worry, the bumper is irrelevant so why focus on it. A judge having you still throw it sure isn't going to affect a confident dog like that. If the only thing that will coax a dog into water is the dead bird then there is obviously still some insecurity in the young dog about entering water. It doesn't mean the dog won't mature into a very confident water dog but right now, at least on that day it's confidence isn't quite as high. I don't consider it a harsh deduction either, the dog is still very much eligible for a prize. It's just NA, although I realize this is likely the pinnacle for a large group of NAVHDA people that will never be back after their pup's NA test and therefore hope to be able to say "my dog got a prize 1."

BTW, if your dog is willing to enter the water without hesitation but doesn't want to come back out, you're getting dinged on cooperation. Ask me how I know, LOL.
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Re: NA Test

Postby Dmog » Wed May 29, 2019 2:15 pm

ryanr wrote:No Dmog, it is only testing it's willingness to enter water and swim without hesitation.


ryanr,
I respectfully disagree with you here. When the dog comes out of the water with the bumper in its mouth and you call it to you, the dog plays keep away from you for what seems like 5 minutes, you can and some have been dinged on cooperation, especially if you gave the dog a recall command.

LOL...posted my response the same time you edited!
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Re: NA Test

Postby ryanr » Wed May 29, 2019 2:33 pm

Dmog wrote:
ryanr wrote:No Dmog, it is only testing it's willingness to enter water and swim without hesitation.


ryanr,
I respectfully disagree with you here. When the dog comes out of the water with the bumper in its mouth and you call it to you, the dog plays keep away from you for what seems like 5 minutes, you can and some have been dinged on cooperation, especially if you gave the dog a recall command.

LOL...posted my response the same time you edited!


Well yes, cooperation and desire to work are always under judgement in all 3 phases of the NA test. My point was that the primary purpose of the water portion is the dog's willingness to swim as stated in the Aims and Means.

And yeah, when I tested my latest GWP it was 96 degrees with a blazing sun when we got to the water, a spring-fed pond. Sure enough she went right into the water, grabbed the bumper and then turned and looked at the judges and I as if to say, "it's nice and cool in here, you can come in but I'm not coming out." Hello 3 in cooperation. I wasn't upset in the least, heck I was laughing. Even more funny is she's a thousand times more cooperative than my drahthaar and he got 4s in everything at his NA.
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Re: NA Test

Postby flitecontrol » Wed May 29, 2019 5:38 pm

ryanr wrote:Well yes, cooperation and desire to work are always under judgement in all 3 phases of the NA test. My point was that the primary purpose of the water portion is the dog's willingness to swim as stated in the Aims and Means.

And yeah, when I tested my latest GWP it was 96 degrees with a blazing sun when we got to the water, a spring-fed pond. Sure enough she went right into the water, grabbed the bumper and then turned and looked at the judges and I as if to say, "it's nice and cool in here, you can come in but I'm not coming out." Hello 3 in cooperation. I wasn't upset in the least, heck I was laughing. Even more funny is she's a thousand times more cooperative than my drahthaar and he got 4s in everything at his NA.


So how long did she stay in the water? Did she bring the bumper to you when she got out? How long did she stay for the repeat swim? Knocking a dog down in cooperation for lingering in a cool pond on a hot day when the dog could be overheated isn't good judging IMO, unless there was somethig else that justified it.
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Re: NA Test

Postby ryanr » Wed May 29, 2019 6:46 pm

Isn't good judging? The judging was spot on. She didn't want to come out and was playing games not to come out. Of course some of it had to do with the hot weather and nice cool pond but I called her a couple times and she didn't come out. Textbook not cooperating. The judges can only judge what they see and what the dog does but people always want to look for excuses.

My point about comparing my two dogs NA Test wasn't to call into question the judging, it was to demonstrate that on any given day a any pup can do something you don't expect. Blaming the judges though is the least constructive reaction and does nothing to help you and your dog. I took that moment of uncooperativeness for what it was, something I needed to give a little more attention to.
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Re: NA Test

Postby jlw034 » Wed May 29, 2019 9:04 pm

We had a puppy do an entire duck search at an NA test. Swam right by the bumper, and worked the entire pond. The judges waited for a while, then decided to carry on with the test. Multiple dogs ran their water portion while this dog was on the other side of the water swimming.

So you've got a dog getting dinged for cooperation for not coming back when called, but showing the drive everyone dreams of.
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Re: NA Test

Postby AverageGuy » Wed May 29, 2019 9:47 pm

ryanr wrote:If the only thing that will coax a dog into water is the dead bird then there is obviously still some insecurity in the young dog about entering water.


The 4 month old pup in the video I posted, immediately makes a flying leap in the water, swims as fast as he possibly can to the bird, grabs it and returns straight back with it. At 8 months of age he is retrieving through whitecaps and a decoy spread.

No one can reasonably watch it and say that pup shows any insecurity entering and swimming in the water. And yet that is the faulty assumption of the automatic scoring requirement.

Absolute edicts that are refuted by the obvious actions of the pup being judged are exactly why I tee'd this up.

In many areas the Judges are required to use discretion in their judgements e.g. Duck Search in a UT, Tracking (vs searching) in the NA, Cooperation throughout, Search. Any Judge capable of making those judgements is capable of doing the same in the water test without the unyielding edict that use of a bird is automatically no higher than a 2.

Keeping in mind the purpose is to breed better dogs by evaluating inherited genetics for critical skill sets of a Versatile Dog, it seems obviously counter intuitive to penalize a puppy which does exactly what we want out of a finished dog.

The AIMs document says "Desire and Confidence to Swim" are what is judged. The notion that when that Desire and Confidence to Swim is triggered by a bird vs a bumper it is automatically discounted by half in the scoring is not something I see value in is where I come out. Add it to the list of stuff I see and disagree with I guess.

I'll go one further.

Retrieving is HUGE in the skill set of a Versatile Dog. The more inherited natural retrieve a puppy has the better I like it. Yes the NA Water test specifically says the retrieve is not important. But why is that is what I ask!?

I think puppies which show a strong natural inclination to get the object they desire in their mouth and return with it are exactly the genetics we should be striving to produce. Why not take note of that and score it higher when it is observed? I am not talking about a perfect return to the handler but the desire to pick up and carry is ideally a strong genetic trait we hope every puppy we bring home will have. How can it possibly make sense to ignore it completely in the NA test?

I would make some changes in the water test if I were in charge is where I come out on it.
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Re: NA Test

Postby orhunter » Thu May 30, 2019 1:24 am

AG: I’m with you on the retrieve thing, it should be an important part of the test. A young dog that can’t or won’t do a decent fetch at 6 months is way behind where it should be. I also don’t think shooting live birds and fetching them should be restricted to the UT. There are probably many with the assumption since it isn’t part of the test, I don’t need to train for it. That’s complete BS.
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Re: NA Test

Postby AverageGuy » Thu May 30, 2019 7:58 am

I pinged a Senior Judge on this. Answer was the moment a bird enters the equation you are judging prey drive. Certainly an element of truth in that.

However It does not eliminate the ability to make a judgement as to the pup's desire and confidence in entering and swimming in water. What you see is what you see. The birds used in the test are dead so it's not like the pup is presented with a live struggling bird to heighten it's prey drive to a max level.

This photo illustrates why that does not dismiss my questioning of the Judging standard in this area. It is not an innate love of water that drives any dog to enter ice water on a swift running river to retrieve 30+ head of waterfowl in a day. Prey drive and training are what does that. And it is prey drive that produces dogs which score the 4 needed to get a Prize 1 in Duck Search.

So if prey drive is in play in judging a puppy's genetics I fail to see the wisdom in discounting it severely in ALL cases as a matter of policy vs leaving the Judges with the normal level of discretion to score it based on their actual observations of the puppy being evaluated.

Image

The issue has been cussed and discussed before and probably will again. When Hunt tests wander from core hunting objectives I start asking questions is how I roll. Appreciate the discussion.
Last edited by AverageGuy on Thu May 30, 2019 9:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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