Category Archives: Field Events

GSCA National Field Trial 2015

2015 GSCA National Championships and Field Trial

November 2 – 8, 2015

Bechtel Ranch, Eureka Kansas

Entries close Monday, Oct. 19, 2015

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Are There Dog Show Bullies?

I’m an average Jo and I’m worried about the future of my favorite hobby – showing and breeding dogs. I want to do something to help turn the tide of the declining number of show and trial entries, the number of purebred dogs registered, and the declining membership in our dog clubs. A decline that has sometimes been the cause of local specialty clubs that have gone extinct.

Yes, I’m just an average Jo. I get to call myself a Jo because it’s my middle name. I’ll never understand what my mother was thinking, but that’s my name.  I’m not “what’s his face” the plumber or electrician or cable guy or whoever that dude was they talked about during the last election. I’m just an average Jo who has what I think is a funny name. It was a great name back in the day, when I was learning to read and Sally was a main character in the books they taught us from.  Back then I thought I was pretty darn special. That specialness has faded though, and now I’m just an average Jo. But I’m an average Jo who has a cause that won’t make world headlines, but my cause has given me much pleasure and I’d like see it stick around for new Jo’s to enjoy.

Photo by Susan Roy Nelson
Photo by Susan Roy Nelson “Nial”

There are many and various reasons why this decline is taking place, but for today, let’s talk just about the personal enjoyment we’d like others to experience when they join our sport as opposed to the bullying that sometimes occurs. Whether we want to admit it or not, whether we believe it or not (and most who do bully others will not believe it) sometimes, just like a group of school kids, there are those in our sport who engage in bullying, and that behavior will drive the hardiest exhibitor away from our midst in a heartbeat. It adds to the declining numbers and accomplishes absolutely nothing positive.

Dog show people are a mixed bunch and I’ve met my fair share of wonderful people who are my life long friends. They’ve dried my tears, cheered me on, offered advice or consolation, they’ve been my best friends, and many of them have a wacky sense of humor that just sucks me right in! Who doesn’t love a good laugh and I have shared so very many with my doggy crowd!

I firmly believe that there are many  wonderful people involved in dog shows.  And I wonder sometimes, do we forget about those wonderful people when the stories we hear mostly pertain to bad behavior? When was the last time you heard someone spontaneously share a wonderful story about how another person helped them, encouraged them, boosted their morale etc. at the ring, at a show, in their club?  It’s easy to take those actions for granted, that people will be nice and act in a caring manner toward each other, and why shouldn’t we expect that from each other? But, the drama of a person or a group of people acting out badly is so riveting to behold, that we may lose those other acts of kindness in the shuffle. It’s like watching the News – how many good stories do you find there? What draws the masses is drama and drama we remember. As a group can we try to maintain focus on letting “the good times roll” while we police our actions for the bad behavior that turns people off from our sport?

Besides for that, do I think there are other less likeable people in the sport? Yes unfortunately, and I’d have to add that I’ve also met a few truly awful bullies among the crowd. But, and this must be said with force, they are not only the professional handlers as some might imply. Can we all agree or have we had personal experience with bullies among all ranks in the doggy crowd? Are bullies also found among the breeders, owner handlers, exhibitors, dog show superintendents, judges, vendors, the club members hosting a show, your fellow club members or the Officers & Directors of your dog club? Have you ever felt bullied and if so who was that bully, another exhibitor, a club member, a group of people? What “group” did they belong to? And, what would you tell them (or the rest of us here) about how that impacted you and whether you will continue to stay in the sport or simply walk away from it thus adding to those declining numbers that I mentioned in the beginning?

So what’s the solution? Is there a solution? Would it help if we were all more proactive, following the advice that is currently pointed toward our kids – “Stop Bullying”? Would you be willing or would you be afraid to band with the person being bullied to make the bullying behavior stop? What if that meant taking a stance against someone who, in the sport, considers themselves “important”” or is recognized as a “top dog” by virtue of being a handler, experienced breeder, or club officer?

Bullying. Where does it start? Where does it end? Do you believe it has had, or is having an impact on the decreasing numbers pertaining to our breed – Gordon Setters? Is it impacting our National club? Our Regional clubs? And if so, what would you do to put a stop to it? What needs to be changed?

The article that started this one on the topic of Bullies can be read at this link:  Are There Dog Show Bullies?

Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, suggestions and the like in the comments section. If you would prefer to withhold your name so as not to call out anyone specific, you may share by sending an email to and I will post for you without your name. That’s what we’re here for, to share and to make a difference in the sport of purebred dogs!

Sally Jo Gift  Mesa, AZ

Photos by Susan Roy Nelson, WY

That Pick of the Litter Puppy | Canine Chronicle

North CountryListen up breeders, this article is written to obtain your responses to help develop a reference article for those looking to us for advice on how to “grade a litter”.  Many breeders honed our skill by holding puppy parties where a bunch of us got together, went over the most recent litter and offered up our opinions on each pup. Sometimes the puppies we liked went on to be Best in Show, Specialty and Group winners, sometimes they didn’t. Most times the wine flowed and sometimes the chit-chat got a bit ridiculous, but the good times rolled for sure.  I still love puppy parties, don’t know if it’s the puppy breath or the wine that draws me!

Photo by Bob Segal, 2015 North Country Specialty
Photo by Bob Segal, 2015 North Country Specialty

Ok, so I read this article on the Canine Chronicle That Pick of the Litter Puppy  and was prompted to do a search for more and came up with a few other articles for you to read that are written by other breeders about when and how to pick a puppy, whether choosing a show prospect or a hunting dog. All of these articles (links below) are about different breeds, some of the information may apply to Gordon  Setters and some may not. The point is that I found some good information in them all, and agreed with some of the points as they mirrored my thought process when picking puppies.

What I’m not going to do today is share my own process, rather I am asking you experienced breeders to reply in comments with your “pick of the litter” ideas. Or, if you’d like you may send me your thoughts by email at In about a month we’ll combine all your expert information into one terrific article to guide those who hope to one day breed their own winners.

And, as I haven’t experience competing in the field I’m going to need a lot of help from you field folks getting the ball rolling on that topic so I sure hope you’re all ready and willing to jump in and offer your advice to those who follow your passion.Randy Pallas hunting

Here are the articles to read – the option to share your comments can be found at both the top of the article and the bottom.

Oh, and we’d also love if you’d share any links to articles or books that you’ve read that provide great advice on this topic

Show Prospects

That Pick of the Litter Puppy | Canine Chronicle by William Given

Pick the Right Puppy by E. Katie Gammill

Selecting Conformation Puppies by Theresa Mullen at Doberman Pinscher Club of America, Breeder/Exhibitor Education

Selecting the Show Prospect Puppy  by Virginia Lyne – at English Cocker Club of America

Field Prospects
How To Pick a Bird Dog – from the website of  Matt and Wendy Czarnecki

Photos by Bob Segal from the 2015 North Country Specialty

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Part 2 – Do breeders need to change?

There is so much to be said about breeders and our contribution to the world of purebred dogs, especially and most importantly when it comes to the “sport”, the shows and performance events we support with our purebred offspring.

Breeders hanging out and having fun together at the dog show! This is what it's all about... Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the photo memories!
Breeders hanging out and having fun together at the dog show! This is what it’s all about…
Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the photo memories! GSCA National 2011

I wish you could all see yourselves through my eyes, because even through my rose-colored glasses, I see that it’s breeders who hold power in the dog show world. Let’s see…

AKC – soon defunct without purebred litter registrations. Dog shows, Field trials, Obedience trials, Agility trials, Rally, any and all of those events – how many do you think John Q. Public would support if only mixed breeds competed and purebred dog breeders stopped participating? Dog Show Superintendents – “let them show mutts” perhaps? Well, good luck arranging those mixed breed Groups into some semblance of order. Judges – hello there mixed breed judging! At least one wouldn’t need to know a breed standard, it shouldn’t be hard to educate a judge, or would it be impossible as the parent breed clubs would be extinct? How will professional handlers earn a living if breeders aren’t producing purebred puppies – maybe they could show guppies – guppies might be good on the go-round shown in a round fishbowl – won’t take much in the way of handling expertise though so could be anyone’s game!

Photo by Sarah Armstrong from 2015 GSCA National
Photo by Sarah Armstrong from 2015 GSCA National

I know that what I just said probably sounded like nonsense to you, but “Hello Breeders!” You really are in a position where you could have more control, more clout, more voice, more power. Yet, when breeders talk we often sound like victims who are at the mercy of all the other players invited to our game; the judges, handlers, superintendents, and so on. Why do breeders continue to allow themselves to act and sound like victims instead of taking charge where and when it’s needed?

Photo by Sarah Armstrong 2015 GSCA National Specialty

Well, I’ve felt those emotions and I’ve been in those conversations, so I do understand how they can happen. Why do so many breeders get so deeply involved in complaining and playing the victim instead of taking a stance, voicing an opinion, creating a solution and championing change? I’m just wondering you see, if as breeders, our majority took a more active role in the decision-making processes, if then the changes we seek would become a reality? How do breeders find our collective voice so we can clearly drive our sport in the direction we believe it should go?

I’d think that more breeders could start by speaking up and speaking out. When was the last time you took the time to voice an opinion to the AKC regarding any issue, whether it be about judges, qualifications for judges, registrations, dog show rules, handlers, any thing, any time? A few of you might have done this, but I know I haven’t done enough of it and I’m an average person so I’m guessing the majority of breeders are like me, and that most of us haven’t done enough to reach out to the right people, at the right time, to voice our opinion about things, any things! Too much apathy in the air and perhaps too many of us stuck in the victim role. If I didn’t like how things were run why didn’t I round-up a petition to voice a collective concern? And, why do breeders tend to look sideways at other breeders if or when they do take a stance on a topic? Why don’t we choose to stand up and stand together, be one voice?

Are we afraid people will see us as a big yellow chicken?

Photo by Sarah Armstrong from the 2015 GSCA National Specialty
Photo by Sarah Armstrong from the 2015 GSCA National Specialty

Competition does get in the way and so plays a role. Generally speaking, there are more losers going home from a dog show than there are winners, and so what naturally follows is that there is more negative emotion generated around an event than there is positive. Defeat. Disappointment. Jealousy. Embarrassment… so many different emotions, many of them painful. We’re breeders and we’re competing against each other in show rings, in the whelping box and when finding homes for the puppies we bred. How can we be human and expect to avoid all the negative emotions that will occur in an arena such as that created by dog shows? We preach about sportsmanship but then when our dog gets dumped or fails to win the coveted award we slip away to lick our wounds, heal our injuries and soothe our egos by finding fault with our competition, who just happen to be – other breeders and their dogs. People who are just like us in so many ways. And that begins the explanation as to why breeders feel we have too little power, too little control, and why breeders are seldom seen as, nor are we often heard as, the decision makers and the governors of our own sport. As breeders we do tend to spend our energy finding fault with judges, and fault with professional handlers, but mostly we breeders expend far too much energy in the pursuit of finding fault with our fellow breeders and their dogs.

When, I wonder, will breeders chose to take power back by ceasing the attacks on each other? When will we collectively group together and choose to use our power to create positive change in purebred dogs and dog sports? When will we work together to create change that could increase entry numbers, encourage people to buy that purebred puppy and get involved in the sport. Seems to me that we could make an excellent start if we simply agreed not to spend our energy attacking each other, and to redirect that energy instead to cultivate and practice respect for each other. With a true respect for each other you see, I believe breeders would then present a more united and formidable front that would create and drive change in the sport of purebred dogs. Change that may be long overdue. I know this kind of change would be cause for celebration, and everyone loves a party, especially Gordon Setters and their owners!

Let’s go have some fun at the dog show where breeders hang out, shall we?

Do Breeders Need to Change (Part 1)

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

When all else fails breeders get out the scorecards to give the judge a clue? Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the fun photo memory!
When all else fails breeders get out the scorecards to give the judge a clue? Thank you Sarah Armstrong for the fun photo memory from the GSCA National 2011

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The View by Dan Voss

Dan voss preferredI am so pleased to welcome today’s Guest Blogger – Dan Voss, Otsego, MN who sent us this thought-provoking article about the “one size fits all” approach to the judging of all-breed field events. Thank you so much for sharing this with us Dan, and just so you know, we all hope you will continue to send us field related content – our readers do love it!

Dan Voss, Otsego MN
The view from the back of the gallery was breathtaking. The sun was low in the evening sky, casting long shadows from the horses. A slight breeze fanned the steam rising from the sweating horses. Whispers in the gallery had a sense of excitement. One of the handlers eagerly called his dog on point, quickly we rode to the find hoping not to miss a single second of this performance. The handler dismounted and casually strode to the front of the dog, the bird was flown and all was in order. The dog was sent on, and while the handler moved to the front time was called and the gallery was alive with chatter. “Who’s going to beat that?” said one. Somebody else was overheard, “I don’t know, that’s the best dog I’ve seen.” And so it goes at every field trial that I’ve had the pleasure of riding. The discussion usually centers around whose dog did the “best” job.

dan dog fieldBest. That’s quite a term. Best for what? Best for a Pointer? Best for a Gordon Setter? Or, as seems to be the case today, best for a pointing dog. There seems to be an unwritten standard by which all pointing dogs are to be judged. I’d like to quote two paragraphs from the Melting Pot, an editorial written by Craig Doherty.

‘When we get to the aesthetic values of a competitive performance there is a set of universal criteria that all seem to agree on. We admire a dog that goes to the objectives with a fast and fluid gait. We expect the dog to work to the front and have eye appeal both in motion and on point. A dog that hits its bird hard and has great style on point is going to be more impressive than a dog that slows and potters around before it finally points. We want a dog that will handle even at extreme distance. A dog that goes out on a limb and holds bird until found is also going to impress the majority. And possibly most important, we want to see the dog finish its hour going away.’

‘If this trend continues, the distinctions between the breeds will diminish to the point where the only way you can tell the difference between an Irish, Gordon or English setter will be by the color of it’s hair, while the only way you’ll be able to tell the difference between an English and German pointer will be the length of its tail. From the perspective of someone breeding show dogs, this is a serious problem – for the rest, it may just be the final step in the naturalization of the various continental breeds to becoming American dogs. Although the melting pot theory of explaining the history of the United States may be extreme suspect when it come to people, open and fair field trial competition may turn out to be a true melting pot for bird dogs.’

Dan Voss article irish n gordonIf Mr. Doherty is correct, and I believe he is, there is an unwritten standard to which all pointing dogs are judged. These unique breeds share one common feature, pointing upland birds. Isn’t it odd that unique breeds, originally bred for specific terrain, climate or working manner are all judged to the same unwritten standard? Should they be subjected to some arbitrary standard in the field that covers all pointing breeds? As an example, the Spinone Italiano recognized by the AKC in 2000, has been characterized as a dog “…that does not hunt for themselves but for their master” and is “not too fast in their speed while searching out game.” (source SCOA) While the AKC breed standard states, “He has a remarkable tendency for an extended and fast trotting gait.” Now, how will that measure up to the unwritten standard applied in an all-breed stake? Well the answer will be, it doesn’t. Should people who have Spinone’s really care if their dogs can win in all pointing breed competition? I rather think, they don’t.

Dan dog horseAre restricted breed trials the answer? Well, yes and no. Conceivably restricted breed trials face a problem, lack of dogs in the area. What does a person do if the their area of the country doesn’t have enough of “their” breed to hold a trial, or maybe there is a small group of dogs but not enough to make a major stake? In the AKC a dog needs a win in a stake that has 13 or more starters, without a major a Championship cannot be awarded. All-breed trials would then be their only venue. Yes, there will be individuals that manage to hold their own in all pointing breed competition and these very dogs, when entered in restricted breed trials, can help keep the bar high when entered in the restricted breed trial. Looking back at the Spinone example, how will they fair in all-breed competition? It’s quite possible that in an area of a larger population of dogs, enough to have Spinone only trials, dogs of lesser caliber could become Field Champions. Dogs of higher caliber in areas with smaller populations competing in all-breed trials may not be able to finish titles. The dog world is pretty fickle when it comes to breeding dogs. Most people seem unable to see the quality of the dog unless it has a title. I’m not advocating making it easier to finish Field Champions, just that in the scope of dog breeding, advances may be brought about faster by breeding to the better dogs and a restricted breed stake can identify those animals and help accomplish that goal.

Dan n dogIn a perfect world we could have competitive field trials and award Field Championships without having a “Melting Pot” effect. Is such a system conceivable? I guess it is, but I rather doubt it ever could be practical. Judges would have to be versed in each breed’s working standard and not reward dogs that trend to the unwritten standard that is in use today.

In closing, a couple of questions need to be answered.

Is the only method for breed improvement through all-breed competition or can the breed be improved through a restricted breed format?

Are there performance qualities unique to Gordon Setters? And if so, isn’t it time that we put that to paper?

By doing nothing we stand to lose some of the qualities that we hold dear, and that my friend, will be a sad day.

© 2004 Dan Voss
The Melting Pot, an editorial by Craig Doherty, Field Trial Magazine Summer 2001

The Power of Trust – Mentoring

Photo by Bob Segal

“Our sport is failing and only we can turn the tide…If our (dog) show world is to survive we absolutely must take on the challenge…” This rings so true to me and that’s what I’m writing about today, what I intend to do for my part to help turn the tide.

I promised myself that I was going to do more, that I would speak out, to help turn the tide in the war against breeders of purebred dogs.

I promised myself I was going to do more to help mentor and teach newcomers to the sport, so I started this blog.

I promised myself I was going to do more to be kind to other breeders, to encourage sportsman like conduct not only in the ring but also in every day-to-day interaction with other breeders and exhibitors.

I promised myself I would treat others in the sport with respect even if, and especially when, I disagreed with their opinion.

I promised myself that I would continue to speak out against injustice, poor treatment of dogs and other people. I  know that this sometimes earns a label like controversial or possibly crazy, but what that means to me is that someone else heard, and by being heard have we not at least made a little difference, somewhere? How can this not be better than apathy?

Photo by Bob Segal

And, I promised myself I would seek and endorse leaders for our clubs who understand and engage in open communication, who not only possess but also utilize negotiation skill to resolve conflict, those who actively engage in the preservation of the sport and the growth of organizations, as opposed to those who inadvertently drive membership away.

If we could all start here, by reading and understanding Viki Hayward’s – Mentoring The Power of Trust we might realize the importance of taking just one step toward turning the tide. Let’s bring new fanciers to the sport, bring success to another individual, bring back the recognition of our gorgeous purebred dogs.

I love Gordon Setters, don’t you?

What are you willing to contribute to bolster our failing sport?

Ushering in a New Era of Gun Dog Training

Many thanks to Polly Cisco for sharing this field training site:

The Positive Gun Dog Association, Ltd. is a network of enthusiasts, hunters, positive trainers and breeders dedicated to advocacy and education within the gun dog industry. Our aim is to demonstrate the applicability of positive training techniques for creating reliable, competent, motivated hunting dogs. By working together to build an awareness of the power of positive training, we hope to literally shift the training methods used in this niche from traditional, aversive methods to positive, dog-friendly ones. Please consider joining forces with us to accomplish this goal.

Positive Gun Dog Association, Ltd » Ushering in a New Era of Gun Dog Training.Positive Gun Dog Association

Be Kind to Other Breeders – Start Today!

Thank You to our Guest Blogger – Jay Kitchener for allowing us to share his comments about the importance of breeders uniting – recognize our common goals.

Jay Kitchener
“The only thing two dog breeders will ever agree on is that a third dog breeder is doing it wrong. The opposition knows this, and they very effectively use it to drive wedges between all sub-groups of dog breeders. Dog breeders fight among themselves and scramble to condemn others while the opposition gains ground attacking all dog breeding. Dog breeders are doing the work of the opposition for them. Dog breeders are being played. Wake up. Take back the conversation!”

Please share your thoughts on the subject in the comment section.
(Photo via I Love Responsible Dog Breeders on Facebook)