Hunting Ability: Dog is scored from '0' to'10' on the basis of whether or not it evidences a keen desire to hunt, boldness and independence, and a fast, yet useful pattern of running.
Bird Finding Ability: Dogs are scored from '0' to '10' based upon demonstration of intelligence in seeking objectives, use of the wind, and the ability to find birds. To pass the test, the dog must find and point birds.
Pointing: Dog is scored from '0' to'10' in this category on the basis of the intensity of its point, as well as its ability to locate (pinpoint) birds under difficult scenting conditions and/or confusing scent patterns.
To pass the test and earn a leg towards the title, the scores must average out to 7, with a minimum of a score of 5 in each category. To obtain the JH title, the dog must pass the test four times. Tessa received a score of 8-6-4-7 respectively - not enough to qualify for her first leg. But while I was disappointed that she didn't show one of her nice points, I was very pleased with her performance, especially her nice cooperation.
Being new to all this, I was quite nervous. I decided to walk along with the first brace (dogs are run in twos) to see how things worked and wow, those dogs were mighty, mighty close to the horses. The field was very overgrown, making it difficult to see the dogs and what they are doing. So I was getting a little more nervous. It didn't help that the little Vizsla didn't find a single bird. Apparently, they had been very stingy with the birds, planting about two per brace.
Tessa was braced with Dexter, a 2-year old GSP who is really already at the SH level but was run through the JH anyway. He passed both Saturday and Sunday with pretty good scores. Dexter is an all-business dog that I had met before and I was very relieved to learn that they would run together, as I thought they have a similar work ethic and I was pretty sure they would not run out there trying to play with each other, which will result in a fail if it carries on for too long.
We were brace No. 3 and started our 5-minute walk down the trail to the bird field; when we asked to release the dogs they were off like two rockets - what a sight! Both Tessa and Dexter hunt wide, and they covered quite a bit of ground in no time. Now the trick is not to over-handle your dog, because each time you ask it to do something, non-compliance will affect the trainability score. So my plan was to just let Tessa do the hunting and keep quiet. My luck had it that within two minutes Tessa was sidetracked on the wrong trail and the judge asked me to call her back. Uh-oh! Will she come back to me? Please come back to me! And please don't mess with the horses (Dexter's bracemate from the previous day was disqualified because he wouldn't stop bothering the horses; and this was Tessa's first real exposure to horses in the field). I whistled and to my delight she came running at 100 mph, skirted right between the two horses without so much as a glance at them, straight as an arrow, completely unfazed. I started to relax.
When we arrived at the bird field and the clock started ticking (15 minutes to find an point a bird), the first thing she did was stop to eat some horse manure. Then she took a dump herself; we were losing time while Dexter was out there hunting. I started watching her closely for a point. I walked, she ran, and sometimes I ran too to keep up with what she was doing; she figured out immediately where birds had been, and the judge suggested I take her somewhere fresh, these were old bird sites, so I did, and Tessa came along without any fuss. Close to the end she stopped, I could hear the birds chirping in the briars, and she worked all around them, but never went on a convincing point. I thought she may have pointed just enough, and when the birds flushed, I fired my pistol (blank). Hey, at least I got to fire! Then the judge said "15 more seconds". "Oh my" I thought, and "hunt 'em up Tessa", taking her the direction the quail had flown but nope - time up. With a score of 4 out of 10 for pointing, we failed the test but an 8 on hunting ability wasn't too bad, especially since hunting ability cannot be trained for.
That was at 2 p.m. At 5 p.m. after the last brace, there was the free for all, and whoever was still there headed for the bird field. Not two minutes into it she pointed, and pointed, and pointed. Oh well!