I was fortunate enough to interview Danielle Pellici of BlackFoot Labradors (www.blackfootkennels.com) and discuss hunt tests, dog training and of course key items relative to being a top notch dog breeding program such as health clearances, genetics, pedigrees and more. Danielle bring years of professional dog training experience to the table, but what makes her so unique to us is the fact that her expertise goes far beyond retriever hunt tests and field trials. She is a breeder that takes no shortcuts; she understands pedigrees and genetics, believes in hunt test and field trial accomplishments as a valid measurement of quality, puts the upmost value in health clearances and breeding/producing the healthiest dogs possible and also participates in obedience and agility with her dogs. Needless to say, BlackFoot Labradors is one of the more versatile kennel programs out there, with several clients that hunt upland birds with their dogs. I took the opportunity to introduce the UGA to Danielle and get her perspective on a few common questions we get from our participants. You can also view BlackFoot Labradors on Facebook by visiting www.facebook.com/BlackFootLabradors. Enjoy!
Q: In general, what do you think the biggest obstacle(s) for hunt test organizations are?
- Decrease in available training grounds as well as land use for the actual tests and trials.
- Increase of feed price (corn etc..) making birds for training very costly.
- Decrease of available workers to volunteer at tests and trials.
- I believe that as our dogs increase in skill sets and training techniques advance.. the tests and trials have become more challenging over the years (as they should) however, this poses a problem for the average joe weekend warrior who may not have the land, time , and resources to appropriately train his dog … for this reason not all dogs can showcase their true potential, and also, it deters some new folks from getting involved as they feel they / their dogs are not good enough to participate.
Q: How important are hunt test titles in your program?
A: VERY … As a Labrador Retriever breeder, I believe my breed should be able to showcase via pedigrees a linage of accomplished hunt test and field trial performance dogs. When doing my pedigree research I make sure to not just take into consideration a horizontal pedigree but also a VERTICAL one when it comes to accomplishment (performance titles).. Siblings, 1/2 siblings, and offspring are also a strong testament to a pedigree’s merit.
Q: It is our belief that through education and positive experiences in the field that we can help people understand where to get their dogs, who to seek training help or services from and overall enhance the overall dog ownership experience. What does that mean to you as a breeder/trainer to hear that an organization is focused on these goals?
A: With today’s rage of purchasing dogs based on “color” rather than performance pedigrees and health clearances… and the impulse buys of pups because folks do not have the patience to educate themselves and buy THE RIGHT puppy from the RIGHT breeder. I appreciate the time and dedication it takes your organization to try and help educate. If you can reach one person that will help … the domino effect can be a powerful thing!
Q: A common argument we hear a lot of; “I am not after a hunt test or trial dog, I just want a hunting dog”. We at the UGA try to show people that while there are differences to certain extents, a solid foundation and some technical training can ultimately give you a stronger hunting dog in the field. How would you respond to this comment?
A: I respond to this “debate” often in this fashion: “You can take a good Master Hunter dog out for an enjoyable and productive day of hunting … that dog will “wow” and impress your friend s… it will make jaw – dropping retrieves, and will not break or bark. That dog will not “blow you off” when you have sent it to pick up a blind retrieve (perhaps a cripple on the run that the dog did not see shot) because it “prefers” to pick up the obvious “in his face” drake floating belly up. A Well trained MH titled dog will be respectful of the other working dogs and understands how to honor and to “share” working time. Lastly, a dog trained to the level in hunt tests was not only genetically bred to persevere but training has enhanced that natural tendency so that no bird is left behind … ever …. during your daily hunt.
NOW : Take a “good” hunting dog to a MH test and watch him cheat the water, hunt while running a blind, and switch birds amongst other “bad habits”…. these training techniques are NOT just for following the rules in the test guidelines to earn a ribbon – these skills developed and perfected though diligent training to create the ULTIMATE enjoyable and obedient dog.
To top it off there is the competitive side of human nature (grin) …. While I do not hunt my dogs, I DO run hunt tests and field trials … my husband has his choice of dogs to join him during his early morning dove and duck shoots and he is often the envy of his hunting partners with their “just a hunting dog.”
Q: In your opinion; what is an “upland gundog”?
A: A physically fit and prey driven dog capable of tolerating a variety of weather conditions as well as topographical terrains and obstacles to retrieve birds. It is often the task of the “upland” dog to locate and flush “dry” birds to flight so that they may be shot. The dogs must remain level headed and observant, then, retrieve those birds to their hunting partners. These dogs differ from “waterfowl” dogs in the sense that their job is conducted for lack of better terms … “Up Land” … rather than in marshes, ponds, lakes etc.. where waterfowl birds are retrieved. Yet another reason I am so passionate about the Labrador breed… their intelligence and training versatility along with their physical capabilities makes them a dog for all seasons, and all terrains – Upland gundog and waterfowl gundog alike.
Q: We hope that our venue, as well as our goals can help promote quality breeding and training programs to help people get the most out of their dog ownership experience. What else can we do to help educate people about genetics, training, quality breeding programs, training methods, etc.?
A: A respectful & responsible breeder looking to improve the quality of their breed with each generation will strive to produce GENETICALLY SOUND PHYSICAL dogs. No matter what breed, what sport, “just a hunting dog,” or simply a family pet; no matter what, a dog with dysplastic hips/elbows, failing eyes, Exercise Induced Collapse (as a few examples) will not live a productive enjoyable life and will not bring joy and pride to their owners. Above all else stress the importance of buying from responsible breeders.