2021 Top Field Dogs
Lucky are those special Hounds who compete in field trials spending countless hours in the fresh air with their favourite people doing their favourite thing. From showing off their incredible eyes and speed to using their amazing noses to locate rabbits, field trials celebrate exactly what Hounds were created for.
We got to meet the owners of Canada’s Top Field Hounds and learn how they got involved in their sport, what drew them to their specific Hound breed and how competing went in another abnormal year.
#1 Lure Coursing Dog – Hyflyte Live Long And Prosper S FChX2
|Call name: Vulcan
Breeder: Helen Ferguson
Owner: Marni Smith & Helen Ferguson
Interview with Marni Smith
How did Vulcan come into your life? My friend Helen had a huge litter and there were some puppies not yet spoken for, so I made the decision to take one. I happened to be watching Star Trek reruns at the time, so the name “Vulcan” just came to me.
What drew you to the Whippet? I have watched them for years in performance sports and when the opportunity arrived, I grabbed at it. I had one other Whippet in my home and a Whippet mix, and I really enjoy their fun personalities and their ability to work.
How did you get involved in Lure Coursing? Helen asked if she could take my dogs to an event, so I let her and I popped by on my way home from work. It looked like a lot of fun, so she taught me to slip them, and I became addicted.
Was Vulcan a star right away? Not really. He wasn't fit enough and you could tell he tired out at his first trial. Then he went to a couple more and he just got better and better. In 2018 he made top 10, and in 2019 he was 3rd, 2020 - 2nd so he kind of just climbed the ladder. In fact, in 2021 with 12 starts he won 8 BOB's, 2 2nd's and 2 3rds. He placed in every start this year.
What was Vulacan’s most memorable win of 2021? This year there wasn't one more memorable than the other - it was the sheer volume of first places. We did fly out to BC to visit their trial and that was really fun. We enjoy travelling to these events.
Did you face any challenges while competing in 2021? Thankfully we were lucky and the Covid restrictions didn't affect us as much as other sports since we run outside. With some smart management of the host clubs, we were able to get the 12 trials in.
Apart from Lure Coursing – what activities does Vulcan like to do? Vulcan competes in Agility, Rally-O, and Sprinter. He is trained in Flyball but Covid really closed that door for us. In his spare time, he loves to hike with his pals - running is his favourite thing to do. Retrieving a ball or disc is great fun too. He also is an easy keeper, like most Whippets will just curl up in a sunny spot in the house and bask in the warmth.
How do you keep Vulcan in shape? Hiking, running up and down hills - just getting out walking. In the good weather, we try to walk about 5 km several times a week.
Any advice for someone who wants to get involved in Lure Coursing? Get advice from a real lure coursing club. They are always looking for help and volunteers, so come out and join in and meet some like-minded people. Learn the jobs you would like to do and offer yourself. I believe in getting involved. When I volunteer I learn and can help shape these sports to be better and safer. A few years ago, I was named to the Sprinter Council and now I'm the Jr. Rep for my area on the Lure Council.
What’s next for Vulcan? We are going to set some goals of Novice Agility titles and some Rally Q's this year in 2022. We definitely aren't retiring from Coursing, since it's his favourite thing!
(Photo credit: Marie Heidebrecht)
#1 Field Beagle – FTCh. Farmersboyharechasen Winks
|Call name: Winks
Breeder: Glen Gulliver
Owner: Bill McCarthy
Interview with Bill McCarthy
What drew you to the Beagle? I’ve been hunting with beagles for well over 30 years now and within the past few years have been participating in Field Trail competitions with good success.
How did you get involved in Field Trials? Through friends who are currently involved in Field Trials.
Was Winks a star right away? No, in the early competitions Winks didn’t collect many points or place in the competition. Once she reached 2 years of age, combined with additional training, her successful winning streak began and was consecutive in the spring of 2021.
What was Winks’ most memorable win of 2021? Receiving her FTCH title in the spring of 2021.
Did you face any challenges while competing in 2021? Covid 19 schedule interruptions and weather.
What other activities does Winks like to do? Play fetch, go for walks, runs, and hikes.
How do you keep Winks in shape? Training at minimum once per week and more frequently as trial season approaches.
What’s next for Winks? She’s expecting her first litter this spring.
Congratulations to the Canadian Kennel Club’s Top Sporting Dog Field competitors of 2021 – Retrievers, Spaniels and Pointing Breeds. Among the oldest of dog sports, enthusiasts spend endless hours in the field watching their dogs do exactly the job they were bred to do.
Pointing trials and tests are open to all the pointing breeds, including Brittany Spaniels. The working pointer energetically quarters the field to find game, freezes in position to ‘point’ its location, holds his place while the bird is flushed and shot, and then on command retrieves the downed bird.
Retrievers, Standard Poodles and Irish Water Spaniels may compete in retriever field trials, while retrievers, Irish Water Spaniels, Barbets and Standard Poodles may enter hunt and working certificate tests. Dogs are tested both on their ability to mark the location of downed birds and on their retrieving skill, over land or in the water. At the higher levels, dogs are required to carry out very sophisticated retrieving tests, including marking multiple birds and finding unmarked birds.
The role of the flushing Spaniel is to locate game, flush it out for the hunter to shoot, mark the location where the bird falls, and then retrieve the bird to hand. Spaniel tests and trials require the dog to carry out these tasks with enthusiasm and skill, stand steady as the shot is fired, and retrieve from land or water.
We caught up with the owners of the talented TOP DOGS in each Sporting Field event, who shared how they got into their respective sports, if their Top Dog showed early signs of stardom and advice they have for those new to their sport.
#1 Open Shooting Dog – FTCh. Kinwashkly Lucky Terra
|Call name: Terra
Breeder: Leslie Andreas
Owner: Tom Doherty
Interview with Tom Doherty
How did Terra come into your life? Terra came to me about a year after she was born. Terra was high energy with a lot of drive, determination, and strong willpower. Her other owners couldn’t offer Terra what she deserved, and that was to be able to run free and find birds, and so they contact me to see if I would take on the little bundle of energy and give her the life she deserved.
What drew you to the Brittany Spaniel? I have always wanted a hunting dog and doing my research I recognize that the Brittany was a compact, versatile pointing dog, with intelligence and grit.
How did you get involved in Field Trials? I bought my first Brittany in 2005, both the breeder and the Stud dog’s owner both Field Trial and they asked if I would be interested in learning about it. It was explained, that since hunting season was such a short season, there were other sports to do to keep your dog active all year long. That was how I was introduced to field trials and field tests for Pointing Dogs.
Was Terra a star right away? I took Terra to a field trial shortly after getting her. I had never ran Terra off horse back, and so I elected to walk the brace instead. Here was this little Brittany, never off a leash in her life, standing on line with another bracemate, judges and gallery on horses, and what does she do? She takes off without even looking at her bracemate, hitting all the cover like she was a well-trained dog, stayed to the front, and had a blast until it was time to catch her up, this was the part she wasn’t prepared for not did she want to stop. There were no placements that day for Terra, but by the end of the weekend (2 trials) Terra placed 1st in the Puppy Stake and 4th in the Derby.
What was Terra’s most memorable competitive moment of 2021? Winning the Open Shooting Dog Stake and obtaining her Field Trial Championship
Did you face any challenges while competing in 2021? Yes, there was a huge challenge while competing with Terra, when Terra was 2 years old while out running she hit a piece of equipment in the field shattering her leg. Terra was never expected to run and compete ever again, thankful to a wonderful Surgeon she was able to put Terra leg back together. In 2021, with all Terra’s heart and drive she can’t stop the arthritis, from creeping in making her sore. So in one day, she won her Championship and then retired
Apart from Field Trials– what activities does Terra like to do? Terra loves to hunt, to run, to help train the younger dogs in our kennel. Terra is our matriarch, the queen of our kennel.
Any advice for someone who wants to compete in Field Trials? Come out and try it. It is hard work to get your dog ready for the adult events, but what you get out of it is worth it, an excellent well trained hunting dog. And a dog that will love you completely because you are taking the time to become a team
What’s next for Terra? I was going to say retirement, but Terra would never allow that, so we are going to do more field events, just not fast pace of a field trial, there are so many games to play with your dog, and Terra will be determined that Team Terra & I will continue to work together.
#2 Open Shooting Dog – FDXCh. FTCh. Duchasseur Petite Bécasse WD
|Call Name: Bécasse
Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon
Breeders: Steve Brodeur & Acton Vale
Owners: Nicole Bourget & Mario Gagnon
Interview with Nicole Bourget
How did Bécasse come into your life? It was because of Mario's desire to diversify his expertise. He used to train and handle flushing dogs in field trials. He has produced many champions and one of his Imperial Mollie females has been awarded the title of 1st Female in Canada two years in a row. Later, with Bécasse, he learned a different style of working with a pointing dog. And when Mario sets out to do something, he follows through. Bécasse is a very docile female Korthal Griffon who performs to perfection.
What drew you to the Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon? Their appearance and composure. They also have a very good nose and a great bond with their handler.
How did you get involved in Fields Trials? For Mario, field trials have always been one of his favourites and he always works towards placing first, nothing less will do.
Did Bécasse show star potential right away? Yes, she has performed from the beginning.
What is your most memorable moment with Bécasse in 2021? Everything she does is memorable! When other dogs are retrieving in water, she is called upon often to retrieve game birds that the other competing dogs have not found or retrieved.
Did you face any challenges competing in 2021? None, she is a “perfect” dog. She always knows what she must do and does it well at all times.
Apart from field trials, what activities does Bécasse enjoy doing? Woodcock and partridge hunting. She is excellent at big game hunting and also enjoys hunting for ducks and geese. She does not hesitate to retrieve even heavy birds. She is an excellent grandmother and cares for her daughter Gypsy's puppies.
Any advice for someone who wants to compete in Field Trials? One must enjoy training often, have a good bond with the dog, be patient, and be a good marksman. One must practice often with the dog but also be the dog’s leader. Experience with clay pigeon shooting is desirable and finally, a decent budget is required to participate in as many field trials as possible. Develop a bond with the dog. A dog that is not afraid of but rather loves its master will want to reach for the stars for him.
What’s next for Bécasse? Recreational hunting with her owners. Continue being an excellent grandmother and a great companion when duck hunting with friends.
(Photo credit: Mario Gagnon)
#1 Amateur Shooting Dog – King's Spicy Nutmeg
|Call name: Megan
Breeder: Mike Walker
Owners: Doug McKenzie & Mike McGinnis
Interview with Doug McKenzie
How did Megan come into your life? My friend Mike McGinnis knew Mike Walker and talked him into selling us Megan as a year-old dog.
What drew you to the English Setter? I love the way Setters float over the ground and the way they point with high head and tail, feathers flowing in the wind.
How did you get involved in Field Trials? I was hooked when my first trial dog, an Irish setter named Bandit, got a derby placement in his first trial. That was many years and dollars ago!
Was Megan a star right away? Megan has always been talented; she can run forever in 4th gear and looks great on her birds. She only started winning later in life because her handler (me) is a slow learner.
What was Megan’s most memorable competitive moment of 2021? She won two major shooting stakes back-to-back in the fall at Jim Deyell's awesome trial grounds near Cochrane.
Did you face any challenges while competing in 2021? Covid cancelled virtually all field trials in 2020 and spring of 2021 and the layoff made it difficult for everyone to have their dogs in top form for the fall.
Apart from Field Trials– what activities does Megan like to do? Megan enjoys long walks on the beach, a soft bed and all the love you can spare. She is pure sweetness.
Any advice for someone who wants to compete in Field Trials? Find someone to train with and remember it's supposed to be fun.
What’s next for Megan? Megan is a placement or two from her field trial championship, so hopefully we can get there before she retires.
#1 Amateur All-Age Spaniel – AFTCh. Brickburn Birddog Eclipse
|Call Name: Duma
English Springer Spaniel
Breeder: Sheila Bonin
Owners: Wayne & Patty Brennen
How did Duma come into your life? It’s a long story. I have been active in Spaniel Field trials and hunt tests across North America for thirty years. Fast forward to Duma’s story. I watched his sire, AFTCH FTCH Bushbuster’s Yankee Brat, from his first successes, winning High Point Puppy in Canada 2012, followed by High Point Amateur Canada 2014, to finally accrue 76 All-Age points. He reminded me of my first trial dog Pika, with his style, power, and bird-finding ability. I also watched his dam, FTCH AFTCH Awe Gust Black Eyed Bandit WS, develop and bloom into an impressive dog, whose rookie trainer managed to win and place in many trials.
When I got word of the breeding, I immediately placed a deposit for two puppies. More Déjà vu: I easily picked out Duma’s littermate FTW Brickburn’s Birddog Ilanga (Suni). She was Pika reincarnated and became the 2020 Canadian High Point Puppy. After observing the litter, I was drawn to Duma, partly due to being the biggest boy, his black and white coat, but most of all his placid demeanour. Not a temperament you typically want in a field trial prospect. I reminded myself that his dam just required patience before she bloomed. The successes of 2021 illustrated I was right.
What drew you to English Springer Spaniels? I have loved English Springer Spaniels from first sight. I think it helped that my family has owned and hunted with Cocker and English Springer Spaniels for four generations.
How did you get involved in Field Trials? It started with the 1994 Canadian High Point Puppy, Brickburn Everest Pika MH MH (Pika). I competed and hunted with Pika and her offspring for decades. I am still hunting, competing, training, judging, handling, gunning and instructing in the company of English Springer Spaniels.
Was Duma a star right away? Having two puppies from a litter creates an opportunity for comparison. Duma’s sister was initially faster and flashier and was constantly being noticed. Duma was no slouch, he placed 2nd High Point Puppy in Canada in 2020, showing his obvious talent. I expected Duma to develop more slowly and like his dam, he began blooming in his second year. From day one, my training buddy Tim Bashforth said, “In the end, Duma could be your best dog”. In 2021, it was true.
What was your most memorable competitive moment of 2021 with Duma? It was a cool September morning with a steady breeze coming out of the west, providing a good headwind to make our way through the gently rolling prairie parkland cover at the Prairie Spaniel Club field trial. Duma was first to the line and he was raring to go.
After speaking with the guest judge Dr. Jeff Cubitt, I looked at my gunners to my left and right and asked them, “Are you ready?” I knew with these conditions and the quality Pheasants that were waiting in the cover, Duma’s nose was going to demonstrate his incredible bird-finding skills at speeds and a distance that would surely challenge the guns. I felt like this run would be reminiscent of the historical Nantucket Sleigh ride. It was, I cast him off and hung on for the ride. This series was only the lead-up to the truly memorable moment...
The second series had the Judge, Mr. Jim Willis, and I watching Duma come boiling into a “nest” following the scent cone, as he charged back toward us running as hard as he could, after making a beautiful 40-yard downwind cast, all culminating in the proof of the dog’s abilities when the Pheasant exploded from cover when Duma pinpointed its location and forced its aerial escape. The energy from that kind of run is palpable and you know the judge feels it too.
Duma followed that performance with several more, which led to taking first place that day. You just can’t forget that kind of performance.
Did you face any challenges while competing in 2021? Fewer trials being offered, travel restrictions, drought in Alberta and summer heatwave caused some significant challenges for everyone competing at Field Trials.
Apart from Field Trials– what activities does Duma like to do? Duma follows his genetic heritage and loves to hunt and he retrieves everything he can.
My wife, Patty, occasionally regrets bringing the puppies into her lap at an early age, but Duma has accepted her training regimen with gusto. Duma is a 60-pound cuddler. That training has set him up well for his visits with children in care/treatment and he loves kids. Duma also visits local schools and helps kids with learning disabilities. Finally, volunteered his talent to introduce first-time hunters to the ropes of Upland bird hunting.
Any advice for someone who wants to compete in Field Trials? Find and join a local Spaniel Field Trial club-like Eastern Slopes Spaniel Association. Watch these enthusiasts and learn from them and then train as hard as you can.
What’s next for Duma? Of course, local field trials and hunt tests this season, along with the well-earned opportunity to compete with the best dogs at the Canadian Open National Spaniel Championship and the Canadian Amateur National Spaniel Championship being held in Alberta this year
(Photo credit: Wayne Brennen)
#1 Open All-Age Spaniel – Hearthrock Lethal Weapon
|Hearthrock Lethal Weapon's owners were not available for an interview at the time of publication.
#1 Amateur All-Age Retriever – FTCh. AFTCh. FRR’s Ray of Sunshine
|Call Name: Sunny
Breeder: Lynn Kimball
Owners: Darlene & David Broomhead
How did Sunny come into your life? We purchased Sunny from Kevin Cheff and Ray Smith of Flint River Retrievers when she was 14 months old.
What drew you to the Labrador Retriever? Labrador Retrievers excel as competitive Field Trial dogs, Hunting companions and family members.
How did you get involved in Field Trials? We became interested after we had watched the Gold Whistle competition at the Toronto Sportsmen Show.
Was Sunny a star right away? Sunny showed promise right from the start.
What was Sunny’s most memorable competitive moment of 2021? Sunny delivered a litter of puppies in January, competed in trials earning a doubleheader in August (she won both classes she was entered in, Open and Amateur) and in September was a finalist at the Canadian National Retriever Championship.
Did you face any challenges while competing in 2021? The Covid pandemic forced the cancellation of many events.
Apart from Field Trials – what activities does Sunny like to do? Sunny upland hunts in the off-season.
Any advice for someone who wants to compete in Field Trials? Find a mentor or a good group of people to train with.
What’s next for Sunny? The 2022 Field Trial season begins in May.
#1 Open All-Age Retriever – FTCh. AFTCh. AFC Pekisko’s Real Steel
|Call name: Rocky
Breeders: Alan & Jane Nelson
Owners: John & Sharon van der Lee
How did Rocky come into your life? Rocky was a puppy from a female we had sold to Al Nelson in Kansas City. He was the only male in the litter with the rest being females, so it was easy to pick the male.
What drew you to the Labrador Retriever? Labradors have the desire and talent for field trials and hunting. Their temperaments make them easy to train and they are willing pupils.
How did you get involved in Field Trials? We started in hunt tests and got the competitive bug to try field trials. We have been involved in field trials for over 30 years. John and I have titled eight dogs, finished 19 Nationals and won three Nationals. We enjoy competition in both Canada and the U.S.
Was Rocky a star right away? Yes, Rocky was a star. He was the top California Derby dog in 2014 (for dogs under two) when we competed with him on a winter trip. He became Qualified All-Age almost immediately after turning two years of age, by winning a Qualifying stake. He has had success in placing in all-age stakes in both Canada and the U.S. and has also finished his U.S. Amateur Field Champion title.
What was Rocky’s most memorable competitive moment of 2021? We can’t really put our finger on one particular moment. It seemed that things really came together this year for Rocky. He had a very high completion rate (72%) and only one of his finishes was not in the placings. So, he found a way to win or place almost every weekend. We enjoyed travelling from B.C. to Ontario to compete with him. It was fun to renew acquaintances and train with old friends, as well as meet new ones.
Did you face any challenges while competing in 2021? Of course, travelling with Covid restrictions was still a challenge. Due to the land borders being closed, we did not get to travel south in the winter of 2020/2021. So, all our training was done at home with friends and then on the road when we travelled across Canada.
Apart from Field Trials– what activities does Rocky like to do? Rocky is a wonderful house dog, very affectionate. He does occasionally hunt, but we mostly give him off time when he is not training or trialling.
Any advice for someone who wants to compete in Field Trials? Find a mentor that is knowledgeable and get a puppy from good solid breeding. It is a competition, so there are winners and losers. Don’t be discouraged by not winning the first time, just keep training.
What’s next for Rocky? At ten years of age, Rocky is enjoying tremendous longevity in the sport of field trials. He is still running in competition, which is very rare for a dog his age. We will compete with him as long as he tells us he wants to do it. Then, he will enjoy a long retirement.