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Testing Organizations

Last updated August 21, 2017 by Sheila Schmutz

A Large Munsterlander on point during a field test.

The Saskatoon Gun Dog Club began in 1993 and has hosted a field test, occassionnaly two, every year. The tests follow the guidelines of one of two versatile gun dog organizations: the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) and the Versatile Hunting Dog Federation (VHDF).  These organizations, and their respective hunting dog tests, have subtle yet important differences which will be explained briefly below.  Some similarities include evaluation of both field and water performance and teams of 3 judges independently comparing each dog's performance to an ideal.  In both organizations, all participants are given a score rather than a rank therefore it is possible for all of the dogs in a test to achieve very high scores or for all dogs to fail: there is no winner.



VHDF began in 2007, including both Canadian and American members and affiliated clubs. In 2015, VHDF-Canada began to operate as an independent group. Their primary goal is to support the various versatile hunting dog clubs by offering a system for evaluating the components that make up a successful versatile hunting dog, independent of any registries or other influences. Like NAVHDA, the VHDF offers three levels of testing: the Hunting Aptitude Evaluation (HAE) for puppies, the Advanced Hunting Aptitude Evaluation (AHAE) for more mature dogs, and the Performance Evaluation (PE) which evaluates the finished versatile dog.  Details of each test are available on the VHDF website. Some of the main differences between NAVHDA and VHDF are that the VHDF evaluations are based on a 12 point system rather than 4, and that judges will have dogs repeat exercises if they feel that conditions or some random occurrence has negatively impacted the dog's performance.  Another difference is that in the field work portions dogs are run over fresh ground first and then into areas with planted birds: this is so the judges can evaluated the dog's search on ground that has not been covered in human, bird and dog scent.



NAVHDA has been testing versatile hunting dogs in North America since 1969. The NAVHDA organization is large and very successful, currently testing over 100,000 dogs of 45 breeds per year.  NAVHDA offers 3 levels of testing: Natural Ability (NA) for pups up to 16 old, the Utility Preparatory Test (UPT) for dogs with some training, and the Utility Test (UT) for finished dogs.  NAVHDA also offers a fourth test, the Invitational, for dogs that have earned a Prize I in the UT; a pass at the Invitational earns the dog the prestigious and highly coveted title of Versatile Champion (VC).  Details of the requirements of each level can be found on the NAVHDA website.
The NAVHDA system uses a four point scale to evaluate each dog's performance in a variety of exercises.  Dogs are scored on areas such as Point, Use of Nose, Water work, Track and Cooperation, with the exercises and judging criteria suited to the level.