2022 August
Discussion topics submitted to the Judging & Testing Committee over the last few weeks.


  1. Question: During the retrieve of duck sequence the handler shoots after the duck has hit the water. Can we redo this part of the test?

Answer from the J&T: As judges you can redo any part of the test if you feel it was administered in an unfair way. For this particular question we feel it

2022 July

July 2022 Judges Email Blast
We can all agree that with the explosion in new members and chapters we are going to need more judges, especially in the West. We understand that skyrocketing travel costs may be a barrier, for some, to enter the Apprentice program. The Judging & Testing Committee has recommended, and the Executive council has approved the following changes for those individuals in the Apprentice Judge program. These changes are also provided to incentivize those individuals who may be considering entering the Apprentice program. a. To enter the Apprentice program the prospective Apprentice must attend an Aims & Rules Clinic. Once the prospective Apprentice is approved to enter the Apprentice program, if desired, a refund for his or her clinic fee may be submitted. Approved Apprentice applicants as well as current Apprentices may submit a voucher for refund to the central office. Vouchers can be found on the NAVHDA website under Forms Express / Testing Forms / Judges: b. Current guidelines require apprentices to apprentice out of area twice. To reduce travel costs, the out of area requirement has been modified to require just one out of area test. Additionally, for Apprentices approved as NAVHDA judges at the 2023 annual meeting, and beyond, a $500 refund, if requested, will be authorized to help defer travel costs incurred during apprenticeship. As in the Aims and Rules clinic fees, a voucher may be submitted to the central office. c. Judges: As noted in paragraph 1, NAVHDA continues to grow. Chapters, in some cases, are having difficulty obtaining judges for their tests. When you get an invitation to judge PLEASE respond within two to three days. If you cannot provide an answer in this time frame, it is expected you will notify the inviting chapter and let them know when you will be able to respond. Additionally, please communicate with your chapter leadership and encourage them to request judges as early as possible. Some judges are already receiving requests to judge in 2023.
The Aggressive Dog Policy has been revised. Please read and know the policy stated below:
Aggressive Dog Policy – Revised 6/28/2022 – Final An aggressive dog is defined as, but is not limited to, a dog that has, without provocation, bitten, attempted to bite, attacked, or attempted to attack a person or another dog. Aggressiveness is not manifested by a dog that growls, pulls away or gets fearful and snippy due to not wanting to have teeth or coat checked. This dog is reactive, not aggressive. Cases of aggression at any NAVHDA International or Chapter event, including but not limited to tests, local training days, Aims & Rules clinics, or social events, should be reported to the Director of Testing and the Director of Judge Development within 72 hours. Letters describing the aggressive incident should be submitted by the individual(s) who witnessed the event. The owner or handler should also submit a statement describing the incident. Pictures/videos may be submitted along with these statements. The following action will be taken if, during a test, the judging team witnesses an actual display of aggression, which they reasonably believe meets the foregoing criteria: Judges will have the dog immediately removed from the test grounds. Further, the dog will not be allowed to return to the test later to finish the test, and no prize will be awarded. “Aggressive” should be noted in the
Comments section of the scorecard. Letters describing the aggressive incident shall be submitted by each member of the judging team witnessing the aggressive behavior. The owner/handler will also submit a letter regarding the incident within 72 hours. These letters are to be submitted to the Director of Testing and the Director of Judge Development. All submitted materials will be reviewed by NAVHDA’s Judging and Testing Committee, who will then make recommendations to the Executive Council as to whether the relevant dog should be designated as aggressive. The Executive Council of NAVHDA will vote to accept, reject, or suggest any revisions to the wording of the Judging and Testing Committee’s recommendation. Dogs determined to be aggressive will not be permitted to participate in any future NAVHDA events and will have “Aggressive” noted on the dog’s pedigree.
From the Field: Questions from handlers and Judges recently brought to the attention of the Judging & Testing Committee.
a. Question: Upon completing a Retrieve of Shot Bird sequence, is a UPT, UT or INV handler allowed to place the shot and retrieved bird in his or her hunting vest, or game bag, and continue the test with the bird(s) stowed in such garment? In the simplest terms, the question describes a normal hunting scenario where the hunter has shot game, the dog has retrieved the shot game, and the hunter places the shot game in storage on his or her person and continues hunting.
Answer: Yes. All UPT, UT or INV handlers have the option to place shot birds in his or her vest or game bag. As judges you always have the right to inspect birds if you suspect mutilation of game. You also have the right to limit this behavior if it appears to be used somehow to influence the behavior of the dog.
b. Question: When walking at heel what or how many corrections, (such as a tight lead or missed gate) are allowed before the dog is penalized? For example, if a gate is missed; ¾ of the length of the dog is ahead of handler; there is a foot stomp or foot shuffling (i.e., the handler is obviously not moving at a normal pace); or the handler knees the dog’s side to make a correction.
Answer: This is a practical test of the handler’s ability to approach a body of water intending to jump shoot ducks. The highest score should be given to the dog and handler that can accomplish the task with minimal or no commands. Excessive pulling on the lead, foot stomping, an abnormal pace or missed gates may be penalized depending on the frequency and severity.
Note the comment on the walk at heel from the Judges Handbook: “The intent of this test is not to be judged as an elimination test. Is the dog being obedient to the handler? The dog that leads the handler down the path is not at heel no matter what the slack in the lead may be.
Notice the wording in the rules book, “EXCESSIVE pulling of the lead by the dog or handler will lower the score.” A point deduction for each tightening of the lead is not what this says. The Judges must decide the degree of the infraction.”
c. Question: During steadiness by blind, how much barking and how much bouncing of the front feet are we allowing before penalizing the dog?
Answer: The Aims & Rules states that the highest ratings will be awarded when both dog and handler are silent, and the dog remains by the blind until commanded to retrieve. Judges must decide what is excessive and score accordingly. If barking or bouncing is excessive enough in the judges’ opinion to flair approaching ducks in a hunting situation, then that should be reflected in the score.
d. Question: On the retrieve by drag if the dog damages the duck to the point where it may be unfit for the table but brings it correctly back to the handler should we call it mutilation and “0” out the dog in retrieve by drag, but say nothing in the comments? Or should the dog receive a “0” in cooperation and score the retrieving work separately?
Answer: A dog that mutilates game to the point of rendering it unfit for the table will receive an overall non-qualifying score of “0” in cooperation. In the comments section of the scorecard judges should write “mutilated game”. Since cooperation is part of the retrieve by drag score, the drag score will also have to be reduced.
e. Question: Should the judging team debrief and complete the evaluations of apprentices together (i.e. at the same time) at the end of the day?
Answer: No, never. Apprentice debriefs should always be done with the judging team and one Apprentice at a time.
f. Question: In past years all three judges helped in releasing the pheasant and watching the track the bird made. Once this track was satisfactory, the handler was called and shown the track start and direction.
In recent years, this procedure has been altered by some judging teams. The altered
procedure has the handling judge staying with the handler and giving a crash course on how to release the dog and get a good start on the track. When called, this judge and the handler proceed to the start of the track. Upon arrival one of the two judges who released the pheasant provides details on the start and direction of the track. This procedure leaves the handling judge at a disadvantage in not knowing where the track went, determining when or if the dog crosses the track, and, when, if necessary, to move a handler up.
To maintain consistency, it is recommended that all judging teams’ approach the pheasant
track in the manner first described above (i.e., all judges are present at release of the pheasant). With this procedure in place, it is recommended that an announcement at the beginning of the track sequence in the test be made to the effect that: “If you are not sure how to release your dog on the track ask the field marshal or a chapter designated individual for instruction.” Judges should not conduct a crash course on releasing the pheasant while the bird is being released.
Answer: The Judging & Testing Committee unanimously agreed all three judges should be present when the pheasant is released to observe the path of the bird. Conversations with NA handlers regarding how to release a dog on the track may be held after opening remarks, at lunch or another
convenient time. It should also be noted that at some point prior to pheasant tracking all handlers should be asked if they would like their dog to see “a bird” prior to the track. (Note: Most dogs are not aided by smelling the bird before the start of the track. This added visual stimulus often causes unneeded excitement and detracts from the concentration necessary to complete the track. Each handler should be asked if he or she wishes the dog to see a bird prior to the track. Conversely, when instructions on how to release the dog on the track are given, the option of showing the dog the bird may be offered. If the handler opts to have the dog shown the bird, this should be a Field Marshall responsibility.)
g. Question: The judge’s handbook states that moving the dog up one time after the pheasant track starts is ok and the dog can still receive 4?
Answer: The Judges Handbook does not say this. The handbook states: “If a dog must be called for a restart for any reason other than gross handler error or problems not of the dog’s making (e.g., tracks are laid too close to each other), usually the highest score that can be earned is a 3. Normally only one restart is allowed. A restart is defined as placing hands on the dog or moving the handler forward from the release point. If the handler is moved up a second or third time, adjust the tracking score accordingly”. Again, judges must evaluate the total performance on the track and render a score accordingly.
h. Question: Scenario: The dog points, then takes out the bird; the bird flies 25-30 yards, the dog follows and catches the bird, then retrieves to hand. This issue has been previously discussed in a Judges workshop. Notes from the 2019 Judges workshop state: Score the retrieve whether it was shot or not. Note on the back of your scorecard if shot or not. If, at the end of the run, there are no shot birds, be sure to plant a bird to be shot. You may have to hold the dog based on its steadiness performance. Retrieve of at least one shot bird is necessary to fulfill the requirements of the test.
Answer: The verbiage noted above from the 2019 Judges Workshop is correct and answers the question described in the scenario.
i. Question: After establishing a point that initially meets the ICUP criteria then creeps, cat walks, dances, or circles wanting to look at the bird prior to being aware of human presence, is it appropriate to reduce the pointing score?
Answer: Yes, the pointing score should reflect the severity of the infraction.
j. Question: Similar to the foregoing situation, If the dog establishes a convincing point and, prior to being aware of human presence, sees the bird standing in short cover and walking around, then breaks and flushes the bird but stops as the bird takes flight and remains in place, should a shot be fired? If the dog stays steady until the handler gets to the dog and releases it, how should pointing be judged?
Answer: The pointing score should be reduced as should the steady to flush score. Since the dog stopped, it may be given credit for steady to wing.
Regarding firing a shot in this or similar scenario’s, the Judges Email Blast from June of 2021 states the following: “At the Judges Workshop (January 2021) we also discussed whether there should be a shot in the air for a wild flush, bumped bird or stop to flush situation. The Judging & Testing Committee discussed this at length and decided that at this time there would be no rule change and a shot is not required on a wild flush, bumped bird or stop to flush. The EC has also concurred. We looked at this from purely a safety factor. Some chapters have very experienced, well-seasoned gunners, and some do not. We determined that this may put too much pressure on a gunner which could result in a safety issue. There are, however, certain circumstances that the judging team may request a gunner to shoot a bird in a wild flush, bumped or stop to flush situation so they can judge retrieve of shot bird. These instances are rare and at the discretion of the judging team and should only be administered with a great deal of caution and safety.”
k. Question: If a UPT, UT, or INV dog establishes a convincing point and prior to the dog being aware of human presence, the bird flushes on its own and the dog chases the bird, the dog should be penalized in steadiness to wing. The dog should not be penalized in steady to flush (since the bird flushed on its own) or pointing if the point was convincing and intense. (Note: We always state that pointing judgement ends when the dog is aware of human presence, but I also think we need to state that pointing judgement can also end when the bird flushes…either on its own or if the dog takes the bird out.) Answer: Yes, this is exactly correct.
l. Question: Several NA handlers have asked to carry a gun in the field stating that it doesn’t say you can’t.
Answer: No, NA handlers are not required to swing on the bird and no birds are shot for NA dogs. Therefore, this could be considered a training aid and NA handlers are not permitted to carry any type of firearm.
m. Question: Commanding a dog to lay down at the Invitational honor by the blind sequence. Aims doesn’t mention it, Invy FAQ’s state this is not permissible.
Answer: At the honor by the blind at the Invitational dogs are permitted to stand or sit, they are NOT permitted to lay down.
m. Question: Many times, in the past month I have seen an “in heat” female at a Test. At each of these tests a male dog needed to be brought back for “use of bird at water” or to “re-run a track”. Typically, this occurs after all other dogs have run. At each test the “in heat” female was last in the running order. To my knowledge there is not a rule or protocol written covering this scenario. Should all dogs complete their task prior to the “in heat” female? This could give the female the benefit of bird scent on the water. Adversely the “in heat” scent could distract the male from the task at hand.
Answer: Females in heat should always be run last.
n. Question: What is the protocol if there is a “Mixed Test” of NA, UPT or UT and (1) or more females at each level are “in heat”? Should Test Secretaries not be allowed to mix “in heat” test levels for a Test?
Answer: Test secretaries rarely if ever know when a dog in heat will be entered in a test. Additionally, many handlers do not know whether their dog is in heat or may not know when the heat cycle began or ended. Judges need to deal with these situations adhering to procedures that, in their judgement, will least affect the dog’s performance in the test. Generally, the guideline that a female in heat will be run last should be followed.

2022 April

Below you will find questions, comments or concerns brought before the Judging & Testing Committee over the last few weeks.

Judges Returning Phone Calls and Emails
Several Test Secretaries have communicated that they are asking people to judge a test and they are not getting a response. I’m sure everyone is getting lots or requests to judge these days. As a professional courtesy please respond to test secretaries in a reasonable amount of time (within a week) and let them know if you are available to judge or not available to judge.

Test Evaluation Form
If a Chapter Officer would like to review or take a photograph of the completed Test Evaluation form, they are welcome to do that

Training Aids
Handlers are not allowed to run a dog in a NAVHDA test with anything that may be considered a training aid. These include, but are not limited to; choke collars, pinch collars, slip leads, wonder leads, GPS devices, e-collars, belly protectors, neoprene vests, treats, and goggles. The only exception would be for a dog with an obvious injury and that would be at the sole discretion of the judging team to allow or not. The discretion may be based on a determination that the device is clearly to protect an injury and is obviously NOT a training aid or something that might be used as a training aid. Handlers are allowed one flat collar to be on the dog. The only exception would be the addition of a flea collar. There are times when the judging team will ask for a high visibility collar to be placed on a dog at the Invitational level to help the team identify similar looking dogs running in a brace.

Treats are considered a training aid, as stated above and are not allowed to be given while your dog is under judgment. In the event the use of treats is discovered after the fact, scores in desire, cooperation and obedience may be impacted if it is determined their use was while the dog was under judgment.

A dog that creeps, cat walks, dances, circles, or wants to look at the birds prior to establishing an intense and convincing point should be penalized in pointing. This includes dogs testing at all NAVHDA levels.

Field Search Duration
Dogs are to be given the full allotted time during the field search: Judges should never ask the handler to leash the dog prior to 20 minutes for NA, 25 minutes for UPT, 30 minutes for UT, and 1 hour for Invitational dogs. More time may be given at the judge’s discretion to fully evaluate performance.

Blinds need to be 3 sided and at least 36 inches in height. The blind must create a barrier between the handler and the dog. During the retrieve sequence the handler must be inside the blind until the dog is sent for the retrieve. As the dog returns with the duck, the handler may stand to one side of the blind and away from the water’s edge. Some good examples of these would be the Gunners Up 3 panel or the Zinger 5 panel.

UT Takeout’s / Steadiness
Question: If a UT dog takes out a bird how is steadiness to be judged?
In the 2020 Judges workshop it was determined that pointing judgment ends when the dog is aware of the handler, judges or gunners and judgment of steadiness then begins. In answering this question, the Judging & Testing Committee has determined: A UPT, UT or Invy dog that takes out birds after establishing point should be penalized in steady to flush and wing. By taking out birds the dog has not allowed the steadiness sequence to begin and should therefore be severely penalized (i.e. nonqualifying score) in flush and wing on that particular bird sequence.

2021 September

Bite & Teeth
If you have judged a dog to have either a butt bite, overshot or undershot, you do not need to list the numbers of the teeth involved. Please simply circle butt, overshot or undershot on the card. If you judge a dog with missing or extra teeth, please circle missing or extra and list the number(s) of the teeth that are extra or missing. If you have judged any abnormalities with bite or teeth, please do not write “ok” in the space to the left of bite and teeth, just leave that blank.

Apprentice Judges Checking Teeth
Please make sure we are teaching Apprentice Judges the safe way to check teeth. They should remain standing on one side of the dog and not kneeling. If the dog lunges while someone is kneeling, the person will generally end up on their back, which of course is not safe.

UT Blind Sequence
As a reminder, please give clear instructions to handlers in regards to shouldering the gun during all shots for steadiness by the blind, and swinging on the duck while the duck is in “flight”. If handlers fail to shoulder the gun or swing on the bird, that should be reflected in their steadiness by blind score.

Social Media
As Judges and Apprentice Judges, we are held to higher standard of personal conduct. Please be very mindful of what you write or post on any dog related social media platform. Comments denigrating a breed, breed club, member of a breed club or NAVHDA are inappropriate.

Apprentice Score Cards
Apprentice Judges are learning our system and the use of score cards. Please make sure that Apprentices are filling score cards out completely, including their scores, as well as the consensus scores. Please also check throughout the day that the notes and the back of Apprentice cards justify the number on the front of the card.

Aggressive Dogs
We recently had an incident at a test where a Judge was severely bitten by a dog. This was very unfortunate for the handler, the dog, and most certainly the Judge who sustained injuries. We can all agree that this kind of incident is extremely rare in NAVHDA, but with that said, we felt the need for clearer guidelines regarding aggressive dogs was warranted. The EC, in consultation with the Judging & Testing Committee, has adopted the following protocol in regards to aggressive dogs:

  • Aggression is defined as, but is not limited to, “a dog that attacks, or attempts to attack, another dog or person”
  • As Judges we must be very careful and mindful before we write “aggressive” on a scorecard. We’ve all judged dogs that growl, pull away and get snippy because they don’t want their teeth checked; that is not aggression. We’ve also all judged dogs that we just can’t check teeth for fear we will be bitten; that is also not aggression. However, this type of behavior is a fault and needs to be clearly noted in the comments section of the scorecard. Please be clear and concise in your description, but do not use the term “aggression” unless, in your view, the dog’s behavior meets the definition above. As Judges, you must make a careful and thoughtful decision as to whether the dog is aggressive.
  • A dog that is judged to be aggressive will be immediately removed from the test grounds, and will not be permitted to finish the test. As is the case for a dog pulled from the test due to injury or because the handler elects not to continue the test, the portions of the card and the scores the dog has received will be completed and the totals added. Again, no prize will be awarded and the reason should annotated in the comments section on the card.
  • A dog that is judged to be aggressive will not be eligible to receive a prize for that test.
  • If you judge a dog to be aggressive, please write in the comment section “Aggressive”, along with an explanation of what transpired.
    The Judging team must provide written statements detailing what transpired within 72 hours to the Director of Testing and the Director of Judge Development for any dog that is judged to be aggressive.
  • The Judging and Testing Committee will investigate and make recommendations to the EC as to whether the dog will be permitted to run in any future NAVHDA tests.
2021 June

Judges Email Blast
From the Judging & Testing Committee
June 2021
UPT Steadiness by Blind
At the virtual 2021 Judges Workshop we discussed whether the steadiness by blind criteria should be changed to allow the UPT dog to break on the shot. The Judging & Testing Committee has recommended to the EC that this rule should not be changed. The EC has concurred, so there will be no rule change. As a reminder our rules for UPT Steadiness by Blind are, and will remain…. “When the duck is in the air, the handler will aim at the duck and fire a blank. After a pause, the handler sends the dog for the retrieve. There should be a distinct time interval between the fall of the duck and the handler’s command to fetch. The dog is expected to stay until sent for the retrieve. To achieve a minimal passing score (1), the dog must stay at least until the duck is thrown.

UT Field Steadiness
At the Judges Workshop we also discussed whether there should be a shot in the air for a wild flush, bumped bird or stop to flush situation. The Judging & Testing Committee discussed this at length and decided that at this time there would be no rule change and a shot is not required on a wild flush, bumped bird or stop to flush. The EC has also concurred. We looked at this from purely a safety factor. Some chapters have very experienced, well-seasoned gunners, and some do not. We determined that this may put too much pressure on a gunner which could result in a safety issue. There are however, certain circumstances that the judging team may request a gunner to shoot a bird in a wild flush, bumped or stop to flush situation so they can judge retrieve of shot bird. These instances are rare and at the discretion of the judging team and should only be administered with a great deal of caution and safety.

UPT and UT Retrieve
In the 2019 and 2020 Judges Seminars the number/type of commands (encouragement) that may be given on a retrieve were discussed. On a retrieve in the field, at the pickup, a SINGLE encouragement, e.g., “good dog” may be given. Similarly, in the retrieve of the duck, a SINGLE encouragement, e.g., “good dog” may be given. The rules for the retrieve on the drag have not changed and remain as stated in the AIMS. Once the dog is sent, it is on its own to retrieve to hand without additional commands or encouragement.

We have received a few reports from the field that handlers are either walking at a “snail’s pace” through the gates or going through so fast they are trotting. Both are unacceptable and should be judged accordingly. Clear and concise instructions should be given to handlers to
walk at a normal pace through the gates. In addition, we tell handlers that judgement will begin when you give your first command or go through the first gate. Therefore, heeling instructions should be given in close proximity to the gates. Please remember, as in all testing, verbal and non-verbal commands should be scored accordingly.

NA Pointing “Weighted Birds”
Birds found and pointed in the field for the NA dog should not be “weighted” differently in pointing than a bird that judges must call for and plant. Planted birds are weighted the same as birds found naturally in the field. Additionally, the pointing score for the NA dog should give the most weight to the best (overall) performance. Unproductive points do not necessarily reduce the pointing score on a one-to-one basis. (i.e one unproductive point reduces the pointing score one point.) If the NA dog points several birds well but has an unproductive point or two, judges should consider the overall pointing performance. Other factors such as “hot spots” where several birds have been planted should also be considered when evaluating how much an unproductive point may or may not lower the pointing score.

Answering Handler Questions
We judge dogs as a team. At the conclusion of the test please answer each individual handler’s questions as a team and not individually. Please also give handlers ample time to come up to you and have a conversation before finishing up paperwork and departing.

UT Duck Search
If a duck is produced on the duck search and needs to be dispatched, only a judge or designated gunner should shoot the duck and NOT the handler.
Want to become a Clinic Leader?
The process and criteria for current Senior Judges to become Clinic Leaders has changed. If you are a Senior Judge and you have interest in becoming an Aims & Rules Clinic Leader, please visit the NAVHDA homepage and click on the Aims & Rules Clinic tab. At the bottom of the page there is a link that will illustrate the criteria and process to become a Clinic Leader.

Checking Physical Attributes
We check physical attributes as a courtesy to the handler. If you encounter a dog who is obviously agitated by checking the coat, teeth or testicles, please do not put yourself in a dangerous situation and possibly be bitten. Stop the attributes check, circle sensitive or shy as appropriate and add notes to the comments section of the card to reflect why the attributes check could not be completed.

Judges Failing to Return Phone Calls & Emails
We have addressed this many times in the past, but it still seems to be a significant issue. We have received many communications from Test Secretaries who have become frustrated that Judges fail to return phone calls and emails requesting them to Judge. Quite frankly this is unacceptable and unprofessional. Two days should be ample time for you to check your calendar to look at your professional and personal commitments and get back to the Test Secretaries with a yes or no answer.

Judging & Testing Committee Phone Numbers
If there is a problem at a test, or the team needs a rule clarification, please call Mark Whalen, Director of Judge Development, or another member of the Judging & Testing Committee. Please add these contacts to your phones for future reference.
Mark Whalen (240-888-5826) Director of Judge Development
Dan Wittman (623-237-2790) Director of Testing
Phil Swain (503-329-7943) Apprentice Judge Program Manager
Brian Thoman (303-807-3335) Acting Senior Judge Program Manager
Peter Wade (207-491-1122) Apprentice Mentor
Tom Swezey (970-215-1271) Apprentice Mentor
Ruth Weiss (760-207-4108) Apprentice Mentor
Roy Ames (262-818-7718) Member at Large
Steve Kosmicki (847-652-0454) Member at Large

2020 July
Covid-19: As we gear up for what is certain to be a very busy late summer and fall testing season, I want to remind everyone that safety remains paramount. As you travel to Judge please make sure you are aware of, and are following, State, Local, and Provincial guidelines. Practicing both social distancing and good hand hygiene will be of great importance. If you see an unsafe situation please say something and work as a team to correct it.

Heat and Humidity: We are experiencing very high temperatures throughout most of the country with no end in sight. Please consider beginning tests early and get your field work done as soon as possible before temperatures get too high. Please also work with the chapter to ensure there are ample water tubs in the field and they are refilled every morning with fresh water. Encourage handlers to hydrate their dogs and themselves often. As Judges we are in the field and sun all day, so hydrating yourselves will be very important. Please use caution to keep yourselves healthy in these extreme temperatures; heat stroke or heat exhaustion are a real concern. Pay attention to your body and how you are feeling.

Judges Workshop: The Judges Workshop this year will be virtual. We will have the workshop on a Sunday sometime in January. We will keep this virtual meeting to no more than 3 hours in length. I am working now with some very experienced IT folks to identify a platform for this meeting; right now it looks like we will use the Microsoft Teams platform. I will provide more detailed information on this at a later date, and in the meantime I will be working with the Judging & Testing Committee to develop the agenda. If you have something you would like to see on the workshop agenda please reach out to me at any time. As a reminder, all Judges are required to attend a workshop once every three years.

Social Media: As social media continues to grow many of our Judges are being asked to participate on pod casts and interviews with various outdoor organizations. In addition, Judges are also being asked to write articles related to training or their experience with NAVHDA. This is certainly acceptable and quite frankly shows how highly regarded NAVHDA Judges are in the dog world. With that said, only a member of the Board is authorized to speak on behalf of NAVHDA International. So, we ask that when you are writing your articles, or being interviewed for a pod cast, that you clearly state the following; “I am speaking as an individual NAVHDA member or Judge. I am not authorized to speak on behalf of NAVHDA International, and my views do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of NAVHDA International.”. In addition, if you are posting videos to any social media outlet avoid using the term “NAVHDA Training”, as this again may be confused by viewers as an official or sanctioned NAVHDA video. Lastly, while the EC is currently working on a broader social media policy, in the interim any social media posts should not contain information or images that might be viewed as detrimental to NAVHDA.

Role of the Senior Judge: I spoke about this at the Judges Workshop, but I think it bears repeating. From the Aims & Rules book; “The Senior Judge acts as the team Captain and rules on procedural matters. The Senior Judge, in consultation with the judging team, has the responsibility to assure the test is conducted according to NAVHDA rules” .That does not mean the Senior Judge’s score carries more weight than any other Judge. The Senior Judge is there to facilitate consensus, and to assure the test is administered in a fair and impartial manner based on our standards.  The Senior judge also has responsibility to assure all test paperwork and evaluations are filled out completely and his or her cards and paperwork are mailed to the NAVHDA office in a timely manner. All members of the judging team are responsible for teaching Apprentice Judges and debriefing them at the end of the day as a group.  Please refer to this guidance in Chapter 2 of the Aims and Rules:  “At the end of the test, all Judges provide an evaluation of the Apprentice Judges’ performance to the Director of Judge Development.”

Requirements to Maintain Judging Status: We have added a new section under the Judges tab on our web site titled “Requirements to Maintain Judging Status”. Previously that section was included only in the Apprentice information tab which made it difficult for Judges to find. I encourage you to take a moment to review it at your convenience.

2019 July
Physical Attributes

Quote from the Aims 8/18 edition page 10 Physical Attributes

While physical attributes may affect performance, they are NOT considered in awarding prizes.  As indicated in the scoring systems described on pages 13, 18 and 28, prize classifications are based solely on performance.

If a dog’s temperament is left blank on the front of a NAVHDA scorecard (neither normal, sensitive or shy are circled) a statement must be added under the Comments section.  If the comment is something similar to:  Aggressive. Dog tried to bite judge, unable to evaluate teeth, this notation does NOT by itself disqualify the dog from being awarded a prize.  I agree with this.


Duck Search    (Please read and discuss this topic with other judges.  This will be a topic for general discussion at the 2020 Judges Workshop in Maine)

A Utility dog does and excellent duck search for approximately 9 ½ minutes and catches the duck.  It then takes approximately another 9 minutes for the dog to return the now dead duck to the handler.  Many commands were given by the handler to encourage the dog to retrieve the duck to the handler.  The judging team thought it was and exceptional duck search, expanding through heavy cover and at a great distance.  The desire and stamina were judged to be exceptional.  The questions concerned the eventual retrieve to hand, the length of time it took and the number of commands necessary to complete the retrieve to hand.

The question asked of me was it possible to award the dog a 4 in duck search while scoring the cooperation and obedience each 2 or lower?

Not having seen the search here are my thoughts.  The traditional way is to award a 3 in duck search and eliminate the dog from a possible prize one score based on the retrieve of the duck (the 9 minutes it took and the number of commands).  The retrieve of the duck is one of the requirements of the duck search if the dog either catches the duck or the duck is shot.  The duck search has two parts to be scored if the duck is caught or shot, the duck search itself and the retrieve.  Most events in a UT test are a single event.  I have always been told that our job as judges is to “paint a picture” of the dog’s performance that day with our scoring of the events.  If the team wanted to award an overall 4 in the duck search with a 2 in cooperation and a 2 in obedience for the duck search I can accept that under one condition.  The low scores in cooperation and obedience earned in the duck search due to the retrieve must carry down with major influence in the overall determination of both the cooperation and obedience scores at the end of the day.  Either one or both of these scores should ultimately be no higher than a 2.  This will remove the dog in question from a prize one category because of the cooperation and or obedience during the retrieve portion of the duck search.  This will still paint the picture of a dog with a great desire to search for the duck.  It may paint a picture of a dog that may need additional obedience /retrieval training to achieve a prize one.  There are 13 different opportunities to evaluate obedience on the UT scorecard.  The overall nose, desire, cooperation and obedience scores are not a strict numerical average.  This might be a case where, to paint the correct picture of the dog’s performance that day, a particular performance in one aspect of the test needs to carry major weight in determining an overall score for a particular category.

An interested party reviewing the scores for a UT dog only sees the consensus score for each event, not the horizontal components of nose, desire, stamina, cooperation and obedience that lead to the overall duck search score.  In the case above what is the correct picture of the dog’s performance?  If the dog has a 4 in duck search desire, a 4 in field search desire, a 4 in pointing desire, all primary scores, the dog is likely to have earned a 4 over all in desire at the end of the day.  If a consensus 3 is awarded for the duck search with an overall 4 in desire at the end of the day this indicates another problem occurred during the duck search, not a desire issue.

This should make for some interesting discussions over the summer and fall.  To be continued at the 2020 Judges Workshop.

In my opinion a dog that takes 9 minutes to get back to the handler with a duck in his mouth is a problem. On my card that dog would not receive a 4 in duck search and would be severely penalized in cooperation and obedience.

UPT and UT Retrieves                                                                                                                                                                                    

UPT (Aims 8/18 pg. 17)

“For the UPT retrieve the dog should bring the bird within reach of the handler to receive a (4), it does not have to bring the bird to the hand.  Although, in order to receive a passing score (1), the dog must bring the bird within a reasonable distance and easily accessible to the handler.”

UT (Aims 8/18 pg. 24)

“Upon arrival at the handler’s position, the dog should sit or stand quietly close to the handler until commanded to release the duck to hand.”

UT (Aims 8/18 pg. 26)

”On command, the dog should go quickly to the fallen bird, pick it up, return directly to the handler and the wait calmly until told to release the bird to hand.”

I have always been taught and now teach that the retrieve score is broken down into three components  1) Desire, to leave the handler and go to the bird.  2) Cooperation, to pick up the bird, often times out of site of the handler and return to the handler.  3) Obedience, the delivery to hand in the immediate vicinity/ sphere of influence of the handler.

I received a number of questions this past month on retrieving issues.  The first one was easy to answer.  The UPT dog does NOT have to stand next to the handler and wait until told to release the bird to receive a 4!  See the first citation above. Yes, certainly.

The second one is a judgement call.  I was not there and did not see what transpired so I’m just writing this for discussion purposes.   After the shot the UT dog waits to be commanded to retrieve, runs full speed to the bird, immediately scoops up the bird and returns immediately to handler, tail wagging and stops short of handler (how far?) and waits to be commanded to release the bird.  The handler reaches forward, says out and the dog releases the bird to hand.   This was not a drive by nor a tug of war for the bird.  It was not a classic swing and finish presentation of the bird nor the also classic sit facing the handler and lifting the head to present the bird to the handler.    Was the original scenario a 4 retrieve?  Did the dog perform 75% of the task?

 As you state it depends how far. Reaching down in front to receive the bird would be fine, steps would not be fine.

The thread on retrieving questions lead to the next topic.  At the last two Judges Workshops this topic has been discussed and I thought this might supply food for thought while you are vacationing at the beach, poolside or out on the lake fishing, or even training this summer with your NAVHDA friends.  This will be discussed at the Judges workshop in Portland, Maine January 2020.

My opinion is that this does not need to be discussed at the workshop, we already did that. I would suggest that this goes out in your communication as a reminder. “This is what we decided and this is how it will be judged”. Much the same as we did with the suitcase lead issue.

In the Judges Workshop Notes from 2018 on pages 12-13 and in the 2019 Workshop Notes on pages 18-19 you will see a discussion on leaving live game versus dead game and how these behaviors affect the desire score of a dog in NAVHDA testing.  Historically in the Judges Handbook edition 6/1990 “Give a zero in the appropriate area for any dog that turns away or blinks a bird.  This includes backing away from a point, moving away from and obviously scented bird, leaving a found shot bird or turning away from a sighted duck.  These are crimes of the highest order.  When averaging the overall Desire to Work score with one of these zeros included, see that it never totals more than a non-qualifying 1.”

The Judges Handbook edition 6/2006 page 17 states “If the dog voluntary leaves a live duck shortly after sighting it, the desire score should be reduced to zero.  The overall desire score cannot be averaged higher that a non-qualifying 1.”

At the 2018 and 2019 Judges Workshops the general consensus of the vast majority of those judges present was if the dog leaves live game it is a desire issue and is a candidate for an overall non qualifying 1 in desire.  Leaving dead game is and obedience / cooperation issue and should be scored appropriately for that event.  I look forward to this continuing discussion at 2020 Judges Workshop in Maine.

Again, my opinion on continuing this discussion would be beating the proverbial horse. Remind the Judges in attendance what was decided and move on.

Enjoy your summer.

Chip Bonde



The information below was supplied by Andy Doak, NAVHDA Director of Promotions.


NAVHDA Sponsors and Conservation Partners:


Our NAVHDA Sponsor are an integral part of the success of our organization and have been for many years. It is important to remember to give our sponsors the recognition they deserve and are owed as part of our sponsor and conservation partnership agreements. You as Judges are the face of representing the sponsors at every NAVHDA test or local chapter event, and it is the Senior Judge and the judging team’s responsibility to make sure the sponsors and conservation partners are recognized. As a reminder, please follow these guidelines when mentioning our sponsors. Some historical information is also included and may be of help to you in understanding how our sponsors support NAVHDA.

  • Our Sponsors and Conservation Partners are to be mentioned at both the opening and closing of each test day.
  • We currently have 4 Corporate Sponsors (3 Exclusive and 1 National Sponsor) and 2 Conservation Partners that are to be mentioned. They are:
    • Exclusive Sponsor – Purina ProPlan. Our Purina sponsorship is our longest standing sponsorship within NAVHDA. It dates back to 1985, when the first agreement was put in place. That is 34 years of continued support in countless ways towards the organization. With NAVHDA being 50 years old, Purina has been with us for more than half of our existence. It is important to understand and recognize that long term commitment. There are very few companies in this day and age that show that continued support. Please encourage NAVHDA members to use Purina and specifically Purina ProPlan products.
    • Exclusive Sponsor – Garmin International. Garmin International has been a sponsor of NAVHDA for 11 years, starting in 2007. Around that time period Garmin acquired TriTronics and our TriTronic sponsorship dates back to 1999. That is 20 years of support towards NAVHDA either by Garmin or TriTronics. It is important to remember in addition to substantial financial support, Garmin also provides gift certificates to be used at test events for participants. These gift cards are a direct savings and money back in the pockets of NAVHDA members, and do not benefit NAVHDA International financially. With over 400 test events held annually and over 400 gift cards distributed, which are 20% off retail price of dog related products, the potential for savings to our members is significant. Make sure to ask the test secretary if the Garmin Gift Card was received and distributed.
    • Exclusive Sponsor – Ugly Dog Hunting. Founded and operated by NAVHDA members Terry Wilson and Nancy Ainsfield, Uglydog Hunting has been involved with or supporting NAVHDA for many years. Their support for NAVHDA goes well beyond our corporate support and agreement. Around 2006 Ugly Dog became a sponsor, and has not only supported NAVHDA prior to that but has drastically continued and increased support year after year. Terry and Nancy were behind a significant financial contribution that spearheaded the start of the NAVHDA youth programs designed to get more youths interested in NAVHDA, ultimately helping to grow the organization. Beyond that, both Terry and Nancy support NAVHDA in many other ways including local chapter support, at the annual meeting, the Invitational and supporting other promotional opportunities for NAVHDA. If you get a chance to see Terry or Nancy in person please thank them for their support, and please encourage others to buy products through their online store, Uglydoghunting.com
    • National Sponsor – Dakota283. Dakota283 has been with NAVHDA since 2016 and is not considered a “new” sponsor of NAVHDA as some would think. Dakota283 produces quality kennels and dog related products. In recent years, owner Greg Cronkhite has not only maintain support for NAVHDA but has an interest and is committed to increasing his support in future years. We continue to expand our relationship with Dakota283 and look forward to working together in future years.
    • Conservation Partner – Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever. It is important to always recognize both PF and QF. With over 60% of NAVHDA members belonging to PF & QF, many of our members already understand the benefits of membership. PF & QF has been creating and conserving habitat successfully for many years. They have nearly 150,000 members in 700 local chapters, spread across 45 states and parts of Canada as well as over 150 biologist working to create and conserve hunting habitat. Our NAVHDA/PF&QF working partnership has increased substantially with a new agreement signed in early 2019 designed to promote both organizations and increase membership. Please encourage NAVHDA members to join PF & QF.
    • Conservation Partner – Ruffed Grouse Society. A longtime supporter of NAVHDA, RGS has provided both financial and promotional support as well as conservation and habitat management guidance to our members. Conserving and creating healthy forests for Ruffed Grouse, Woodcock and a variety of wildlife is who they are.  Please encourage NAVHDA members to join RGS.

Our sponsors have supported NAVHDA for many years. Long term sponsors who are committed to supporting the organization help provide financial stability to our organization, ultimately helping with growth. Make sure you give them the recognition they deserve and are owned at each test.

2020 August
Judges Returning Phone Calls and Emails

Several Test Secretaries have communicated that they are asking people to judge a test and they are not getting any response back. I’m sure everyone is getting lots or requests to judge these days. As a professional courtesy please get back to those test secretaries in a reasonable amount of time and let them know if you are avaible to judge or not available to judge.


NA Test Field / Water Sequence

This has come up several times over the last 4 to 6 weeks and the J&T Committee has discussed it at length. Because of the high heat we are experiencing throughout most of the country; some teams are running a single NA dog in the field, then taking that dog directly to the water to complete the water work portion of the test. This is repeated for the entire NA running order. The rationale from the teams has been that they are doing this because of efficiency when it’s hot outside.

The J&T Committee asks judging teams not to do this. Our rationale is whether you can truly judge the NA dogs desire to swim directly after coming out of a hot field. Are they swimming because they’re hot, or because of their inherent desire to swim? In addition, this may be efficient if every dog swims with no problem. If you have a few dogs that struggle with swimming, need several bumpers, then a pick up dog, and possibly a bird, you will then be at a time deficit. In that case the handler that would have ordinarily run their dog at 10:30, now goes into the field at Noon, or even later, when it could be getting really hot.



Q: Is it considered a command if a handler stomps their feet or stutter steps through the gates?

A: YES! From the Aims & Rules Book “voice or other commands given by the handler as he or she proceeds along the path may lower the score”. In essence, anything that you do to influence the performance of the dog, whether verbal or non-verbal, may lower the dogs score and should be scored accordingly.




Q: Is it ok for a handler to give his or her dog treats during the test?

A: NO. Treats are considered a training aid and are not allowed to be given while your dog is under judgment. Scores in desire, cooperation and obedience may be impacted if you give your dog treats while the dog is under judgment.