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October Blue Darter- Versatile Dog

Andrea and Dart
Andrea and Dart

We have never participated in field trials or hunt tests, but we have always thought that our dogs should do OK in NAVHDA’s Natural Ability Test, with the possible exception of the tracking requirement. But, without actually trying it this was only a guess. Last year Andrea Ashbaugh decided to enter her female Dart, out of Pepper and Heath. As far as we know this is the first time one of our pups has been entered in a NAVHDA test.

Dart as a Pup
Dart as a Pup

Andrea is a good trainer and Dart was coming along great for a young dog, but as the test approached it was looking like things weren’t going to go very well. Dart had been pointing wild birds fine but she thought planted birds were dumb, plus she had no enthusiasm for water retrieves. The guys at the NAVHDA chapter were also giving Andrea some grief about trying this with an English setter, especially a Ryman type.

At the last minute Dart decided to play along and everything suddenly fell into place. She got a Prize One with 4 points out of a possible 4 in all but one category! In Andrea’s words here is how it went:

“107 out of a possible 112 points. Nose:4, field search:4, water:3, pointing:4, tracking:4, desire to work:4, cooperation: 4. 4 is max possible in each category, and each is multiplied by an index # correlating to the importance of the characteristic. Water got 3 b/c I had to verbally encourage her, but she swam with minimal delay for plain bumpers. It was windy and (relatively) cold, but she did it. I really liked all of her work, and the judges loved her cooperation in combination with her obvious desire. And her ease of handling for the physical exam, lol.

Dart expressing her opinion on all of this
Dart expressing her opinion on all of this.

“In the chapter results, she was (of course) the only ES tested.  She was the only one out of 12 tested that got a 4 on tracking, which I thought was pretty cool, as our “work” on tracking consisted of maybe 2 drags in our tiny front yard.  Nose, much?  Her track was about 80 yards to the pheasant with her sticking to an interesting zig zag down the track the whole way and locking on point about 15 feet from the bird.

Out of the 12 tested, 4 got a prize 1.  I think Dart might have even gotten a 4 on water if the entry hadn’t been a drop off into the little pond they used.  She immediately went for her first bumper, then on her 3 or 4 step into the water she fell in over her head.  After splashing back onto the bank, she was a little hesitant, feeling out the drop off then swimming for her two retrieves which got her the 3.

What blew me away wasn’t so much her overall performance, because I’d seen how well she searched for and pointed wild stuff, and cooperated as she developed this year, but her extremely fast learning curve from “planted birds are non-entities” and “swimming for plastic bumpers is a REALLY STUPID idea” to a prize one…two weeks.  Two.  Weeks. Good god, what if I actually knew how to train one of these dogs?”

Dart and Rabbit
Andrea is a falconer and lucky Dart gets to point rabbits as well as birds.

Congrats to Andrea and Dart!

At Home With Friends
At Home With Friends



  1. Susan

    Congratulations Andrea and Dart!

    I enjoyed your story.
    Dart exemplifies the versatility of a well-bred Ryman type setter. A prize one no less!
    Well done team!

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October Setters