This article was posted in the February 2018 issue of NAVHDA’s Versatile Hunting Dog Magazine:

According to the NAVHDA AIMS book, The Utility Preparatory Test (UPT) is designed “to evaluate the dog midway in its training towards becoming a reliable versatile gun dog,” and the Utility Test (UT) is “designed to test a dog’s usefulness to the on-foot hunter in all phases of hunting, both before and after the shot, in field and marsh, and on different species of game.”

For an inexperienced handler, the UPT is a great introduction to the hunting team concept and the different areas of focus for the full UT. There is no age limit for a dog in the UPT, so it can also be a good way to evaluate a dog that missed running a Natural Ability test.

But what about the UPT as a measure of a dog’s usefulness to the hunter? Years ago, I had a Lab and then a Boykin spaniel. I was a novice bird-dog man, but we found, flushed, and shot birds and had fun. With some retrieving and steadiness training, it would have been a lot more fun (and much safer). There were shots taken that should not have been—low-flying birds with dogs on their tails. There was a time in Iowa that I dropped a rooster across a dredge ditch, and the dog refused to go across. It was half a mile to a bridge, and I became the dog on that one mile retrieve. For those of you who do not hunt waterfowl and feel all the water work required of a Utility dog does not apply to your hunting style, think again. Pheasants, grouse and woodcock all live near water, and it seems almost every year one of my dogs retrieves an upland bird from water.

In the NAVHDA UPT, a dog is evaluated across many areas, but, for the purposes of the points I am trying to make with this article, let’s focus on Steadiness (in the field and at the blind) and Retrieving (land and water).

In NAVHDA testing, Field Steadiness is brokendown into four parts as described here:

“Steady to Flush” – Judging “Steady to Flush” begins when the dog is aware of the presence of the handler. Think of “Steady to Flush” as behavior during the flushing period. The steady to flush judgment ends when the bird leaves the ground.

“Steady to Wing” – Judging “Steady to Wing” begins when the bird leaves the ground and ends when the gun is fired.

“Steady to Shot” – Judging “Steady to Shot” begins when the gun is fired and ends when the bird hits the ground.

“Steady to Fall” – Judging “Steady to Fall” begins when the bird hits the ground and ends when the dog is sent for the retrieve.

Continue reading “Steadiness & Retrieve Training-The UPT Test”

2018 Handler Clinic (2 Day Clinic)

  • Where: Kelley Farms (Kelley Land & Cattle Company), 11425 155th St N, Marine on St Croix, MN 55047
  • When: Saturday, June 9th and Sunday, June 10th, 2018
  • Time: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Cost: $130.00 (members and non-members)

The Handler Clinic is an educational tool developed by NAVHDA to help dog owners and handlers understand the testing system. The clinics are conducted by designated trained leaders; all of whom are NAVHDA Senior Judges. During the two-day clinic weekend, participants experience all aspects of a Natural Ability, Utility Preparatory, and Utility Test. The first few hours of each day are devoted to informal classroom instruction. There is discussion of Test mechanics, the scoring system and NAVHDA philosophy.

The group then goes out to the field to judge and score dogs being run in the actual Test process. After each dog has run and been scored, there is a discussion of performance and scoring as observed by the participants and the clinic leader. The discussion includes strengths or weaknesses of training and handling observed in the demonstrations, and how they may have affected the dog’s inherited skills.

Who Should Attend?  People with their first pup see how other dogs work and gain insight into what their pup is doing and why. This helps them to develop their pup’s talents and improve performance in weak areas. ➢ Novice handlers learn how NAVHDA evaluates versatile dogs, and are better prepared to handle their dogs in a test. ➢ Experienced handlers gain a deeper, more technical knowledge, of how the team of dog and handler are judged. ➢ Breeders learn what to look for in their breeding stock and their progeny, and how to use NAVHDA records obtained through our Test Records for selective breeding. ➢ For aspiring NAVHDA Judges, attending a Handler Clinic is one of the first steps in our Apprentice Judge Program.

Download Event Flyer and Entry Form

Please read this message from our President-Rolf Rogers

With the recent revision of our web page and our presence on Facebook, we have been provided improved ways to communicate with our Chapter members.  As a result, the Board has decided to transfer the publication of the Chapter newsletter to the new web page and discontinue issuing a stand-alone newsletter.  We believe this change will provide you with more timely, quality information than could otherwise be achieved with a monthly and often semi-monthly newsletter.

The Chapter has grown and along with that, the need for great communications becomes increasingly important but difficult to execute.  As a result, we have also determined the position of Vice President should be changed to Vice President & Director of Communications.  This restructuring, if approved will assure timely and accurate information is always shared with the Chapter.

Along with this change, we would plan to discontinue the appointed post of Newsletter Editor.  Responsibilities associated with this post become part of the VP & Dir. of Communications’ responsibilities.

To revise the job description and eliminate the appointed post of Newsletter Editor requires a motion and vote by the Chapter to modify the bylaws at the annual meeting/Fable Fest. Members at least 18 years of age may vote at this meeting, provided dues are current.  Attached is the motion for your review in advance of Fable Fest. The Board of Directors has unanimously approved this motion and we ask for your support. Should you have any questions about this information, please feel free to contact me at 612.219.4109 or by email:

Click Here to Review the Motion

I look forward to seeing you at Fable Fest!


President MN NAVHDA