At the 2005 Invitational our “Patty”, VC Patou du Pech du Cayrol became the first Braque du Bourbonnais to participate in an Invitational and we realized a goal set many years ago. The goal? To own and train the first Versatile Champion Braque du Bourbonnais. A goal put into motion more than 15 years ago when we decided (my wife Ann would challenge the use of the word “we”) to obtain a pointer as a hunting partner that was “just a little different”. We chose the Braque du Bourbonnais. We obtained a puppy from the second litter whelped in this country, at a time when there was only a handful of Bourbonnais in the U.S. and the breed was on the brink of extinction with an estimate of less than 1,000 in existence around the world.
We took a risk on a breed unproven in this country and in the ensuing years a risk that has proven itself worth taking. What we got was a truly versatile hunting companion, described as an “easy to live with talent in a small package”. A biddable pointer with a calm, gentle demeanor ideally suited for the foot hunter. The breed’s small size and short coat further adds to their value as an ideal pet and home companion for the family that hunts. Although obtaining a pointer as a hunting partner was our original goal, the breed’s qualities as pets were the factors that most enamored us with the Bourbonnais. They are first and foremost simply nice, loving dogs.
NAVHDA’s testing program has proven to be an invaluable tool to measure just how well a rare breed like the Braque du Bourbonnais “stands up” against the established versatile breeds in North America. We have not been disappointed in our breed choice. Since we obtained our first Bourbonnais, we have imported eight more from France. Our goal is to ensure that the quality of each Bourbonnais imported into this country moves the breed forward. NAVHDA’s Natural Ability Tests provide us an ideal and objective way to determine if this goal is being achieved. Equally important, testing has proven to be an invaluable tool for us to identify those dogs that are best suited for incorporation into our breeding program at Elk Run Kennels. ﾠIn addition, securing the breed’s first Versatile Champion confirms that the Braque du Bourbonnais can be trained to hunt with the best.
Unfortunately, training and testing these little dogs can become a disease if not an addiction without a known cure. What started out as a desire for a pointer has grown into a hobby that Ann is convinced is now out of control. Since our introduction to NAVHDA’s testing program we’ve tested eight different Bourbonnais in Natural Ability and all have passed. We have Utility titles on six of our dogs including the breed’s only four Prize I UT’s and the breed’s first Versatile Champion. Training and testing two Natural Ability, two Utility dogs and a Versatile Champion over the past six months did successfully transform my hobby into a poor paying full time job.
Goal setting has driven the training and testing of our Braque du Bourbonnais within NAVHDA’s testing program. One of the fun components, or fixation as Ann would argue, of NAVHDA testing a rare breed is the opportunity to establish many “firsts” for your breed. Initially we set a goal to earn the first Utility title on a Bourbonnais. Once this goal was achieved, the next logical goal was to earn the first Prize I UT. ﾠThe next goal was to train the first 204 pointed Utility Bourbonnais, a goal realized this past summer with two of our new French imports. Of course, these successes only led to our goal to train the breed’s first Versatile Champion. These goals were accomplished with four different dogs.
Setting the goal to train the breed’s first Versatile Champion was the most challenging goal we’ve set for ourselves and our dogs. During this process we learned that you can have a life or you can train an Invitational dog, but you cannot do both. It’s nearly impossible to train an Invitational dog and to be fully employed. An understanding spouse is critical, particularly if you want to keep the lawn mowed. Your bird supplier can plan an extended vacation to the Hawaiian Islands during the peak of the tourist season. Training partners are essential with a variety of breeds, colors and coat types that will tolerate your insistence that your dog gets all the retrieves. Participation in a comprehensive stress management program is highly recommended. In addition, it wouldn’t hurt if a cardiologist is stationed at the blind retrieve segment at the next Invitational.
Two of our Bourbonnais are eligible to participate in the 2006 Invitational. Providing us with an opportunity to set even loftier testing goals for our breed, but this is not the time for goal setting. There is a chill in Idaho’s air, the colors are changing and its time to go hunting. Hunt test goal setting translates into superior gun dogs, and many long, hard wild bird hunts translates into higher test scores.