AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - October 1999

Preserving Working Capability

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America has enthusiastically supported and advocated preservation of the working abilities of this draft and droving breed. The Bernese is known in its native Switzerland as the Berner Sennenhund, which literally translates as the Bernese Alpine herdsman's dog.

In 1995, the BMDCA created the Versatility Award to celebrate the breed type and working ability of an AKC champion Berner that earns a BMDCA Novice Draft Dog title (this in recognition of the breed's heritage and natural ability) and one of the three following AKC titles: Companion Dog, Tracking Dog or Novice Agility Dog.

In light of the club's new focus on working capability, an eager group of fanciers familiar with the breed's ability to demonstrate herding instinct urged the BMDCA to recognize this type of work as well. As a result of these efforts, the title of Junior Herding Dog (JHD) as sanctioned by the American Herding Breed Association has been recognized by the BMDCA as another option for the third requirement of the Versatility Award. (At present, AKC herding trials are limited to members of the Herding Group and two working breeds, the Rottweiler and Samoyed.)

Preparing for the JHD title would probably begin with the dog's participation in an AHBA Herding Capability Test (HCT) to evaluate its natural instinct. To prepare the dog for the JHD test, its herding ability could be cultivated through training. (An HCT title is not a prerequisite for the JHD test.)

To achieve the AHBA JHD title, a dog must satisfactorily perform specific tasks that entail controlling stock in a designated pattern within a period of eight minutes. To perform the test, the dog (on or off lead) and handler enter the arena and proceed to a position not less than 15 feet from the stock. The dog is unleashed, and it is expected to hold a standing, sitting or down position until "released" by the handIer. It is then directed to collect or maneuver the stock through a series of three obstacles with 12-foot openings and into a pen.

On nearing the pen, the dog stops while the handler opens the gate. When it receives a release command, the dog drives the stock into the pen (without entering it) and waits for the handler to close the gate and put on its lead. Each task in this series is scored "good," "fair," "insufficient" or "not accomplished." Passing requires each task to have received either "good" or "fair."

The BMDCA is "Y2K ready" with new Working Dog awards. The Bernese Mountain Dog's heritage as a centuries-old working companion is being firmly maintained as we move toward the next millennium. In 2000, the BMDCA will inaugurate its Working Dog and Working Dog Excellent awards program. This will be an exciting new dimension for encouraging and recognizing the achievements of Berners in a variety of working activities. While the Versatility Award is open only to AKC champions, eligibility for Working Dog and Working Dog Excellent awards is based upon achievement of performance titles. This incentive to develop the Bernese Mountain Dog to its fullest potential is a tribute to the partnering of man and dog.

The Working Dog Award requires achievement of the BMDCA Novice Draft Dog title (NDD) and two of the following titles: AKC Companion Dog (CD), AKC Tracking Dog (TD), AKC Novice Agility (NA) or Novice Agility Jumper (NAJ), or AHBA Junior Herding Dog (JHD). Requirements for the Working Dog Excellent Award are the BMDCA Draft Dog title (DD) and two of the following AKC titles: Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) or Variable Surface Tracker (VST), or Open Agility (OA) or Open Agility Jumper (OAJ).

BMDCA awards are open to members in good standing. Past accomplishments will be honored retroactively upon application.

1998 yearbook now available. The BMDCA 1998 Yearbook is a collection of the past year's titleholders and includes pictures, pedigrees, statistics and award recipients. This is a valuable and informative resource for anyone interested in the breed. It is available for $46 from Dr. Mary Dawson, BMDCA Publications Chair, P.O. Box 21, Valencia, PA 16509.

The OFA/GDC 1998 Supplement, a record of OFA and GDC hip and elbow clearances, is available for an additional $2. (Please submit a self-addressed mailing label with your order, and make your check payable to BMDCA. Prices include postage.)

- Julie Crawford, 26391 May Twilley Rd., Delmar, MD 21875