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Versatile Hunting Dog Federation of Canada (VHDF-Canada) Field Tests and Scores

This webpage was and last updated on January 26, 2024 by Sheila Schmutz

Tests Offered

VHDF Testing at a Glance

Hunters make diverse demands of their dogs, especially those hunters pursuing upland birds, waterfowl and possibly big game. Such a wide range of uses is possible because versatile dogs have been selected for a greater range of behavioural responses than any other type of dog. VHDF tests have been designed as a tool to help breeders maintain this exemplary range of performance in their breed.

Some of the VHDF tested traits can be greatly affected by training (e.g. obedience) while others are more purely ability and also more highly heritable (e.g. use of nose). In keeping with a service orientation for breeders, VHDF tests focus heavily on ability and less so on trained responses. For example, there is no obedience judged in the Hunting Aptitude Evaluation (HAE) for young dogs, a moderate amount in the Advanced Hunting Aptitude Evaluation (AHAE; e.g. steadiness), and most in the Performance Evaluation (PE). In the PE test, an experienced dog is expected to function as an integral member of the hunting team in all aspects of bird hunting.

The table above offers a quick overview of the tasks and abilities evaluated in each test. Note that scores in the green and yellow shaded portions of the chart are doubled in the final score to give more weight to these "ability" subjects compared to the largely trained subjects shown in blue.

Field Tests Described

A short summary of each test is available as pdf downloads via the links directly below, but please review the full test protocols further down to prepare for the test.

  • Level 1 - Hunting Aptitude Evaluation (HAE)
  • Level 2 - Advanced Hunting Aptitude Evaluation (AHAE) revised 2020
  • Level 3 - Performance Evaluation (PE) revised 2020

    The official test protocols for each level are available here as pdf.

  • Passing Scores for Field Tests?

    VHDF performance scores, categories and interpretation are as follows:

    VHDF has not set a pass/fail point, except for blood tracking, because:

    Total test scores with their corresponding word descriptions:

    A separate webpage shows the passing scores, adopted by one breed, the Large Munsterlander, for the HAE and AHAE tests, as an example.

    Who is Eligible to Enter VHDF-Canada Tests?

    VHDF tests are open to any hunter who is interested in advancing the hunting with and breeding of versatile dogs. VHDF has no registry and leaves registration matters in the capable hands of breed clubs and breeders. This is required by law in Canada. A dog need not be registered in order to enter a VHDF-Canada test but a record of parentage is retained as part of the testing information.

    The ages for HAE (0.5-1.5 years), AHAE (2-3 years) and PE (3+ years) are recommendations without sharp boundaries. However, HAE is designed for very young dogs and provides little information later in life. Similarly, given the obedience and experience needs in PE it would be unkind to apply this level of pressure onto a young dog.

    VHDF-Canada may decide to reject a test application if the dog is seriously outside the recommended age while dogs in the proper age category are on the waiting list.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is talking to the dog permitted?

    Yes, yet for an informative hunting dog evaluation, VHDF-encourages handlers to stay calm and behave as they normally would in training and hunting. Incessant talking or whistling is distracting. Also, handlers should ensure that talking to a dog cannot be construed as a command, as in a loud, firm and abrupt word or phrase.

    How much help/command may I give the dog?

    Every handler should do what s/he can to prompt the best performance from the dog. This could include stepping up, slowing down or veering right to left to prompt the best search, without being truly obvious about it.

    However, if a dog has made scent and continues to creep, and if the handler says Stop or Whoa, then scores could be reduced, as pointing is to happen without command.

    If a dog is seriously failing, however, a command even with the obvious loss of marks, may be necessary to help set the dog back on its proper path. This is the handlerís judgement call. A handler could also discuss help with the judge if there is time.

    May I ask questions at any time during the test?

    Absolutely. A handler should ask for clarity where needed at the beginning of a test segment and out in the field where needed.

    Is my dog allowed to wear a training collar?

    This is easily answered with no. The goal is to evaluate what the dog does on its own. Even a dummy collar or spike collar must be left behind. A choke collar can be a danger to the dog.

    Tolerance to Gunfire

    Gun-shyness is tested by shooting two 12 gauge blanks at an interval as indicated by the judges. The signal to shoot is given when the dog is nearing the edge of gun range and still heading away. The typical designations are:

    Temperament Evaluation

    Even a capable hunting dog poses a challenge if it wonít hunt with other dogs or is aggressive to people. Temperament is typically evaluated during the conformation portion of the day, but a dog is potentially under observation throughout the day.

    Temperament is typically ranked simply as normal. Challenges, if any, are described in words.

    Body & Coat Conformation

    As with temperament, conformation including coat quality is judged broadly and most often simply described as Normal, roughly meaning representative of the breed. The dogís teeth, bite and eyes are examined also. Owners are advised to practice this in the neutral space of the home to get the dog used to a person opening its mouth.


    Handlers should be made aware of ways that pose a danger to themselves and their dogs, such as electric or barbed wire fences, porcupines, poisonous snakes, awn-bearing plants, etc.

    Gunners are chosen for their experience. Gunners use break-open shotguns and carry them open except when preparing to shoot during the flush.

    The Test Site

    Most VHDF-Canada tests have been held in grassland, shrubland, semi-natural agricultural land and most often some combination. However, tests could also be held in woodland habitat similar to habitat where forest grouse and woodcock are hunted.

    The approximate requirements are:

    Game Birds Used

    All planted birds are raised in captivity, healthy and flight conditioned. On occasion a dog will encounter wild birds during the search that can serve to evaluate pointing, but are not shot.

    Chukar are most commonly used for planting in the field. In Saskatchewan we are required to use Huns (Gray Partridge), but pheasants are sometimes used in combination with other species. For tracking in HAE, pheasants are used; for Search Behind Duck, call ducks.

    Dead ducks for a retrieve are cold and could have been killed recently or previously frozen.

    Past Test Scores

    VHDF-Canada test scores from 2007 through 2023 are available as a downloadable pdf file.

    Back to VHDF-Canada Homepage

    For more information on the U.S. VHDF, visit Versatile Hunting Dog Federation

    For more information on VHDF tests held in Canada from 2007-2019, visit VHDF Tests in Saskatchewan