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In the gundog world, the term 'versatile' is pretty versatile. In the UK, France, Italy and other European countries, it means a dog that hunts, points and retrieves. In North America, according to NAVHDA, it means a dog that hunts, points, retrieves and tracks on land and water. In Germany and countries to the east, it means a dog that hunts, points, tracks, drives, bays, flushes, kills vermin and protects the house and home.
But even as broad as those definitions are, they still don't cover the full spectrum of how versatile dogs are actually used by hunters in each region. So in this next series of posts, I would like to explore some of the more interesting and unusual ways that versatile dogs are used in different parts of the world. Today's post will look at something called "reporting" done by Finnish hunters, field trialers and their dogs in the vast forests of Finland.
Imagine a dog searching for game in a large field or forest, beyond the sight of the handler. Suddenly, it points. Then, after a while, it leaves the point, runs back to find its handler in order to lead him back to the place where the original point occurred. Once there, it points again.
The dog has just done what the Finns call Tiedotus which means 'reporting' or 'announcing'. It is a technique used by Finnish hunters when they hunt grouse and is also a requirement of high-level 'winners class' field trials. Here is a more detailed description of how it works:
1. The dog, while hunting out of sight of the handler, sticks a point.
2. After a while, if the handler doesn't show up, the dog leaves the point to go get the handler OR, the handler, not seeing the dog and assuming it is on point somewhere over yonder whistles for it to come back in so that the dog can lead him back to the original scene of the point.
3. If it is done during a trial, the handler must tell the judge that his dog is reporting. He/she cannot say "I think the dog might be reporting" or "I think I should whistle him to see if he will report", it has to be a solid declaration. The handler must say something like "Judge, my dog is reporting" or "I am going to whistle to make my dog report".
4. Once the reporting is "declared", the judge starts evaluating how well the dog cooperates with the handler, specifically how well the dog keeps contact with the handler while returning to the point. Ideally, the dog should return quickly to the handler, but while going back to the scene of the point it should go more cautiously, keep close contact with the handler and work in silence.
5. Once the dog is back on point, with the handler close by, and if the situation allows, the handler or shooter may shoot the bird if given permission by the judge.
So there you have it, a pretty cool hunting technique if you ask me. But one has to wonder how and why the Finns came up with it. Personally, I have a hunch that it may have been developed because the Finns hunt a lot of Capercaillie, huge black grouse that often sit in trees and/or hold well for points in the forest since they are highly territorial and tend to 'stand their ground', even when facing a dog or a man.
Click photo to see a crazy video of a brave Capercaillie in Russia.
A traditional way of hunting Capercaillie in Finland is with Spitz type dogs that tree them and bark to alert the hunter who then approaches and shoots the grouse with a rifle. Could 'reporting' be a modern versatile dog adaptation of that technique?
If so, how do they train for it? And can breeders actually select for dogs that do it naturally? According to Finnish hunter and breeder of Picardy Spaniels, Jani Rajaniemi, the answer to both questions is 'yes'.
"Reporting is mainly something that some dogs do naturally. Of course you can encourage it through training, but it is almost impossible to teach it to a dog that does not want to do it naturally. There are some breeds and lines that have a lot of natural ability for it, German shorthairs from Finnish and German lines especially."
Here is a video showing how to develop Tiedotus in a young dog: