NAVHDA: North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association

What is a Versatile Hunting Dog:
The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association defines versatility as “the dog that is bred and trained to dependably hunt and point game, to retrieve on both land and water, and to track wounded game on both land and water.” ~ NAVHDA Aims, Programs, Test Rules

Recognized VHD breeds:

Blue Picardy Spaniel (BP), Irish Setter (IS), Bracco Italiano (BI), Munsterlander (LM), Braque D’Auvergne (BA), Perdiguero De Burgos (PB), Braque Du Bourbonnais (BB), Picardy Spaniel (PS), Braque Francais (BF), Pointer (PT), Brittany Spaniel (BS), Portuguese Pointer (PO), Pocesky Fousek (CF), Pudelpointer (PP), Drentse Partridge (DP), Slovakian Wirehaired Pointer (SH), English Setter (ES), Small Munsterlander (SM), French Spaniel (FS), Spinone (SP), German Longhaired Pointer (GL), Stitchelhaar (ST), German Shorthaired Pointer (GS), Vizsla (VI), German Wirehaired Pointer (GW), Weimeraner (WM), Gordon Setter (GO), Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (GR), Irish Red & White Setter (IR), Wirehaired Vizsla (WV)

NAVHDA sponsors 4 different tests to evaluate hunting dogs:

Link to booklet of comprehensive test info:

  1. The Natural Ability Test is designed to evaluate the inherent natural abilities of young dogs and gain insight into their possible usefulness as versatile gun dogs. It rates seven important inherited abilities: nose, search, tracking, pointing, water, desire and cooperation. Dogs are eligible for a Natural Ability Test up until, and including, the day they reach 16 months of age. Dogs over 16 months may be run for evaluation only. Dogs over 16 months may only be run if space is available. No prize classification can be awarded the dog run for evaluation.

NAVDHA tests are held nearly every month all over the US. Judging is strict, yet fair and consistent. Link to testing dates:

Photo by Nancy Anisfield

The Natural Ability Test is organized into four main segments:

A) Field Phase – Each dog is hunted for a minimum of 20 minutes and is evaluated on:

  • Use of Nose
  • Search
  • Pointing
  • Desire
  • Cooperation
  • Gun Shyness

B) Tracking Phase – The dog is given an opportunity to track a flightless running pheasant or chukar*. *No game is shot, and no retrieves are required during the Natural Ability Test.

C) Water Phase – The dog is tested for its willingness to swim.

D) Judgement of physical characteristics – Does not affect score, but is an important part of the evaluation process. 

Scoring system: Dogs are graded on a scale of 0-112 as a whole score and prize 1-3 (1 being best) which puts more weight on category scores.

2) The Utility Preparatory Test  (UPT) measures the dogs’ development midway through their training toward the Invitation Test. No previous testing required.

3) The Utility Test (UT) evaluates trained dogs in water and field, before and after the shot, as finished versatile hunting companions as well as many other specific tasks. No previous testing required. 

The UT test is an excellent follow-up for any dog who scores well on the NA test. It is a test not only of the dog, but also it’s owner or trainer, as the test requires a fair amount of time and practice to master several challenging technical skills. The UT test is a suggested requirement for all stud dogs.

4) The Invitational Test is our highest level of testing. Only those dogs that have achieved a Prize I in Utility are eligible. This limits the entry to exceptional animals who have demonstrated a high level of training and tests their skills in the advanced work.