Sunnynook Large Munsterlander®
A century-old German breed adapted and performance-proven for North American hunting by Sunnynook Kennel
Established in 1977
Joe & Sheila Schmutz, R.R. 2 Site 202 Box 123, Saskatoon, SK Canada S7K 3J5
This webpage was last updated on December 13, 2017 by Sheila Schmutz
Homepage Table of Contents
On August 12, 2017, Sunnynook Kennel celebrated its 40th Anniversary. There was a party, and of course, a cake!
Christmas Gift Idea
Judith Wright of Saskatoon has written a book about the relationships and wisdoms shared by dogs and their humans. Sunnynook Kennel is featured as one chapter of this book.
Our Sunnynook Promise
We applaud the diversity of dog breeds with their different working styles and strengths that are available to hunters. We respect the Large Munsterlander's original design and breed management strategy. We do not intend to re-invent the wheel nor alter an established breed at will. Our commitment is to the generations of Large Munsterlander breeders who came before us. Our breeding strategy includes:
The stained glass was designed and handcrafted by Janice Staley.
Sunnynook Feature Dog
Lassie Qualities of Sunnynook’s Macaw
On January 20, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation newscast mentioned an Alberta couple spending the winter in Arizona, whose Border Collie/heeler cross saved a life. The woman was riding a young, spirited horse when she was thrown and dragged until the stirrup broke and released her foot. When horse and dog returned home alone, with a broken stirrup, and when the dog was agitated wanting to lead, a search party followed on quads. At one junction, the dog clearly did not want to go on the trail the husband thought his wife had chosen, so they turned and followed the dog instead. In short, according to the doctor, blood loss from being dragged 400 m would have been fatal had the family dog not lead the search party the 5 km distance where the woman lay unconscious.
Lassie saved lives as a matter of routine, but of course she had a good trainer who taught her the individual behaviour sequences that came together only on TV. Researchers in animal behaviour have undergone a sea change when it comes to dogs' cognitive abilities, e.g. Scientific American Vol. 24 #3. Primates used to be considered the intelligentsia of the animal world but studies increasingly confirm what observant dog people long knew. The intelligence, cooperation, planning and compassion that dogs can display toward humans is nothing short of amazing.
This newscast reminded me of a feat by Sunnynook's Macaw "Mac". Here no human, but a Bobwhite Quail's life was on the line. While hunting some years ago in the Flint Hills of Kansas by invitation of Janice and Ron Franks (Cedar Ridge Kennel). I'd lost sight of Mac. I waited and called, but having already fallen well behind the rest of the hunters I decided to move on and let Mac find me. When I finally saw him coming he was behaving oddly. He made persistent eye contact and slowed his approach staying well behind me. His manner told me that he was trying to tell me something. Risking falling yet further behind, I turned and followed him. With a renewed spring in his step he lead, but stayed within sight, not searching but going from A to B. After about 300 m, he went on point at undergrowth where oak had been cleared. As I walked past him, the covey rose and I managed to drop a Bobwhite Quail. Everything about Mac's manners was purposeful – he must have left point at last, came to find me, got me to follow him and went on point again. I was in awe at what had just happened. I also was deeply grateful and proud of my long-time hunting companion. At the same time, I found it a humbling experience. After all, we humans think we're in charge – are we not?
|Photo: Sunnynook's Macaw "Mac" (1999-2011) is holding his Bobwhite Quail in the tallgrass - oak woodland quail habitat of the Flint Hills in eastern Kanas.|
Mac's was not an isolated 'break point temporarily to alert owner' incident. Mac's son Muddy Waters' Buteo handles birds very well and simply points until I decide he's been out of sight too long and retrace my hunting route to find him. Last fall, Buteo and Sunnynook's Veery were hunting well ahead and over a rise. One gets a sense of how long one's dog is comfortable being out of sight before it returns. Veery and Buteo's absence was longer than expected and when we changed direction to try and find them, Veery was still pointing the Ruffed Grouse that had ventured into sharp-tail country. Buteo came toward us over the rise with this meaningful and prolonged eye contact – had he just broken point to find us? As I flushed Veery's bird, Buteo stayed behind me, not going on to search as usual. The ruffie got nervous with Veery apparently pointing it at 20 yds for many minutes, and allowed me only a far shot, which I missed.
The late Jan Smith reported a similar event with Sunnynook's Huchen on an exercise walk in the country. When the sun set and Jan turned to head home, he'd walked some distance before he saw Huchen coming slowly over the rise staring at Jan. When Jan turned back so did Huchen. As Jan came over the rise, Huchen was on point. Jan walked ahead and flushed the paired, early-spring Huns.
Jan was well schooled in the principle of parsimony and not given to snap judgements when interpreting animal behaviour; the topic of his research and University teaching. Still, he was convinced that his dog acted out a mental plan involving deferred gratification, not simply chasing the partridge up. Instead, Huchen opted for the joint dog and human goal of having Jan flush and possibly shoot enabling a retrieve. This is evidence of complex mental processing, not formerly attributed to animals.
As a breeder I might ask myself how could we foster such intelligence and cooperation in our dogs. I have too little experience to know, but for starters feel that beyond a sound level of intelligence a cooperative spirit toward people may be helpful. The dog in overdrive, or as the description goes, 'a hunting machine', may not readily balance conflicting motivations. Such a dog may not be able to suppress one or more deeply seated behaviours such as the drive to pursue game. The adaptive cooperation may be most pronounced in hunting dogs that typically satisfy a variety of tasks, especially if these tasks may entail somewhat contradictory motivations such as pointing and retrieving. Herding dogs may provide a similar example. They have sufficient passion to crowd or even nip a large animal at the dog's possible peril, yet hold off and stop the chase when the animal moves in the desired direction - just when the chase looks like fun.
Researchers point toward a special bond, they call an attachment relationship, that underlies intelligent dog-human cooperation. It may be most promising to give the breeding nod to the intelligent, flexibly versatile and cooperative canine. Careful selection in breeding should likely be matched by a nurturing type of training, instead of the hard-nosed non-slip approach often touted. Whether hunting or herding, the dogs that hone their mental acuity in their regular work routine, may be mentally equipped to break pointing to communicate a plan to the hunting partner, or to lead rescue crews to fatally injured loved ones.
by Joe Schmutz, 28 Jan 2016
Thirty-two litters were born at the Sunnynook Kennel since it began in 1977. By 2017, 208 pups were weaned.
Fifty-five of the 121 pups born in the first 20 litters have been tested in Natural Ability (47%) and 41 of these passed (74%). There are also 6 which went on to pass UPT of 10 run and 11 of 17 passed the Utility test. This speaks well not only of the pups but also of the excellent handlers and homes they found themselves in.
For more information about the LMs that currently live at Sunnynook.
Registration and Proof of Performance
Every Sunnynook puppy born through 2015, is tattooed and comes with a performance-annotated pedigree endorsed by the Large Munsterlander Association of Canada . LMAC is incoportated under the Animal Pedigree Act of Canada affording protection to breeders and owners under Canadian law. Furthermore:
~ Abbreviations ~
appearing on LMAC pedigrees are explained in this downloadable pdf document.
Why Large Munsterlanders?
We choose the Large Munsterlander
Sunnynook Kennel and You
Breeding Goals - a matter of balance
All our dogs and at least 30 of their ancestors are field qualified and free of hip dysplasia (see pedigree). Hunting ability and health is part training/upbringing/food and part genetics. Still, it may happen that a pup does not develop according to our expectation as a hunter, in which case we take the dog back for purchase-price refund or replacement. We guarantee hunting ability and health, not necessarily a dog with automatic breeding potential.
We ask that owners come to pick up their pups. We do not fly pups alone. In some cases a flight by the owner and the pup in the cabin is actually not as expensive as flying a pup alone in the luggage compartment.
We place dogs only with hunters who expect to train and use the dogs for bird hunting. There are three reasons: 1) Hunters may field test or at least report on the hunting abilities of their dogs from our kennel. This helps us decide on the breeding value of parents for future breeding decisions. 2) Hunting is in the dogs' nature, it can endanger the dog and other wildlife if not appropriately channeled and controlled. 3) The nearly 400 dog breeds in the world are designed for specific and subtly different uses. Hunting and pure companionship make different demands on a dog and on a breeder. We encourage our owners to breed in turn if their dog is exceptional as a hunter. However, we resist having this selection diluted by other (show or companion) interests.
In our experience a puppy's upbringing involves a series of stages that start at different times and are overlapping. This is roughly as follows:
|0 - 1 1/2 months||Pups simply grow and become weaned.|
|1 1/2 - 6 months||Learn to hunt through play that needs to be frequent, brief and enjoyable (wing-on-a-stick, toy retrieves).|
|3 - 24 months||Learn manners (in the home, vehicle & kennel, with people and other dogs)|
|6 - 18 months||Gradual exposure to wild birds, water, retrieving & tracking. Introduction to the shot. This is also a good time for an owner to consider entering the pup in one of several natural-ability-type tests, for an objective evaluation on which areas to stress in future training/exposure, and to provide feedback to the breeder on his/her success and future direction.|
|10 - 24 months||Gradually increasing insistence on manners on birds through obedience training. At the end of this period is a good time to decide whether the dog would make a positive contribution to the Large Munsterlander breeding pool.|
|8 - 36 months||Hunting exposure and experience.|
On any of these, we would be pleased to provide advice. The result should be a hunting dog that is a joy to be with, in and out of the hunting season.
We have provided each owner with a copy of "Training and care of the versatile hunting dog", the classic manual for versatile dogs. This manual is short and specific in its instructions. Other books can amplify these sections. Among them, is an excellent book written by Joan Bailey, entitled "How to help gun dogs train themselves". This title is not just an empty promise. Joan Bailey provides excellent tips about how to make everyday things into learning opportunities for a pup. Look for the book at http://www.swanvalleypress.com.
A brief description of Wing-on-a-stick play. This is a great game to build passion, capacity and a work ethic, but a few words of advice are in order. Make sessions short and rewarding for the pup. Don't treat it as a substitute for wild birds. By six months, the game should transition into work with wild birds. The wing can be replaced with a dummy and the dog can learn manners and commands, but sight pointing should be replaced by opportunities to point scent by then.
For the play, keep in mind that pointing is the exaggerated stop-before-the-pounce of wild canines. Build some excitement first by a few chases and then encourage pointing. End the chase by lifting the wing high. When the pup stands and looks at it, lower it gently. Sometimes a sudden drop triggers a strong point - learn to read your dog, and reward it for the slightest progress. The reward is catching the wing, not by the pup pursuing it but by the owner moving it to within the standing pup's reach. Early on, a pup may be rewarded for standing while the wing is lowered from 1 to 1/2 m in the air, about an equal distance away. Later, the pup needs to stand while the wing rests on the ground for the pup to be rewarded, but be sure to end each session with a reward.
Allow the pup to hold and pull on the wing, praising all the while. Relaxing on the string and then tugging gently can cause the 'bird to escape' again. If the pup has too firm a grip, build trust by picking the pup up and taking away the wing gently, or trading the wing for food or another item the pup wants. After the session, put the wing out of sight. Do not allow prolonged chewing. These sessions are very useful for an owner to learn about the pup's nature, does drive need to be boosted or does the pup have lots of it. These play sessions build rapport. Thought and care should be used in the game, study the pups reactions and respond accordingly for best success - remember, they are still "toddlers".
A bit about us.....
Joe is an avid upland bird hunter and also hunts waterfowl "for the dogs"! He is shown here hunting Hungarian partridge in Southern Saskatchewan, with Grackle and Mac. He is a wildlife biologist who has studied birds and fostered conservation throughout his career. He was a NAVHDA judge from 1985 to 2011. He helped found VHDF in 2007 and has been a judge since its inception.
Sheila helps train the dogs and is actively involved in whelping, etc. but leaves the real hunting to the rest of the family. Sheila retired in 2016 as genetics professor at the University of Saskatchewan. She often used her own dogs teaching examples in both the genetics course she taught and the course of dogs and cats she developed. One of Sheila's research areas is the genetics of coat color in dogs. One of her hobbies is sewing, especially with fur. Sora is on her left and Pika on her right.
For more information on the Large Munsterlander in Canada