They grab some Z’s on recliners, hog the bed, and circle the kitchen counters hoping for a handout. There’s no question the seven, eight, or even ten German Shorthaired Pointers who routinely hang inside Dave and and Lee Walker’s home in Forsyth, Georgia, live the good life.
These liver-and-white dogs, along with other GSPs the Walkers breed and train for owners, are one reason why AKC named the Walkers the 2019 Breeders of the Year for Pointing Breed Field Events.
That the Walker Farm and Kennel (WFK) GSPs undergo health testing and excel at what they were bred to do–find and retrieve Northern bobwhite quail, explains the other reason. No bonus points needed for these Breeders of the Year, but the dogs’ even temperaments, strong noses, and classy gaits top the leaderboard nonetheless.
Bird Dog Beginnings To Breeders of the Year
What sparked the Walkers’ interest in breeding, owning, and training German Shorthaired Pointers for field trials?
For Dave Walker, the road to achieving the prestigious Breeder of the Year title began early in life. Growing up hunting with bird dogs gave him a love for dogs and a foundation for the sport. In 1999, he was ready to buy his own GSP for bird hunting and approached breeder Mark Bryant of Palm Glades German Shorthaired Pointers for a dog.
“He told me he might sell me a dog but only if I came to one field trial,” says Dave. “I went, and I was hooked right away.”
Before meeting Dave, Lee Walker had never heard of a German Shorthaired Pointer, but over time, her breed knowledge steadily grew. The Walkers operate a boarding kennel on their property and Lee is the dogs’ caregiver. She whelps the litters, manages the puppies, and dialogues with potential new owners.
Lee updates potential owners with videos of the pups’ progress, and when the puppies are ready to go to their new homes, Lee compiles informational packets and coordinates the transitions to their new homes. Every year Lee’s workload includes acting as secretary and chairperson for several field trial events.
“It’s a lot of work, but I love the breed,” says Lee. “They’re super sweet and smart.”
Bird Dogs Brains
What does it take to prep dogs for field trials? For the Walkers, it begins in the whelping box. The couple breeds two to three litters a year for themselves and one or two more for clients.
“If there’s a nice prospect we’ll keep one,” says Dave. “We train them in the house because living in a kennel all the time isn’t much of a life.”
Finding a good mentor who is willing to share information and give advice is key to breeding success. Dave credits Mark and Cheryl Bryant of Palm Glades German Shorthaired Pointers for mentoring him in the breed. In 2015, the AKC named the Bryants Breeders of the Year By Sport.
“They came before me and put their hearts into succeeding at a high level. We spent a lot of time learning from them,” says Dave. “The Bryants taught us how to raise puppies and how important it is to bond with them right away.”
After a long, hectic day training dogs outdoors, Dave makes it a practice to spend one to two hours in the evening handling the puppies in the whelping box or pen, and Lee gives them plenty of attention.
“We’ll flip them over on the backs, and by the time their eyes are open, they’re accustomed to being held,” says Dave. “Hopefully, later, if they think of running away from us, they’ll remember, ‘oh, he’s not such a bad guy, I’d better go back.’ “
When the puppies are 8 or 9 weeks old, Dave introduces them to a quail.
“You can tell right away which pups show a passion for going after a bird, and will point,” he says. “Some need assistance, but on the average of nine puppies, seven will show the most interest and will train faster.”
Field Trial Basics
At pointing field trials, dogs compete against other dogs to prove what comes naturally. Members of the Sporting Group and classified as Pointing Breeds, German Shorthaired Pointers, are always on the hunt for birds. Referred to as bird dogs, these sleek dogs must not only find birds, but show courage, stamina, and a passion for hunting.
To qualify to enter a field trial, a dog must earn a Field Champion (FC) title, or an Amateur Field Champion (AFC) title or place in a Gun Dog Stake.
“My first National win at the 2009 German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America’s National Open Gun Dog Championship will always leave a spot in history for me,” says Dave Walker. “That year NGDC FC/AFC Palm Glades Shameless Sally won it with 102 starters. She also had several other National Championship placements.
For Walker, this set the stage for other wins. In 2019, The AKC Pointing Breed Gun Dog Championship was held April 16 to April 25, at the Union County Bird Dog Ranch in Thayer, Iowa. The winner of the 2019 AKC All Pointing Breed National Gun Dog Champion was NGDC/FC WFK Little Patch of Trouble. The runner-up was FC WFK Belle’s Georgia Peanut.
In 2017, at the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America’s National Amateur Gun Dog Championship, Peanut was runner-up with her owner, Tim Zick. The year before, she placed third in the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America’s National Amateur Field Trial in Eureka, Kansas. Additionally, Peanut claimed third in the Open Championship, which repeated her 2014 Open Championship success in the fourth-place spot.
Becoming Breeders of the Year
For Lee, keeping the WFK home front running smoothly is a full-time job. On the go 24/7, the Walkers are all about German Shorthaired Pointers. From caring for, training, and field trials, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Ten dogs in the house is nothing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Dave. “It’s what we’ve always done. A lot of people may think it’s strange, but they don’t know what they’re missing.”
What advice can the Walkers share with people getting starting in breeding GSPs for fieldwork success?
“Work hard, be honest, deliver a good puppy, and treat people the way you want to be treated,” says Lee.