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Gammel Dansk Honsehund


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Søren Poulsen - Gammel Dansk Honsehund
Interview by Sabine Middelhaufe

Since when are you interested in this breed and why did you choose it in the beginning?

I started with the breed in 1983 – at that time I was hunting a lot and was looking for a good hunting and family dog. I watched a television program where the TV host had a GDH – it sounded and looked very nice. So we read up on the breed and decided it was the dog we had been looking for. We have never regretted that choice! I have my GDH no. 5 now and we have also had 6 litters for the time being - one right now.

Would you explain the characteristics of the Gammel Dansk Honsehund (GDH) for which a potential owner (sportsman) might prefer this breed to others?

They are very much alrounders. Their nose being a bit better than in most pointing breeds they are very good on the blood trail and can be used for that work in addition to their “normal” hunting dogs job, i.e. searching, finding, pointing and retrieving the game, both birds and ground game such as hares, rabbits etc. But I would say it has the most passion for wing game.
GDHs are very good retrieving dogs. Though not all love the water, when handled properly from puppy age on they later will retrieve from the water without much ado.
They're not as "tough" towards foxes and cats as some other breeds.
Good in forest as well as in open fields.
Not as high speed when searching the fields as most continental pointing dogs (especially, of course, the English pointing dogs) but rather calm and concentrated. The GDH have the reputation in Denmark that because of their superior smelling ability they find the game that the faster dogs in the hunt have passed and missed.

And another speciality of the breed : It wants to have contact with the hunter, its master during the hunt, therefore it stays in the vicinity, never running too far ahead.
To work in very close contact with its master was one of the goals of this breed when it was created 300 years ago and somehow it is still in its blood, and that makes it different from so many other hunting dogs. I think it is also the reason for many hunters to choose the GDH.
Certainly noteworthy that it is a fantastic family dog (remember: most of the days in a year you do
not hunt!), calm and relaxed when not working, easy to have in the house, adapting itself to the situation in the family.
Very low level of aggressivity; even two males normally don't do more than growl a bit at each other. Always gentle with children and generally very sociable it loves contact with humans, not only the master and his family.
On the other hand the GDH is not suitable for being kept in “dog cages”, tiny kennels in the garden and such – it should always live in the house with its human pack.
Last but not least it is watchful (which is not the same as being aggressive !), barking when a stranger comes near its area (garden etc.) It may look very aggressive in such situations, but it does not do anything (the good thing is that strangers can`t know – so no burglars in a house with a normal GDH!)

In your opinion, is there any specific characteristic of the breed that sportsmen nowadays don't appreciate enough?

If you are a very serious field trial man you won't appreciate the GDH being slower than other breeds. Plus, its tendency to search for game with his nose near the ground, meaning with its head held low, is not loved by the judges at field trial competitions. But in the last decades speed has been increased in the breed due to selection to this effect. (The same thing has happend to most pointing dog breeds I think, like it or not).
If you are looking for a very aggressive, feisty dog you should not choose a GDH.
Not all individuals have a natural fondness of water, but if you work on that starting with the puppy, it will learn to accept the water.

Which characteristics does a „good“ representative of the breed absolutely need to have?

It should be calm, even-tempered and easy to train.
It normally wants to please its master and therefore does what you want, but it is up to
you to explain to the dog what it is you want.
Strong in pointing (they all are), hunting passion, especially a strong drive for finding birds. Passion for carrying dummies and things in its mouth, because then they are easy to train to retrieve.
Keeping contact with the master during the hunt. Sociability, i.e. loving people and esp. children.
Not being aggressive while being watchful and alert is ok.

How do you see the situation of the breed in your country, and if you had the power, is there something you would like to change in the present day way of breeding?

The breed could be numerically larger and spread to more countries. But it has increased in these last years. The breed is growing in Denmark although pointing dogs on the whole are being fewer.
In Sweden a good GDH population and a club for GDH has developed throughout the last 2-3 decades. Due to his calm way of approaching the GDH is very good at hunting the different species of wood hen (grouse etc.) living in the big Swedish forests.
The GDH club and the breeding committee in Denmark are strong, active and well organized so all together I am positive about the future of the breed.

In your opinion, are the breed and its characteristics known well enough to potential owners (sportsmen) or is more information and promotion needed?

The club in DK has a good homepage and the breed is shown at hunting exhibitions. But it should be present more often at field trials, so hunters can see it works well in spite of typically being a bit slower than most breeds.

Do you personally find it important to partecipate in dog shows, working trials and club events?

Yes. Even though only few hunters participate, the reputation of a breed is also created at that kind of events.

According to your judgement, for what kind of hunting and for which species of game is the breed particularly qualified?

Allround hunting in fields and wood on birds, all kinds of birds, and hare, work on the blood trail, tracking down of injured deer and wild boars. Not especially qualified for hunting in very wide terrains such as the Norwegian fjelds or in Scotland. That is for pointers and setters.

Søren Poulsen (2.r.) with his wife, two breeding dogs and some happy new pup owners.

And, last question: what advice would you give someone who wants to use this breed for hunting for the first time?

It is a good breed for first time dog owners: easy to train, calm and willing to do what the master wants. It is important to be gentle when training the young dog because GDHs are very sensitive, and to be patient because they are slow to mature. Give your GDH some more time than with other breeds and you will end up having a much better hunting dog than your fellow sportsmen.

All photos: Jesper Poulsen/ Klubben for Gamle Danske Hønsehunde

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