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 February 4, 2019 by Sheila Schmutz
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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
Bobbi Goes Guiding
Spatsizi Wilderness Vacations’ (www.spatsizi.com) fishing and ptarmigan hunting has grown in popularity year after year. Clients spend three days fly-fishing for trout and grayling and then hunt ptarmigan for three days. This year, Ray Collingwood knew that his Sunnynook’s Abby could not be expected to hunt ptarmigan for all these clients in this tough mountain terrain. When the offer came for Sunnynook’s Bobwhite “Bobbi” and me to help out, the answer was obvious. We drove to Smithers and were flown from there 3 hrs to Spatsizi Lodge on Laslui Lake in north-central British Columbia. Spatsizi means land of the red goat in the Tahltan native tongue; the goats’ white coat turns red from lying on the iron-oxide-rich soils. Sheila and I and Larry and Meredith Miller had hunted there with Muddy Waters’ Buteo and Sunnynook’s Xyla "Minnie" in 2014 so I knew what to expect.
Willow-, white-tailed- and rock ptarmigan exist in this 6500 km2 Spatsizi Wilderness, that has no roads but many creeks, lakes, and mountains. The region is drained by the Stikine River which flows through the Alaska Panhandle to reach the West Coast. White-tailed, and especially willow ptarmigan, can be found in the spruce forest openings below the 1600-2000 m plateaus, but rock ptarmigan prefer the higher elevations. Spatsizi clients are drawn to a variety of vacation packages ranging from big game hunting to nature interpretation and photography out of a 5-star lodge setting. Bobbi and I were to hunt the summer-brown willow ptarmigan that flash white wings when they flush, their call resembling a person laughing.
We knew Bobbi could hunt. After all she’d hunted in Saskatchewan. She also passed the VHDF tests with flying colors, including the comprehensive Performance Evaluation. But, how would she cope with the other demands: flying in airplanes, riding in boats, negotiating saddle and pack horse feet on narrow and brushy game trails, leaving marmots alone and especially being smart during the ever-possible grizzly-bear encounters? Could she last a week hunting after running 12 km alongside horses to a spartan satellite camp with several-km outings each day? Would her pads hold up in this rocky alpine tundra? I was pleasantly surprised and each one of the four clients who came to know her well was smitten by her intelligent personality and her hunting savvy.
Horses Our team included saddle horses for a guide, a wrangler, two clients and me, plus two pack horses. Once we set off on horseback from Laslui Lake uphill, I kept looking for Bobbi and talking to her, telling her I’m still here - just a few feet off of the ground. The clients and guides also looked out for her when she was out of view in the dense dwarf birch along the trail.
Bobbi hunted continuously as we rode along, but never strayed too far despite her passion for all the interesting scents around. After the first ride, I put a bell on her and that helped provide peace of mind. Every so often, Bobbi would work some scent off to the side and fall behind. She then ran to keep up and gave me a near heart attack when she re-entered the trail mere centimetres in front of the lead horse, at least so it looked from my vantage point. She insisted on being in front. One horse in the string seemed to dislike dogs and seemed to taunt her, but that horse was moved to another group on the second trip to the plateau.
Running birds Ptarmigan have a reputation for running on the open tundra rather then taking to wing. While nearly all ptarmigan ran a few steps before takeoff, only a few required a push. It appears, when the dog is around their normally ground-bound predilection changes. Staying close to ground seems to work for ptarmigan. Twice we watched large falcons circling overhead, once for several hours, taking long dives at the family groups we flushed. Each time, the ptarmigan crashed back into dwarf birch or the stunted spruce clusters and avoided capture.
Dog work The basic search-point-retrieve with ptarmigan was essentially the same as with other game birds. Because of the ptarmigan’s ground orientation and despite the sparsely vegetated and open tundra, the birds held well. This gave us many opportunities to shoot over a point. If crippled, ptarmigan can run well and especially liked to hide in the nearly impenetrable wind-stunted spruce thickets of the tree-line.
Bobbi kept her cool throughout. When we returned to the satellite camp after a day’s hunt, Bobbi lay on her pillow, groomed a cut or two she had suffered and slept. After several days, she was clearly worn out. Yet, when the horses were saddled each morning and especially when guns came out, she stretched and her normal always-on hunting spirit came back.
In all, we estimated that we had 193 willow ptarmigan flushes and we bagged 64 amongst us. Our satellite camp may have been spartan on the surface, yet it was well enough equipped for us to savour ptarmigan heart, gizzard and liver as hors d’ouevres, breasts and legs as part of our meals. Bobbi enjoyed the remainder of the carcasses.
The clients The hunting clients tend to be well-to-do folks who often lead high pressure lives and come hunting to get away from it all. They have hunted in many parts of the world, it seems. Some make use of all the hunting time they can get, others also lean back and simply take in the ambiance.
My secret concern about having my dog injured by a careless shot evaporated. All four of them came to love Bobbi and thoroughly enjoyed watching her work. When Matt once sang Bobbi’s praises to me, I said, yes, I agree, I love how she hunts, I only wish she was not so hard on the birds she retrieved. “Oh, well,” Matt said, “She’s got to have some fun too.”
by Joe Schmutz, 29 November 2018
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