Sunnynook Large Munsterlander® Hunting Dogs

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 April 17, 2024

Homepage Table of Contents

  • Sunnynook Large MunsterlanderTM Registration and Performance
  • After Leaving Home - Owner Reports
  • The Sunnynook Tradition through the Generations
  • Forty Years of Sunnynook Large Munsterlanders in 2017
  • Former Feature Dog Stories
  • The stained glass was designed and handcrafted by Janice Staley.

    Obtaining a Sunnynook Pup

    There is typically a waiting list for puppies. Please complete the attached questionnaire, available as a downloadable pdf, if you are interested in a pup from a future litter. You can copy the questions into an email or print, hand write & scan it. (This pdf isn't the type you can write into online). Please email Joe If you prefer to receive this as a Word document by email, that you could write into on your computer and send back.

    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:

    • Evaluating breeding stock through personal hunting use and objective testing in field and water before and after the shot proven through advanced hunting tests
    • Screening dam and sire health via kennel records, hip x-rays and DNA testing
    • Upholding the original breed standard and hunting-oriented form and function through conformation tests
    • Evaluating temperament through our own observations and via trained judges
    • Choosing mates based on complementarity of traits

    Sunnynook Feature Dog

    The Natural Retrieve: What’s Natural About It?

    Natural versus trained retrieves are common phrases in the hunting dog literature. A dog retrieving naturally does so without "force training to retrieve". Those looking for more insight than opinions, often refer to the wolf, the acknowledged ancestor of all dogs. Two forms of retrieving are recognized for wolves:

    We’ll all agree that feeding young is both desirable and natural for both dogs and wolves. Yet we do not want our hunting dogs to cache food for future use – that’s why we hunt with cooperative dogs and not wolves.

    The chart above shows six different elements to retrieving or recovery of game by hunting dogs. Each element involves a more or less different task and, similarly, more or less different motivation that a dog brings to it. These differences do not have sharp boundaries, but rather blend into one another. We should be explicit as to which task we mean when we talk about retrieving.

    The six dogs in the photo show nice retrieving manners, actually delivery-manners. They sit and hold patiently for me to take a photo. They do so until I put my hand on the frozen Hun, pigeon or antler and say "Out". At times they turned their heads while sitting. There may have been a noise or scent coming out of the woods. The dogs display more cooperation than obedience since they’ve never been forced to hold patiently. They did not drop even when their attention was turned elsewhere.

    These six Sunnynook LMs have never experienced an ear pinch, a toe loop or an electronic collar in connection with retrieving. They contradict the oft espoused notion that reliable retrieving must be enforced via "force training". I could wax poetic even emotional describing some phenomenal retrieves they made in hunting. The dogs succeeded when I felt at times recovery was not possible. Such persistence by dogs can’t be trained.

    If not trained retrieving, what these dogs do have instead is crucial. They have a pedigree full of ancestors that have proven several of the six listed elements of retrieving in a field test. In their case it was the Advanced Hunting Aptitude Evaluation (AHAE) of the Versatile Hunting Dog Federation. For these dogs, this test was required for breeding, among other things.

    Selective breeding works. When properly practiced, it's given us modern hunting dogs that are essential for ethical hunting and would be the envy of hunters past. Why would we replace selective breeding with the lesser solution of retrieving enforced via force training?

    The puppy pictured here counts three of the six dogs as ancestors. The 11-week-old Sunnynook's Kua already shows cooperative retrieving, an element that can't be enforced by training. It has to come from the dog within. On one of its walks in the woods, the puppy found a yearling-deer skull. It dropped the wooden stick it was carrying and picked up the skull instead. It carried the skull for 300 m, sometimes pushing it through understory brush and prickly roses, before it left the skull behind when something else caught its attention. More importantly, when I stopped and looked at the pup it kept walking up to me, making eye contact.

    This pup has the rudiments of cooperative retrieving. It carried it totally trusting that we are in our efforts together. I was careful not to undermine that trust. If a hunter with such a pup is careful to respect that pup's natural stages of behaviour development and never breaks this trust, there is the promise of a long and fruitful hunting relationship.

    Joe Schmutz, 18 April 2024

    Past Performance

    Thirty-five 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.

    Placement Policy

    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

    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

    Please call us if you have any specific questions (306)382-8964. e-mail or e-mail