NAVHDA stands for the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association. It is a non-profit corporation that aims to foster, promote and improve the versatility of hunting dog breeds in North America. According to this association, versatility is defined as: "The dog that is bred and trained to dependably hunt and point game, to retrieve on both land and water, and to track wounded game on both land and water."
Another one of NAVHDA's mission aims to conserve (hunting) game by using well-trained and reliable hunting dogs before and after the (killing) shot. Finally, NAVHDA helps in the prevention of cruelty to animals (particularly hunting dogs) through non-selective and uncontrolled breeding, which produces litters that are both unwanted and uncared for.
Hunting dog breeds include the: Airedale Terrier, Beagle, Cretan Hound, English Setter, Flat-Coated Retriever, Otterhound, Russian Spaniel and of course, the Spinone Italiano - to name a few.
It was said that the Spinone Italiano had a traceable breed line that went as far back as 500 BC. Even then, man has used the Spinone Italiano as a hunting companion; one that could point out and retrieve game for its masters. One of this dog's main advantages is its great swimming ability, perfect for retrieving fallen prey from the water. This swimming ability is due to its disproportionate and puppy-like webbed paws.
Today, the Spinone Italiano breed is still used in small game hunting. But the dog's main occupation now is mostly as a household pet. Part of its heritage is its affection towards people, and its easy acceptance to the presence of other dogs. Centuries of working with man and fellow hounds has created an easy-to-train, loyal and intelligent dog.
Part of maintaining the breed standards of the Spinone Italiano is to make sure that despite its sedentary existence today, it can still function as a first class hunting dog. The NAVHDA has an established system that offers comprehensive tests on the versatility of modern hunting dog breeds. It also offers testing at various stages of the dog's maturity. Not only that, these tests or performance records are filed and kept to be easily accessible to all Spinone Italiano breeders and all Spinone Italiano buyers.
These tests are:
The Natural Ability Test (evaluates inherent natural abilities like pointing, searching, tracking, etc.)
The Utility Preparatory Test (mid-training evaluation of the dog's ability as it takes the Utility Test)
The Utility Test (evaluates trained dogs as it moves about in the field and in water, evaluates dogs before and after the killing shot, evaluates dogs as a hunting companion, evaluates dogs for more specific tasks)
The Invitational Test (evaluates the progress of dogs that have achieved Prize I in the Utility Test)