Here’s a link to our most recent newsletter, from January 2023. (From there, you can read earlier issues also.)

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    If you are interested in joining MSDA, you can learn more about membership and fill out an on-line application at Or, email for information and a membership application as a PDF. Attendance at an MSDA meeting or event generally is required before joining. All members are asked to volunteer at a club event at least once per year.

    2023 Bird Dog Instinct Clinics

    MSDA will hold Bird Instinct Clinics on Friday March 3rd, Saturday March 4th, and Sunday March 5th during the MSDA “Spring Event” at the Howard County Fairgrounds (2210 Fairgrounds Rd, West Friendship, MD 21794). For a bird dog with little or no field experience, this is a great way to get started.

    This is a fun, relaxed, and encouraging activity. The clinic consists of individual work with each dog and handler. Each dog gets 10-15 minutes in the field, ending with a bird contact (e.g., flush, point, retrieve). Trainers get the dogs excited about the birds, and then the dogs are able to scent and find a bird, triggering their basic hunting instincts. Clinics are run by AKC hunt test judges and experienced handlers for flushing, pointing, and retrieving breeds. There is lots of fun, and great information, too!

    Instinct Clinic is a wonderful stepping stone for you and your dog to get involved with training for your parent club’s WD or WC program or for the AKC Hunt Test programs, or to simply see how much fun you can have when your dog gets turned on to birds!!

    All potential bird dogs are welcome. Your dog does not have to be entered in the MSDA dog show or obedience/rally trials at Spring Event to participate in the Instinct Clinic.

    Trainers will be available to work with dogs from 11 am – 1 pm and 2 pm – 4 pm each of the three days. There is no pre-registration for the Instinct Clinics. Just come out to the field and sign up when you’re ready for some fun – it’s first come, first served. The number of dogs we can handle is limited, however. Usually Saturday and Sunday afternoons are the busiest times, so aim for Friday or the mornings if you can.

    The clinic fee is $20 per dog – cash or check, payable when you sign in at the field. Payment by credit card is also an option, with an additional $1 fee. Also, Spring Event parking at the Fairgrounds is $5 per vehicle.

    For Instinct Clinic, your dog needs a collar and leash (not just a slip lead) . Optionally, spaniels and retrievers may want to bring a favorite retrieving toy to get started. We’ll provide a very long lead and all other supplies. Dogs are never off-leash during these sessions.

    Live birds are used. There is no gunfire; flushed birds fly away.

    The Instinct Clinics are held outside, so please dress for outdoor fun! They will be in a grassy field less than 500 feet west of the main (conformation) building, near the fairgrounds’ horse ring. A map is below. Once on the fairgrounds property, when you are facing the main hall and annex, turn right (west) and follow the driveway past the line of trees. Then look to the left and you will see a collection of cars, a pop-up tent, tables, etc. in the distance. There will be some parking available up near the horse ring. Please don’t drive or try to park in low-lying areas — cars have gotten stuck in the mud down there.

    Note that the ground is covered in grass, dirt and (some) straw, so you may not want to run your dog in an Instinct Clinic and then go directly to the conformation ring.

    One or more sessions could be rescheduled or cancelled in case of severe weather. If so, updated information will be posted here on this web page, the home page of the MSDA website, and also will be shared via MSDA’s private Facebook Group.

    For more information and lots of photos, see our Instinct Clinic page for 2022. A few very short Instinct Clinic videos are on MSDA’s YouTube channel. MSDA member Deb Kirk also offers a longer introductory training video that includes a lot of photos and extensive video from MSDA Instinct Clinics.

    Questions? Please contact Steve Roth at

    And, if you and your dog have fun at the Instinct Clinic, consider attending MSDA’s annual Field Day for an introduction to field training your bird dog. Field Day will most likely be scheduled for a Saturday in April. The exact date and much more information will be provided after the first of the year.

    World of Pets Expo 2023

    January 27-29, 2023
    Maryland State Fairgrounds
    Timonium, MD

    Once again, MSDA hosted a booth at the World of Pets Expo, the “largest consumer pet show on the East Coast”. Each year, tens of thousands of people and, often, their own pets attend this event. There were aisles of vendors, a wide range of animals (dogs, cats, birds, farm animals, reptiles…), dock diving, training sessions, Corgi races (?!), grooming competitions, and just lots of fun. 

    MSDA’s booth location was convenient and very visible. People stopped by to meet a sporting dog and to learn about sporting dog activities in general and about MSDA events in particular. Here are some photos of MSDA’s volunteers and visitors. (Click on any image to enlarge it and move through the slide show.)

    If you have questions about MSDA at the World of Pets Expo, please contact Sally Eck via

    Specialties, Supported Entries and Sweepstakes at AKC Dog Shows

    What are these? What are the differences between them? Why hold them in conjunction with an all-breed or group dog show? Read on for the answers to these questions.

    Maryland Sporting Dog Association (MSDA) holds two of the largest AKC sporting dog group shows in the country, attracting hundreds of entries per day for a three-day weekend each spring that includes dog shows, obedience & rally trials, bird instinct clinics and other activities. At conformation events, i.e., dog shows, winners earn points toward championship titles. More points are awarded when more dogs are competing, so it’s desirable to attract as many competitors as possible. Increasing the number of entries often depends on the cooperation of many more dog clubs than just the sponsoring organization. In particular, there are individual breed clubs that will elect to hold a supported entry or a specialty associated with, or as a part of, an all-breed or group show such as MSDA’s. Sweepstakes are another popular means for expanding entries at an event (although these don’t award points).


    Like all-breed or group shows, specialties are point shows, but they are limited to one breed. A specialty requires AKC approval and, unlike parent (national) breed clubs, regional clubs (e.g., the Potomac Irish Setter Club, or the Potomac Valley Golden Retriever Club) may be awarded only two specialties each year.

    Specialties generally fall into one of three varieties: independent, concurrent, and designated.

    Independent Specialty:
    Independent specialties are standalone events. They may be held as the only event that day/weekend at a location, or may be held on the same grounds but on a different day from other dog shows. MSDA’s “Spring Event” weekend has long included an independent specialty on Friday by the Potomac Valley Golden Retriever Club (PVGRC). That specialty show is only for Golden Retrievers and is independent of the MSDA sporting group shows that happen on Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend.

    The Friday specialty shows at MSDA’s Spring Event are organized by the breed clubs, which are responsible for obtaining permission from the AKC, arranging for judges and trophies, publishing their own premium list and show catalog, and contracting with the show superintendent.

    However, it benefits both the specialty club and MSDA to coordinate their efforts. In the case of Spring Event, MSDA contracts with the venue for the site rental and related parking and security services and then essentially subcontracts a portion of the site to the specialty club for the hours of their show. Also, the same superintendent is used for all events of the weekend, simplifying setup. Food services (for judges and volunteers) may be shared or subcontracted. The clubs also may coordinate on selection of judges so that a judge working at the specialty might also judge at MSDA’s group show, if they have additional breeds that can be assigned.

    This coordination saves the specialty club time, effort and potentially expense. If a judge can be used for all three days of MSDA’s Spring Event, for example, both MSDA and the specialty club may share that judge’s travel expenses, somewhat reducing the burden on both clubs.

    The major benefit to both the all-breed or group club and the specialty club is that entrants will find it more worthwhile to attend if they can enter, for example, three dog shows instead of just one or two on a given weekend. This will tend to increase entries for both clubs’ shows. More entries generally translate into more points for the winners as well as more revenues and potentially an improved reputation for the clubs.

    Recognizing the benefits of attracting more dogs, the club hosting the all-breed or group show(s) may offer some incentives for specialty clubs to schedule their event. For MSDA’s Spring Event, the specialty club’s subcontracted price for the venue may be significantly less than what it would have to pay for an entirely standalone event. The specialty club’s entrants also are able to take part in ancillary activities such as MSDA’s bird instinct clinic or a barn hunt “try-it”, which might be more difficult to organize for events attracting a smaller number of dogs. MSDA benefits by having more dogs stay to enter its weekend shows, and also gains revenue from parking and other fees such as those charged for the bird instinct clinics.

    The downside of coordination, of course, is that compromises are necessary. Neither club will have as much flexibility to do what they want, when and where they want as they would have had if they were putting on an event entirely on their own.

    Concurrent Specialty:
    This is a separate specialty show held on the same grounds as a group or all-breed show on the same day. Like an independent specialty, the breed club must obtain permission from the AKC and make their own show-related arrangements. A concurrent specialty may offer great value to breeds who can do a second show on the same day since both club and exhibitor expense is spread over two events on a single day, while still providing an additional opportunity for earning points. The AKC limits concurrent specialties, and the breed judging at the host club’s event (e.g., to 100 entries per judge per ring for concurrent specialties at an all-breed show), and considerable coordination with (and permission from) the host club is required. Despite everyone’s best effort in scheduling, there is a possibility of running into a conflict with the judging at the host show on the same day. If this happens, an exhibitor who has paid to enter two events may have to decide, for example, if they prefer to stay in the breed competition of the concurrent specialty or compete in the group judging of the host show.

    Designated Specialty:
    This type of specialty is the most tightly integrated with the host show and occurs when classes at an all-breed or group show are “designated” as a specialty. Since it occurs entirely within the framework of a bigger show, casual observers watching the judging may not even realize that they are seeing a breed specialty. Although the breed club must obtain AKC approval for the specialty and will provide trophies, judges are assigned by the host club and specialty information is included in the host club’s premium list and catalog.

    In 2020 and 2022, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club (USA) held designated specialties as part of MSDA’s Saturday sporting group dog show.

    Supported Entries:

    The designation of supported entry means that a specialty breed club (say, Irish Water Spaniels) has decided to encourage their members to support an all-breed or group show by entering. This encouragement often takes the specific form of sponsored trophies and input on judge(s) who the breed club thinks will draw exhibitors.

    There is no AKC requirement for paperwork to accomplish this and it generally results in shows gaining a 10%-20% increase in entries for the particular breed. Supporting entry clubs are recognized in the host club’s premium list and catalog. There are no limits to the number of supported entries per club per year. Eventually, if the supported entry gets large enough, supported entries may turn into specialties.


    Sweepstakes are in the “fun” or “learning” event category, and may occur in specialties, and/or all-breed and group dog shows with or without supporting entries. They typically involve Puppies or Veterans, as well as other classes like Gun Dog, Field Retriever, etc.

    Sweepstakes classes are judged using the same standard as a regular conformation class. However, the judge is not necessarily an approved AKC judge for that breed. In many cases they are long-time breeders or people who would like to become an approved judge for the breed. The prizes are typically a cash award based on a percentage of the entry fee. Many exhibitors use this as a starter for puppies and an additional class to acclimate youngsters to being in a show. Sweepstake classes are typically (but not always) run before regular classes.

    Comparison of Benefits:

    When putting on a conformation show the objective is to award championship points. A non-supported or non-specialty regular class at an all-breed or group show may have points, but a supported entry likely will have more entrants, and a specialty generally will have the greatest number of entries and, consequently have the greatest amount of points that can be earned by a dog. (However, there is no guarantee.)

    As noted earlier, more entries also typically mean more direct (i.e., entry fee) and indirect (e.g., parking, other activities) revenue for the host club, so there is an economic incentive to increase entries. Specialties, supported entries and sweepstakes help to achieve this.

    Holding specialties at the same location and general timeframe as a group or all-breed show can also benefit both the clubs and exhibitors by sharing or limiting expenses.


    Running a dog show of any size is a complex undertaking. For example, dog show judges may be selected up to three years in advance, and typically a panel is well developed a year in advance. The key to any show is its judging panel. For example, using someone local who is frequently seen 3-4 times a year in a region is problematic as most people will have seen the judge, and if he or she didn’t like your exhibited dog in January they probably won’t like it in April or July. So, assembling a quality judging panel that will attract entries is generally important and, when dealing with specialties and supported entries, the judge selection is even more critical. Obtaining input for this and the myriad other decisions involved in organizing a dog show, and doing all this with the involvement of not just the host club, but perhaps multiple specialty and supporting entry clubs, and within a limited timeframe, is even more challenging.

    Some host clubs now have what is called an Offer Sheet. These documents spell out timelines in addition to roles and responsibilities relating to specialties and supporting entries, with the goal of reducing ambiguity and aligning expectations. The Offer Sheet provides clarity and structure that generally results in a beneficial outcome for all involved, as long as the timelines are adhered to. An example of an Offer Sheet (not from MSDA) is available here as a PDF.

    This article was prepared with the assistance of MSDA member William (Bill) Burland. Bill is both a breeder and a handler, and has served as Show Chair for the Kennel Club of Philadelphia (2004-2013) and the Bucks County Kennel Club (2015-2018). He currently is very active with the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club (USA).

    Renew MSDA Membership for 2023

    Updated info for members: The MSDA Annual Membership Meeting will be held virtually (using Zoom for online and phone access) Thursday evening, March 23. Detailed information will be sent to all dues-paid members two weeks before the meeting.

    This page is for current members only to make their annual $10 membership renewal payment. If you are a member, you should have received an email on January 6th asking you to renew.

    If you are not already an MSDA member, or are not sure whether you are a member, please contact Pamela DeSmidt ( for information before sending money. You cannot join MSDA just by paying dues — you need to apply for membership first.

    After you fill out the short form below and click “Renew and Pay” you will be sent to PayPal to securely complete your online payment. Major credit cards and PayPal are accepted. However, you do not need to have, or create, a PayPal account to pay online. PayPal does not share your credit card information with MSDA.

    Once PayPal confirms your payment, they will send you back to this website and automatically email their confirmation (though it may not arrive immediately). If you don’t see the PayPal email, please check your spam/junk folder.

    Important notes:

    • You can use this form to renew for up to two members (e.g., you and your spouse).
    • There are no family memberships or discounts for members in the same household: dues are simply $10 per person.
    • Dues payments are not refundable. If you pay twice, or pay and are not a member, MSDA will keep the overpayment as a donation.
    • Thank-You!

    Membership dues must be received by MSDA before the start of the Annual Membership Meeting on Thursday evening, March 23. Dues-paid members will be sent the meeting agenda, list of board nominees, and other important information two weeks before the meeting.

    If dues are not received by the deadline, your membership will be canceled but you will be kept on the mailing list.

    Please contact Pamela DeSmidt ( if you have any questions.

    2022 Training Days for Flushing Dogs

    MSDA has been holding Training Days for flushing dogs. The objective is to prepare dogs to enter and successfully pass an AKC Spaniel Hunt Test, or for you to just enjoy time in the field with your dog. The plan is to offer fun, constructive upland/flushing training with live birds without a lot of down time, along with an opportunity to continue old friendships, make new friends, and get more involved with MSDA’s activities.

    In 2022, there were five sessions, in March, April, May, June and September. The final 2022 Training Day for Flushing Dogs was to have been on November 11, but had to be canceled due to severe weather.

    More information about these Training Days is below. We hope to continue flushing training in 2023.

    Please direct questions to the Event Chair, Steve Surprenant, via

    The first Training Day of the season was March 18 and some photos, taken by Lori Taylor, are shown below. Click on any photo to enlarge it and move through the gallery.

    The second Training Day of 2022 was April 29. More of Lori Taylor’s photos are shown below. Click on any photo to enlarge it and move through the gallery.

    The typical day went from 8:30 am to 3:30 or 4 pm. Each Training Day allowed training at four levels (Newbie, Junior, Senior and Master). Exercises available included general advice, land quartering/ flushing/ retrieving, hunt dead, water retrieves and a water blind. Live birds (pigeons, chukar, or pheasant) were available for advance purchase. Each training day accommodated 16-18 dogs, usually divided into two groups, with a mix of dogs and handlers (Newbies, Junior, Senior and Master) in each group.

    Training Days for Flushing Dogs in 2022 were held on Fridays. Friday was chosen so we would have less competition for property and birds with other club training days that occur on a weekend and to avoid creating conflicts with AKC Spaniel Hunt Tests that typically occur on weekends. In 2022, Training Days were held at Thornhill Farm in Woodbine, MD and at Mount Ararat Farm in Fort Deposit, MD.

    Fall 2022 Hunt Test Weekend

    Saturday, September 17th & Sunday September 18th
    9 am – 4 pm
    Rebel Ridge Farms
    295 Woods Road, Elkton, MD 21921

    Something for everyone, including:

    • AKC-licensed Spaniel Hunting Tests (two days, two tests) on Saturday and Sunday.
    • WD (Working Dog) hunt tests for selected spaniel breeds on Sunday only.
    • On Saturday only:
      • Mock Junior Pointing Hunt Test
      • Mock Junior Retrieving Hunt Test
      • Open House for all MSDA members and potential members.

    The rest of this web page is about the Pointing and Retrieving Mock Hunt Tests and the Open House, all on Saturday. Follow the link for information about the Spaniel Hunting Tests and WD Tests.

    MSDA’s Fall Hunt Test Weekend has traditionally been focused on flushing breeds. In 2021, we added an “open house” for members and prospective members. This year, we expanded further to provide Mock Junior AKC Hunt Tests for pointing and retrieving breeds. For those who have done some hunt training, including perhaps at MSDA’s Field Day, and were either curious about pointing or retrieving hunt testing, were getting ready for a first hunt test, or just needed a bit of extra practice (and some feedback), this was a great opportunity. The mock hunt tests were no-pressure, fun and great learning experience.

    21 dogs entered the Mock Hunt Tests with another half dozen signed up for Open House. This included one or more of the following breeds: Boykin Spaniel, Brittany, Clumber Spaniel, English Setter, Epagneul Breton, Flat-Coated Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Irish Red and White Setter, Irish Setter, Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Vizsla, and Weimaraner.

    Here are some photos. (Click on any picture to enlarge it and move through the slideshow.)

    Of the Pointing Mock Junior Hunt Test:

    Of the Retrieving Mock Junior Hunt Test:

    And, of course, thanks to all the Pointing, Retrieving, and Open House attendees who contributed… the potluck lunch buffet!

    If you’re on Facebook, more photos are posted on MSDA’s private group at

    If you have questions about:

    Last, but not least, if you are an MSDA member, and you learned something or just had a great day with your dog, please consider sharing your progress via our new “Member Milestones“.

    Fall 2022 Spaniel Hunting Tests

    Saturday September 17 (AKC Event #2022441909) and
    Sunday September 18 (AKC Event #2022441910)
    at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton MD

    ALSO this weekend:

    Mock Junior Hunt Tests for Pointing and for Retrieving breeds and an Open House on Saturday 9/17, and Spaniel Working Dog (WD) tests on Sunday 9/18

    The rest of this web page is about the Spaniel Hunting Tests and WD Tests. Follow the link to learn more about the Pointing and Retrieving mock hunt tests and the Open House.

    MSDA held two days — two separate events — of AKC Spaniel Hunting Tests at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton MD. Rebel Ridge provides spacious grounds, ample ponds, and excellent fall cover. (They let the grass grow extra tall just for our hunt test weekend!) Thank-yous all around to the judges, George Cacchio, Noel Cacchio, Mary Lou Dunn and Jean-Marie Tate as well as the gunners, entrants, committee members, other organizers and the many volunteers who make this happen!

    There were 37 entries on Saturday and 34 on Sunday. Also on Sunday, seven dogs participated in Working Dog tests for selected spaniel breeds. In all, we had one or more of the following breeds entered: Boykin Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, Labrador Retriever , Standard Poodle and Sussex Spaniel.

    Here are some photos. (Click on any picture to enlarge it and move through the slideshow.)

    Taken by Ken Harringer:

    A few more:

    And some of the happy recipients of ribbons this weekend:

    If you’re on Facebook, more photos are posted on MSDA’s private group at

    If you have questions about these MSDA Spaniel Hunting Tests, please contact Steve Roth via .

    Last, but not least, if you are an MSDA member, and you learned something or just had a great day with your dog, please consider sharing your progress via our new “Member Milestones“.

    2022 Spring Spaniel Hunting Tests

    Saturday May 7, 2022
    & Sunday May 8, 2022
    Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton, MD

    MSDA held two days — two separate events — of AKC Spaniel Hunting Tests at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton MD. Junior, Senior and Master stakes were available each day and all eligible flushing breeds were welcome.

    Yes, it rained on Saturday. But hunt testers are made of sturdy stuff. And, they have bright orange raincoats! Either way, the dogs don’t seem to mind. Here are some photos of the weekend, courtesy of Ken Harringer.

    Rebel Ridge Farms is a 250+ acre private property located in northeastern Maryland. Many photos and an aerial tour of the property are available on the Rebel Ridge Farms website.

    Not just for spaniels, the hunting tests are open to all eligible flushing breeds. Currently, these are: Airedale Terrier, American Water Spaniel, Boykin Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Field Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Poodle (Miniature and Standard), Sussex Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel. Dogs of these breeds recorded with the Purebred Alternative Listing Program/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP) or dogs with Conditional Registration are eligible to participate. Spayed and neutered dogs are eligible to participate. Bitches in season are not eligible to participate, nor are they allowed on the grounds. Dogs with Limited Registration are eligible to participate. All dogs must be six months of age or older.

    Please direct any questions or comments concerning these hunt tests to the Event Chair, Steve Roth via .

    Legislative Issues Discussion Group

    MSDA has started an e-mail based discussion group using The purpose of the group is to share information, on a timely basis, about local and federal legislation and other regulations directly affecting dogs, especially sporting dogs, and their owners and breeders.

    MSDA’s Legislative Issues Advisor is Darin Cox. You may contact him directly via , but really, if you have something to say, you should join the group!

    Or visit the group’s home page at

    To join the discussion, if you’re new to, you will need to provide your email address, create a password, and respond to a confirmation email sent to you.

    Opinions expressed in this group are those of the individual participants and not of MSDA as an organization.

    This is a “private” group. Messages posted to the group will not be publicly available at So, the group will not be listed in the public directory of groups on, and the message archive will be viewable only by group members. Also, message content will not be discoverable by web search engines. However, messages will be shared with other group participants and MSDA cannot control what anyone does with the content that lands in their own email inbox.

    Currently, you do not need to be an MSDA member to join this group. However, the group’s size is limited to 100 participants. If it begins to fill up, we may give priority to club members.