Hosting HRC spring grand might a once in a lifetime deal for local lodgeALEXANDRIA — To some, the words “I’m going to have to ask you to put a leash on your dog” seem harmless; a polite favor to ask of someone whose pet is behaving badly. To an elite group, however, that short sentence is one they hope never to hear.
By: Leah Rado, The Daily Republic
ALEXANDRIA — To some, the words “I’m going to have to ask you to put a leash on your dog” seem harmless; a polite favor to ask of someone whose pet is behaving badly.
To an elite group, however, that short sentence is one they hope never to hear.
At the Hunting Retriever Club’s spring grand testing and competition, those words mean that dog and owner are out of the competition; that the dog didn’t heel when told or was perhaps a little too excited heading down to its position before its turn during testing.
“These are champion dogs; every one of these guys is a professional handler for the most part,” Kevin Yeo said Saturday afternoon. “These are really good dogs. The dog is judged on basic obedience … how well he responds to the signals — whistle and hand. It’s quite the deal.”
The HRC grand started Friday and runs through Wednesday in Alexandria. The event, hosted by Dakota HRC, is only of two grand events held annually. The local chapter began lobbying for the event several years ago, and was awarded the right to host the big event in Alexandria.
Yeo, who owns Granite Springs Lodge, Alexandria, with several family members, said hosting an event of this caliber might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing for the lodge and South Dakota.
“There’s a spring grand and a fall grand, and those rotate every year around the nation,” he said. “We probably won’t see the spring grand again. We might see it again in a few years, but odds are we won’t.”
Though the grand testing event is by far the largest event the lodge and the town have ever hosted, it’s by no means the first retriever testing event. Yeo said that Granite Springs will host three more retriever testing events this year, but on a much smaller scale.
“The other three are similar, and those will be roughly the same as far as event types, but a lot smaller as far as participant numbers,” he said. “There will probably be 50 to 60 dogs and 20 to 30 people.”
More than 300 dogs came to Alexandria for the grand event, and all are of champion status. According to Yeo, each dog has to accumulate at least 100 points at other testing events throughout the year before they are even invited to the grand testing event.
Of the 300 dogs and owners, only a handful are from South Dakota, Yeo said. Most come from the southern part of the country, and most train with their dogs year round in hopes of making it to the prestigious grand events.
At the grand events, the dogs are put through a series of four tests that evaluate their abilities to flush and retrieve decoys in the water and on land. In one of the water tests, dogs must watch and “mark” as three ducks are shot into the air, and retrieve them in the order their owner commands.
After he has retrieved the ducks, the dog must then find a fourth duck hidden in a blind using only hand signals and commands shouted by its owner. If a dog strays too far in the wrong direction, it is out. If the owner has to help their dog more than once in all four days of competition, the duo is out.
And if the dog is not well mannered enough at any point during the competition — including when walking to or from a test — it may be leashed and done with the competition.
After testing Saturday through Tuesday and one final upland test Wednesday, judges will add up the scores of the dogs who made it successfully through all five tests to decide which earn the status of “grand.”
“These dogs are like athletes: they train an hour, two hours a night, three nights a week,” Yeo said. “They’ll train and do all the drills, and they’ll do that year round. Then they’ll go hunting. You have to look at it as they are people who train dogs who also hunt. Some people who hunt have a dog. When you go hunting with them, you can tell the difference. It’s cool to watch.”