The SSAA Great Northern Non-slip Retrieving Trial was held in Queensland’s Brisbane Valley at a property close to Esk on June 17 and 18. The event was hosted by the United Field and Retrieving (UFR) branch of SSAA Queensland.
Competition is divided into four categories, with each group being representative of the experience of both dog and handler. Category one is called Test and is structured especially for young dogs just entering the sport. Category two is Intermediate and represents a greater degree of difficulty than Test. Category three is Advanced and is still within reach of the majority of handlers and more experienced dogs. Category four is Open and while it is attainable, the skill level and dedication needed to be successful is extremely high.
The combination of shooting and dog handling brings together members of both the shooting and non-shooting public. To learn the discipline of handling a firearm, even one that has been rendered to blank fire, helps to allay a fear that often comes through lack of knowledge of guns in general. Many of our competitors are men and women from a dog obedience training background rather than shooters and such people are the perfect amalgam to enhance our sport.
The guns used are old shotguns, often with exposed hammers, and have been rendered to blank fire only. The quarry is the dokken duck known colloquially as the ‘Rubber Ducky’, which is fired from a catapult into terrain of just about any variety including swamps and open water, thereby providing both dog and handler with a similar challenge to one they would meet on a live shoot of ducks and upland game.
As for myself and my four-year-old Weimaraner bitch, Sadie, our Great Northern experience had an amusing but inauspicious start. Sadie is an obedience-trained dog, having obtained the level of CDX (Companion Dog Excellent) in the Australian Kennel Club obedience trials. She has been shot over and trained to a modest degree in non-slip retrieving, so there we were. The judge asked for Catalogue No. 9, which was us and we proceeded to the first set of white pegs where I was requested to remove Sadie’s collar and lead (hence the non-slip). We were handed the gun, which was an old single-barrel 12-gauge with an exposed hammer and a couple of cut-down shotgun cartridges loaded only with primers.
The judge instructed us to proceed to the firing point, where the dog was steadied and the bird launched. The result was a comedy of errors. The dokken duck looked very strange floating through the air with a ribbon attached to its tail, but I managed to close my mouth and fire at the arc of the bird. The dog immediately broke to the sound of the shot and having failed to note the fall of the game, went out and looked around, eventually finding this strange contrivance with a ribbon on its tail but refused to pick it up. Run two was a similar fiasco but she warmed to the idea of retrieving this strange creature. On run three, she really nailed the bird but was still unsteady to shot.
My 40-acre property is not far from the trial site and therefore I was able to quickly go home, and along with shotgun and blanks, wife and bird launcher, prepare for the next day refamiliarising the dog to the training dummies. On the following day my girl was steady to shot and you could be forgiven for thinking that I was using a different dog. We won the Test out of a field of 10 dogs and some excellent prizes were on offer along with our achievement certificate.
Competition is open to all dogs with retrieving ability, even ones who do not have pedigree papers, but generally dog breeds with retrieving in their DNA fare best. For more information on SSAA UFR dog trialling and non-slip retrieving in general, please contact Jim Jeffries or visit unitedfieldandretrieving.org.au