Here is a brief Spring Update to some things going on in the chapter.

Grounds Access:  Please be aware that to be on the grounds at Kelly Land & Cattle Co. in Hugo/Marine AND the Four Brooks WMA dog training area north of Milaca everyone MUST have an annual grounds pass OR be part of a chapter sponsored paid event like a Test, Primary Clinic, or an OPEN Training night.  You can find info on how to get passes here.    New for 2021, to help new members or those that do not wish to buy a pass, we are having OPEN training & puppy exposure nights on the 3rd Thursday of each month at Kelley.

August 7th & 8th Training Weekend-Virginia: There is still plenty of room left for the Traditional training weekend on August 7th & 8th at the Iron Range Retriever Club in Virginia.  More info and registration here.

AIMS & RULES CLINIC (formerly Handler Clinic): We still have spots available in our 2021 Aims & Rules Clinic at Pineridge Grouse Camp in Remer, MN on June 12th & 13th.  This clinic will be led by longtime chapter member and Senior Judge Terry Petro.    Full details here.

BIRDS: Birds are generally distributed through the small training groups or at the OPEN training nights on Thursdays at Kelley.  If you have questions about obtaining birds, please email  The effects of the CV-19 Pandemic has disrupted our normal bird supply channels.  Obtaining birds this spring in sufficient quantities of what our chapter has been customary to has been challenging.  The growth in membership is also creating more demand for birds.   We have chapter volunteers who are spending a LOT of time trying to source birds for us.  They have made some new contacts and hope to have more consistent quantities arriving in the coming weeks.  If you know of anyone that can supply us with Pigeons or Chukar, please send an email to:

Testing Season is Starting: Minnesota NAVHDA has expanded our testing to span SEVEN weekends in 2021 starting May 15-16 with an all NA test at Four Brooks.  All of our tests are full with waiting lists.  We are in need of volunteers.  Coming to a test is a great way to meet people, see a variety of dogs, and learn about NAVHDA. If you can help, please contact the Test Coordinators.


We are holding a  NAVHDA AIMS & Rules Clinic on June 12th & 13th at Pineridge Grouse Camp in Remer, MN.

We have about 10 spots remaining, and we would really like to fill this up.  We are discounting the price to $120,00 from $165.00.    There are also additional meal & lodging options.

Wondering if this event is for you?  Full event details and registration are here:

(Those already sighed up will be receiving a partial refund)


Hello Chapter Members.   The days are getting longer, some snow is melting, and it will not be too much longer until we start our 2021 season in April.  In the meantime, here is an update on some things to be aware of.

ANNUAL MEETINGS:   We held our chapter annual meeting on Tuesday evening Feb 2nd via the Google Meet platform.   This meeting was not recorded.  Chapter members will be emailed a copy of the Meeting minutes and Board of Directors reports.   NAVHDA International held it’s annual meeting on Jan 23rd via the Microsoft Teams platform.  This meeting was recorded, and is available to review here.

BYLAWS:   The voting for the revisions to our chapter bylaws was held electronically over a  14 day period ending on February 21st.  The revisions passed by a 94-6% margin.  (66% was required).  Thank you to all who participated.  These changes will allow us to better manage the size of the chapter and continue to hold quality tests and training events while fulfilling our mission statement.

CHAPTER SECRETARY POSITION:  Pete Ness is currently our chapter secretary, now in his 3rd two year term, but is looking to transition out of that role.  This is a very important position in a chapter of our size.  Primary responsibilities include managing the roster, monthly meeting agendas & minutes and coordinating chapter email communications.  We are looking for candidates to interview for this position.  Qualified individuals will be familiar with simple database management like MS Excel, sending mass emails, and online systems of sharing and storing information like the Google G-Suite.  Interested people can contact

RAFFLE: Our 2021 Raffle Fundraiser for two Garmin Alpha 200i units was a huge success.  The raffle sold out sooner than we expected and winners were drawn at our Board meeting on 2/16.  Congratulations to our winners Greg Fassett & Dan DelMonico.

2021 VOLUNTEERS:   We are the biggest chapter in NAVHDA both in the size of our membership and the number of test days and training events we hold.   We cannot do this without volunteers, and we could use your help.   If you are running a dog in a test, please consider volunteering on the day you are NOT running.  You can contact the test & event coordinators listed on this page to volunteer.  (Note that your specific test running day assignment is not usually made by the test secretaries until the week of the test, so which day you would volunteer cannot be determined yet.)

TRAINING:  For 2021 Training, we will continue to form small focused training groups like we did in 2020.  If this interests you, please visit our Small Group Training Page and complete the questionnaire by March 15th, if you have not already done so.   Small group training dates are NOT published on our website calendar, but will be organized based on the results of this questionnaire.  You can visit our Training Events Page to see some of the larger scheduled events we have set up and which ones still have openings.  NEW for 2021, we will be doing some OPEN training nights at Kelley Farms on the 3rd Thursday of each month, from April through August.  This is to give people an opportunity to do some training at that venue without having to buy the expensive annual grounds pass for Kelley Farms.  These nights will also be open to non-members to check out what NAVHDA is all about before they make the decision to join.

NAVHDA AIMS & RULES CLINIC:  We still have openings at this 2 day clinic on June 12th-13th at Pineridge Grouse Camp in Remer, MN.  Full details here.

TESTING:  4 of our 7 tests are full with waiting lists.  there are still some openings in the other 3.  If you are planning on testing a dog in 2021, do not wait too much longer to sign up for a test.  Please reference our Testing Events Schedule for all details.

SPONSORS: Thank you to our Chapter Sponsors. 

We look forward to seeing everyone soon at our 2021 Events.

Pete Aplikowski



” I don’t want to get all wrapped up in this testing stuff, I just want a hunting dog!”  This is a statement you will hear from a lot of people new to NAVHDA with their first versatile dog.

Many people’s first exposure to NAVHDA is by their breeder, who may suggest that new puppy owners join NAVHDA in hopes they will get their puppies evaluated in a Natural Ability (NA) test as a measure of their breeding program.  That, and they know that NAVHDA chapters are a good way for them to meet other people familiar with the versatile breeds and get them on the right track.

As a large chapter, we get a lot of new members who join for a year, participate enough to get their pup through the NA test, and then they go on their merry way and we never see them again.  There is also another group of people who get involved with the chapter’s exposure & training days, get through their NA test, and then say “now what?”

After the NA test, the next test in the NAVHDA system is the Utility Preparatory Test (UPT).  The NAVHDA AIMS book describes this test as follows:  “It is a test midway between the Natural Ability Test and the Utility Test.  The dog’s level of obedience and training should demonstrate that it is on its way to becoming a Utility dog.”

NAVHDA NA, UPT & UT tests have “prize levels” of Prize 1, 2 & 3.  “Prizing” is also referred to as “passing”.  While having a truly “finished” Prize 1 Utility dog is the desired goal for a lot of experienced NAVHDA handlers, it is not practical for the majority of people, especially those who “just want a hunting dog.”   So, let’s focus on that term of “passing” and how it relates to the UPT test.

To “Pass” a test, a dog must achieve a minimum of a prize 3 performance.  The full context of what a “passing” score would be can be found in the AIMS TEST RULES.    We cannot get down in the weeds on all of that in this short article, but let’s look at an idea of what that might look like for the UPT test.

While I am a NAVHDA judge, I want to make the disclaimer that at a NAVHDA test, there are 3 judges, and every dog’s score is a consensus score of what each judge saw and observed.  If you look at the Prize 3 requirements for the UPT test, for a dog to “pass”, this is my own synopsis of what I would be looking for, in general, for  a dog to obtain a passing score.

  • Do a productive field search, point birds for the handler and be consistently at least “steady to flush” so the handler can flush the game in range of the gunners.
  • Retrieve all game it is sent out for or breaks for on its own (land & water) and bring it back to within reasonable reach of the handler no matter how efficiently it does it.  (game recovery is a KEY NAVHDA principle)
  • Do a several minute water search within reasonable shotgun range. A retrieve is not required unless the dog locates the dead duck.
  • Have decent manners on the way to and around the duck bind.

Doesn’t that sound like a “passable” HUNTING DOG?   

For many people in NAVHDA, “passing” a dog at the UPT test level would not only be a good goal to strive for, but for many people, will be as far as they would ever need to go to have the hunting companion they are looking for.

For a full understanding of the NAVHDA NA UPT & UT tests and scorecard system, handlers should consider attending an official NAVHDA AIMS & RULES Clinic.  the Minnesota Chapter is holding one on June 12th & 13th this year at Pine Ridge Grouse Camp in Remer, MN.  Click here for full details.


Hello Minnesota NAVHDA Chapter Members,

Your Board of Directors has been busy the last couple months organizing our 2021 calendar.  We are the largest and most active chapter in the NAVHDA system, and we have a lot planned for the coming year.  All of our testing & training events are now open for registration.  You can always find all of the info on the Master Calendar.

Here are a few special things to be aware of:  Click on the highlighted links for full details and registration/payment info.

  • Because we cannot hold our traditional  Fable Fest and silent auction this year due to CV-19, we are doing a RAFFLE for TWO Garmin 200i training/tracking bundles.   This is limited to 250 entries and is open to chapter members only.  To enter, members will need the password that was emailed to them on Jan 2nd.  We expect this to sell out rather quickly, so do not hesitate. Outside of our membership dues, this will be our PRIMARY revenue generator for the year, so please participate, you might get lucky!
  • Our Bylaws require us to hold an “Annual Meeting” and this year that will be done via a virtual meeting platform on Tuesday Feb 2nd from 7-8pm.  We will be sending out more information about this soon, including a  survey asking who will be interested in attending so we can select an appropriate virtual meeting platform.  Members-watch your emails for that in the next week or so.
  • To kick things off this year, we will be holding a ‘Virtual” Training roundtable meeting on Thursday Jan 7th at 7pm via the Google Meet platform.   Members can call in or video in with a capable device.   This will be a general informational discussion about some of our 2021 events and how we are going to try to organize small group training.  Nonmembers and new members are especially welcome on this virtual meeting to ask questions about NAVHDA and if joining the chapter makes sense for them.  The instructions to join are in the link above.  Mark your calendars.  If this works well, we will be doing some more virtual training meetings and discussions  over the winter.
  • Our first primary Training Clinic of the year will be April 24th & 25th at Kelley Farms, when we will have pro trainer Kyle Hough from Pennsylvania in for a  2 day Steadiness Clinic.  This is limited to 40 entries and registration will be open to chapter members only until January 31st.  Members will need the password that was emailed to them on Jan 2nd
  • Due to the large number of chapter members qualifying for the NAVHDA Invitational, we are also going to host the first ever NAVHDA sponsored Invitational Handler Clinic, which will be led by NAVHDA Senior Judge Clyde Vetter. This will be June 5th & 6th at Kelley Farms. This event will also be limited to chapter members only until January 31st.  Space is limited to 20 handlers, and to participate in this you must have run a dog in a UPT or UT test in the past.  Open to chapter members only until January 31st.
  • For  people in the northern part of the state, we are also going to hold a 2 day Clinic on May 22nd & 23rd at the Iron Range Retriever Club in Virginia.  Clinic leader will be NAVHDA Judge and chapter President Pete Aplikowski.  This will be open to nonmembers as well who want to get a feel for what NAVHDA and the Minnesota Chapter is about.  Saturday will focus on Natural Ability Concepts and Sunday will focus on Utility Prep and Utility Training & Demonstrations.  We are trying to offer some more training options in the northern part of the state, and hopefully we can connect some people at this event.
  • We will also be holding a NAVHDA Aims & Rules Clinic and to add a bit to the experience, this will be held at Pine Ridge Grouse Camp near Remer, MN on June 12th & 13th. Clinic Leader will be NAVHDA Senior Judge Terry Petro.  This will be a nice setting to hold this event in and there are meals and lodging/campsites on site.  Space will be limited to 20 handlers.
  • Minnesota NAVHDA leads the entire NAVHDA system in the number of testing days, with 16 testing days spread out over 7 weekends this summer.   Our tests have been filling rather early the last several years, so do not hesitate to get your entry in.  All of our tests are open for entries. Minnesota NAVHDA 2021 Testing Schedule.   Members who want to volunteer at our tests should contact the Test Coordinators listed here.

I look forward to seeing everyone at some of these events this year, or speaking to you on our Virtual meetings this winter.

Pete Aplikowski-President

Hello Minnesota Chapter Members,

It is Chapter membership renewal time.   Please note that there are TWO levels of membership in NAVHDA.  NAVHDA International, and local Chapters.

Registration for certain 2021 Training & Testing Events will be open after January 1st, and chapter members get notified of these first, so it is important to keep up your NAVHDA International membership as well as your Minnesota Chapter membership.  Check your NAVHDA International membership here

Chapter Membership Renewals are now open, and there is a $10 Discount for renewals by 12/31.  You MUST be a chapter member to train with Minnesota NAVHDA.  You can sign up or Renew Here.

As we get closer to the New Year, we are starting to get some clarity on more of our 2021 Event dates.  Unfortunately, with the Governor’s current CV-19 epidemic Executive Orders, it appears we are NOT going to be able to have our traditional winter indoor obedience classes.  We are studying some virtual options (ZOOM, etc..)

Due to COVID-19, we will also NOT be having our traditional Annual Meeting & Fable Fest this winter.  To fulfill the requirements of our bylaws, we ARE planning on having a “Virtual”  Business Meeting on Tuesday Feb 2nd at 7:00pm.  Chapter members will be notified by email of how to attend.

For a 2021 fundraiser, we will be doing a raffle for TWO Garmin Alpha 200i bundles.  Limit of 250 tickets @ $20 each.  Details will be announced in January

Our 2021 Testing Dates & Locations will be:

(not open for entries until January)

  • May 15th, 16th-Natural Ability-Four Brooks, Milaca
  • June 12th, 13th- Natural Ability, Utility Prep, Utility-Four Brooks, Milaca
  • July 24th, 25th-Natural Ability-Four Brooks, Milaca
  • Aug 14th, 15th-Natural Ability, Utility Prep, Utility-Pine Ridge Grouse Camp-Remer
  • Aug 21st, 22nd-Natural Ability, Utility Prep, Utility-Iron Range Retriever Club-Virginia
  • Sep 4th, 5th-Natural Ability, Utility Prep, Utility-Kelley Farms-Hugo.  DOUBLE TEST (2 Judging teams)
  • Sep 11th, 12th-Natural Ability-Four Brooks, Milaca

Some of our planned 2021 Training Events will be:

  • April-May as weather permits- half day Duck Search clinics.  Led by NAVHDA Judge Pete Aplikowski-Kelley Farms and Four Brooks
  • April 24th & 25th-Steadiness Clinic with Pro Trainer Kyle Hough-Kelley Farms Hugo, MN
  • May 22nd & 23rd.-Training/Handler Clinic- Iron Range Retriever Club-Virginia, MN
  • June 5th & 6th-INVITATIONAL Handler Clinic led by NAVHDA SR. Judge Clyde Vetter-Kelley Farms Hugo, MN
  • June 12th & 13th-AIMS, Rules Clinic led by NAVHDA SR. Judge Terry Petro-Pine Ridge Grouse Camp-Remer, MN
  • August 7th & 8th-Training Weekend at the Iron Range Retriever Club-Virginia, MN
  • Late April through August-WEEKLY small group focused training.-Kelley Farms, Four Brooks, Virginia, Remer

We will be adding more events to our calendar in the coming months.

Please also remember to check out our Chapter SPONSORS.

We also want to give a special mention and Thank You to members Jeff & Tasha Pleskac and Brad Storch for helping with our trailer storage needs over the winter.

Please share you hunting stories & photos on Our Facebook page.

If you want to make an additional contribution to the Chapter, please consider giving to our Grounds Improvement Fund.

Pete Aplikowski

MN NAVHDA-President





Hello Minnesota NAVHDA members!   We hope all of your hunting seasons are in full swing and you and your dogs are getting out there and tearing it up!

We apologize for the lack of much communication from the chapter over the last couple months.  Once we got past the CV-19 restrictions limiting our training & testing, it was a whirlwind of a season that went by rapidly and then it was time to go hunting.

Despite all the delays and uncertainty, we still had quite a successful year, running 14 of our originally planned 16 testing days with 118 dogs testing with our chapter.  (92 NA, 1 UPT, 25 UT).    We also tried to implement some more focused small group training this year, and that paid off, with the percentage of NA dogs achieving Prize 1 scores increasing from 36% to 51% from 2019 to 2020.  At the Utility level, we saw success also with 76% of the UT dogs tested at our chapter passing (prizing) with 7 Prize 1’s.  Some of our members tested with OTHER chapters, so this is not a complete picture.  I do know of at least 12 chapter members achieving a Prize 1 Utility Score in 2020 and qualifying for the Invitational.  That is impressive!  Because of this, we are going to try to organize some Invitational Training groups and bring in a qualified Senior Judge from NAVHDA to hold an Invitational Handler Clinic in 2021.

Even though we are in the middle of hunting season, your Board of Directors is hard at work making plans for 2021.    We hope to repeat a lot of what we did in 2020 and continue to add some new elements for our membership.  Our chapter has grown significantly in the last several years, and demand for testing space is high.  To meet this, over the last several years we have expanded many of our test weekends to span 3 days.  We have determined this is tough on volunteers and judges, so for 2021, we are going to move back to all 2 day tests, but ADD 2 weekends to maintain our capacity at a total of 16 testing days.

We also plan to hold more events at Four Brooks.  Last summer work was done to the SE pond to make it suitable for a UT Test Marked Retrieve sequence.  As you are reading this, there is additional work going on there to add a north-south road from the parking lot to the middle tower road, and add some culverts and flatten approaches to the  field access points.  This was a significant investment for the chapter of around $12,000, and we are starting a fundraiser to help offset some of these costs and replenish our operating account.  You can help by donating to our Grounds Fund here.

To see a rough idea of what we have on tap for 2021, follow these links:

We are by far the largest chapter in all of NAVHDA (over 275 members currently), and we hold more testing days and organized training than any other chapter as well.  We do our best to give our members good value for their membership with access to grounds, birds and a variety of training & testing options.   Registration for certain 2021 Training Events will be open soon, and only chapter members get notified of these, so it is important to keep up your NAVHDA International membership as well as your Minnesota Chapter membership.

***Chapter memberships are  now open for renewal for 2021, and you can get a discount by renewing prior to 12/31.  You can follow this link to Renew your MN Navhda membership.

Good luck to everyone with the rest of their hunting season!  (Me and my boys are headed for Iowa on Friday.)

Pete Aplikowski

President-MN Navhda


With the ongoing  COVID-19 Situation and the Governor’s Stay at Home Order, we decided as a chapter that we could not hold any organized training, although some chapter members were getting together in small private groups on their own, which we supported by taking some limited bird deliveries and helping coordinate the acquisition of grounds passes at Four Brooks and Kelley Farms.

At our Chapter Board meeting this week, it was decided that with Governor Walz’s relaxing of the Stay Home Order, we can begin some organized  events and small group training, in groups up to 10 people, using common sense social distancing guidelines.  We did previously conduct an online training survey to try to help sort people into groups, and we thank all of you who completed that.  With the training season and testing season delayed, we know many people may have changed their plans and goals, so we are pretty much tossing that data out, and are starting over.

To get things rolling and to help members formulate a plan for their training this summer, we are going to hold 2 full weekend  “OPEN” Training Events at Kelley Farms on June 6th & 7th, and June 20th & 21st.  These will be open to all chapter members, and you will NOT need the annual $375 Kelley Farms pass.    The Saturday sessions will focus on NATURAL ABILITY EXPOSURE, and the Sunday sessions will focus on UTILITY PREPARATORY & UTILITY TRAINING.  In addition to exposure and training techniques, there will be discussion about testing standards, NAVHDA AIMS rules & principles and scorecards.  Pre-registration  for these sessions is required and space may be limited.  Cost will be $30 per session.  Birds are extra.  If these events get crowded, main group preference may be given for those chapter members who are TESTING in 2020.  There will be more availability and flexibility for those members who just want to buy birds and train on their own or form their own small groups, and we highly  encourage that.   Cost will be $30 per day, and pre-registration is required so we can get an idea on attendance.  (For members who already have a Kelley Farms annual pass, there will be no daily fee.)

More details and online registration for these Events here:

In addition to these events, we do want to start the formation of small weekly training groups, we will be sorting people into groups based on age of dogs and your training and testing goals.    We are also looking for several more people to LEAD some training groups.  If you are willing to help lead or co-lead a group, please let us know.


To get in a weekly group for young dogs of  Natural Ability age (roughly 16 months and under) , please send an email to  our Director of Training Mitch Carlson at  Please include your full name,  mobile phone number, and age and breed of your dog.

To get in a  weekly training group for UPT or UT advanced training, please send an email to  Please include your full name, mobile phone number, and age and breed of your dog, and if you are entered in a NAVHDA test in 2020.


To get in a weekly training group, please send an email to Jeff Pleskac at  Please include your full name, mobile phone number, and age and breed of your dog.   To obtain a Four Brooks annual pass, send a check for $25 made out to MFFTC and  a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

  • Jeff Pleskac
  • 9610 175th St NE
  • Foley, MN 56329

Thanks everyone for your patience during these unprecedented times.  We look forward to seeing you and your dogs and getting our training and testing season underway!

Pete Aplikowski-MN NAVHDA President.

The Minnesota Chapter of NAVHDA was  founded in the early 1970’s, shortly after NAVHDA International was formed and around the same time as the “Green Book.”

Over the course of the almost 50 years that have passed since then, many things have changed in the versatile dog world.  Training methods and technology have improved and evolved.  Most importantly, the DOGS have improved!  The NAVHDA testing system and registry has allowed breeders and dog owners to have a consistent and systematic way of tracking performance and using that information in reproductive decision making.

Some things that have NOT changed are basic dog behavior-what we understand about how dogs learn, and a few CORE NAVHDA principles that have been around since the very beginning of NAVHDA.

The Chapter Mission Statement is:  “The Minnesota Chapter of NAVHDA is a family focused organization dedicated to promoting NAVHDA principles and assisting members to train and test their dogs in accordance with the NAVHDA AIMS Programs Test Rules.  In doing so, we believe members can develop their versatile dogs into the hunting partners they will enjoy for years to come.”

Our new Director of Training, Mitch Carlson and I had a plan to expose our members to some new ways of thinking and training this season and reinforcing how handlers can use the AIMS Guidelines and principles to shape their training program and timeline for their dogs.  The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the start of our training season and we have had to cancel many of our Introductory Training nights and 2 very important clinics-The NAVHDA Handler Clinic (AIMS/Rules Clinic), and the Steadiness Clinic with a pro-trainer that was going to illustrate alternatives to the use of check-cords and use more modern methods when training a dog to be steady to flush, wing, shot and fall.

Given we cannot present some of these ideas in person, I have taken some time to put together some training videos and created a Chapter Youtube Training Channel to share some concepts, and hope that this article will help handlers clarify some understanding of some key NAVHDA principles.

There are two very important NAVHDA principles an owner/handler needs to understand when helping their dog develop, and applying these to a training program and timeline.

  1. Pointing is a Natural Instinct.  The AIMS book says: “The instinct to point must be clearly evident in the dog.  Pointing and Searching are the two major aspects of the dog’s work ‘before the shot.’  When game is located the dog must establish point naturally.  The handler is strictly prohibited from giving any commands or gestures which may induce the dog to point.”

Keep this in mind when you are exposing a dog to birds and helping it develop it’s “point”.  If you have a dog that is riding right in on a planted bird without any discernible natural pause or point, you need to STOP and seek out experienced help.  (see more below about the use of pigeons & launchers)  This is a delicate situation.   Check cording, using e-stimulation or WHOA-ing the dog into birds, before it establishes a natural point (like even a brief point) can have lasting long term effects.   Note on the scorecard area below that Obedience is not and CANNOT be scored on a dog’s Point.  Think about that.

2. From the AIMS Book:  Judgement of Pointing begins when a convincing point is established and ends when the dog is aware of the handler’s presence.  Points must be intense and productive.   Pointing ends when the dog is “aware of the handler”.  “Steady to Flush” is the start of the steadiness sequence.  If you look at a UPT or UT scorecard, you will notice that there are 2 attributes being judged equally here-Cooperation AND Obedience.  This is because this is a transitional phase where it takes a dog’s natural cooperation while it is on point to allow the handler to move in front to flush the bird.   AFTER this phase, you will notice on the scorecard that Steadiness is ALL Obedience training. Before you start training steadiness, you need to truly comprehend this concept and be able to identify when your dog is on point, and when to time any commands you give him to allow you to move in front to begin the flush.   Ideally, a dog that allows you to move in front without any commands at all (natural or learned cooperation) will be much easier to get steady all the way through wing-shot-fall, because now you are physically adjacent to or in front of the dog and can influence the dog much more effectively with commands.   Having a dog that is properly WHOA trained can be pivotal here as well.  Here is a secret from the Judge’s Handbook:  “A quiet caution, e.g. ‘whoa’ may be given without lowering the score if, in the opinion of the judges, the caution was just that; a caution, not a command.”  This further pounds home the concept  that the Steady to Flush stage is a transition combining cooperation and obedience.

How does a dog “learn” to be cooperative enough to allow the handler to move in front?   The dog needs to understand that they are in this “together” with you, the handler, and that success in harvesting game is a team effort.  Ideally, you would give the dog LOTS of exposure to wild birds that will flush with too much pressure, and you would NEVER shoot a bird that was at least not briefly pointed long enough for the dog to be “aware” of your presence.   For those who cannot give the dog that much wild bird exposure, this can be simulated with the use of pigeons and launchers, but it is a very technical exercise and great care must be taken.  Knowing how to read the dog and the timing of the release of the launcher is VERY critical.  This method can also be used to assist dogs in bringing out and enhancing their natural “point” if they are riding in on planted birds at initial bird exposure.  Novice handlers should seek out help with these methods.  Better yet-hunt your dog on LOTS of wild birds BEFORE you begin your steadiness training.

A dog’s pointing intensity will also be maintained by reducing the amount of pressure you put on it during the Pointing/Steady to Flush Transition.  Note on the scorecard that there cannot be any Obedience judged during Pointing, that it is primarily Desire & Cooperation.  Understanding how to read your dog, knowing exactly when it has established a point, and when it is “aware” of your presence are key factors in formulating your steadiness training program.

Pete Aplikowski- NAVHDA Judge