If you’ve been in NAVHDA and have had a dog older than a puppy, you’ve probably heard the question, “Have you force fetched your dog?”

FORCE FETCH.  Yikes – sounds scary, eh?  Ok – then let’s just call it “Trained Retrieve”.  Better?  But you say, “My dog is already a natural retriever”, right?    Your dog also loves to run to see you, but still you teach him “Come”. Your dog will naturally lie down on a mat, but yet you teach them the “Down”, or “Place” command.  If you don’t teach them the command, then you have no command to enforce when they might not feel so inclined.  So, it goes with training retrieve.  When the day comes (and trust me it will), when they don’t feel inclined to retrieve something to hand, you’ll have no command that says to them “You Go Do It NOW!”  This simple task becomes a foundation for so much of what we do with our dogs in NAVHDA.

On Saturday February 8th, Minnesota NAVHDA was privileged to have Mark Whalen come here from Poolesville, MD, to put on for us a Force Fetch Clinic.  Mark is a Senior NAVHDA Judge, and the Director of Judge Development for NAVHDA International.  After seeing Mark’s clinic, it suddenly doesn’t seem so scary anymore.

In attendance were 25 NAVHDA members, 15 of whom had their dogs.  Mark walked the participants through the entire process, beginning with teaching the command “Hold”, working to “Fetch”, and continuing to finish the process to clean, reliable retrieves.  While this process varies with each dog, his technique will take most dogs about 12 weeks, making this an ideal activity to do during the winter months, especially since during this process the dog also gets no field work or live birds.  In attendance were dogs at different places along the force fetch timeline, who were able to learn and demonstrate the progressions to the next step.

Mark emphasized mechanics – keeping the basics simple, clear and consistent, and being a stickler in the precision of handling.  He showed the overlaying of commands and technique, including introducing the e-collar into the process.  He explained the use of pressure, and how the dog learns to release the pressure.  Note to the guys out there:  it was notable that the women in the class had a distinct advantage over the men – their use of lavish praise in a high encouraging voice was far more effective than us guys grudgingly giving a low toned, gruffly delivered “good dog”!

While he prefers to do this after the dog has had its first hunting season, he also pointed out that it’s never too late – this can be done with an older dog.  (Old Dog handlers also learned a thing or 2 at the clinic.)  Odds are, you’ll be overlaying to them a command for something that they already do, making it enforceable, and ensuring that the dog finishes the retrieve to hand.  (Given the way that I shoot, that’s a must to keep the cripples from running off if the dog drops it!).

Many thanks to Mark Whalen for coming here to work with us.  Given the length of our winter here, we might as well do something productive now with our dogs, right?

As summer closes on the upper Midwest, the seasons begin; dove, grouse, and woodcock, followed- up by ducks and geese.  October brings on the pheasants; first North Dakota and Minnesota, today South Dakota and Wisconsin, and next week Iowa.  This is what we’ve waited for.  As the air cools and the leaves crisp, our dogs gain a new energy.  Suddenly bird scent seems cleaner to them, with the once masking smell of green grasses now gone.

For Minnesota NAVHDA, this annual journey starts in January, with 10 weeks of bird dog obedience classes.  In March there’s a test prep seminar. April’s new member orientations and Training Day with a Pro kick-off the weekly training nights – 4 different groups at 3 different locations, on 2 different nights, consuming countless hours by volunteer members and hundreds of birds.  May, June and July saw the Mock NA and NA Test, June Full Test, Pheasant Championship, Mock UT, Handler’s Clinic, and an August training weekend in Virginia, MN.

While the test days of August and September may seem like the culmination of it all, it’s really just the start.  Now is the time for which we all train, but none of this happens without countless hours spent behind the scenes.  The birds don’t just find their own way to the sites.  Birds need to be transported, housed, and fed.  Judges are scheduled from around the country and travel arrangements made.  Training and testing grounds are reserved and secured.  Insurances paid, portable toilets delivered, and lunches prepared.  Volunteers and ATVs are needed for test days, applications processed, and all forms filed correctly with NAVHDA International.  And the list goes on.

Last week we seated a new board of directors for our chapter, with 5 of the 8 as new board members.  While many thanks go to our new incoming board, extra thanks go to the outgoing team:  Chad Simmer, Ed Challacombe, Rolf Rogers, Dave Kunz, and Pete Aplikowski.  While I don’t know the exact number, I’d estimate that between them they’ve put in nearly 30 years on this chapter’s board.

With the new team remain our anchors of Secretary Peter Ness and Director of Training Mark Jacobs.  Pete does an incredible amount of paperwork to keep this chapter running – the kind of work most people would avoid.  As for Mark, well, we’ve been looking for a way to clone Mark and spread him around some more on the training nights.  If anybody has any ideas, we’d love to hear.

Put them together with the energy on our new team of Keng Yang, Brent Haefner, Sam Snyder, and Kevin Boog, throw in Jami Meath as our new Youth Program Coordinator, and as your President I’m just privileged to be the conductor of this fine orchestra.

But now it’s time for hunting – it’s what our dogs live for!  (We do it just to keep them happy, right?)  Savor those days afield.  These brief months will fly by and soon it will be January and your board will have in place the plans for the next year.   As you walk the fields and watch your dog work, keep in mind how you can share and pass along that experience to new members next year.  You won’t regret it.

Good Hunting!

For your reading pleasure…we received the following notice from NAVHDA International with a request to share with our members.  Read, and then it’s time to go hunting!

Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of the Executive Council of NAVHDA (the “International”), I wish to remind all local chapters of the following:

  1. The International does not get involved in internal local chapter matters including, but not limited to, disputes among local chapter members;
  2. The International expects that all local chapter activities and operations will be conducted at all time in compliance with all applicable laws, including, but not limited to, all state, local and federal game laws and laws related to the possession and use of firearms;
  3. All local members must be members of the International. To the extent that your local chapter organizational documents provide that membership in the International is not required or is optional, you must amend such documents accordingly;
  4. Once a local chapter test become public through announcement on the International website and/or in the VHD magazine, it is open to all International members in good standing. A local chapter must not refuse admission to a test so long as applicant complies with the local application process in a timely manner and the test is not full at the time the completed application is submitted;
  5. All intellectual property of the International, including, but not limited to, its name and the NAVHDA abbreviation as well as its service marks, trademarks and logs remain the exclusive property of the International and may be used by local chapters only as expressly authorized by the International from time to time; and
  6. Any local chapter that causes harm to the International’s reputation or fails to operate in conformity with all applicable International rules and regulations may have its charter revoke by the International at any time.

Please pass this message on to your members.

Just when a person might be feeling a bit jaded and skeptical about the world, along comes a fellow like Brent Haefner, working for a company like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, having a program like “Dollars for Doers”.

Many of you have no doubt gotten to know Brent over the past couple of years.  He’s that guy you see at hunt tests shuttling ducks for duck search, working registrations at training nights, helping the Handler’s clinic run smoothly, or at most any of our events and trainings pitching in however he can.  What you probably don’t know is that he also shows up to the monthly board meetings and contributes his thoughts and ideas, as well as learning the board positions.  In fact, over these past couple of years, anything that you see with MN NAVHDA that’s running smoothly, there are good odds that Brent has had a hand in it.

Brent’s employer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, has programs to encourage employees to pitch in and become involved in their community.  As Brent puts it, “Here at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, giving back to the community is a huge part of our mission and culture. We have two different volunteer programs that I have used to volunteer at NAVHDA events. Blue Cross provides 20 hours of volunteer paid time off per year that the employee can use during normal working hours. I have taken advantage of this benefit during those Friday test days.”

Brent with Maggie

“Then we have the Dollars for Doers program. If an employee volunteers a minimum of 40 hours of personal time in a calendar year to a single nonprofit organization, they will award $250 to that organization on the employee’s behalf.”  The bottom line there is that in the past 2 years, BCBS has donated $250.00 each year for a total of $500.00 to MN NAVHDA to use however we need – equipment, teaching materials, etc.

To achieve this, Brent has already logged in over 40 hours of his time in 2018 (and it’s barely August) for MN NAVHDA.  He’s contributed to NAVHDA his time, his energy, and his spirit.  It’s people like Brent who make MN NAVHDA work, with his friendly disposition and can-do attitude.  Thanks to Brent, BCBS of Minnesota has kicked in dollars for us as well.  Be sure to give Brent a big “Thank You” from yourself, the next time you see him.

I suppose that I could use this as a moment to make a pitch for more volunteers to help out at the upcoming test days – but I probably don’t need to do that.  I bet you’ve already picked up the phone.  Besides, it’s a great way to spend a late summer day, watching good dogs work.  See you at the next event!

Nominations are open!

It’s that time of year again for board nominations.  Our Minnesota chapter, at 229 strong, is loaded with talented women and men.  Please consider nominating yourself or someone you know!  Nominations will close on September 1st.

The Minnesota Chapter of NAVHDA has a board of 8 members, who serve for terms of 2 years.  Our board is a group of volunteer members who are dedicated to making this chapter run smoothly and put on the myriad of training and testing events that we do every year.  We want to make our chapter stand out as one of, if not the best, chapter in NAVHDA.  Several board members turn over every year, so we often have a healthy mix of seasoned members and newer ones with fresh ideas.

What does the board do?  The board for the Minnesota chapter of NAVHDA is concerned with the business of running a non-profit 501c3 organization.  The board handles everything from the organization and putting on of tests and training events, to the details of securing birds and judges for those events.  The board is the primary source of contact for NAVHDA International, as well as prospective members and current members with questions or issues.  The board manages the promotions and maintains the website.  Experience is not necessary.  What is necessary are organizational skills and the ability to work with a team to achieve those common goals.

We know you have contributions to make and we’d love to hear from you.  Please contact Peter Ness, chapter secretary, peter.ness@mnnavhda.org, with your nomination by September 1st.

Thank you very much!

Saturday July 21st marked the 2nd ever Mock UT test done by Minnesota NAVHDA.  Although this training was for handlers running dogs in UT this year who want to see where their dogs are in preparing for the test, more importantly it was to prepare new handlers who have never run a dog in a Utility Test for what they can expect from the judges and how the judging sequences will go.

Each handler ran their dog through each portion of the test.  There was no scoring and some areas were abbreviated, but all were coached by NAVHDA Judges and Apprentice Judges in best ways to handle their dog in the test, how to prepare their dogs for the test, and see what areas needed more work.

What seemed the most remarkable to me was the volunteers who came to make the training possible.  11 handlers were there to run their dogs, 21 people were needed to make it all happen!  How do you like that?  Nearly 2 volunteers for every 1 handler; all that plus folks working beforehand to make it happen, and handlers themselves helping out.

Our chapter member volunteers are the real heroes of this story.  If you haven’t yet helped out at an event, please come and pitch in for our fall test at Kelley Farms, August 31st – September 2nd.  We’ll show you what to do and you’ll have fun doing it.  Not a bad way to spend a day watching well trained dogs work!

Contact Larry MacDonald, larrymacd@msn.com, 612-209-6105, and let him know you’d like to lend a hand.  I know he’ll appreciate it.

And those volunteers?  How about the Aplikowski family – Pete, Kathleen, and Ethan.  Plus Terry Petro, Lynn Erickson, Ted Wentink, Mitch Lindberg, David Hahn, Rory Revere, Chris Buller, Bryce Adams, Bob Roiger, Bryan Thomas, Ryan McClellan, Nathan Freshour, Matt Johnson, Gema Coleman, Denise Doll-Kiefer, Jake Tillman, Bill Liebnitz, and John Cooper.

Be sure to thank them when you see them.

By Mitch Carlson, Test Chair / Debbie Letcher, Test Secretary   Photos contributed by Joe Wessels

Three of our MN NAVHDA Chapter tests have been expanded to meet the demand of our growing membership which now stands at over 225 members.  The June Full Test, June 1-3, 2018, test an additional test day on Friday.  Thanks to the many members that stepped forward to volunteer, many of whom took off work on Friday,  we were well staffed to handle all three days.

Following many warm days, the weather broke a little on Friday and was ideal with cloud cover in the morning for the field work and sun in the afternoon for the water and tracking tests.  Six Natural Ability dogs and two Utility dogs were tested.

Thanks to our Director of Judges, Pete Aplikowski, we had NAVHDA Judges from both coasts led by Senior Judge Julie Tower, Nova Scotia, Canada and Bill Cosdon, Boise, Idaho along with veteran MN judge Frank Spaeth on Friday. The Saturday and Sunday judging team was again Julie Tower, Senior Judge, Bill Cosdon and longtime MN judge, Terry Petro.  Our MN Chapter has three Apprentice Judges in training.  Pete Aplikowski and Michael Bredahl attended the test as Apprentice Judges and did a great job.

Saturday was overcast and cloudy most of the morning for the field work, with the last few dogs running in a downpour.  The afternoon saw showers, a couple times quite heavy, for the water work and tracks. The NA dogs and handlers did well in the changing weather through the day.

Sunday was quite cool and windy, with up to 35 mile per hour gusts.  Scenting conditions were excellent and we saw some excellent dog work in the UPT, UT and NA tests. Matt Johnson’s Pudelpointer “Hazel” was the only NA dog running, and it was exciting to watch her expand her search to right and left, then use the wind to work her way back to the birds in the field. All dogs scored well in the tests.

The dog work and the handlers were quite impressive over the three days in the field. The success of those in our MN NAVHDA training nights really stood out in the tests.  Congratulations to all who participated, and thanks to the large number of volunteers and all who helped these dogs and handlers prepare for these tests.

(Note:  Volunteers are still needed for our remaining three tests!  If you have trained with us, but have not volunteered to work at a test, now is the time to go on line and let the test chair know that you want to help!)


Contributed by Bryce Adams, Event Chair

The MN Chapter of NAVHDA ran its 40th Annual Pheasant Championship on June 23rd at the Major Avenue Hunt Club near Glencoe, MN.  The day began with temperatures at 60°,  100% humidity, cloudy, and no breeze.  By afternoon the temperature reached 80° with continued overcast, and a light and variable breeze.

The cover in the both fields was about knee-high, but open enough that walking was fairly easy and the dogs could move through it easily and be kept in sight.  The cover was very similar in the north and south fields.  Each field encompassed approximately 18.5 acres.

The conditions were difficult for most dogs to find birds, with only two dogs finding 4 birds through the first 9 teams.  Then the reliable team of Mike and Colton Busse with Sarge, posted a respectable score of 116 points with 5 birds.  The 11th  team, Bryce Adams and Brian Karr, with Riley, then bagged 6 birds with 7 shots in just over 24 minutes.  Their performance held up for 1st place which earned them $420.00 in prize money.  Bryce was justifiably proud of the work that Riley, his 10 year old female Pointer, did for him.

Team Busse finished a distant 2nd, earning $180.00 in prize money.

As is customary, the first 6 places each received a handsome solid walnut plaque, and the top placing teams, beginning with 3rd place, made selections from the prize table for their efforts.

At this year’s event, 102 pheasants were released for the 16 teams, with 51 birds harvested.  This is a 3.2 bird average per team. This is slightly off the pace of last year when the average was 3.8 birds per team.  2011, with 4.9 birds per team, remains the high water mark for harvest ratio at our Pheasant Championship on the Major Avenue grounds.

Thanks to all who entered their dogs in the event this year.  In addition to many of our long time participants, we enjoyed the company of 9 first time competitors and had a Small Munsterlander and a Bracco Italiano running.

On a more somber note, this year is the 1st running of the Pheasant Championship without Joe Dolejsi.  Russ Koetz, who now owns Joe’s Pointer “Homer”, teamed up with Jake Goergen and ran Homer.  They had a respectable showing with 4 birds and captured 3rd place.

In addition, thanks are in order to Myra Martin of Major Avenue Hunt Club for allowing us access to these excellent grounds and club house.  She offered a delicious lunch of brats, potato salad, beans, chips, and a cold beverage.  This is the 25th consecutive year that this contest has been held on these grounds.

Special thanks to all the workers who volunteered their time to make this event possible.  A drawing was held for the workers for a $50 Gander Mountain gift card.  Wayne Starkson, who planted birds, was the lucky winner.


Scorekeeper/Field Marshall and Driver: Deb Letcher
Bird planters: Wayne  Starkson Judges: Michael Bredahl
  Wolfie Smith   Pete Ness
  Scott Green   Chris Petro
  Gunner Green   Terry Petro

Results of the Running

Place Handler / Partner Dog Breed Age
1st Bryce Adams / Brian Karr Riley PT 10
2nd Mike Busse / Colton Busse Sarge GS 6
3rd Russ Koetz / Jacob Goergen Homer PT 5
4th Bryan Thomas / Joe Raia Banshee PT 5
5th Pete Aplikowski / Ethan Aplikowski Ike PP 5
6th Joe Raia / Bryce Adams Ike GS 3

You’ve been training hard, and your number in the running order is up.  It’s time for the field portion of your test.

“Handler, do you have water?”  As much as the judges would hate to lose a handler to heat prostration, what they’re really concerned about is your dog.  Some water for yourself is nice, but did you bring plenty of water for your dog?

You’re thinking that it’s not so hot – a nice mid-morning temp of about 78 degrees.  There’s even a little breeze.  You have the better part of a water bottle from the Super America.  He won’t drink from the squirt top, but you can always dribble a little in your hand if he needs it, right?  Then there’s that little pond in the back corner of the bird field, and besides, he doesn’t like to stop to drink while hunting anyway.

The reality is, on a sunny day the ground temperature can be up to 30 degrees higher, so that nice temp of 78˚ by your head might be 90˚-100˚ or more where your dog is working, and he’s not feeling that gentle breeze like you.  For every mile that you walk wearing a light shirt, your dog is running 3 or more miles wearing a fur coat, and while you walk the easier trail, perhaps in knee deep grass, he’s pushing with his shoulders and chest through cover.  Oh yeah, and that little back pond?   No cooling there since it has the temperature of warm bath water, with the potential for cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae.

As for, “he can’t drink from a bottle” or “he won’t stop to drink” …  Training your dog to drink from a water bottle will be the easiest thing you teach all summer, and can save his life.  And even if he doesn’t want it, sometimes you might have to just hook him by the collar, squirt some water into the corner of his mouth, behind his ears, in his armpits and groin (areas for cooling where there are major arteries close to the surface).  This also gives you a chance to settle him a bit, refocus and reconnect to go and hunt some more.

The South Dakota pheasant opener of 2003 was notable for the fact that upwards of 100 dogs died those first few days from heatstroke.  Opening day temps were in the 80s (kind of like many test days…).  Granted, many of these dogs were likely overweight and out of condition, but not all fit this description.  Their owners simply didn’t know better and probably had plenty of water waiting back at the truck.

Am I painting a picture here for you?

Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat, except through the pads of their feet.  They cool by panting, and an excessively panting dog will have difficulty collecting scent.  When the panting isn’t cooling enough, the body temperature rises.  Your dog’s normal temperature is 101-102˚.  His working temperature could be 104˚.  As his temperature approaches 107-108˚, organ damage can occur as he’s cooking his own insides.  Owning a good thermometer and knowing your dog’s baseline (working) temperature can keep him out of trouble.

Dr. Joe Spoo of Sioux Falls, SD, is a veterinarian and active with the Tri-State NAVHDA chapter, and authors the blog “Gundog Doc.”  He writes “I would recommend taking your dog’s temp after a day of hunting or while out training when you are not even close to crossing the overheating line. This will give you an idea at what temp your pup typically runs while at work and will allow some sort of baseline if you get into trouble out in the field.”  Take a moment to read the rest of this fine article at  http://www.bestcarepethospital.com/avoiding-heat-stroke/.

Know the symptoms.  Heat stress symptoms include aggravated panting, heavy salivation, dark red gums, and poor coordination. Test for dehydration by pinching a roll of skin on the back of your dog’s lower neck. If it “sticks” up, the dog may need hydration. Flush his mouth with cool water, remove saliva, give him or her small drinks of water, and, if possible, immerse the dog in cool water.  As it progresses, there can be ataxia – stumbling around – confusion or glassy eyes, trembling or weakness.

Even better is to prevent the symptoms from ever occurring.  As the dog’s internal temperature rises and organ damage occurs, death or permanent damage are possible.  Learn how to address the symptoms and gradually cool your dog down.

For treatment in the field, the biggest thing is to get them cooled down and bring down that internal temperature.  Gradual cooling is key.  Use cool water, not cold, as ice water can cause capillaries to constrict, thereby inhibiting internal cooling.  You can walk them around in cool water or spray them down.  Put them into a vehicle with the A/C on high, blowing on them.  Stop when their temperature reaches 103.  Their internal thermostat is messed up, and you don’t want their temperature to drop too far, causing hypothermia.

There are many options for carrying plenty of water afield, from hunting vests slotted to carry 50-100 ounces of water in bottles, to camelback versions.  I myself may go through up to 60 oz. of water in a single NAVHDA utility test.  Keep in mind that it also doesn’t have to be hot for your dog to overheat.  Think of athletes you see running outdoors in cold weather with light clothing.  Their workout causes their internal temperature to rise.  Your dog is an athlete as well, and his fields of play are CRP fields and cattail sloughs.  He can even overheat on a cool day.

These versatile dogs of ours are splendid creatures indeed!  Preparing for the test and field includes both training for performance and learning proper care.  If we’re not fully prepared to care for them, how can we expect them to perform to their fullest for us?

Sources :

Dr. Joe Spoo  http://www.bestcarepethospital.com/avoiding-heat-stroke/

Dennis Anderson  https://www.in-depthoutdoors.com/community/forums/topic/dogs_69482/

Bill Dillon   http://www.french-brittany.com/heat.pdf

Welcome to the 21st century!  Chalk up another one for Minnesota NAVHDA.  To go with our new website, we have now put our Membership Directory into a downloadable pdf format, available to be downloaded and printed by any member, or easily accessed  and read online.

This represents a great savings of chapter resources.  This saves not only the printing, binding, and postage costs required to mail out a paper directory to 200+ members, but also the time it takes to create and distribute that directory every year.  In addition, this new electronic directory can be updated regularly as new members join, move, etc.

Pete and Drew are still working out the bugs for usage on mobile devices, but in the meantime it’s still another step forward for Minnesota NAVHDA.  Check it out! (and don’t forget to print a copy for your less computer savvy friends…Mitch?…)