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Hunters take pride in their harvests, but many an upland and waterfowl hunter goes afield more to watch the dogs work than to bring home birds for table fare.

Dog clubs hold elaborate field trials and hunting tests for all kinds of breeds and field work. Training a retriever takes time, patience and tact to get the right moves – and the right kinds of stops – imprinted in a working dog. Individual owners stress certain breeds superior to others, but the final outcome at tests depend more on the quality of each individual dog rather than its breeding and markings.

The Empire Retriever Club will host a licensed hunting test for retrievers at the Tonawanda Wildlife Management area in the “Alabama Swamps” starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 26.

Conducting tests under the banner of the North American Hunting Retriever Association, club members will be on hand to answer questions about retriever testing and offer training tips and tricks useful for owners to work properly with young and possibly productive field retrievers.

This will be an excellent opportunity for spectators to watch dogs of all ages as they demonstrate their natural and acquired talents both on land and in the water.

The regimen is extensive. Dogs at the Senior Level are tested for their ability to obey whistle and hand-signal commands to locate and retrieve fallen waterfowl and upland birds on “blind retrieves”. They must mark (that is, remember) where three birds have fallen consecutively and retrieve them to hand.

Also, retrievers are tested for their ability to trail and quarter a field in simulated upland bird hunting scenarios, patterns seemingly imprinted in some dogs and a major learning experience for other dogs. When successfully accomplished, these functions classify a dog as the elite of hunting retrievers.

Both hunters and dog training enthusiasts alike will be impressed by the team work of these wonderful dogs and their handlers as they complete each phase of these tests. The tests are free and open to the public throughout the morning.

For more details on the test, directions to the testing site and general information about retriever training procedures, call Tom Stazierowski at info@buffaloaudubon.org">716-937-6701 or Jim Karr at 683-1978.

email odrswill@gmail.com