MINGO JUNCTION - About 100 dogs were put to the test this week in Jefferson County, part of the 2013 North American Versatile Hunting Dog Invitational.
The Mingo Junction Sportsman Club hosted the three-day trials, which ended Saturday.
"The club is actually pretty well known in the dog world," NAVHDA President Marily Vetter said. "One of our members, Pat Lamantia, who is also a member here and works for Purina, turned us on to it. The grounds are perfect for us - we need big fields, a couple hundred acres, plus we need water."
DOG SHOW — Izaak Vom Buffeltaker, a German Wirehair, waits while his owner, Timothy Otto, goes over course rules with judges during the 2013 North American Versatile Hunting Dog Invitational, held at the Mingo Junction Sportsman Club. -- Linda Harris
That's because the dogs are tested for their performance both in the field and in water, scoring points for their skill at searching, pointing, steadiness, how they retrieve shot birds, obediance and cooperation. Dog etiquette is a big factor, one club member said: A well-trained dog won't poach on a bird that's already been pointed by another.
Dogs are tested in pairs; in addition to the two dogs, there are two handlers, two gunners and three judges in each grouping.
"The second dog will stop and yield to the dog that's already pointing," he said. "It's called 'backing.'"
Lamantia said the Mingo Club's remote, nearly 5,000-acre property is the perfect venue, offering ample space for the dogs to be put though their paces.
"It's not a 'win' thing," Lamantia said, pointing out that dogs have to qualify for the opportunity to compete at the Invitational. "It's very prestigious. And it's a big money-maker for the valley."
Lamantia said the Invitational alternates between a site in Iowa and the Mingo Junction club. A study done in the Iowa community suggested the three-day testing brings in "close to $200,000 while they were there."
"It's a boost to the valley," he said.
Club member Bill Monk pointed out the Invitation is the "highest level of testing" for versatile hunting dogs.
"The dogs are tested in a series of events, then they're scored," he said. "They have to perform on the ground, in water, they do tracking...that's why it's the North American Versatile Hunting Dog, because it can do all sorts of different things."
Monk said the NAVHDA "is very large. There's just a (skill) level that it takes to get to this, an extremely high skill level."
He said the popularity of the dog competitions "continues to grow, it allows them to utilize their dogs all year long instead of just during hunting season."
Monk said NAVHDA has three levels of competition; a dog must score perfectly at the utility level to be eligible for the Invitational.
"It's how they work with their handler, the cooperation," he said. "There's a series of different things that they will go through...judges look at their cooperation, how they use their nose, obediance, the way they work the fields, is the dog willing to please it's owner is it hunting for itself ... there's just a number of different things they're going to look for."
"A lot of training goes on in this," Monk said. "This is a huge deal for the club. It's a pride thing for the club. Of course, it's good for us financially - that's not necessarily why we do it, but it helps. Mingo is sought after a one of the best places east of the Mississippi to run the dogs on because of the terrain, the lakes and water, the dedication of the club."