Heal, sit, stay, it can be tough teaching a dog to obey.
Yet Fort St. James master trainer Bob Grill 63, makes it look easy considering his Labrador retriever Caledonia, A.K.A ‘Calla’, recently took home the title of National Master Hunter, a high honorary in the canine cosmos.
“It’s one thing to have a dog sit and it’s another to have him sit under any circumstances,” said Mr. Grill, who has been training dogs for over 40 years. “Dogs have to be very obedient during hunt tests, sometimes having to watch as other dogs do things. It’s a lot of training.”
Each year the Canadian National Master Hunt Test takes place in a different location throughout Canada. This year it was held at the Saskatoon Retriever Club grounds in Bradwell, Saskatoon and hosted 32 canine participants. By the end of the five-day competition Calla was one of 14 who passed, taking home a duck band, rosette and title of National Master Hunter.
Various tests the dogs endure include blind retrieves (get game from land or water without seeing where it was dropped), triple and quadruple retrieves (three or four gunman stand in the field up to 125 yards away. Each one throws a bird and shoots it and the dog has to remember where each bird lands; dogs can be trained to mark directional paths) and honour tests (dog must watch other dogs and wait for their master’s call before moving).
“Calla is one of the best labs I’ve ever had because she works really hard to please me. She is one of the best marking dogs I’ve ever had as well and I think she’ll have some nice pups because of that,” said Mr. Grill, who plans on breeding Calla with his other lab Rip next summer.
Ever since he can remember, Mr. Grill has loved training dogs.
“When I was 15 I mowed lawns all summer to buy my first lab for $250, which was a lot of money back then,” said Mr. Grill.
From then on he knew he had a special way with them and has since continued to professionally train dogs from all over, such as Vanderhoof resident Wayne Salewski’s well behaved lab.
Although Mr. Grill works full-time as the site manager for the National Historic Site, he also runs Nahounli Kennel looking after dogs, pheasants and partridges. He says he likes training dogs in obedience but prefers to train hunting dogs, hence the pheasants.
There are junior, senior and master-hunting categories for dogs to move up into but for a dog to enter a grand master category takes a lot of work, said Mr. Grill.
To be a grand master hunter, a dog needs to pass six tests of master-hunter standing then 10 additional passes of master hunter to earn the title of grand master hunter. With two grand master hunter passes within the same year, a dog can then enter to become a national master hunter.
“Calla completed 12 grand master passes this year all in a row without failing,” said Mr. Grill. “I tried in 2011 but didn’t pass so it was really great to finally win it.”