by Carrie McDermott – Wahpeton Daily News
On a rainy, wet day in March, a Wahpeton man’s young dog took third place in an out-of-state national pheasant hunting tournament — an unusual feat, as it was her first national event. Most dogs don’t reach that top level until they’ve been competing for several years, according to handler and professional dog trainer Karl Bednarchik.
Izzy, a 3-year-old yellow lab owned by Nick Toussaint, competed with Bednarchik at the Pheasant Hunters Unlimited Nationals held in Hamilton, Ill. Bednarchik describes Izzy as being in the top 1 percent of the canines he works with.
“To compete in the tournament, they have to qualify with a high score in an earlier competition,” Bednarchik said. “All the dogs you’re competing against are first-, second- and third-place winners and most are what you call ‘club dogs.’”
Izzy has an incredible drive and enthusiasm to do her “job,” Toussaint said. He first brought Izzy to Bednarchik’s training facility, Ivy League Dog Training, when she was just 8 weeks old. She went through “doggie boot camp” at 16 weeks, where Bednarchik taught her the basics and worked with Toussaint to continue her training.
“She stayed there and got introduced to more and more birds,” Bednarchik said. “I can’t finish a dog in one week, but I can load a computer program and teach Nick here how to use it,” he added, describing his training method.
During competition, the most important thing is to keep the dog focused, Bednarchik said. The dog and handler work as a team, and each one can make mistakes. “To put it mildly, I missed second place by 15 seconds because of handler error,” he said.
As part of her daily mental and physical stimulation exercises, Toussaint said he does retrieves with Izzy every day.
“Because of her energy level, on a daily basis I have to get her out there to do something,” Toussaint said. “She’s my companion at home. I live alone, but I can’t stand her if she hasn’t been able to burn off that energy.”
He said after he’s run her around and stimulated her brain, “she’s the most perfect dog in the world. She’s great around the house.”
Toussaint takes Izzy hunting as often as he has time, and knows how she is in the field. He sees competition as just one more activity to keep her mentally and physically stimulated and challenged.
“She has a real strong desire to work. She wants to be told what to do,” he said. “She wants a job, and if you don’t give her a job, she’s jumping in your face. She wants to please. She really has that in her.”
Bednarchik explained that many people purchase dogs like Izzy, who are basically engineered to hunt and need the mental stimulation, but don’t give it to them.
“It’s sad how many people can’t handle it,” Bednarchik said. “Many of these dogs get abandoned because the owners can’t handle it. Most of these dogs take three to four years to calm down, so many of those who don’t seek a professional trainer just give up, or they don’t bring the dog to its potential.”
“Dogs like Izzy, just taking them for walks isn’t enough. They need drills,” he added. “That’s what I do in dog training, I’m teaching guys like Nick with dogs who have breeding like Izzy’s.”
Toussaint said when he comes across “bumps” with Izzy’s training, he can give Bednarchik a call for advice.
“He’s always had a lot of answers and pointed me in the right directions, and helped with how to handle situations,” Toussaint said. “She’s an adult now, still has all this athletic ability but at a manageable level now. She could retrieve all day long if she wanted.”
For more photos of the dog training, visit our Flickr album at http://www.flickr.com/photos/wahpetondailynews/sets/72157633396722112/