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First NAVHDA based club to host an AKC Hunt Test

By Bonnie Hidalgo, Executive Field Representative

A reciprocal agreement for dog registration between the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) and the American Kennel Club (AKC) was announced in July 2007. The reciprocal agreement makes it easier to register a dog with AKC if the dog is already registered with NAVHDA. This was a significant but simple step to take since the registration standards for the two organizations are almost identical. Also, there is a natural relationship between the organizations since many dog owners participate in both NAVHDA and AKC events.

What is the next step to build upon the common interests of the two organizations? The Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA chapter had an idea. Could a NAVHDA Chapter also be an AKC Club in order to hold AKC Pointing Breed Hunting Tests? It seemed like a natural thing to do but no one had ever asked. Jean Rodriguez, secretary for the Chapter, took the initiative in February 2008 and called Lisa Carroll, AKC Manager of Performance Events. As luck would have it, Lisa and Doug Ljungren, AVP of Performance Events, had a conversation about this same idea less than two weeks before. Lisa knew the answer was yes.

Jean and Lisa worked together to assemble the necessary Club information. This was submitted to Club Relations, the Department within AKC that approves new clubs. The Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter is known as the South Dakota Pointing Dog Club to AKC. They became a recognized AKC club and were approved to hold Pointing Breed Hunting Tests within a couple of months.

The AKC allows new clubs with a large, experienced and knowledgeable membership to immediately hold licensed events under a mentorship program. The South Dakota Pointing Dog Club qualified for this program. AKC Field Representative Bonnie Hidalgo was assigned as the Club’s mentor. Bonnie was available prior to the event to answer any process or paperwork questions. She attended the event to assist with questions that might arise.

In NAVHDA there are three levels of testing – Natural Ability, Utility Preparatory, and Utility. The amount of training required for a dog to earn a Utility title is extensive and time-consuming. Often the gap seems insurmountable and people abandon the effort. Hunt Test Chairman Jeff Bickel explained that “our Club feels that with the additional testing levels of the AKC Hunt Test, members will have more to do with their dogs. They will be able to train for higher levels one step at a time while still having the sense of accomplishment in event participation.” It is hoped that this will, in turn, put these dogs and their people closer in training to the level required for the NAVHDA Utility title and encourage them to continue their efforts. In short, a NAVHDA Chapter that is also an AKC Club can keep its members active in both organizations thus benefiting all; not the least of which would be the dog itself.

The first hunt tests to be hosted by the South Dakota Pointing Dog Club were held Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, August 30 and 31, 2008. The Club has a sizeable membership and they had no shortage of help. The Committee Chairman was Jeff Bickel. Jean Rodriquez served as Event Secretary. The committee was rounded out by Joe Rodriquez, Dave Lyons, George Bosma, Jeff Hansen and Justin DeBerg. Although these were the officially listed committee members, there were many more club members working at the event. All played important roles to make the event a success. They served in all capacities from lunch detail (which was delicious) to bird planting and gunning. Gunning was done on course which meant that gunners needed to walk the entire brace for all Master and Senior level dogs. This was accomplished by having gunners work on a rotational basis. Jeff Bickel handled the line marshal duties astutely and kept an eye on everything to be sure that things ran smoothly. Jean Rodriquez superbly managed the paperwork.

The grounds selected for the event were the open fields surrounding Soukup’s gravel pit on the western outskirts of Sioux Falls, SD. In addition to holding Master, Senior and Junior Hunt Test levels the club also hosted a water test at the event on Saturday. A total of thirty-five dogs were entered in the Hunt Test each day. An additional seven dogs entered the water test. All testing was done in an organized and efficient manner. The events which began at 7 am each day were concluded before 4 pm.

Judges for the weekend were Jill and Todd Piechowski from Buffalo, MN who observed the Master, Senior and Water tests on Saturday and the Junior test on Sunday.

Willie Castro of Lincoln, NE and Randy Rathman of Lawton, Iowa judged Saturday’s Junior and Sunday’s Master and Senior tests. All judges were knowledgeable, attentive and helpful to the handlers.

Saturday’s results showed no passes at the Master level out of ten entries and three passes out of seven at the Senior level. In Junior Hunter there were eleven passes in a field of eighteen. The dogs passed at the Junior Hunter level included two handled by junior handlers, Daniel and Kate Solberg. Three dogs completed their titles on Saturday. A Master dog completed its title with the Water test; the others were a Senior Hunter title and a Junior Hunter title. The water test had seven entries all of which successfully completed the requirements. The water test is required in order for German Wirehaired Pointers to complete their Senior and Master Hunt Test title.

On Sunday one dog passed the Master test. The Senior Hunter had one pass out of seven starters. Nine of sixteen dogs passed at the Junior level.

The South Dakota Pointing Dog Club is to be commended for their pioneering spirit which led to this “first ever” event. The planning paid off with a smooth running test which was enjoyed by all.

Other NAVHDA Chapters have expressed interest regarding AKC affiliation for the purpose of holding Hunting Tests. And why not? The more there is to do with your dog, the better it is for clubs and their members – both humans and dogs!!

Anyone from a NAVHDA Chapter wishing to discuss this idea should contact Lisa Carroll at or call at (919) 816-3900 (North Carolina). Information about the AKC Pointing Breed Hunt Test program can be found at For information about how to register a dog with the AKC if the dog is already registered with NAVHDA, please see Registration questions can be e-mailed to or call Customer Service at (919) 233-9767. Information about NAVHDA can be found at

For more information on the club, please visit their website at