Photo provided: According to Maggie Thomas, the Prairie Lakes Hunting Retriever Club was established by hunters, for hunters, and that’s what sets it apart from other similar clubs.

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Retriever club taking dogs to a new level [UPDATED]

Published 10:47am Tuesday, July 10, 2012 Updated 10:47am Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A successful duck hunt can often depend on a reliable dog, and several area residents have taken training hunting dogs to a competitive level.

Members of the Prairie Lakes Hunting Retriever Club north of Hoffman gather from all over the area to train dogs and hold competitions.

The Prairie Lakes Hunting Retriever Club is one of three hunting retriever clubs in Minnesota and about 200 in the country.

The Prairie Lakes club was established in 2006, and current secretary/treasurer Maggie Thomas joined in 2007.

“We were conceived by hunters for hunters,” Thomas said. “That’s the difference between us and some of the other hunting retriever clubs.”

Most of the club’s meetings and events are held at or near the Elk Lake Heritage Preserve in Hoffman, about 10 miles southeast of Elbow Lake.

The club will host its annual competition this Saturday and Sunday just north of Elk Lake Heritage on County Highway 5. Dogs can compete in one of three divisions for this local competition.

Less experienced dogs will compete in the “started” division where they will be challenged to retrieve a mark from land and water. More experienced dogs will compete in the “seasoned” division. These dogs will have to retrieve two marks at a time and obey several commands.

Any hunter would love to go hunting with a dog that can compete at the seasoned level. They can do all of the basics a duck dog should be able to do, said Thomas.

The third level is “finished.” Dogs that compete in this division will be required to retrieve three marks at a time. They will also need to wait longer and run farther to retrieve the marks.

The highest title a dog can earn is “grand dog.” This can be accomplished by competing at a national level and passing the five-day grand dog series test. The closest grand dog to this area lives in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The Prairie Lakes club has members from Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Elbow Lake, Hoffman, Wendell and other surrounding areas. Most of the participants are trainer/owners, which means they train their own dogs.

All are encouraged to come to the competition this weekend to watch or try it out. The event is open to the public and a banquet will follow at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Elk Ridge Heritage, Thomas said.

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