This August, Gary Overs’ Golden Retriever Tuck is representing Moose Jaw at the canine version of the Olympics in Saskatoon.
This athlete stands out from the rest as he is only three years old. He is running at the highest level there is, which is the Master Hunter level.
Tuck comes from one of the top Golden Retriever breeders in North America, where the breeder ensures the dogs find a suitable home but sometimes the waiting list can be up to a year.
“We actually had a couple people back out (of the list), so we ended up with him,” explained Shelley Overs.
Both of Tuck’s parents hold numerous titles, with the siblings making a name for themselves, too, as a sister from the litter is currently working on her qualifications, as well.
Tuck currently holds the Master Hunter title and the highest obedience title you can get, the Utility Dog (UD) title.
“Last year, Tuck achieved his Senior Hunt title and his Master Hunt title in a matter of three months, which is unheard of — it’s very rare,” said Shelley. “Last winter he got his Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH), and he finished that off with a perfect score. I believe he might be the only dog in Canada who got a perfect score in the class.”
Tuck has dabbled in agility, but his focus is obedience and fieldwork.
“He’s like Doogie Howser, you know; he really is,” said Gary. “For him to do what he’s doing at this age… there’s not very many dogs that (we) can say that (about).”
Tuck got home the day the airports closed due to COVID-19, and Gary, who is the dog’s trainer said, “I just buried myself with him because COVID-19 was here. I couldn’t do obedience classes, so I thought ‘hey, I’m going to train my own dog this time.’”
Shelley explained that training at this level of skill is an immersive process.
“Let’s put it this way. Last year and this year, so we could qualify for nationals, Gary worked at Saskatoon before the May long weekend and he will be there until September,” she said. “We started him at seven weeks old, and he trained every day basically. It’s no different than an Olympian.”
Tuck’s specialty is fieldwork, which simulates hunting.
“It’s all bird work, long distance work, handling, and handling blind,” Gary explained. “Blinds are where a bird is planted about 125 yards away and the dog has no idea where it is.
“I handle him with only a whistle and hand signals.”
For the handling test, three to four simulated birds are dropped at varying distances in a 125-yard radius. When his trainer gives the command, Tuck has to remember where all the birds fell.
“That’s like remembering where all the birds fell in a city block radius… It’s amazing that they can do that,” Gary said. “And then they do the same thing on water,” noting that the dogs swim around 550 yards.
To qualify for nationals, Tuck first had to meet the training requirements.
“To qualify, he (Tuck) needed to become a Master Hunt Test dog and have two passes in a calendar year,” Shelley said. “This year he has continued to trial, and out of 10 trials he has passed nine at the Master Hunt level. This is very good for a young dog — the pass rate is about 50 per cent.”
Unlike obedience where the dog gets first, second, and third place ribbons, the hunt test is pass or fail.
Tuck successfully qualified last August.
The Golden Retriever is currently preparing for nationals at the Saskatoon Retriever Club and won’t be back home until September. The competition is only open to dogs who are registered with the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) with the event-taking place from Aug. 19 – 26.
The test is for qualifying Retrievers, Barbets, Irish Water Spaniels, and Standard Poodles.
The 2023 Canadian National Master Hunt Test hosts the continent’s best dogs and this year there are 35 teams competing. Each team consists of a dog and their trainer. On each day of the five-day event, a fail means the team is eliminated.
“It’s like the Olympics… in the dog world,” said Mr. Overs. “It’s the best of the best.”
The equivalent of the Olympic gold medal is the National Master Hunt Title. “That’s it — you have the best finished dog in the hunting world,” explained Gary. It’s the highest award you can get.
“I just got off the phone with (the breeder), and she is so proud,” said Mr. Overs. Tuck’s ‘mom’ will be watching and cheering him on.
Gary Overs was born and raised in Moose Jaw. He has been training since the age of 20 and opened Gary Overs Kenneling and Obedience in 1991. In 2006 they opened the K-9 Academy.
Gary Overs Kenneling and Obedience is located at 860 High Street West and the K-9 Academy is located at 1254 Ninth Avenue Northwest.
To enrol your dog in training with Gary Overs, call 306-692-6011.