NILAND- Man and dog working together. The image has long become a strong symbol of companionship around the world. That traditional image was manifest in action outside of Niland this weekend on the properties belonging to the Justin Time Retrievers dog training facilities at their annual Field Trial.
Field Trials for labrador, golden, and any kind of retriever were started in Portland in the early 1950’s as a small competition between hunters. The trials have since grown to spread across the United States as a set of American Kennel Club approved trials.
Justin Time Retrievers have been holding retriever trials in the valley for 18 years according to chairman, Patti Kiernan.
Kierman stressed that they are not hunters, just people with a fun hobby that like to be out with their dogs.
“It started many, many years ago as a “my dog is better than yours” braggadacio between hunters, but now we are something more,” said Kiernan.
Dogs compete in a series of retrieving runs with live ducks through different terrain, simulating what would happen if they were working together with their owners on a hunt along with showing off the dogs’ skills. They move through dirt, field, and swampy water to retrieve their quarry as fast as they can. Off to the side, the owners use whistles, calls, and movements to guide the dogs.
Over a hundred people brought hundreds of dogs to compete for prizes in the friendly contest of whose dog is the best.
The Niland trials began when a group of friends purchased land outside of the town to train dogs. The properties were built in order to cater to training retrievers in terrain that they would normally fetch game. The training in Niland begins at the start of January to the end of February before moving on to a new place elsewhere.
According to Kiernan the weather is perfect in the valley for the season. “This time of the year is so cold everywhere else that we have to have it here in Niland,” said Kiernan.
The trials draw people from all over the country, some even out of country, to run their dogs in the competitions, amateurs and professionals.
“For most of us it’s a hobby, some of us do it professionally,” said Diana Mead, an amateur coming from Canada.
“My wife told me to get a hobby and it just steamrolled,” said Mike Griffin, an amateur from Temecula who had four dogs in the trials, “It’s amazing to see what these dogs do.”