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Championships come home to county

Pike County is no stranger to state championships.

The local high schools have mustered quite a few of them. But the flushing dogs have also had their day.

Pike County is the home of the United Field Trialers Association (UFTA) Alabama Flushing Dog State Tournament and Pike County proudly produces “top dogs.”

“The UFTA is a worldwide organization and each state has its own clubs and its own state championships,” said Doug Williams of Puddle Duck Labs near Brundidge.

“However, the trails are open so it’s possible for dogs from other states to claim the Alabama State Flushing Dog Championship but we want to keep that title here at home.”

Williams explained that, in flushing dog trials, the dogs go into the cover and “flush” out the birds. The handler gets three birds on each run and six shells. Once a bird is harvested, the dog has to retrieve the bird to the handler’s hand or to within one step.

“The scoring is complex but it includes the number of birds harvested, the number of shells used and the time,” Williams said.

“The score is the combination of points from two runs. There are two divisions, Open Singles with one dog and one hunter and Doubles with two hunters and one dog.”

Flushing Dog trials have been popular in the Northern states for years but are just gaining

widespread interest in the South.

“The sport of dog trials originated in the northern part of the country where they started as hunting events versus hunting for pleasure,” Williams said. “So the North kind of cornered the invention of dog trials. But today, the UFTA has about 600 members all across the country with more than 350 dogs competing.”

And, Alabama got a head start on the other Southern states. The South Alabama Bird Dog Club of Pike County was one of the first clubs to host a flushing dog trial and Alabama was one of the first states to host a state flushing dog championship.

Williams has been instrumental in promoting the competitive sport involving a handler and his dog.

He has been running dogs for about 28 years. At Puddle Duck Labs, he trains dogs for competition and also runs his clients’ dogs in trails.

Not only do the flushing dogs compete for points and championships, they also accumulate points that will earn them recognition by the United Kennel Club of America.

The UKC recognizes UFTA championships and they are titles on a dog’s pedigree.

“This is a validation system for the dogs and the puppies of these dogs will bring more, so the recognition of these titles by the UKC is very important,” Williams said.

The 2009 UFTA Alabama Flushing Dog State Tournament was held in a corn stubble field in Spring Hill and quail were used in the trial.

“It was cold and windy and never got above 30 degrees all day,” Williams said. “Most of the dogs did real well as the cold windy air offered up great scenting conditions so handlers had to be on their toes as the dogs were fast to find and flush quail.”

Going into the final round in the open singles division, two dogs were fighting for first place. One of the dogs, Maddi, belonged to Williams. The other, Tuff, belonged to his brother, Craig Williams of Brundidge.

“Both dogs were from Puddle Duck Labs so, either way, we were going to keep the state title in Alabama and Pike County,” Doug Williams said.

When the corn dust settled, Tuff won the UFTA Alabama Flushing State Championship.

“In 2008, Tuff finished number two in the world at the UFTA Nationals so he is extremely experienced in the game,” said Doug Williams who placed second and third in the Open with George and Vicky Browder’s dog taking second and Jason Browder’s dog taking third. The Browders are from Troy.

In the Doubles Division, Doug and Craig Williams won the title with George and Vicky Browder’s Aubie that is trained at Puddle Duck Labs.

“Aubie cruised through the corn stubble flushing up his six required quail like a vacuum cleaner and delivering to hand after shot all the birds in under 10 minutes on 12 acres,” Williams said. “Aubie was on fire and he had bounced back from last year when he had to miss the Nationals due to a cracked pelvis. It was a long road back for him. I felt so good for the Browders for Aubie to pull of such a great state win.”

The state titles for the local champions qualified them for the 2010 UFTA Nationals that were held at the Double Head Resort in Town Creek near Muscle Shoals in February where more than 300 dogs competed.

Three Puddle Duck Labs dogs competed at Nationals — Craig Williams’ Tuff, Doug Williams’ Maddi and Jason Browder’s Creek.

There were 87 semi-finalists in the Open Singles Division. That number was cut to 20 and all three Puddle Duck Labs-trained dogs made the top 20.

Maddi finished ninth, Creek 13th and Tuff, 16th.

Forty-seven dogs qualified for the Doubles Division and the field was narrowed to 10 teams.

“Each dog made one run on six birds and Tuff finished third in the world,” Williams said.

Tuff has made it to the National finals three years straight.

In 2008 at the Nationals, Tuff was Reserve National Champion and finished second in the world. In 2009, he finished in the top 20 in the world.

“In 2010, he finished in the top 20 in singles and third in the world in Doubles Flushing. That’s amazing. There aren’t many dogs that can do that.”

Williams said as interest in flushing dog trials continues to grow, hopefully, there will be more handlers and dogs to compete from the local area and that more people will enjoy the sport as spectators.

“Flushing dog trials are a lot of fun to watch and we hope to see the sport grow and it should,” Williams said.