Canine competition pinpoints Solon Springs


Solon Springs is going to the dogs. German Wirehaired Pointers, to be exact.

"We're pretty excited," said Todd Gilbert, a member of the village board of trustees.

Beginning Thursday, Solon Springs will welcome an influx of about 200 dogs and their handlers from all over the country for the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America Nationals.

In addition to field trials, water and hunt tests at the Bird Sanctuary in the town of Solon Springs, the dogs will compete in conformation, obedience, rally and showmanship at the Solon Springs Community Center in the village. Everyone is invited to watch, but they are asked to leave their own dogs at home.

"I think it will blow your mind what these dogs are capable of," said Sylvia Miller of Iron River, auction and raffle chairman for the club.

The versatile breed traces its origins back to the late 1800s in Germany, where breeders wanted to develop a hunting dog that would work closely with hunters on foot in varied terrain, have a weather-resistant coat and be a devoted pet. German Wirehaired Pointers search for and point out birds for their owners instead of flushing them out.

Club members are no strangers to the area. The Bird Sanctuary, officially the Douglas County Wildlife Management Area, hosted national hunt and field trials for the club in 1996, 1999 and 2005.

"I have always loved the venue," said Field Trial Chairman Liz Barrett-Dixon of Spring Valley, Wis.

Miller said that in the past, the arena events like obedience and rally have taken place in the Twin Ports. This year, owners will showcase their dogs in the Solon Springs Community Center.

"The whole event will be within 15 minutes of each other," Miller said.

The village board has been lending what help it can, Gilbert said.

"Whatever spin-off it does for the community is great," he said.

Miller said that students from Solon Springs High School have volunteered to help with the competition every day, moving tables and aiding with the field trials. Students will also sell concessions at the event.

State-themed baskets will be raffled off, with proceeds earmarked for the national German Wirehaired Pointer Rescue, which matches homeless dogs with loving owners.

Both national and state competitions will take place in the community center Oct. 6-8. Dogs 6 months and older will compete in conformation, obedience and rally, a sport in which the dog and handler move together through up to 20 different stations and perform specific moves at each one.

"You can come and watch; you can come and learn," Miller said.

Events in the Solon Springs Community Center begin with a fun match and show 'n' go obedience match at 2 p.m. Oct. 5. A conformation competition and handling clinic take place Oct. 6. Local residents can attend the afternoon clinic, without dogs, for a $15 fee. To attend, email

The Oct. 7 events include national obedience and rally, a beginner puppy competition, puppy sweepstakes, amateur owner handler competition and parade of titleholders. After lunch, visitors will see the national handling and conformation competition followed by the all-star invitational.

The center will house regional obedience and rally and handling competitions as well as classes Oct. 8.

The hunt tests get underway Oct. 9 at the Bird Sanctuary and will last a number of days. There are a number of vantage points where spectators can watch.

"We will offer a water test sometime on Monday also, and that is always a great social event," Barrett-Dixon said. "We have 19 dogs entered, and anyone that wants to watch will be able to see everything."

For more information, visit or the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America (GWPCA) Facebook page.