Rocco takes it to heart to be a true hunting champion, “efficient, fast and with style”

Even Rocco’s name is special.

“My dad wanted to call me Rocco, my mom said no,” Art Costa said.

He wishes his late parents, John and Annamae, could see how special Rocco, a 5-year-old male yellow Labrador, is.

Rocco earned his GRHRCH (Grand Hunting Retriever Champion) on October 26 at the Grand Championship HRC in La Vergne, Tennessee.

Dan Ihrke, who runs the Green Acres Sportsman’s Club in Roberts with his wife Cindy and is the head trainer at “Gun Dog Success” (where Rocco trains), explained the Grand.

Ihrke loves it for the hunting setting.

Rocco is a hunting dog.

“He can watch a bird fall and he can tag it,” said Costa, a retired Palos Park carpenter/owner. “He knows where the bird is. When he chases a bird, he automatically sits. Then, after firing, mark it. When you miss, he looks at you like, ‘What the hell is that?’ He’s a good scorer and he’s fast.

Rocco, a Yellow Lab champion, and owner Art Costas in the field. Provided

Dogs must qualify to reach the Grand, which includes marking and retrieving a triple, then a blind retrieve with the handler’s instructions. Dogs should be under control and honor other dogs.

Dogs are judged on line obedience, control of blind retrieval, ability to mark and recall, etc.

Le Grand spreads these tests, alternating land and water, over four days. If the dog survives four days, the fifth day is an upland test.

“They have to have a certain level of maturity and be naturally biddable,” Ihrke said. “Besides, they have to be very good at scoring.”

Scoring is more than watching where the bird falls. Wind, water, terrain, cover changes and diversions are taken into account.

“They have to remember where the birds fell and what kinds of factors they’re dealing with,” Ihrke said. “I wish I could draw you the first test we did, very difficult.”

Rocco, Art Costa's champion yellow lab, works the water at the Grand with trainer Dan Ihrke.  Provided

Rocco, Art Costa’s champion yellow lab, works the water at the Grand with trainer Dan Ihrke. Provided

Handlers are allowed an assist on the mark and recover.

“Once you get past that error, you’re gone,” Ihrke said. “You pretty much get a mulligan, to put it simply.”

To win the GRHRCH, the dog must pass two Grands.

Then there is luck: time of day, conditions on the ground, morning or afternoon, wind direction, temperature, position of the sun, visual conditions.

“Anyway, you have to be a great dog to pass this test,” Ihrke said. “It’s not an anomaly. I think the Grand is the best titling system for a dog for people to understand.

“The Grand has everything that makes an excellent hunting dog. It’s the chaos of a wild hunt. Then they throw in the highlands at the end. Not just the living birds, but all the people who survived until the last day. The dogs are pumped up. They can tell the difference between a blank and a 12 gauge.

“Then they are in the waiting area through four or five other dogs. Your dog literally sat for an hour. He sees guys in bright orange and hears gunshots.

“You can imagine that dogs are crazy excited at this time. It doesn’t seem that complex, but it’s very difficult for dogs. It separates dogs that can’t keep their cool from those that can’t. can’t. He’s the Great.

As for Rocco, Ihrke said, “He was just supposed to be a highland dog, but I realized his potential was much higher. I said, ‘This dog is really talented and he could go far.’ “

Costa accepted.

“The dog’s personality is great, it took us a little while to get him to keep his cool,” Ihrke said. “He gets up to the line and he’s intense. You shoot a bird, the dog will catch it: efficiently, quickly and with style.

Rocco, a Yellow Lab champion, as a pup with owner Art Costas.  Provided

Rocco, a Yellow Lab champion, as a pup with owner Art Costas. Provided