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  • Sue

What is a scurry?

Updated: May 26

A black & white spaniel jumping over a hay bale with a green canvas dummy in its mouth.

In its simplest definition, a scurry is a timed event where dogs retrieve items, with the winner being the dog with the fastest time. You will usually see them at game fairs or country shows where there may be one or more competitions running, depending on the size of the show, with different types of obstacles or formats.

Scurries are a great way to get you and your dog used to a competition environment and they are also great fun. So even if you’ve no intention of ever progressing to working tests, why not have a go when you visit a show this summer – you could be hooked!

Who can enter?

In most cases, anyone can enter. Any breed, any age and any experience. You don’t need to have competed in one before and you can enter more than once. Most scurries charge a nominal fee and you can pay for several runs so if you’ve never done it before, have at least 2 goes – your dog can get the hang of what’s involved on the first run and will often be more confident and do better on the second run. If possible, watch others run before you enter (as long as this doesn’t over-excite your dog). It will give you an idea of what the scurry involves and you can observe how other handlers and dogs perform. Take a mental note of what they do on runs that go well as this may help you when it’s your turn.

What happens during a scurry?

You’ll be advised where to stand, usually a marked box, and then advised what will happen & what you need to do. You’ll then need to send your dog for the retrieve(s) and your run will be timed. The winner over the course of the day with be the dog with the fastest time. The types of scurry events that you most often see are:

  • a single marked retrieve, possibly with a starting pistol shot

  • two or more marked retrieves, to be picked up one at time

  • hay bale retrieve, where a dog needs to run down an alley of hay bales on the way to retrieve the dummy

  • a jump pen retrieve, where the dog needs to jump into a pen to retrieve a dummy

  • one or more blind retrieves, where dummies are hidden in cover such as branches & leaves

  • a land and water retrieve where one seen dummy will be required to be retrieved from water

Where do I start?

It’s simply a matter of going along to a show or fair and giving it a go. Remember that there’s no pressure, it’s meant to be a fun event and the people that go and watch will no doubt be cheering you on. Scurry spectators in my experience really love an underdog or a complete beginner – I’ve heard the loudest cheers for the dog that plodded slowly around a course but delivered every single dummy and for the beginner that worked it’s socks off, took an age to find the dummy and then excitedly brought it back to its owner when it eventually did so.

Don’t be worried if your dog does something unexpected on a run – even the most obedient dogs can get distracted in this kind of environment if they aren’t prepared for it. Take care not to over-handle your dog during the scurry – it’s easy to do but try to relax and direct the dog as you would at any other time. If you behave in a panicked or stressed way, you’ll pass that on to the dog.

If you do have opportunity to put in some practice before you go then try to replicate some of what the dog will see. Have a friend or trainer throw some dummies for you, hide some dummies in cover, set up a jump pen or a retrieving lane. Practice those straight line runs and deliveries to hand.

When all is said and done

It’s a fun event – make it a positive one for the dog. It may not have run well or got a fast time but you want it to have enjoyed the experience and be happy to do it again. Reward your dog whatever the result or go away from the scurry area & do a simple retrieve that it will excel at. Anything that means the experience ends on a positive note.

Don’t be disappointed if you don’t win events as soon as you enter – it can take practice, experience, and time. Most importantly of all, have a sense of humour – you’ll enjoy the day far more if you do.

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