Wildrose Scout

by Josh Peterson


Wildrose “Scout” is a Fox Red Labrador who hails from Oxford, Mississippi, Wildrose campus. Born of the legendary Red (Sire) and the lovely Rua (Dam), he is a perfect blend of athleticism and grace. Scout was backgrounded as a young pup at Wildrose, and then brought home at 3 months to meet and bond with us. After some time passed, we brought him back for adventure dog training. As soon as his training finished up, we drove to pick him up at the Wildrose Adventure Dog minicamp held at the Wildrose training facility in the Ozark Mountains. He was 9 months old the day we picked him up. 

What struck me about this camp, was the single-minded, disciplined approach to training. I read Mike Stewart’s book, but was able to witness first-hand, evidence that the Wildrose Way is the best way. The dogs’ responses don’t lie. The seminar was a phenomenal value, and we can’t wait to do it again. I would recommend it to anyone that wants to integrate an outdoor lifestyle with their love of dogs. Moreover, this seminar or minicamp trained us owners as much or more than it did the dogs. 

image2 (1)

During training, we chose the discipline of “Adventure Dog” because it fit our active lifestyle. Scout is a quintessential ADVENTURE DOG. We try to take him everywhere you can take a dog, and he fits right in. The whole “Go anywhere; do anything,” that’s our boy. He is a part of our family and it’s hard to plan something fun without wanting to bring him along. He just makes everything better. He is steady and ready to engage in an adventure.


Some of our post-training, “off leash” travels include: hiking in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, trail blazing Texas Hill Country outside Austin, snow shoeing mountains in Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin, hiking up Colorado mountains (Vail, Avon, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, and Keystone), horseback riding in Montgomery Texas, stand-up-paddle-boarding near the San Jacinto River, and walking the entire San Antonio River Walk.  



One of the things we are most proud of in Scout is he is competitive and a quick study. He has achieved all three of the Wildrose certifications: Trail Rated Status, Adventure Dog Certified, and the coveted “Master Trekker” awards — and all before he was 10 months and 3 weeks old. We are told that is a record. We might be a little biased, but we think he is a pretty cool dog. He has over 4,000 followers on Instagram… Check him out at: @allamerican_dog. He is a great addition to our family and we look forward to our next adventure with him. 

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“The Wildrose Way” Can Help Homeless Dogs, Too

by Doug Jimerson

Recently I started volunteering at our local animal shelter in Franklin County Florida. I wasn’t sure how I could help, but after seeing how out of control many of the dogs were I thought I’d try using The Wildrose Way” to give some of the craziest canines some manners. I’d read Mike Stewart’s book many times and currently live with a Wildrose pup named Pilot (Luke x Mara). I don’t consider myself a dog trainer, but I’ve had many dogs in my life (mostly working with Border Collies on our sheep farm), but Pilot trained really easily using Mike’s methods so I figured it might work with other dogs, too.

The shelter manager, Karen, was more than willing to let me try the Wildrose Techniques on any dogs I chose. So, I started with an Aussie/Lab cross named Schroeder, but could not help but notice his kennel mate, Oggie Doggie. This poor animal had been dumped in the “drop pen” on Christmas night with a severe case of mange and every parasite you can think of. Most shelters might not have the time or inclination to help him, but this tiny, non-profit shelter took Oggie on as their personal project. Week after week they photographed this sweet animal as his skin and attitude gradually improved. And by the time I saw him, he was a bouncy, happy, partially-bald black lab (at first no one actually could tell what breed of dog he was).

So, I thought I’d use Oggie as a test case with the Wildrose Way and quickly discovered how well this training regimen works on any dog, not just Wildrose pups. In fact, in just a week or two, Oggie was sitting on command and doing long stays as well as any dog I’d seen at Wildrose. Considering how this dog had been treated previously I was thrilled at his progress. Meanwhile, his skin completely healed and he looked amazing (interestingly he looks more like a British lab than the American version).

A few weeks later, a kind gentleman who lived nearby stopped by the shelter. His old yellow lab had just died and he was desperate for a new companion. After sizing up all the dogs in the shelter he stopped at Oggie’s kennel and was impressed at his good manners and good looks. I was lucky enough to see Oggie go off in this man’s truck, to his new home.

In the meantime, I have to report that the Wildrose Way has also worked wonders on the previously mentioned Schroeder (still needs a home), as well as happy pit mixes Oreo and Penny (both need homes), and an amazing Catahoula named Spot (who also needs a home) who clearly had never been on a leash in his life before, but after a couple of sessions he, too, was sitting, staying, and heeling perfectly.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the great people at the

Franklin County Humane Society. They understand that there’s potential in every dog, no matter what the breed and have saved countless animals on a very thin budget. This is a tiny shelter in a region where dogs are routinely dumped in the woods to die so please consider sending them a donation.

Also, note that Oggie is doing great in his new home, but now requires expensive surgery to repair his enthropian eyelids, which causes the eyelids to turn inward and scratch the eyeball. A fundraiser is being held to help his owner pay for the surgery so please contribute to his medical bills. Donations can be made through the Franklin County Humane Society. Any extra funds beyond what’s needed for Oggie will go to the shelter.

Below are the before and after photos:

mange dog 2 002


How people can help the shelter:


Stewart and Wildrose Kennels in Garden and Gun magazine. I’ve had dogs all my life and had previously worked extensively with Border Collies to help maintain our sheep flock.

But Mike’s training methods and his line of British Labradors sounded too good to be true so I put my name in for a Wildrose pup and a year later found myself the proud owner of a red Wildrose pup named Pilot (Luke x Mara). Meanwhile, I’d read Mike’s book, blah blah

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Attention Gundogs and Companion Dogs

by Danielle Drewrey

What does your gundog do during the “off season”? Well the truth is, there doesn’t have to be an “off season.” Too often gundogs and companion dogs are just that, either gundogs or companion canines. Wildrose would like to point out that your gundog or companion dogs can also become an Adventure Dog, a dog “prepared to go anywhere!” This is what we refer to as dogs of duality, a canine cross-trained for a variety of outside skills, activities and situations.


Benefits of an Adventure Dog and the Wildrose Adventure Dog certification program:

– Earning titles of recognition for achievement

Improving navigational skills and agility

Preparing for any situation: confidence, agility, problem solving

– Building a healthy and trusting relationship between person and dog

– Enjoying a wider variety of outdoor activities with your canine

– Keeping your dog in tip-top physical and mental condition

Meet the trainer…image2

My name is Danielle Drewrey and I am the Wildrose Obedience trainer and Adventure Dog coordinator. I thought I would introduce myself to let you in on how I got involved in this exciting program. My journey began with Wildrose in early 2012. With my background in animal care giving, I joined the medical team at Wildrose. I enjoyed my job immensely with the medical team, but knew there was something more I wanted to do. I expressed to Mike my desire to become a trainer and I began working sparingly with him and the other trainers while continuing my work in the medical building. Soon thereafter, I was transferred from the medical team to the training staff and started work as an apprentice with a focus on the obedience and entry level skills. After inquiring about the Adventure Dog program, I quickly realized that this program was tailored to me and my pup’s lifestyle perfectly. It didn’t take long for me to realize either, that this was the perfect chance to make a career out of doing something I am so passionate about and help people build an additional bond with their companion along with living a healthy lifestyle. Mike realized my passion as well, and soon turned the program over to me to give it a complete “revamp” and with support of an amazing Wildrose family like you, I am ready to take this program to the next level and Adventure On!

image3The Adventure Dog (AD) program

The AD program was developed by Mike Stewart in 2007 for the active outdoor enthusiast. Mike observed a large amount of dogs that he met on hiking trails, fishing, boating and during other outside activities without the proper skills and behaviors necessary for a compatible sporting canine companion. It also became quite evident that many of the handlers of these dogs lacked appropriate skills and knowledge to control, develop or engage their dogs. The Adventure Dog Certification program is designed to be a self-guided checklist that is completed between the handler and canine as a team. In addition to the current adventure training program offered at Wildrose, a workshop format to become certified in different skills was added this year for the convenience of participants. In a workshop setting, the AD teams learn how to properly complete skills in realistic field conditions and achieve certification for each merit completed.



Wildrose Kennels offers a 3-4 month AD training program for Wildrose dogs at our training facilities. Mirroring the gundog program, each enrollee will be placed with the AD trainer and will be taught all of the basic skills to become a properly-mannered and successful companion for outside activity. The dog will learn basic obedience, trail behaviors, and retrieving skills in addition to any other specific adventure skill sets requested by the owner. There are 14 different skills to choose from. Upon completion of basic AD training program, your dog will have the fundamental behaviors and skills to complete most AD task and earn merits toward the 3 major certifications (ratings) listed below in the “How to Become a Certified Adventure Dog” section. At this point we return your basic trained companion back to you so you can start your adventures together and complete the required skills to become a certified AD team.

How to become a Certified Adventure Dog:

1. Have an eligible dog                                                                                                                  

– Before attempting any physically demanding activities, your dog should be close to full grown and healthy

-Any breed of dog is able to participate in the Adventure Dog program

2. Master basic obedience

-Follow along with Mike Stewarts Sporting Dog and Retriever Training: The Wildrose Way Book

-Watch the Wildrose Way Retriever Training DVD

-Have the trainers at Wildrose Kennels build the foundational skills for obedience and adventure

3. Purchase the Adventure Dog packet at http://www.wildrosetradingcompany.com 

-Packet includes: program instruction and a list of merits and sub skills corresponding with each merit

-Certification Patches (Required # of Merits Completed)

Trail Rated (5 merits completed)

Adventure Dog Certified (9 merits completed)

Master Trekker (12-14 merits completed)

4. Complete sub-skills to earn merits

Merits include: Hiking, Watercraft, All Terrain Vehicle, Motor Vehicle Travel, Tracking, Camping, Mountain Biking, Fishing, Snow Trekking, Hunting Sports/Retrieving, Trail Assistance, Public Access, Equestrian and Aircraft.

-Send in videos of each sub-skill being completed. We will document your progress as requirements for each merit are completed

-Attend a workshop

The Rules

* In order to receive Trail Rated, Adventure Dog Certified or Master Trekker ratings, skills have to be performed by handler and dog as a team. The dog is registered with the program, not the handler(s)

* Your dog must be grown to maturity to complete certain skill sets. Know your dog’s limits.

* A Wildrose trainer must sign off on skill sets attempted.

* Follow all of our adventures on Facebook, Twitter (Wildrose Kennels), and Instagram (@wildrosekennels)

*Live your passion!

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Wildrose Adventure Dogs

by Mike Stewart

Since the inception of the Wildrose Adventure Dog program in 2007, it has become extremely popular with families in pursuit of an outdoor lifestyle and hunters who wish to keep their gundogs active and engaged off-season. The concept is simple. No bad dogs on trail. Ill-mannered, uncontrollable, obnoxious dogs are never welcome at any outside sporting activity whether on the hunt, traveling or on a family trek.


The program consists of 14 individual adventure skills that are based upon popular outside activities. Participants are enthusiasts, often entire families, who wish to develop a superb canine companion that is “prepared to go anywhere.”

We have found huge benefit in cross-training our gundogs as adventurers. The skills obtained transfer easily to the marsh and field. The challenges and mental stimulus required produces a quick thinker and confident problem solver. There is an improved trust between dog and handler as well as enhanced communication. There are huge advantages to cross training gundogs or service canines as adventure dogs and the certification program we offer provides guidance and recognizes achievement. Please see the companion articles featured in this issue of the Journal.

The 7 Habits of the Highly Successful Adventure Dog

First, let’s remember the Wildrose Way of Training, which is habit formation. Entrenching behaviors that will endure a lifetime. Secondly, these core habits are really universal between breeds and activities whether hunting, service companions or family dogs.

1. Patience: – A behavior that is welcomed in any discipline. No overexcitement. A calm nature, yet athletic. Thoroughly place trained to stay despite any distractions: in the home, the unattended open vehicle, a watercraft, or in camp. A dog that will tie out quietly despite activity. One that will remain at stay for an extended period even when everyone is out of sight. Patience to wait to be released, to relieve themselves, to eat, to retrieve or come when called.

Wildrose Tip: Remember to always reward a dog’s patience with equal enthusiasm as you would for an activity such as a retrieve. Reinforce a desirable behavior if you wish it to be repeated.

2. Focus – Attentive, ignores distraction, focuses attention on his handler. A relationship of trust and respect. Directs attention to handler when confronted with a new, unknown or fearful situation. Gives immediate eye contact when addressed.

Wildrose Tip: Remember to obtain a dog’s eye contact before giving any command or release. Own the eyes.

3. Compatibility – Kind, yet knowing temperament. No aggression. A confidence and boldness to confronting challenging situations. Trusting of leadership. Knows their place in the family pack. Place and crate trained. Travels in vehicles and aircraft comfortably. Never the nuisance or bother in the home, boat, campsite, etc.

Wildrose Tip: Dogs must learn their place in the family pack order. Dogs embrace pack stability, routine and balance. Often, human lives are chaotic, not the perfect situation to develop a balanced canine companion. Dogs follow stable leaders.

Steadiness – This is a coveted skill for any gundog… equally so of the outside adventure dog. Controlled in all situations… on trail or in water, steady to casting while fishing. Calm in the boat despite distractions. Does not chase wildlife. Unaffected by gunfire. Remains quiet at night in camp. Stays with the handler when approached by other people or dogs.

Wildrose Tip: Condition dogs to ignore distractions…people, places, things while remaining focused on the handler. Develop these skills with the dog at heel and in close proximity to the handler. Practice denials with bumpers. Introduce fishing using lures and flies that are without hooks. Introduce gunfire progressively. Desensitize the dog to wildlife, vehicles, other dogs, children, etc. with repeated exposure while at heel.

Agility – Athletic ability to climb, run, even crawl with the endurance to last the day. Ability and confidence to negotiate barriers, ramps, steep embankments, and to maintain superb balance. Confidence in their own abilities to overcome physical challenge.

Wildrose Tip: Agility courses for children at your local park may offer excellent challenges for both the adventurer and hunter. The dog learns confidence to meet physical challenges, solve problems, overcome discomfort and then recover quickly mentally and physically to continue.

Biddability Willingness to follow, ease of training, intelligence. A dog that possess a high level of retention. Enjoys relations with the leader and family pack. A teamwork relationship between the dog and handler. A dog that bonds and trusts rather than one that is excessively independent in nature and prefers to be self-employed.

Wildrose Tip: Relationship building is first trust then respect. Our relationship with our adventurer or gundog must be teamwork.

Scent Discrimination – A dog’s keen sense of smell must be developed to locate objects. Adventure Dogs may recover: gloves, cell phones, birds, antlers, trailing lost game, lost person, bodies or even the ability to alert a diabetic of rapid blood sugar change. Each skill relies on the use of nose.


Wildrose Tip: Develop the retrieve drive in dogs that love the game to locate a specific item we wish to recover from ropes to wallets. No different than the methods we use for dogs to learn to locate game birds for hunters. The key is to have a breed of dog with a keen sense of smell then find a reward, a motivator to use when the object you want to recover is located. Game on.

Thoughts on cross-training

Specific adventure dog skills that are transferrable to the hunt:

Watercraft – Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, all great acclimation for the waterdog

Equestrian – If you ever plan to hunt quail from horseback, embrace this skill well before the hunt.

Motor Vehicles – Destination dogs must travel well even in rough off-road conditions. Remote stay for extended periods in an open vehicle will prove beneficial to the hunting dog.

Fishing – The temptation of a fly or lure on water is strong. Even more so when a fish is being caught. Practice steadiness on the bank, heeling in shallow waters and even stream crossings. All skills that will pay dividends in the duck blind


So, you see the power of cross training, off-season skill refinement, mental stimulus as well as physical conditioning. Join the growing list of sporting dogs achieving recognition as:

Trail Rated (TR)

Adventure Dog Certified (ADC)

Master Trekker (MT)

Or at the very least, get outdoors off-season with your dog and experience nature.

Get out there… way out there.

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Stop To The Whistle

By Mike Stewart

Flipping through a few older editions of popular English sporting publications, Shooting Gazette and Shooting Times, I began to notice a common question from readers, “Why won’t my dog listen to my whistle? This seemed to be a common thread of a problem so I decided a quick review of the subject may be in order given the level of reoccurring interest. How do you perfect whistle stops the positive way?


First, let’s recognize that the problem is not “listening.” I am confident the dogs in question heard the whistle blast quite well. The issue then becomes the dog’s response or the lack there of. Two reasons exist for noncompliance to whistle signals or any command for that matter.

1. The pup does not understand the meaning of the whistle (sit, stop) or

2. The pup is blowing the handler off… he/she could simply care less, preferring to ignore the signal.

Whistle signals should be trained to the point of a conditional response, a default behavior. The whistle peep for a stop (single blast) results in an immediate reaction almost to the point that the dog responds without thinking. It is more of a reaction. Developing effective whistle habits are a result of consistent repetition which should begin at quite a young age for the sporting dog.

Early Starts: Incorporate whistle sits/stops in all aspects of puppy development and socialization conditioning. As soon as the pup learns to sit on command, incorporate the sit whistle. Use the sit whistle as part of place training. With the puppy sitting patiently (as the desired behavior is being performed), walk around the pup with the stop hand held high giving both verbal and whistle sit/stop signals. As you walk with the pup on lead, teach the pup to sit immediately when you stop without any verbal command. When successful, just incorporate the whistle signal to stop/sit.


With pointer breeds, sit is not a desirable behavior. We don’t want to encourage sit on a point. The command is “whoa” with a single blast of the whistle. The Pointer stops and stands still rather than sitting.

Many of the dogs we see coming into training have no background exposure to the whistle. It’s unfortunate that pup owners miss the developmentally critical time in a pup’s life to imprint the meaning of whistle commands. A sporting dog’s most important period for habit formation and fundamental development is 7 to 16 weeks of age. Traits learned at these ages are paramount.

Avoid attempts to stop a youngster when out of your proximity (span of control) and interested in a distraction. Rather, wait for a moment when the pup is close to you and you can achieve his focus. Then signal the stop/sit whistle command. Take one or more steps toward the pup with your hand held high and give a second firm peep on the whistle. Your body posture and hand signal indicates that you are in control. When compliance is achieved, quickly stop your advance and reward the youngster with verbal praise, a marker, Good.” Avoid getting into this situation on open ground. Keep the area a bit confined. With whistle training, remember the Wildrose Law #7, “If it is not right at heel, it won’t be right in the field.”

Other tips for early star whistle stop training:

If a dog ignores the whistle stop, collect the student and gruffly return the violator to the exact location where he/she failed to stop.

Don’t call a pup off sit too frequently when practicing coming to you and stopping on the whistle. This practice will soon produce a creeper. Rather use reverse heel.

Practice early starts whistle work at heel going forward using a steady tab as a lead. Simply peep the whistle and keep walking. Your body language and gait say move on yet the whistle command is to stop.

Next, reverse heel. As you both walk along, begin to back away (see Sporting Dog and Retriever Training, the Wildrose Way, page 90). As you continue to back up the pup will be approaching from the front. The skill to achieve is to stop the pup with the whistle as you continue to back up. Your body language says come. Your command, though, is to stop and/or sit.


In teaching a pup to return to his dog mat/bed, you incorporate the whistle. Send the pup to his bed with a “place” command. As he arrives and turns to look at you, give the whistle command to sit. The skill will later transfer to boat blinds, water stands, dog platforms and many other field applications.

Similarly we incorporate “whoa boards” or platforms that may be moved about the field. As soon as our youngster jumps to the board, the whistle command to stop, sit, hup and/or whoa is given. This is place orientation (Wildrose Law #9) at its best.

Two important parting reminders:

Return a youngster to the exact place of incompliance. Do not let the pup get away with a “slip” of the whistle.

Do not give a command you cannot reinforce.

Keep your young sporting dog close and under control until all obedience skills (including whistle stops) are thoroughly entrenched to the point of habit.

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By Josh DeWitt

14 years, 5 months, and 15 days. A span of time that now seems just a fleeting moment, but a moment so full of wonderful memory and impression I can imagine it would take a lifetime to tell all of her story.


Claret headstoneOn March 28 my long-time number 1 dog, Claret, passed on. She was one of the finest and most talented dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. For many of you reading this, you will remember Claret from workshops or shows as she was always at my side. If anyone ever needed to see what was possible with a Labrador she was my go-to dog to demonstrate with. Claret exemplified what a Wildrose dog is all about. She was well-mannered, steady, quiet, and calm but worked with boldness, tenacity, and full partnership when called upon. Now, she joins the list of those special Wildrose dogs that have left us but taught us so much while they were here.

Claret really enjoyed camping with the family. One afternoon last summer on one of those camping trips I found Claret and I by ourselves relaxing in the shade. The opportunity presented itself to write a poem about her, I’m happy to share it with you now.

The time has flown by

And I look at her now

An aged dog of 13

I struggle to find how


Great moments we’ve shared

As memories dance in my head

One of the best dogs I’ve had

Her story needs to be spread


She came to me from far away

Ireland she was bred and born

From fine working stock

Known for speed and agility, like a pronghorn


With a great friend in Great Britain

Her younger years were spent

From 1 to 3 years of age

They worked together and didn’t relent


Trials they would run

Shooting days they would pick

Her skills developed carefully

By a master trainer named Vic


The time had finally arrived

I got the message one night

She was ready to come to the USA

Ready for that big trans-Atlantic flight


When I saw her for the first time

It was a sight I’ll never forget

She was everything I dreamed of

And we had only just met


I picked up the lead

And introduced myself as her new leader

With a quiet and gentle method

That I had learned from Vic and Mike, my teachers


She immediately gave a gesture

That I understood to tell me

I am willing to follow you

Together we can find glory


And glory we did find

In the very first trial we addressed

Surprising to everyone, even me

We were first place, going into the last test


A difficult 200 yard water retrieve

Designed for a champion

She hit the water hard

Determined and on a mission


She took my casts

Left, right, and back

Stopped on the whistle

She was sharp as a tack


But in the end

Our quarry was a dummy

That drifted into no mans land

She came out of the hunt mouth empty


Fourth place we took that day

But prouder I couldn’t have been

For that was my first ever trial

And we came that close to a win


Or the first hunt we shared

On a cold December day

The action was slow

“Time to leave” I was about to say


When her ears perked up

I knew what that meant

She could hear birds in the distance

They were on the descent


The flock swung the decoys

Our hearts were thumping

Almost in shooting range

The adrenaline was pumping


On the third pass I stood

Shotgun mounted and ready

Clicked the safety and squeezed the trigger

The lead goose fell heavy


For a moment we waited

For the retrieve would be splendid

Set perfect for a Labrador

The bird fell in deep water that was frigid


I lined her up

A big grin on my face

For it was our first retrieve on a bird

It was our time, our place


With a slight motion and soft word

I released her from my side

Off like a bullet she went

And hit the ice cold water in stride


Out to the fall area

With boldness and power

She picked the large fowl

Just as the snow began to shower


As I watched her return

It was difficult to see

Any resemblance of a dog

For the bird was as big as she


Back at the shoreline

She delivered gently to hand

A massive Canada goose

That lo and behold had a leg band


As I hoisted our hard earned prize

I swelled up with pride

Looking down at my brave dog

As ice formed on her hide


Oh the stories like these are vast

This little dog and what she’s done

Amazed countless people in so any places

This little dog from Great Britain


But no one more than me

She’s taught me more than I’ve her

Been one of my life’s wonders

The bond we have is forever


Patient, quiet, and soft

Beautiful qualities she possesses

Qualities that I should live for

Instead I have too many vices


But everyday I try to learn from her

For I feel God has brought us together

To remind me what life should be about

Teaching, helping, and serving others


Yes she’s a superstar performer

Up for any trial or test

And wowing crowds of hundreds at shows

With her incredible abilities, she always impressed


In retirement from performing now

A well-deserved break

She owes me nothing in the slightest

Save the occasional paw shake


Lord I’m so thankful for this little dog

And happy she’s not a cat or fish or parrot

Happy that she is what she is


Claret Jumping

A Labrador Retriever named Claret

Birdrow Claret

Born Oct 13, 2000

Died March 28, 2015

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Finding New Life for a Dog by Smelling Death: A Book Review of Cat Warren’s What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World.

By Ben McClellandpaperbackcover-150x150

What do you do when your dog doesn’t behave? Well, most of us call someone at Wildrose or post a question on the Facebook site. Cat Warren had Solo, a red and black German Shepard pup, a smart, but “maniacal clown” that was noisy, had outsized energy and was aggressive toward other dogs. After consulting and quitting some trainers and vets, Warren took advantage of Solo’s scent drive and, with Nancy Hooks’ help, began training him to be a cadaver dog.

Warren was born in Oregon “in the 1950s, but now live[s] in the South. I came here in 1995 to teach at North Carolina State University and forgot to leave” (What the Dog Knows website).

Warren narrates her eight-year journey with Solo, becoming a sought-after cadaver search team. This remarkably told story winds through a three-hundred-page book: What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World.

Warren writes a brief history of the Cadaver Dog that all of us can benefit from reading. The cadaver dog world encompasses everything from missing-persons search and rescue, to searching unmarked, centuries-old graves for Civil War soldiers or slaves’ remains, to rescuing children from human sex trafficking and child-prostitution rings in the US.

Cadaver dogs provide such a valuable service to society, such as bringing comfort and closure to families of the missing. And much of the dogs’ work seems magical—like discovering a drowning victim in 200-feet deep water. But Warren stays humble throughout and speaks honestly about canine and human shortcomings.

Warren’s nineteen-chapter book is dense with training tips, eye-opening views into the world of cadaver dogs, the canine’s sense of smell, humor, and plain common sense for handlers of any service or field dogs. She hammers home two points that are valuable to all of us dog handlers. First, stay humble and second, don’t control everything; let the dog initiate the scent-seeking game.

Warren opens Chapter 3, “Nose Knowledge,” showing what she has learned about scent: “These days when I watch a good dog work scent, I can see him trace its passage in the air until he’s drawn a clear picture with his nose. An experienced dog can illustrate the difference between scent that has lifted in the heat of the day, settled down in the ridges of rough grass, or been pulled hard toward the rushing water of a creek” (27-28). She then delivers a compendium of knowledge in the science of olfaction, what we know and don’t know about smell.



But a central feature of the book is Warren’s evolving relationship with Solo. And that’s something all of us can admire, if not identify with. They go through highs and

lows, successes and failures before they bond as a team. To put it bluntly, the relationship began on a bigtime low. Not only was Solo unpredictable at home, but he was also a sociopath around other dogs.

Solo’s breeder described the German Shepard’s downside tendencies: “[S]heep-tending and service dogs can be unruly, even belligerent, without wise leadership or, on the opposite spectrum, with uncompromising harshness – a cringing or over-aggressive menace. An intelligent dog trained for a duty is a wonder to behold. When left to its own devices, resourcefulness can reach new heights of destruction!” (“Why Cat for a Dog?” Guest Post by Joan Andreasen-Webb, Framheim German Shepherds).

Solo fell on the menacing and destructive side of the spectrum. He was seriously troubled and Warren had not found any way to reach him. After going through a number of trainers, Warren took a suggestion that she associate with a cadaver dog trainer. Here begins the redemption of Solo—and Warren as his companion.

A big breakthrough comes in Warren’s training with Solo (oh, so many clicks and liver treats) when her trainer friend hands Warren something more enticing than treats: “I took it gingerly. It was a PVC pipe, about two inches in diameter and nine inches long, drilled full of small holes, the ends capped tight. . . . A little bit of death was trapped within on a piece of cloth, its odor gently seeping through the holes. . . . An old, independent Appalachian woman, increasingly vague with dementia, had wandered away from her cabin. She had been dead twelve days before her family found her. . . . [This pipe’s] smell was a light dry must, like mold on an orange… Just a twist of cloth with dried body fluids provided enough to start training Solo” (80). It was irresistible, “more exciting than even Whiskey. . . It had fully served its purpose—forever bonding the concept of play to the concept of dead human in Solo’s head” (81). After that, “a bit of form emerged from the chaos” and Solo launched on a steep trajectory into forensic science (82).

Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, describes the special kind of writing that Warren has achieved in her book: “narrative animal science writing: a genre combining rich storytelling with science to explain animals, the roles they play in our lives and we in theirs” (NYT Sunday Book Review, Dec 6, 2013).

Canine-human teamwork eventually evolves for Warren and Solo. After many missteps, the cadaver team finds success, usually when the dog begins to trust his nose over the handler’s command: “The dog learns how to ‘commit,’ to plant himself and ignore the handler’s prevarications or even a slight jerk on the lead to come off the scent, a pull that a less-evolved dog might respond to. It’s not mystifying. It’s not eerie. It is a beautiful sight, a dog ignoring his handler’s efforts to get him to unstick himself from the flypaper scent that he’s stuck to. . . The dog who ignores the handler’s gaze. . . This is what real faith should look like—hard and unwavering.

This is what the co-evolution of a working dog and handler should look like. The dog’s commitment to the truth in the face of your moving away. That’s real teamwork—the dog pointing his nose or paw or entire body at the scent, telling his handler, You bloody idiot! It’s here!” (160).

However, the human has to partner with the dog. Warren explains, “I had to learn when to step aside and when to be helpful to Solo. We were a team. Trusting your dog and letting him do his work doesn’t mean being an unthinking chump. You have to keep your eyes and mind open” (169).

In the course of her years-long study Warren meets dozens of trainers and dog teams. She presents the richness of these encounters with warmth for them. Here’s just one way that Warren shows her mettle as a writing teacher, describing the folks she meets: “Roy Ferguson, a tall hound of a Tennessean, arrived at a dress rehearsal decked out in a fluorescent orange sweatshirt and a tan vest covered with flaps and pockets, gadgets and badges. He looked like an ideal Boy Scout troop leader: geeky and capable of goofy humor, yet stern enough to keep high jinks at bay, and with a handy tool to fix any problem” (161).

Warren and Solo learn a lot of the practicalities about cadaver-dog handling from Roy and several other trainers that she travels across the country to meet, including an early fall in the Mississippi Delta: “the cypress, their toes dug deep in the water, were turning gold and crimson; monarchs were wending their way south before the first frosts” (169). There she meets Lisa Higgins “with large hazel eyes slanting at the corners, a strong nose, round cheeks with slight freckles, and short salt-and-pepper hair” (170). Lisa, who “has worked with the FBI on numerous cases” sets up a training exercise—“a simple scenario with some buried placenta” (170). Warren learns a new location technique from Lisa, just as she does from the many other trainers that she introduces to us. And we can benefit from each new training technique, as well.

Reading Warren’s inspiring story gives a dog handler like me new ideas and motivation to get back to work in the field with his gundog. I recommend that you read it, enjoy, and learn.



Cat Warren. What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

What the Dog Knows Website http://catwarren.com.

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Lessons from the Quail Truck

Without question, the opportunity to hunt quail from a vehicle behind stylish Pointers is a wingshooter’s treat.  Add in a couple of well-trained retrievers or a flashy spaniel and you have quite a team of gamefinders that will thrill any hunter.  Pointers locate birds, flushing dogs “strike” to push birds from thick cover while retrievers, using keen noses and marking abilities, locate down birds quickly.


Before turning up on a quail hunt with your retriever or spaniel for their initial experience with “King Bird,” some specialized training is wise.  Our goal will be to instill “wagon dog” skills – the ability to work from moving vehicles safely (trucks, jeeps, large quad ATVs, etc.) and to have the refined ability to locate small birds from thick cover quickly.  Additionally, a good quail-truck retriever or spaniel will need to work well around the Pointers, that is to work independently ignoring other dogs running about and to remain steady while backing dogs on point.

Basic Skills to Refine:

  1. Steady to Flush – No chasing flushed birds
  2. Game Recovery – Refine scenting abilities in thick, often dry conditions. Willingness to penetrate tangled uncomfortable cover.
  3. On the whistle – Controllable
  4. Comfortable riding outside a moving vehicle possibly on a platform
  5. Excellent heel work – The hunter’s focus should be on the birds, dogs on point and other hunters without worrying as to the position of the retriever.


The Vehicle

As with so many gundog skills, place training is an essential core behavior.  Many vehicles have platforms either on the front of the truck or behind the vehicle’s operator.  A proper wagon dog must remain still and quiet as the vehicle moves and only disembark on command, even if hunters dismount quickly.  Dogs must remain remote steady in place despite activities afield unless otherwise instructed.

To prepare, we use a 4 x 4 ATV with an open rear bed.  First, we want to insure our dog is comfortable with the ride with no chance of jumping out while moving.  Occasionally we stop to exit quickly with guns and bumpers while expecting our dogs to remain steady on the ride.  Once in the field, a few bumpers are tossed with an accompanying shot.  We return to collect the dog, then it is back to the field to make the picks.  In training, avoid calling the dog from the vehicle to your position in the field to reinforce steadiness.


A dynamic flush of a covey is heart-stopping excitement for hunters and dogs alike.  This may prove to be the supreme test for a dog’s steadiness.  It is one thing to steady a dog in a duck blind and quite another as they step into a multiple bird blast right in their face.  Prepare for four types of flushes.

  1. Approaching a point with your dog at heel
  2. Flush of a single as the dog hunts for a downed bird
  3. Remote steady- backing dogs on point as hunters approach to make the flush
  4. Steady to flush, shot and fall while backing or “striking” to make the flush of birds from cover on command. (The unsteady dog becomes a safety issue.)


To prepare several specific training lessons are appropriate.  Using a chuck-it tennis ball thrower, walk along through a field with your dog off lead at heel.  When the dog’s attention drifts, shoot out the tennis ball quickly straight ahead simulating the startle of a flush.  This, of course, is a denial.  Another, with the dog sitting remote to your position as they would backing a point, toss several balls about to simulate a flush.  Pick up a few yourself, then return to the steady dog offering praise and a couple of retrieves for the remaining balls.

Scatters work well in field conditions.  Using feathered bumpers, with their throwing cords laced between your fingers, walk with the dog at heel through cover.  Unexpectedly, throw 4 bumpers in all directions as a helper fires several shots.  This is a flush simulation that is made even more realistic if a pointer is running about as you negotiate the field. Practice as you will play.  Quail hunts are not only exciting for the dogs; they can be quite distracting, even confusing when the action heats up.

Similarly, when preparing your dog to recover game, try to add distractions as you teach your retriever or spaniel to ignore all the disruptions about and concentrate on the hunt.  No pointer available?  Get several other retrievers together with friends and practice, all hunting cover simultaneously.  Add in a shot followed by a tossed bumper or a shot from a handheld launcher.  Condition the dog to ignore the shot and fall and remain focused on the hunt.  Quail hunts can become chaotic so practice chaos.

As a shooter and dog handler, be aware where birds fall and get to downed birds quickly for two reasons:

  1. Wounded birds run.
  2. Bird dogs, not conditioned well to deliver, often pick up birds only to drop them elsewhere.  Keep an eye on their movements if a bird is picked up.

If these situations arise, close in on the general area of the bird and use the retriever/spaniel to “sweep” the area by quartering the cover.  So here we have yet another skill to be refined.

A dog’s keen marking ability to pinpoint multiple falls will become quite important.  Often waterfowl retrievers are conditioned to find birds long.  When confronted with a quick flash of a quail that falls short into cover, the dog may over run.  Before the quail hunt, practice short multiple marks into various types of cover.  Make sure the dog is using its eyes to pinpoint the fall then quickly employ its nose to locate.  As in most cases, these birds will be difficult to locate by sight.

Finally, consider your dog’s delivery skills.  Quail are small and especially for the younger dog, may encourage more mouthing than one may see with ducks or pheasants.  As with doves, quail need prior introduction before the excitement of the hunt further stimulates the dog.


While wild bird hunts are not as plentiful in the South as they once were, plenty of opportunities exist to experience a quail hunt with your dog.  More put and take operations are opening across the country.  This year wild quail populations are on the rise in Texas and quail remains plentiful in many Western states including Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

The Wildrose training methodology, “The Wildrose Way,” is designed to train versatile hunting companions.  Quail are yet another sport to broaden the wingshooting experience. Don’t miss an opportunity on a quail truck or even a walking hunt for that matter.  The excitement and challenge of a quail hunt rightfully earned the small, fast bird the title “King Bird.”  Wildrose concurs.

mike end

Photos courtesy Carol Colbert at San Thomas Hunting Club, Encino, TX

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Adventure Dogs in the Ozarks

“Prepared to Go Anywhere”

The Wildrose Adventure Dog Workshop is an outdoor canine experience that has proven popular in the Rocky Mountain communities of Vail, Aspen and Buena Vista in past years. Now, for the first time the workshop is being offered in the South. Wildrose brings its Adventure Dog Workshop to the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas, March 28, 29.


The March workshop will be held at the Wildrose training facility on the Little Buffalo River, Jasper, Arkansas. (See http://www.uklabs.com/facilities.php). Activities will include kayaking, hiking, trail assistance, hunting sheds, fishing (small-mouth bass and bream), mountain biking, and camping skills. Advance registration is imperative to our planning and for lodging (unless the plan is to camp). Enrollment is limited and the best lodging will be in high demand on this spring weekend. See www.theozarkmountains.com.


Back Story

In the summer of 2011 Wildrose Kennels officially launched its Adventure Dog Certification program. Preceding this launch in 2007, Mike had developed a training program for outside canines after an outing in Aspen, CO, where he saw the need for a formal training program for the canine enthusiast.  Out on the mountain trails Stewart observed dogs’ behavior problems and people’s need for better obedience and skill training.  He recalls, “I realized there are people out there who are interested in having a better trail dog, a better relationship with their dogs, and a happier dog on the trail.”

So, Mike founded the Wildrose Adventure Dog program for dog lovers with an active outdoor lifestyle. A Wildrose Adventure Dog is trained as the perfect canine companion for a family’s sporting lifestyle, prepared to go anywhere, anytime, under any conditions.

The Adventure Dog training curriculum enables the dog to meet certification requirements by supporting the sub-skills required for 14 different outside canine adventure activities, called merits:  Hiking, Watercraft, All Terrain Vehicle, Motor Vehicle Travel, Tracking, Camping, Mountain Biking, Fishing, Snow Trekking, Hunting Sports/Retrieving, Trail Assistance, Public Access, Equestrian, and Aircraft.  Each merit serves to advance the dog toward three progressive ratings: (TR) Trail Rated – 5 merits completed; (ADC) Adventure Dog Certified – 9 merits completed, including public access; and ( MT)  Master Trekker – 12-14 merits completed.

March Course Prerequisites

A participating canine may be from any breed. The dog enrolled in this class should have a basic foundation in general obedience; possess the physical ability to participate in high-impact exercises and the maturity/social skills/aptitude to confront new situations with confidence. General obedience includes proficiency in heel work, sit, remote stay, down, come, and be well socialized with people and different situations. This is excellent training for gundogs and service companions to hone skills, stay in shape and gain confidence in new, challenge situations.

The upcoming Wildrose Adventure Dog Workshop will provide training necessary for specific merits that participants and their companions may complete. The workshop will be highly interactive and merits earned will be awarded at the workshop’s conclusion.

Adventure Dog Program participants have additional options to receive merit accreditation by completing the designated training and achievements for merit awards on their own and then submitting the activities by video to Wildrose, attending any of the Wildrose workshops located across the country and demonstrating accomplished skills for verification, or scheduling a visit to any of the Wildrose associate training sites throughout the U.S. and demonstrating the dog’s skills.

The Wildrose Adventure Dog Certification diploma, along with the certification patches, denotes the dog’s achievement level and is suitable for display recognizing the canine’s official achievements.

Preregistration for the Adventure Dog Workshop is imperative!  Register today at http://wildrosetradingcompany.com/collections/wildrose-events.  For further information, call Cathy at 662-234-5788 or email at info@uklabs.com.

Live your passion – Wildrose Adventure Dogs

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In the Field: Wildrose Sako


After many years of waterfowl hunting my wife decided that I needed a good retriever, so Annetta started doing research and made a call to Cathy Stewart to discuss both a hunting dog, but equally important a household companion. Cathy offered us a pick of several Sires and Dams however suggested a Kane and Dot puppy for people who had never had any experience training a retriever for the field. It took approximately 10 months of waiting to get that long awaited call from Cathy that there was a litter of 5 females to choose from and we would have 3rd pick. Annetta did the majority of the training due to my work schedule, and followed Mike’s “The Wildrose Way” to a tee. Ok maybe there was a lot of indiscriminate petting along the way which wasn’t listed in the book, but who can help not hugging on such adorable creatures.

sako3This is Sako’s 3rd year in the field hunting and you can really tell her maturity has set in over that time. Sako does extremely well on water retrieves with ducks or geese, depending on the size and amount of life left in a large goose struggles a little in a field. On top of her retrieving the biggest compliment I get from people I hunt with are the manners that Sako has in a confined blind being quiet and staying on place. Living on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay Sako may be out in the bay hunting divers for hours on end one day and in a field blind the following week. Once again Mike’s way to train with tie out and place training goes a long way as a dog matures and obedience goes a long way when hunting. With that being said Annetta spent hours on end on the phone with Tim Clancy an associate trainer for Wildrose in Boston getting advice on certain roadblocks. Tim was always there to lend an ear and offer advice. We love our Sako so much we decided to order another Wildrose lab and picked her up on December 5th  2014. Wow what a difference between the two, Darby certainly has a mind of her own, but seems to have an exceptional drive to retrieve.


People ask why we traveled all the way to Mississippi to get a Black Lab with all of the breeders here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but we feel Wildrose offers the whole package as a kennel. Not only do they offer dogs with exceptional bloodlines, but professional trainers that respond to any questions you may have in a very timely fashion. Great dogs, and great people to deal with.

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