The Slow Lane

By Mike Stewart, Wildrose International

Occasionally a retriever may be encountered that would be considered somewhat less than “speedy” in their retrieving work… that is, we have a dog in the slow lane.  A dog in this group may show reasonable enthusiasm going out for a retrieve which is fun only to return at a gait that is much slower. Our other example would be the dog is slow on the outbound for the retrieve as well.  

The handler’s questions is, of course, how can the dog’s slow gait be improved?  What are the options for the slower dog?  In seeking solutions for any dog’s issues in training or afield, our first question must be “why?” Determine what may be the cause/effect relationships that could be contributors or causes of our problem.

We will need to consult the problem-solving matrix, page 45, Sporting Dog & Retriever Training, the Wildrose Way.  Here we have a guideline to help identify the possible “whys” that could be contributing to the dog’s slow gait.

Photo by Chris Dickenson

First, most people immediately think that the slowness of the dog must be genetic so we begin here. It is true that like does produce like quite often.  Parents of a plodder may well have been amblers themselves.  Perhaps the dog comes from a mating that was not well planned which produced pups that by nature were less predisposed for drive and speed.  If one discovers that the particular line of dogs was less than energetic afield, some options for improvement exist (continue to read) that could help but the results may be limited long term.  One can fairly quickly explore the genetic possibility and put this quadrant to rest.  There is much more to consider if the parents, littermates or pups from previous matings don’t display similar behaviors.

The next consideration requires one to honestly look at themselves if solutions are to be discovered. Why?

            Handler’s ability – communication, timing, consistency

            Relationship – trust, confidence, the family influences

            Training methods – do they complement or detract from the desirable?

Slow on the Return

This is a dog that shows reasonable style and speed going out for a retrieve only to be less than enthusiastic for a quick return once the stimuli (the pick) is made.  Fast out – slow return.  This may even arise later in a dog’s life when bumper training and boring exercises become redundant and less than inspiring for the experienced dog. With other dogs there may be other reasons.  Again, ask yourself why.

Photo by Chris Dickenson


One possible reason for the habit of slow returns began during hold conditioning for delivery to hand or other restrictive training experiences.  The dog’s exposure to corrections or negative reinforcement during the training process that over time produced a careful, more methodical gait as the student concentrated more on holding the bumper or avoiding mistakes than the speed of the return.  The enthusiasm for the recovery is over as the pick-up is made and now the dog is focusing on a careful delivery or avoiding the handler’s displeasure.  The handler may further expect a sit and hold at delivery which the dog finds boring or wishes to avoid the correction forthcoming from a less-than-stable delivery to hand.  These anticipations of discipline or the recollection of previous corrections were all created by the trainer.  The handler could be the cause for a lethargic return.  

Our solution will be to reduce the pressure on the dog a bit while adding some enthusiasm on the part of the handler to encourage a more prompt gait.  Increase the tempo, reduce the size of the bumper, involve swimming on the return, switch locations for retrieves frequently, avoid boring, repetitious retrieves.  

Use body language to your advantage.  Provide a bit of enthusiastic animation.  Turn and move away as the dog approaches.  Involve huge, exciting, affectionate rewards upon the return. Sit down and make yourself low, more welcoming rather than looming over the dog.  It is about tempo, facial expression, and tone to promote confidence and enthusiasm in the dog.  Make training enjoyable.

Reduce the pressure of a stylish delivery of the bumper for a time like holding, turning, sitting and continuing to hold.  Rather, just let the dog make a delivery to hand to your front, take the bumper, give an excited reward, then tell the dog to come to heel.

Another tip that can prove resourceful is to set up retrieves so the dog will be returning down a hill or sloping terrain to encourage momentum.  Often retrieves in thick cover will inhibit the dog’s gait.  Over time the habit of a quicker step will become more of a habit and hopefully transfer to other locations.

Slow on the Outbound

Body conditioning matters. The effects of an overweight dog, one that remains in poor physical condition on a continuous basis could be a cause of the slowness: endurance and low athletic abilities. The out-of-shape dog will not last through multiple retrieves in training so through repetition the dog’s slow speed becomes a habit.  The solution here is obvious.

Promote enthusiasm for the training game.  Similar techniques apply that were touched on above.  First, are the training practices boring?  Second, is the handler’s relationship with the dog one of trust that promotes confidence in the dog or is the dog worried, stressed in training, fearful, or confused?  

Have fear factors occurred in the training:  water shyness, sensitivity to gunfire, aggression experienced from other dogs afield, handler over controlling or mistiming corrections, over handling? Has the training become counterproductive to the dog’s enthusiasm or confidence?  The dog’s anticipation of the handler’s attitude, responsiveness, fairness plays a part at this point.

Photo by Chris Dickenson

The handler’s temper, emotional instability, mistimed confused commands, and unclear signals are all possibilities that can influence a dog’s field performance if continued over time. Depending on the individual dog’s personality, examine the:

            Handler/Trainer/Dog Relationship.

            Training Methods

            Handling Techniques


Tips for Increasing Enthusiasm and Speed

Retrieve downhill to improve momentum

Provide a quicker release for some retrieves de-emphasizing delay occasionally 

Use exciting marks more frequently such as hand launcher shots fired to skim along the water’s surface.  Utilize high-value targets like cold game, a tennis ball skimmed along the surface by a chuck-it (prey drive).  Incorporate techniques that provide excitement and interest.

A slow water entry may be improved by not sending the dog right at the water’s edge especially with an abrupt drop in the water’s depth.  Back away and use water that provides a gradual gain in depth.  Get that running start.

Group dynamics. Use an older, stable dog with energy, drive and speed to stimulate the slower of the pack to mimic the behavior. Competition does have its influence.

Reduce overhandling if the practice has become too frequent.  Too many whistle stops going out could definitely impact momentum.

When addressing any problem with a gundog or adventure companion, one becomes a solutionist. First look at yourself.  The relationship. The methods.

Be slow to use force in corrections, rather shape and teach.

Be quick to reward successes.

Don’t become boring in training.

Be a great communicator (Timing, Tempo, Tone).

Don’t put in a problem that must be trained out later.

Be the pack leader earning the dog’s respect and trust.

Photo by Chris Dickinson

All serve to improve the dog’s enthusiasm and confidence and in turn you may see improved speed and style in the field.

At the end of the day, you may just have a slower dog with a more methodical nature. One that is more concerned about results than speed which is really not that unfortunate. Consider that our real objective is game recovery.  Remember the quote from the famed lawman, Wyatt Earp, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.”

Mike Stewart

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Limited Edition Fox Red Jacket

Tom Beckbe Releases a Limited Edition Wildrose Fox Red Tensaw Jacket

Photos by Mallard Media

Wildrose recently partnered with the bespoke outdoor clothing company Tom Beckbe to offer a limited edition Wildrose Edition Fox Red Tensaw jacket. We combined the colors of all our Fox Red dogs to create this one of kind masterpiece.

The jacket is traditional waxed cotton with the iconic Wildrose puppy on a leather patch on the bellows pocket. Each conventional Tom Beckbe jacket comes with a label that has a lot number and serial number, except for this special edition the lot number is WR and each of the 100 jackets has its own serial number. The jackets sold out in the first few days on the Tom Beckbe website (, but we have a very limited number in our store.

Call us at 662-234-8636 or email us at retail@uklabs.comto get yours before these collector’s items disappear. 

Tom Smith
Wildrose Mississippi

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Prologue to Hunting Season

By Joshua R. Quong, Little Q Ranch

Just about the time the oppressive heat of summer has fried the mind and patience, a final cut of hay is done on the place. The air lightens as the tightly rolled round bales dot the clean green pastures of fescue and Bahiagrass halting its growth in preparation for the killing frost. It is a scene which summons thoughts of the crisp crunch of leaves felt under foot and the compression of water around waders. The prologue of hunting season begins and we can hardly contain ourselves in that lapse of space between the first cool morning and first shooting light.

Photo by Ben Windham

It does not matter that in this prologue there will be a scorcher or two… or three. They halt us not in our planning. For we know full well that these hot and humid days are the last gasps of summer’s breath as it gives way to the twilight season where hunters and hunted stir about the fencerows and fields; wood lines and water. 

Shotguns that were tenderly and pristinely put away last year at the end of the season are once again exhumed like ancient relics and wiped down mechanically weeks before they are shouldered and pointed at mallard or bobwhite. Hats, jackets, boots, and bags are brought forth for meticulous and ordered inspection. Even smartphone wallpapers aren’t neglected as big fish photo gives way to pointing dog or retriever postured with fallen fowl in its mouth.

Photo by Ben Windham

And it is of these who hunt for and with us that there is a plethora of musings which speak to that unspoken connection we have to our dogs. We find ourselves in observation of shifting temperament and actions of those best four-legged hunting partners on the cusp of cooler weather. Our hunting companions are barometers that serve as conduits to the natural world. 

Photo by Ben Windham

During those “Dog Days,” they loll about under shade trees as their tongues labor with panting in the long swelter. They, like us, seem to grow older and less sure. But when the first leaf exchanges its green hue for gold and loosens its stem, hunting dog and hunter are rejuvenated. The to and fro float from tree to earth is a hypnotic foreshadow of falling feathers after covey rises when once again man and beast fulfill their purpose. 
Joshua R. Quong

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From 8 Weeks

 By Amy Bates, Levenghyl Kennels

 We breed our own puppies so these are my thoughts on bringing a new puppy home and these are my suggestions for someone who just picked up a new puppy.  I know Wildrose has a comprehensive puppy guideline and would urge you to follow it.   Once the puppies are well on their way, say at around 8 weeks of age, the foremost quality we nurture in our puppies is bonding with us – we are the moon and stars to our pups.  I won’t compromise on this point – your puppy MUST not get their pleasure from other puppies or dogs, they must get everything from you. I cannot emphasise this enough. Don’t make the mistake of getting two puppies at the same time unless you are very experienced. Another common mistake people make is that they get another dog for “company” or leave the puppy with an older dog so that it isn’t “lonely”, all that will happen is that the other dog will become the moon and stars to your puppy not you!    This is where Mike Stewart’s advice of “own the eyes” comes into play.

Training isn’t just putting on your game bag and going out to retrieve, training happens all the time, in the time it takes the kettle to boil to make a cup of tea, you can do some training.  Reading the Wildrose Training Facebook page, I know how keen new owners are to “go training” but my advice is to get to know your puppy, have fun with him, BOND with him.   After bonding with your puppy, instilling a recall is my number one. We use a recall whistle which I use very early on, first just with my mouth then with the actual Acme 212 whistle, every time I feed my puppy, treat my puppy or as my puppy is travelling towards me if we are out and about –  My recall whistle is always treated with a high value reward.  Once I have “charged” my puppies to a clicker I use the clicker to train things in and around the kitchen – when I am waiting for the kettle to boil, we do simple fun tasks then later we move on to place boards.  Keep your training light, fun and short, instil confidence into  your puppy.  Always be open minded to training methods. Think of different training methods like having a huge tool bag, sometimes you need to reach inside and choose the right tool for the job.   We use a specially designed soft collar that doesn’t pinch but will tighten like a slip lead.  My personal pet hate is a harness for a Labrador.  Loose lead work is important so that you can take your puppy out and about once it is immunized for socialization.  Our puppies are not allowed to sniff the ground.  Heads must be Up! Up! Up!   Once my puppy can heel off the lead, I use a lead rarely – I am not very good with leads, I always get into a tangle! I personally like tight heel work, I like to feel my dog on my leg – but that doesn’t suit everyone, find the position that is right for you and train it well – as my husband says if you don’t have good heel work you have nothing, you can’t do your job, which is making sure you and your dog  are in the right position to mark all the birds down.  


Photo by Katie Behnke

I should mention that we have a lot of birds on the ground around our house. We have lots of chickens and guinea fowl and tame rabbits just hopping around. Our puppies have to get used to being around and doing nothing with lots of distractions. Teaching your dog to “do nothing” is a very important part of his training.  If you are busy in the garden put him in the down position and let him just be with you while you are gardening.  We teach “wait” and “stay” – giving the “wait” command means I will be moving you off this spot, probably from afar, “stay” means stay there until I come back for you.  



Photo by Katie Behnke

Puppies need a lot of sleep and rest.   I know how surprised people are when they see us with our puppies although what I’ve outline above sounds like a lot, in fact we do very little with our puppies except for basics. Don’t rush your puppy and don’t compare it to others – go at your pace to suit your puppy.  I have a two-year-old dog at the moment that is fantastically talented, she has more talent than all her siblings put together but her temperament requires different training timelines than her siblings. Train the dog that is in front of you.  One of the great gundog legends David Garbutt who died a few years ago, many of you will have heard of his affix “Pocklea,” gave me some fantastic advice, “watch your puppy.” Puppies are individuals and change so much so observing them is vital. A healthy, well-balanced puppy will turn into a well-adjusted dog which will in turn be easy to train.   My main message is bond with your puppy make sure you are his “Moon and Stars” and you will enjoy a happy healthy fulfilling relationship with the dog he will become.

Amy Bates, Yorkshire, England

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Wildrose Hawksgarth Macy, “Nell”


Hawksgarth Macey-“Nell”

Imported as a seven-month old, in January 2019, Nell is out of a FTCH to FTCH breeding which is pretty special. Her mom, Hawksgarth Indiana, was made up to FTCH before four years old and is by FTCH Levenghyl Malusi. Malusi has been known to put a very biddable demeanor into the dogs, ready and quick to take whistle stops and casts. Kirsty made up Nell’s uncle to be a FTCH as well. The sire is FTCH Copperbirch Paddy of Leadburn, “Paddy,” has produced five FTCH dogs and counting, was tied for the most well-represented sire at the 2019 and 2018 IGL Championship, and only has one dog not titled in his three-generation pedigree. Interestlingly enough, he has a line back to our FTCH Baldonian Barron of Craighorn who produces many great dogs.  He is known to be a fast, powerful and extremely talented red dog. Pairing up the sensible biddability of Hawksgarth Indiana with the power of Paddy has produced a very talented female in Nell that is certainly quick but always gives me her eyes and very quick to the whistle. She takes a calm and quiet hand and overall I have been extremely pleased with her and excited to produce pups and continue our adventures in the field.

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Driven Bird Shooting In Idaho

Republished from Forbes


British Lab guru Mike Stewart (far right) leads his pupils—dogs and people—to one of the Blixt beats near Teton Valley, Idaho. Chris Dickinson Photography 

What if you could enjoy driven red-legged partridge in stunning and steep terrain, the kind of presentation made famous in the hills of Spain…but without the jet lag? That was the notion of Lars Magnusson a former shooting instructor turned European-American driven bird raconteur whose Blixt & Company has built a dedicated following among domestic double gun aficionados.

He scoured the American West for just the right mix of open space, cover and ideal terrain from which to present tall, challenging birds—both red-legged partridge and pheasants. While driven in Idaho might lack the history and pageantry of the European shoots, the Blixt experience includes plenty of strong flying birds and its own take on lodging and dining opulence that is the hallmark of this top-of-the-food-chain venture the world over.

forbes 2

Magnusson (left) instructs shooters on safety protocols before a drive commences. Chris Dickinson Photography 

For many American shooters who have tried the Blixt Idaho presentation, there are plenty who now forgo the time and hassle of flying abroad to enjoy driven birds in exchange for the Blixt blessings. Despite his share of skeptics, Magnusson was able to pull off the unimaginable, for he took a distinctly European endeavor and gave it an American flair all the while preserving an authentic driven experience.

I am one shooter keen to try his offering and bring along my son Luke and our budding Wildrose British Lab, fresh out of university at the Wildrose campus near Oxford…Oxford, Mississippi, that is. Blixt and Wildrose have built an alliance whereby their dogs are used in picking up scores of birds shot throughout the course of a driven season. Seems only fitting that British Labs would be employed for this most European form of shooting. Our Lab, Dash, is several weeks into the Blixt-Wildrose boot camp and Luke is eager to reconnect with his pup while she finishes her work at this Dogwarts of sorts, where Wildrose staff finish their training wizardry thanks to the opportunity for dogs to recover a lifetime worth of birds in just a short season.

We head to Teton Valley, Idaho, just over the Wyoming state line, which is a short drive from Jackson Hole. The idyllic mix of rolling hills with poplar and evergreen stands along the slopes and grain stubble below provides the perfect prescription for driven shooting, and Lars recognized just how ideal it was the instant he saw it. As we arrive at ground zero for Blixt, we drive past a compound which consists of a series of private chalets, all part of the beautiful River Rim and Overlook Lodge.

Inside the main lodge, we find classic rustic elegance with plenty of comfortable sitting areas and premium art. An open living room with towering ceilings, massive stone fireplace and commanding views of a small stream below and the Tetons in the distance quickly give you the sense that this venue may not be as good as some of the best shoots in Europe…it may be better. And while Idaho weather is famous for throwing a surprise punch or two, for the most part it is a sunny and arid environment—a far cry from the wind and rain so common during shoots in the British Isles.

Magnusson is a Swedish immigrant who met his beautiful American wife Jennifer, fell in love, and together built the Blixt shooting business. Their clients have, for the most part, become extended members of the family, returning each autumn to celebrate the latest rendition of Magnusson’s Idaho driven experience.

We load up a series of black Range Rovers as the party disembarks from the lodge for a place called Twin Peaks, a picturesque driven destination about a 30-minute drive where the beaters are already waiting. Soon we are staggered in a long line, perhaps 35 yards between each shooter. First a trickle of partridge cross in front, the warm up birds sent to see how much rust there is on your swing. These are red-legged partridge, brought in as eggs from France. They’re hatched and raised stateside before being released on the Blixt grounds.

Unlike many shoots across the US that use the word ‘driven’ or ‘simulated driven’ in their descriptions, the Blixt experience is a true driven shoot. That is, the birds are scattered throughout the fields and are pushed over the guns by a line of flag-toting beaters, which provides the most authentic driven shooting experience on the continent. What you get are strong flying birds that have spent plenty of time in the air and know the terrain and how to use it.


Magnusson readies for a line of beaters to move a cloud of partridge over the shooting line as part of the autumn ritual at Idaho’s Blixt & Co driven shoot. Chris Dickinson Photography

Sometimes a drive aligns perfectly with your strength as a shooter with large numbers of birds passing through your gunning sweet spot. The second beat of the day is just such an occasion for me. As a left hand shooter, left to right crossing shots—pulling the stock into my face on the swing—has long been my favorite target. By favorite I mean I tend to hit more than I miss.  Partridge after partridge cross in my groove, the fallen birds making me feel like Sammy Sosa being pitched a steady diet of inside fastballs.

After the beat, we head to a field lunch where white canvas tents with wooden floors and


A gourmet field lunch between driven shoots is all part of the Blixt experience. Chris Dickinson Photography

an elegantly set table is waiting for us. It is a western spin on the driven experience, a glamping affair amid a stand of aspen complete with a gourmet lunch and a beautiful cobalt sky with lemon drop aspen leaves shimmering in the breeze. And did I say there are hammocks for those who want to have a siesta before returning to the afternoon shoots?

Still reveling in the success of the last drive before lunch, the first beat following lunch finds me at the bottom of a hill sandwiched between two tall stands of aspen. My shooting window is about a bus length wide and the birds are tall—stretch your barrels long. It also seems as if someone is goosing them as they rocket overhead, for somehow they manage to engage another gear, propelling them faster than I remember the species being able to motivate. No one said it was going to be easy.

The variety of beats offered across Magnusson’s territory is impressive with more than 50 different drives in a wide range of terrain, testament to both the landscape and his use of it. There is gently rolling farm country as well as another property with steep canyons that will test even the most experienced driven shooters. By test I mean humble.


Red-legged partridge pass over a line of guns in one of several beats held each day of a Blixt driven shoot. This form of shooting originated in the British Isles but Magnusson has replicated the experience in the stunning landscape of Idaho. Chris Dickinson Photography

Magnusson saves his best for last, however. As we start the final beat, the sky is suddenly covered with hundreds if not more than a thousand partridge and pheasants, as if some kind of impromptu upland bird migration. It is a moment that you wish could become slow motion to savor and extend it in all its glory. Wouldn’t it be grand if such a scene could last for an hour or two…hell, days for that matter?, I think to myself. Every great beat has a climax when overwhelming numbers of birds cover the sky and you frenetically scramble to maximize the richness of the opportunity. When it ends—and it must—there’s either the satisfaction of having shot well or a frustration in missing an opportunity to be a King for a Day.

At Blixt, you can count on the royal treatment either way


At Blixt, you can count on the royal treatment either way.

Chris Dorsey

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Amy’s Cherry Cobbler – the Levenghyl Way!


Recipe by Amy Bates Levenghyl Kennels

About 1kilo of stoned cherries

2 tbsp caster sugar -depending on how sweet they are they may need a little more

Cobbler Topping:

225g Plain fFour

3 teaspoons Baking Powder

110g ice cold butter cut into pieces

50g caster sugar

170ml Buttermilk or regular full fat milk

Put the cherries into a deep oven proof dish and sprinkle over the sugar.  Set a side and make the cobbler topping.

Put the butter, flour , sugar and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor and puls until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Pour in the buttermilk a little at a time until the mix becomes a sticky dough – you may not need all of the liquid or you may need a little more but go slowly. Whne the dough is ready “blob” on top of the cherries.  Bake the Cherry Cobbler in a pre heated oven 180 c for 25-35 minutes or until the cherries are bubbling and the topping is cooked.

Serve with Custard or cream or ice cream or all three!

Copyright Amy Bates @2020 to be reproduced for the Wildrose Journal.

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The Avoidables

by Mike Stewart, Wildrose International


Often it seems that the list of things not to do with a young sporting dog pup is much longer than the things listed to do.  No doubt, it is important to properly “Background” any puppy to instill desirable foundational skills and behaviors while avoiding mistakes that could produce undesirable behaviors, fear factors or even injury.  The early-start months in puppy development can be categorized in three timeframes (See Wildrose Law #3 as a reference):

Birth to 8/10 weeks

8/10 weeks to 3.5 months

3.5 months to 6 months

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The importance of the first 16 weeks in a pup’s life cannot be undervalued.  What is established through repeated exposures, stimulated learning and socialization experiences easily becomes imprinted behaviors or habits. It is the way nature intends – the order of the pack.  This vital period in the developmental processes cannot be ignored or mishandled. Undesirable, entrenched behaviors at these early ages will endure.  They will prove beneficial in training and value-added to compatibility of the pup or dysfunctional habits will prove to be challenging to suppress. Undesirable, entrenched behaviors may be modified or suppressed through training but likely never totally eliminated.  They may lie dormant in the young dog only to re-appear at the most annoying and inappropriate times.


What to do? Basically, early puppy development begins with the end in mind.  If you do not want to see a particular behavior two years from now in the duck blind, on trail, or with the family at home, don’t allow the undesirable behavior to continue.  Remember: repetition + consistency – boredom = habit.

Realize that the pup is always learning.  One must be careful what they are allowing to be trained (conditioned) in with their youngster either intentionally or unintentionally.


Bolting                         Tug-of-war

Free Running                Barking for Attention

Chase                           Whining

Chewing                       Jumping on People



Patience                      Returning When Called

Leading                        Housebroken

Quiet in Crate               Socialization Experiences

Place Trained

If a behavior becomes entrenched in these early “backgrounding” periods, you better like it. Just get it right from the start by never violating Wildrose Law #4, “Don’t condition in a problem that must be trained out later.”

Avoiding the Undesirables

Let’s look at a short list of examples that perhaps we have not mentioned in our materials previously. They may seem harmless initially, but they can easily turn into difficult troubles to rectify later in training and afield.


The Sniffer

Hunting breeds are known for their amazing scenting abilities.  Their nose knows and the pups love to put them to use.  In training lessons, the ground sniffing is often mistaken as hunting or at least the desire to do so.  Not the case.  Sniffing is avoidance, inattention and a distraction.  Do not let sniffing the ground while training become a habit with a pup.

We work our pups on low-impact exercises such as heel, sit, stay, recall on paved or hard-packed dirt surfaces that offer little distractive scent to pre-occupy the pup. This practice has resulted in drastically reducing the pup’s inattention during training.  Once a solid pattern is established without ground sniffing, move on to other areas.

Avoid working in heavily scented areas like dog parks, dog relief areas, areas with birds present, wooded areas with plentiful wildlife, any location that harbors heavy ground scent.  Avoid the sniffing habit in your pup’s early starts.

The Bolter

This is the most common problem we experience when a youngster returns to basic training at our Wildrose facilities.  Bolting, scurrying off on independent frolics, possessiveness with the bumper, free running, free swimming, chasing other dogs – all independent behaviors that are in no way conducive to a sporting dog’s field performance.  Most of these habits began early in the pup’s life:

  • Playing chase with kids
  • Playing with other dogs
  • Chasing wildlife in the yard
  • Provided chew toys that created possessiveness
  • Allowing free run in open areas too often for exercise
  • Allowing continuous free swimming in a lake or swimming pool


These and similar activities create independence, possessiveness, avoidance, self-employment – all unproductive behaviors that must be trained out before desirable behaviors can take root such as:

  • Delivery to hand
  • Steadiness
  • Honoring other working dogs
  • Recall, despite distractions
  • Ignoring diversions

Again, think, do not put in a problem.


The Jumping Jack

British Labs love to jump.  They are active, agile and love a challenge.  Although we often post on social media and the Wildrose Way training page scenes of young pups performing activities involving running and jumping, we want everyone to know that such impact exercises are engaged in at a minimum and always with caution.  Warning: High impact activities such as running on hard surfaces, jumping from vehicles or platforms, sliding on slick floors, negotiating slick stairways can and often do cause injury to the pup’s joints (hips, elbows, knees, spine).

Although a sporting dog pup will gladly engage in such strenuous activities, be cautious.  No high jumps, no long runs, no jumping from ATVs, vehicles, etc., no sliding on slick surfaces, no long distance running such as jogging, biking, rollerblades, etc. None of these activities prior to 14 months of age.

In training we do involve some low-level jumps like from a water stand or working on our ramps but be confident that we engage in these seldomly and with caution.  The romping and jumping activities are enjoyable for the pup and if repeated become a habit that can result in injury or wear on joints when you least expect it and are not prepared.

puppy on ramp

The Termite

Retriever breeds have an oral fixation.  They love to use their mouth and love to have things in it often.  I think somewhere over the generations the termite was bred to the Labrador lines!  Here it is all about avoidance, not allowing the dysfunctional behavior of chewing objects or your person to become an ingrained habit.

Chew toys and generic chew objects do nothing to relieve the pup’s tendency to chew things from their bedding to furniture. Never allow a pup to chew on a bumper with the misplaced thinking that will encourage retrieve drive.  Chew elimination is about avoidance.  No opportunity to do so and the pup simply outgrows the tendency rather than allowing the behavior to turn into a dysfunctional habit.  Encourage delivery to hand of any item the pup should collect.  Don’t provide anything to the pup to chew with exception of an object that can be consumed like a dental care product such as Zuke’s Bones.  Never allow a pup to chew on anyone’s body parts or garments.

The Pitcher

Here we are talking about the creation of a dysfunctional habit that is clearly the product of the handler and perhaps the family … throwing bumpers/objects indiscriminately for retrieves.  This practice, if repeated, is the path to unsteadiness, impatience, and whining all from throwing things from the handler’s hands.  You are not building drive or providing beneficial training lessons. You are entrenching a difficult habit to correct.  You throw the “mark,” the pup quickly scurries off for the recovery and is therefore rewarded.  Impatience, a negative behavior, is rewarded.

puppy in water

There are only a few times you, the handler, should throw anything for a pup to retrieve:

  1. First retrieves, introductions
  2. To teach a new skill foreign to the pup (under a fence, crossing a barrier, etc.)

Then, immediately convert lessons to memories.  Also, forget fun bumpers as a reward.  Never! They are an immediate reward for unsteadiness.

Parting Thoughts

To avoid conditioning in undesirable behaviors we too often encounter in sporting dog pups:

  1. Avoid repeating or allowing the re-occurrence of dysfunctional behaviors which are rewarded or self-rewarding as they are destined to become habits.
  2. Establish clear boundaries, routines and structure for the pup. Avoid inconsistency.
  3. Reward patience in all things which include food, affection, and retrieves.

Take the puppy pledge:  Wildrose Law #4 rules:  Don’t condition in a behavior that must be trained out later.


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Trainer Profile: Erin Davis, Trainer, Wildrose Mississippi

by Dr. Ben McClelland in an Interview with Erin Davis

In March Erin Davis moved—lock, stock, and barrel—from the Midwest to the Deep South to become a Trainer at Wildrose, Oxford. While some of us would have been waylaid by culture shock, Erin was more than up to the challenge. After all, her motor runs wide open. Multi-tasking is her forte´. Beyond being a quick study, Erin is deeply analytical. And she’d been preparing for this move for quite some time. Well, really her whole life.


Photo by Katie Behnke

Growing up in a family of animal people in Portage, Indiana, Erin said that they always had an assortment of dogs, cats, fish, iguanas, llamas, horses, and parrots around the house. An intensely active youngster, Erin did everything, including playing soccer, Irish Dancing, and cheerleading. She cheered from five years of age through her college years at Valparaiso University, where she earned a BSN – Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Afterwards, she coached Pop Warner teams to three national championships.

Erin began horseback riding early, as well. She said, “I started riding horses at three years old and competing at five years old with our mini horses, quarter horses, and draft horses.” Later she and her sister competed in English, western pleasure, and barrel racing.Hunting and dog training ran in the family, too. Erin’s grandfather was a serious upland hunter, who always had a pack of very proficient Brittanys in tow. Her uncle, an avid waterfowler on Lake Michigan, has produced masterful works of art in taxidermy.


Prior to her move to Oxford, Erin served five years as an associate trainer based in the Chicago area. Earlier she also served as a veterinary technician for five years at an exotic animal clinic and as an Indiana DNR research assistant, studying sport fishing in Lake Michigan. Erin’s professional memberships include the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Erin also served as a trauma nurse at a Chicago-area hospital for 10 years, plus one year in Stem Cell Transplant nursing at Northwestern University Medical Center, and three years in Occupational Health nursing at U.S. Steel Mill-Gary Works.

Erin’s passion for training flourished after she picked up her first training pup six years ago at Oxford. Steadily, her pack grew. She said, “I quickly found myself making the choice to move to a house with more land to purposefully build a dream structure for the dogs and also start landscaping the training grounds as Wildrose Kennels – Great Lakes. The scene was immediately bustling with Gundogs, adventure dogs, therapy dogs, pre-season tune ups, post-season clean ups, and lots of boarding dogs. What started out as back grounding puppies, while still working full time as a nurse, blossomed in to full time boarding and training dogs and moonlighting as a nurse. That experience led me to my most recent adventure in moving to Oxford and fulfilling the Senior Trainer role.”

Erin said that, as a trainer, herprofessional passion is continuing the original vision of the Gentleman’s Gundog. She specifies two personal contributions: The first is to produce “dogs with diversified skill sets for the field and family life, dogs I would be proud to hunt over and peaceably live with.” The second contribution is to continue the core of training the Wildrose Way through client education. Many observers have noted Erin’s significant investment in this aspect of her job. As she said, “I love training dogs, but I love even more training handlers in how to be successful with their dogs. It makes no difference how well I train a dog if the owner is unable to replicate and enjoy it. From the moment I meet a client and their dog I wholeheartedly encourage them and their entire family—kids and extended family included—to visit during training as much as possible. My open-door policy allows them to learn all the tips and tricks gradually so that, by the time a dog graduates, both the handler and dog are comfortable and successful.”

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Taking up hunting as an adult, Erin is an active waterfowl, upland, and small and large game hunter. She lists her favorite places to hunt waterfowl: “Early season – Rugby North Dakota, Late season – North Platte River in Wyoming.”Among her favorite places to upland hunt: “Pheasant – Southwest North Dakota, Grouse – Ottawa National Forest Upper Penninsula Michigan.” She also lists her all-time favorite hunting: “Dry field hunting for mallards and grouse in the Northwoods.”

Moreover, Erin is an Adventure Dog aficionado, most notably with Ben, whom she calls ”undeniably my ‘dog of a lifetime.’” Ben is four-year-old UH Wildrose Ben, an Adventure MT THDX CGC, out of Murphy and Pinny.

Erin said that she and Ben have “traveled through 34 states together. Along the way we’ve waterfowl and upland hunted from border to border and to the coast of the Atlantic, including the Mississippi, and Central flyways. To date he has also completed over 400 therapy dog visits in the community. His favorite field activity is striking for a pointing bird dog. His favorite home activity is mountain biking with me.”


Lots of us Wildrose folks have a pack of dogs. But Erin has what I would describe as a passel. Besides Ben and the large number of client dogs, she listed two other personal dogs, Luke and Ghillie, whom she described this way:

“Labs Unlimited Luk-ing For Trouble TD CGC ‘Luke,’ eight years old. Started as a field trial prospect but we both found The Wildrose Way of training was a better fit for us, which is what originally let me to WR. His favorite part of hunting is making long retrieves across the water for wounded geese. At home his favorite activity is kayaking with me.

‘Troddenmills Honky Tonk,’ CGC CGCA CGCU ‘Ghillie.’ Imported: Tanyrhallt Blue Bloods x Troddenmills Goes Bananas, eleven months old. Imported by Wildrose Dallas. Immediately after I picked him up, I knew he was a keeper. He’s quiet at home, loves to travel, gentle with everyone he meets, and a quick learner. In the field he is a powerhouse on land and water. He’s bold, agile, and thinks critically. His favorite field activity is picking up multiple consecutive long marks. His favorite home activity is riding in the side by side.”


Because I asked for some insight into her personal choices, Erin revealed some of her personal favorites . . . food: cheesecake; movies: documentaries; books: Nonfiction; and travel destination: Turks and Caicos Islands.

On a couple of recent occasions some other clients and I have had the opportunity of accompanying Erin on training activities with our dogs. As we powerwalked to the field, Erin began thinking aloud, sketching out a plan for our morning’s work. She had seen our dogs work before, so she knew their ability levels. Once or twice she’d check in with us: “What do you think? Are you guys good with that?” In a few minutes, she laid out a plan of three varied exercises, featuring different skill requirements, each in a new field environment. Memory retrieves through the woods and into the water. Simulated upland marks in cover. Lining and handling for long-distance blinds.

We carried out the training plan, moving from place to place, all the while sharing observations about our dogs and enjoying lighthearted conversation. As we walked back to the kennel center, Erin summarized our activities and expressed satisfaction with the day’s work. We clients revealed amazement at Erin’s ability to lay out— impromptu—this coherent plan. She grinned and joked, “Just a little something I saw in a book once. It’s called something like the cyclical training model.” We laughed, and someone said, “Oh, yeah, thatbook.”

Spoiler alert about Erin’s personal dogs: She has put down deposits on future Wildrose litters!

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Erin Davis

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Spring at Wildrose Mississippi

Video by Mallard Media

The facilities crew here at Wildrose Oxford has truly outdone themselves this year. Supervisor Blake Henderson, along with Bryan, Tristan and Taylor, have worked tirelessly on the continuous improvement of the training grounds. We have milo and cane in the peanut, the recall field is milo and a sustainable garden that will not only provide great hunting cover but also fresh vegetables for the staff. Through our controlled burns and crop rotation we are maintaining and improving the Ultimate Sporting Dog Training Grounds.

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