Wildrose Service Companions: Social Cognition and The Positive Loop

Turning Teal "Widgeon" in Ireland (2008)

Turning Teal “Widgeon” in Ireland (2008)

by: Scott R. Wilson

More than a decade ago in Ireland a litter was born to Intl FTCH Rozel Rocket of Tasco and FTW Meadowbrook Lass.  One of the pups in this litter was Intl FTW Turning Teal, a remarkable yellow Labrador the Wildrose family has come to know by his call name “Widgeon.”

w2He was imported to the United States in 2008 when his work in Oxford MS began.  Widgeon hunted, trained, trekked, and traveled with the Wildrose crew throughout his career as a sire.


Widgeon, the “Gentleman’s Gundog TM

Much like Widgeon, his pups have proven to be exceptional hunters, trekkers, companions and service dogs.

Widgeon, Indian, and Grand Pup ©KLBehnke Widgeon at Wildrose in Oxford MS (2015) ©KLBehnke

Widgeon, Indian, and Grand Pup ©KLBehnke
Widgeon at Wildrose in Oxford MS (2015)

We are happy to report that Widgeon is quite healthy and in the 12 short months since he officially launched his retirement career as a Pet Partners® Therapy Dog he has earned and been awarded his AKC therapy dog title.  (The April 2016 issue of the Wildrose Journal documents Widgeon’s retirement.)

Widgeon’s retirement adventure has helped inspire Wildrose Kennels to expand their Wildrose Service Companions program.  Widgeon took to his new animal-assisted activities like a duck to water.  Clearly his genetics coupled with years of experience at Wildrose helped prepare Widgeon for therapy dog work.  For decades Wildrose has bred and trained dogs that provide special services for humans in addition to companionship.  Widgeon’s remarkable performance in his new therapy role prompted the Wildrose staff to consider a specific training program for therapy dogs.  Widgeon’s performance compelled me to investigate when, where, why, and how canines developed the social cognitive skills needed for this inter-species cooperation.

The Human-Canine Bond

The earliest evidence of dog domestication suggests that dogs were held in the same high esteem as humans 8000 years ago in Siberia.  Cohabitation and cooperation with canines filled a very unique niche among mammals domesticated by humans.  Dogs have special skills in comprehending human communicative behaviors that developed as a result of domestication.  This social cognitive evolution was realized through selective breeding.  The dog breeds we see today have genetic roots that trace back only a few hundred years.  However, modern dogs share a genetic history with the dogs from Siberia.  Humans recognized the many useful characteristics of our canine companions and we have successfully bred dogs in search of some very specific behaviors.  In the last few years we have finally begun to examine this human-canine connection from the dog’s perspective.  MRI scans have demonstrated that dogs process speech much like people.  Meaningful words activate the left side of a dog’s brain and intonation stimulates the right side.  Praising words in an enthusiastic tone activate neural circuits associated with reward in the same manner as petting or eating.  Beyond motion and sound the human-canine mutual gaze has been shown to increase oxytocin concentrations in both humans and dogs.  This supports the existence of an interspecies oxytocin-modulated positive loop facilitated and modulated by just a gaze.  Apparently dogs do feel a mutual interspecies bond and that brings us full circle to the hero of this story, Widgeon.

Working with my canine companion Widgeon as an animal-assisted intervention team is truly a rewarding experience and I am pretty sure that Widgeon feels the same.  By just entering a room, a steady dog with the uncanny ability to gaze right into your soul brings a smile to nearly every face.  We work as a team to collectively interpret the cognitive cues that all humans project.  On rare occasions we meet a person who is very fearful of dogs but we are always vigilant to maintain a safe distance and keep all parties comfortable.  Remarkably, several people who admitted that they were so fearful of dogs, that they had never touched one, actually found Widgeon to be so peaceful that they eventually requested a little touch.  Our team has participated in a wide variety of events including one or more at a Crisis Nursery, Women’s Shelter, Medical School, Law School, Veterans in Higher Education, Veterans Home, Assisting Living Facility, Nursing Home, Residential and Out Patient Behavioral Health Clinics, Children’s Museum, Public Museum, Community Center, Public and Private Libraries, K-12 School, Survivor Retreat, Athletic Event, and more.  There comes a time in the life of every working retriever when their active workload must be reduced to maintain good health.  At the same time these remarkable canines are still driven to work, so their job description needs to evolve.  For Widgeon we simply adjusted the amplitude of his animal-assisted interventions.  His retrieves got shorter, some retrieves even moved indoors, but he still gets to work with his handler and his mind remains sharp.  In previous years Widgeon would light up when his handler picked up a shotgun or a “field” bag.   Now he lights up when I grab his service dog vest and “go” bag.  His tail begins to swing and his inner puppy bubbles to the surface.  He is well aware that we are off for a short drive to explore new places and meet new people.  Widgeon is a classic Wildrose gun dog so we never bring food for a reward; the rewards he anticipates before, during or after our visits always involve retrieves.  All working dogs need to adjust their activities as they gracefully age.  In light of Widgeon’s remarkable acceptance of his new responsibilities and my growing experience with working retrievers, I have become a tireless advocate for retired working dogs.

Wildrose Therapy Companions

I presented Widgeon’s successful retirement career to his home kennel in person and through a journal article (vide supra) and the response was spectacular.  The entire Wildrose Kennels staff were thrilled about Widgeon’s healthy new career.  Wildrose Kennels has traditionally developed multi-purpose canines.  Their gundogs can work enthusiastically in the field during the day and join the family as steady companions in the evening.  Their family companion dogs can simultaneously provide a 24/7, lifesaving alert service to a family member suffering from Type 1 diabetes.  Other Wildrose scent detection dogs perform remarkable services at work and yet most still live interactively with their handler’s family.  Their adventure dogs perform essential services on the trail but are entirely comfortable spending evenings with the family in front of the fire or the TV.  Last summer I began discussions with the staff at Wildrose about expanding their training programs to include an option for therapy dogs.  To my delight the staff was very supportive.  Apparently, many Wildrose clients had already expressed an interest in working their dogs in a therapy environment.  We discussed the possibility of training and employing retired sires and dams for therapy work.  We discussed the nature of a program to train retrievers for a duel life style that includes therapy work.  We discussed the need for training and evaluating animal-assisted therapy dog teams.  We discussed many options for developing and maintaining a program that could provide a lasting service to the Oxford community.  We also discussed the possibility of developing a program that could migrate to other communities.  Now we have an expanded staff and a Wildrose Service Companions Director to help develop, optimize, and support this expansion of services.  And, Widgeon is no longer the only family member with a new retirement career.

The New Year brings in new, exciting opportunities for the Wildrose community.  We are adding a therapy dog component to our long list of program options.  Similar to most of the Wildrose training programs we plan to offer multiple training levels.  Our basic obedience course will provide the foundation for our therapy dog program that will then add socialization and basic tools required for every therapy dog.  Clients will have the option to have their Wildrose dog started with a dual purpose that includes a therapy dog component in combination with gun dog training, adventure dog training, or any of the advanced dog training options.  Clients will also have an advanced option to have their Wildrose dog finished with an AKC Therapy Dog title in combination with any other Wildrose advanced training component.  The caveat for this advanced therapy dog training is that the owner must independently train to complete his or her contribution to their animal-assisted intervention team.  The really good news is that your Wildrose dog will do most of the work and he or she will love every minute.

Widgeon at Wildrose in Oxford MS (2017) ©KLBehnke

Widgeon at Wildrose in Oxford MS (2017) ©KLBehnke


Widgeon is still statuesque, he still prances when he walks, his ears still bounce in rhythm to his step, and he still pays particular attention to the dams.  He will forever be my hero and the inspiration for expanding the Wildrose Service Companions program to include therapy dog training.




For details and references about the anthropology noted above or for more information about Wildrose Service Companions, please contact


Scott R. Wilson

Wildrose Service Companions Director


(217) 848-0170 (voice, text, FaceTime, Skype)

Travelling Trainer LLC

Materials Chemistry Laboratory Director, Retired

School of Chemical Sciences

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

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Cross-Fit Training: Upland Gundog Combinations

by: Mike Stewart

Wildrose returns to its roots with a previously popular upland gundog training program for pointing/retriever combination training:  Cross-Fit.  This Wildrose Way process involves training the Wildrose Lab with the client’s own pointing gundog.  The training involves developing both dogs simultaneously to work together afield as a team with one’s strengths and skills actually complementing the effort without interference, without distraction.


For over a decade, Wildrose has had a Pointer on “staff” to offer each bird-dogretriever exposure to working with pointing breeds:  steady to flush, backing, recovery of birds down and especially ignoring the activities of the Pointers while remaining focused on their jobs.  These training activities continue weekly today as part of our normal developmental processes both for basic and advanced retrievers.


The Cross-Fit option allows a client’s dogs that will be fielded together to be trained together in realistic hunting environments.  Bird options may include pigeon, quail, partridge, and pheasant.  Combination training will involve the valuable skills of:

  • Quartering, flushing and striking a flush
  • Steady to flush
  • Hunting for game recovery
  • Backing the point
  • Steady on flush
  • Wagon dog acclimation


bird-dog-2Naturally, obedience and civil behaviors will be emphasized for both team members, qualities necessary for any Gentleman’s Gundog.  The result:  a well-balanced team of sporting dogs gifted at bird location and recovery.

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Wildrose Teton Valley, Idaho

by: Mike Stewart

Wildrose will open its third satellite training facility this summer in the Teton Valley, just outside the town of Tetonia, ID, in association with Blixt & Co., Driven Shooting in the West.  Wildrose will offer world-class gundog development on the superb grounds of the most authentic driven shoot in North America.  Participants will benefit from the most intensive retriever training program available for finished work outside the United Kingdom.


Photo from Blixtco.com

The Wildrose training staff, forward deployed directly from the Oxford site, will operate basic and advanced retriever courses at the estate grounds of Blixt & Co. June through November annually.  Each dog will experience a diversity of rugged terrain, massive gunfire exposure and unmatched opportunities for pheasant and partridge recovery on both driven shoots and rough-shooting walkups.  Wildrose clients with dogs in the Northwestern states will now have a regional trainer available to provide services.

Picking Up
Participation in the majesty of an authentic European/UK style driven shoot is hard to imagine for many dog handlers.  Just marking all the birds dropping from skies filled with birds in flight each taken by one of the eight guns blazing simultaneously in close proximity is extremely challenging.  In an environment where game recovery is paramount and retriever steadiness is essential, handlers are engaged at all times with six drives daily, eight guns active on each.  The action is intense for retrievers and handlers alike.
After shooting season ends in November, our onsite trainer returns to Wildrose in Oxford to continue training gundogs and making preparations for the next year’s activities in the Northwest.
Picking-up opportunities may be scheduled for handlers with dogs in training. Also, Wildrose clients may visit as guest pickers with their retrievers which are performing at the seasoned/advanced level.  We offer both long-term and short-term training programs for Wildrose dogs exclusively.  On a shooting day, picking teams and dogs in training will experience thousands of birds in flight with bags of 300-450 downed birds affording unparalleled sporting dog experiences.

Picking Teams

Used from blixtco.com

Photo from Blixtco.com

Clients may participant as pickers on shooting dates at no cost.  Wildrose will establish another Regional Pickers Syndicate in the Northwest.  This is a team of well-trained dogs and handlers that may be called upon for field support as we have established in both the Mid-South and New England areas.


Contact Ryan Alderman, Wildrose gundog trainer, for availability, ryan@uklabs.com.

  • Basic Gundog Training
  • Seasoned Retriever Development
  • Finished Retriever Refinement
  • Pick-up Opportunities
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Amazing Retriever Facts

Seven things you should know about your duck dog

fullsizerender-4I ran across this great article written by our friend, Gary Koehler, for Ducks Unlimited which points out some interesting facts about the abilities of sporting dogs.  The post was on DU’s Facebook and I found it a perfect complement to the way we train dogs at Wildrose, a balanced way, the “Wildrose Way.”  The post summarized many of the points we discovered while training scent discriminating service dogs, as well as gundogs, over the years.  The power of the developed nose.  A dog’s keen eyesight, even in the dark. The intuitiveness of dogs giving them the ability to read a person’s body posture, facial expression, and even a person’s sweat.  Dogs are very keen observers when their senses are developed appropriately.  Gary summarized many of the points we have identified while training gundogs, adventure companions and service canines, The Wildrose Way.

by Gary Koehler

Ever since Ivan Pavlov used dogs during the 1890s to explore classical conditioning, the sky has been the limit for those who want to learn more about canine biology and behavior. Because of their popularity as pets, dogs may be the most studied animals on earth.

Most of us have probably done at least some delving into what makes our retrievers tick. We can’t help it. The subject is endlessly fascinating, and the more we know about our dogs, the easier it is to train and live with them. Although many questions remain, science continues to provide new insights into the lives of our four-legged hunting partners.

Here’s a look at several interesting facts that explain how dogs perceive the world and why they behave the way they do.

  1. Sight

Contrary to popular opinion, dogs are not color blind. The old notion that they can see only black and white is incorrect. The canine color field may be limited in comparison to ours, but dogs can perceive gradations of yellow, blue, and gray. They can’t, however, distinguish red, green, and orange colors, as humans do. That’s because the human eye contains three types of cones, while the canine eye has only two. As predators, however, dogs are equipped with superior night vision and are also much more capable of tracking motion than we are.

  1. Smell

As discussed in a previous column, a dog’s scenting ability is truly remarkable. The noses of some breeds have more than 200 million scent receptors, which is about 40 times the number humans have. This isn’t surprising considering that a dog also dedicates about 40 times more of its brain to the process of smelling than we do. No wonder our retrievers continually amaze us when they locate fallen waterfowl in heavy cover.

  1. Hearing

Dogs generally have a much better hearing range than humans. A dog’s ears include at least 18 muscles, while ours have only nine. Dogs can therefore rotate and tilt their ears, which allows them to more easily locate the exact source of a sound. In addition, they perceive almost twice the frequencies we do. This explains why dogs can hear high-frequency whistles that are soundless to us. If your retriever is afraid of your lawn mower or weed whacker, it’s probably because the dog is bothered by the sound, not the motion. Thunderstorms can also be troublesome.

  1. Mood Detection

Your retriever can read your mood just by looking at your facial expressions and body language. Over time, he or she will learn to sense when you are happy, sad, and angry. The flipside of this is our tendency to attribute human emotions to dogs. For example, when you chastise your retriever for digging in the yard, he may put his head down or look away. The dog is probably reacting more to your tone and body language than out of a sense of guilt or shame.

  1. Intelligence

Mental sharpness varies greatly from breed to breed, and even from dog to dog. In fact, pups from the same litter may exhibit different learning abilities. Some dogs are inherently smarter than others. Studies have shown that intelligent dogs can learn the meaning of up to 250 words. Average dogs are capable of understanding about 150 words.

  1. Thermoregulation

The normal body temperature for a dog ranges from 100°F to 102.5°F. Fur insulates a retriever’s body in cold weather and helps slow heat absorption in warm weather. Although dogs do sweat through their paw pads and nose, they regulate body temperature primarily by panting. Always keep in mind that the risk of hypothermia and heat stroke are very real when your retriever is outdoors in extreme conditions.

  1. Dreams

The fact that dogs can dream shouldn’t come as a surprise to retriever owners who have seen their dogs whimper, twitch, and move around in their sleep. Determining what dogs actually dream about is a more complicated matter, but recent research seems to indicate that, like people, they tend to recall memories of events they experienced while awake. This means that retrievers are probably “fetching” mallards in perhaps their most lucid dreams.



Reprinted with permission from Ducks Unlimited Incorporated.  Originally published on Ducks Unlimited Facebook and their website, ducks.org.  We thank Gary and our friends at DU for the share. (see ducks.org)

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Meet the Newest Wildrose Staff

As 2016 draws to a close, we wanted to share with our subscribers a few of the exciting additions that occurred at Wildrose over the past year.  We will also allude to a few upcoming programs in this edition but complete explanations will be reserved for the January/February 2017 issue which is shaping up to be a big one.

Some of our opportunities for clients and our tribe of followers include new workshops, more opportunities for destination travel, expanded training programs and exciting technologies.  All are on the way to further enhance the Wildrose experience and we are excited!!  Be ready to get trained, get outfitted, and get out there… the “Wildrose Way.”

First, we would like to introduce new staff members that joined us in 2016:

Bryan Hargrove, Trainerbryan-hardgrove

Bryan is originally from Virginia and is a retired U.S. Army veteran with over twenty years of experience. He obtained his Associates degree in General Education from Central Texas College and earned numerous Information technology certifications during his military service. Bryan completed his military career as a Special Operations communications instructor. Previous to his arrival at Wildrose, Bryan was the head guide and dog trainer with an Orvis-endorsed wingshooting lodge.  Bryan’s leadership experiences in the military and those gained from his work through upland hunting services has enabled him to easily adapt to training gundogs, both pointers and retrievers, the Wildrose Way.  Bryan expands Wildrose training opportunities to include pointing breeds balanced to work with Wildrose retrievers.  This specialty course affords wingshooting enthusiasts the opportunity to field gundog teams trained for pointing, flushing and retrieving. Upland combination gundogs trained together, The Wildrose Way.

kelli-smKelly Hargrove, Hospitality Coordinator

Kelly is an extremely versatile and talented team member with Wildrose.  She serves as hospitality coordinator for Wildrose events and lodging and is cross-assigned as a health care specialist supporting Wildrose health care programs.  Previously, Kelly was the food and beverage manager of a major ski resort in Pennsylvania. Kelly came to us from North Carolina where she gained experience first as the estate’s kennel manager then served as a food and beverage manager for an Orvis-endorsed wingshooting lodge.  Kelly is an active participant our Fly & Deliver and Puppy Backgrounding programs.

Ryan Alderman, Trainerryan-wr

Ryan joined the Wildrose training staff in 2016.  Originally from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, he advanced his education at the University of Mississippi majoring in Sports and Recreational Administration.  As a Wildrose trainer, Ryan directs Wildrose training services in the Teton Valley for six months of the year in association with the renowned Blixt & Company driven shooting estate in Tetonia, Idaho.  Ryan is charged with onsite kennel operations, training, and directing the gundog program and staff for picking up and roughshooting on behalf of Wildrose and Blixt & Company.  Ryan extends the Wildrose Way for basic gundog, seasoned and finished retriever training to the Northwest further broadening our services to clients and their Gentleman’s Gundogs

facemyerTravis Facemyer, Associate Trainer, West Virginia

Travis is from West Columbia, West Virginia, where he owns and operates Facemyer Lumber Company.  He is an avid wingshooter, hunting all over the country and Canada every year with Wildrose Rogan, Wildrose Faolain and his Vizsla, Piros.  Travis is a member of the Appalachian Valley Chapter of North America Versatile Hunting Dog Association, a pointing dog organization that sponsors “Hero’s Tribute Hunt” for disabled veterans.  Travis bought his first Wildrose Labrador in 2011 and since he has been a constant participant and instructor at Wildrose workshops. He became a Wildrose Associate Trainer for the West Virginia region of the country in 2016.

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Wildrose Events


A quick glance at the 2017 lineup of workshops and destination events.  There is so much to see and do when one join the Wildrose Pack.  A tribe of followers with a passion for sporting dogs and the outdoor lifestyle.

Starting Your Dog the Wildrose Way – January 14 and April 1, Wildrose Kennels, Oxford, MS
This course focuses on starting your retriever (all breeds) on the proper path to becoming a well-rounded, hunting or adventure partner. Gentle, highly repetitive methods are used to show you step-by-step how to start your youngster from crate training to lining retrieves. Topics include obedience, steadiness, promoting calm behaviors, patience, introduction to birds, memories, doubles, early marks, reading your pup, k-9 demeanor and much more. Participants are invited to bring their dog to work with and will have the opportunity to handle a variety of different dogs at various levels of training if they choice, a real hands-on opportunity. (All breeds welcome).

January 28 – Wildrose Pheasant Continental Wingshoot, George Hi Plantation, Garland, NC. George Hi Plantation will host 12 Wildrose seasoned dogs and wingshooters for an exciting pheasant European-style wingshooting weekend.  George Hi Plantation has been hunting quail on the same grounds since 1855. Optional quail hunts may be booked separately before and after the event date.  Contact Penny at 910-564-5860 or hunt@georgehi.comwww.georghiplantation.com

DAMES, DOGS & DUCKS – March 3 to 5, Wildrose Kennels, Oxford, MS
Join us for a unique sporting experience for ladies only: Training for wingshooting, handling hunting dogs and skills for the field and marsh. All instruction will be presented by women who are masters at their skills. This course is based upon the popular Wildrose Waterfowl and Upland Academy previously offered. Three training blocks will cover hunting skills in practical field situations.

  • Decoying
  • Duck calling
  • Brushing blinds
  • Appropriate hunting attire
  • Upland hunting situations involving walk ups, pointing and flushing gundogs
  • Retriever training
  • Handling tips
  • Realistic gundog transitional field exercises

The event includes lunch Saturday and Sunday and a Saturday evening dinner on the grounds. Dogs can be provided by Wildrose if required. Bring along your shotguns, shells, rain gear, and water boots.

Basic Handler’s Workshop  – March 16, 17 at Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, MS and April 6, 7 at George Hi Plantation, Garland, NC
This Basic Handler’s Workshop will cover the Wildrose method of handling sporting dogs-obedience to hand signals. Emphasis is on developing the handler’s skills. Focus topics: canine behaviors, reading your dog, delivery, whistle commands, steadiness, handling, hunting cover, and lining, all based on Wildrose balanced training principles.

Advanced Handler’s Workshop – March 18, 19 at Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, MS and April 8, 9 at George Hi Plantation, Garland, NC                                                The Advanced Handler’s Workshop will focus on the Wildrose positive methods for advanced sporting dog handling, both upland and waterfowl, hand signals to blinds. Emphasis will be on developing handlers’ skills for transitional training and hunting situations based on the unique Wildrose training principles. Topics include: handling on water, advanced steadying drills, upland walk ups, lining on multiples, memories (circle) and blinds. A transitional training exercise will be conducted to add an element of realism. Participants will need a dog that is familiar with hand signals. Bring waders, duck calls, rain gear and shotgun with several box of light load shells.
Adventure Dog Training Course – April 21 to 23 Wildrose Arkansas, Jasper, Arkansas
Our unique training course for the dogs of outside adventures is the first of its kind. Dogs of the trail need specialized training just as do gundogs given the unusual activities they may encounter. Training for dogs to complement an active family’s lifestyle: hiking, climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, camping, running, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, etc. Dog training for K9 companions that will prepare them to go anywhere. (open to all dogs)

This course also addresses all the necessary skills sets for Adventure Dog Certification for Trail Rated. Topics will include: control on trail, retrieving, gunfire, fording streams, biking, kayaking, fishing, shed hunting and quite a long list of sub skills needed to create a superb outside companion for adventurers.

Register for these and other exciting courses at http://wildrosetradingcompany.com/collections/wildrose-events.

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by: Mike Stewart

fullsizerender-2As I approached the small, black lab puppy projecting volumes of pent-up energy while securely placed on tie-out, I immediately noticed his bright eyes of anticipation peering through a dusty face.  Nash Buckingham, as this 13-week old Wildrose pup has come to be fittingly called, knows the routine.  My approach means we are off for a lesson.  This time, though, things are about to change for the little guy.  The difference will not be the usually brief sessions involving sit, stay, place and a short retrieve, rather we are about to embark on the important steps of confidence building, independent thinking, decision making and de-sensitization experiences, all afileld, all in new and very different environments.

This part of puppy development is fun stuff.  As followers of The Wildrose Way understand, there are three levels of puppy early development:

0-8 weeks – Super Learner/Super Scent

2-3.5 months – Backgrounding, the Essentials

3.5 -7 months – Early Starts

The first 16 weeks of a pup’s life are developmentally crucial.  At these ages one can imprint so many valuable behaviors and exposures that will endure a lifetime.  Obviously, make them good ones because what you put into a pup will likely become entrenched and will be around for a long time.

Nash is at the perfect age for first exposures to field challenges.  Really, it’s all about “bolding” the youngster.  He can now begin to comprehend new and different experiences yet still young enough for the lessons learned to become entrenched in his memory.  Maximum care must be taken to ensure these “man-up” activities are positive with no chance of fear factors arising.


What to Avoid?

  • Extremely cold weather
  • High impact jumping or falls
  • Gunfire
  • Large dead or excessively bloody birds
  • Close-up encounters with live game birds
  • Larger, extremely aggressive/active dogs that could injure or intimidate

What we want is positive field exposures for the pup to independently (off lead) explore while still young enough to be somewhat dependent, preferring to stay close to me.   Examples:

  • Tall grass fields
  • Shallow, warm water
  • Small logs to cross
  • Ditches to negotiate
  • Leafy woodlands

fullsizerender-3Nash’s lead was attached and we made our way to the tall, sage grass fields of the Wildrose training grounds at Oxford.  No open field romps now.  Rather, I want him a bit lost in the dense cover of high grass so he remains with me rather than on an independent frolic in an open field, so our off-lead walk a begins.  Nash is free to explore.  Still young and in unfamiliar surroundings, he doesn’t range far.  Slowly, confidence is gained.  Occasionally, I squat down low and recall (come) Nash using whistle and hand clapping. Without hesitation he responds receiving much praise when he reports in.  Then he is released and the walk continues.  The first field selected was tall sage grass then we made our way into a strip of milo.  The thick foliage soon proved challenging.

Nash lost his bearing.  I walked a bit further and exited the thick milo, then knelt using the whistle recall and provided verbal encouragement.  Shortly, the milo tops began to rattle signaling Nash’s progression toward me.  When his exit was finally accomplished, of course, a big party had to occur in recognition of his courage and persistence.  We keep our little outings short to make sure his young mind stays engaged and attention focused.

Day II – Exploration was broadened to include wandering woodlands, crossing back and forth over small logs and negotiating a small ditch.  Only two recalls are conducted per outing to avoid boredom.  Future de-scent and confidence “man-up” exposures will include:

  • Rides on an ATV
  • Bounding about in thick pond mud (fun)
  • Wading in shallow water (removes the fun)
  • Exploring shallow water covered with lily pads
  • Place training is moved to realistic field locations:
    • Boat stands
    • Duck blinds
    • Tree stands
    • Water platforms

Place is place no matter the location.  No stimuli like thrown denials or honoring other working dogs at this point, just place reinforcement expecting still, quiet, patient behaviors.

Our confidence walks are accomplished alone, no other dogs to misdirect Nash’s focus and attention as we explore a strange, new world for him.  Soon the opportunity will be lost.  Nash will enter an age of independence and become less susceptible to the powers of imprinting.  For now, his eyes of enthusiasm and expression of curiosity tell it all.  He is becoming bolder every day:  confident, decisive and, of course, fun!

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Wildrose Photo Contest 2016

contest-picThis year we introduced a new contest on our Wildrose Kennels Facebook Page that showcased over 200 adventure dog photos! The contest was launched mid-summer and ended mid-September and was open to all breeds of dogs.  Followers of Wildrose Instagram and Facebook were challenged to capture their best adventure photo with their dog and use the hashtag “#wrphotocontest2016.”  Followers were also informed that the winner of the contest would win Wildrose merchandise along with a feature on our page and in the Wildrose Journal! Each week there were spectacular, one-of-a-kind pictures submitted and picking a winner was extremely difficult.


After taking votes from all of the Wildrose Kennels Oxford staff, a photo submitted by @floyd_the_vizsla was declared the winner. floyd-the-visla-ad The action shot of Floyd jumping across a stream over rocks surely deserved the title of “best adventure photo.”  Floyd was contacted and asked questions about his life as an adventure dog:

“Floyd The Vizsla – @floyd_the_vizsla

I’m a Hungarian (Magyar) Vizsla!

My birthdate is June 14th, 2014, so I’m a little over two years old. I was born in Benson, Utah and now live in the mountains near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington.

My human (lovingly) calls me the ‘Discount’ dog. I was the last male chosen from my litter, primarily because I don’t really have a good bird drive. But that’s okay, my human thinks I make a good friend anyway.

I go on so many adventures! We hike somewhere every single day, even if it is just in the mountains near my home. My first adventure with my adopted dad was when I was just eight weeks old. He picked me up in Utah, and we took a road trip to Indiana. Over the next two weeks, we hung out with family in Indiana and then visited the Badlands National Park on our drive home.

Once I got old enough, we started to hike-a lot! In 2015, I took my dad on over 1800 miles of hikes, 600 miles of snowshoeing, and we summited 64 mountains in four different states.
I even made it to the top of a 12,281 foot tall stratovolcano – Mt. Adams in the Cascades Mountains of Washington.

This year our adventures have been different. We live in the middle of the forest, and in the winter we have to snowshoe or take a snowcat to commute in and out. So, this summer I’ve had to supervise my human while he prepares for winter (snowcat rebuild, splitting wood, etc). With an average snowfall of 430 inches per year, I have to make sure he’s ready. We’re still hiking, but not as frequent. We did take our normal summer road trip. We visited Indiana, then the Badlands, Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon, the Grand Tetons, and took a five day backpacking trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. We also took trips this summer to Mt. Baker, Mt. Pilchuck, the Olympic National Park and numerous trips into the Teanaway in Central Washington. Almost all of our adventures involve mountain tops and alpine lakes.

What do we have planned?
Plenty of snowshoeing near our home this winter. Then, next summer we hope to summit Mt. St. Helens, Mt Adams (again), and then spend a week exploring in the North Cascades. For the most part, our adventures are spontaneous. I’ll convince my human to explore a new forest service road just to see where we’ll end up.  –Floyd

There will be more from Floyd the Vizsla as we will follow him on his journey to becoming an official Wildrose Adventure Dog. floyd

Keep up with all things adventure; @wildrosekennels, @wildroseroaming and @kind2dogs.

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Join Us In A Publishing Venture about Wildrose Adventure Dogs

Dear Adventure Dog Folks:

Will you join us in a publishing venture about Wildrose Adventure Dogs?

Since Wildrose Kennels founded the Adventure Dog training program in 2008 and officially launched its Adventure Dog Certification program in mid-June, 2010, participant interest and activity have been very enthusiastic, to say the least. You and your dog have contributed to the program’s development. We’d like to share the stories of some adventure dogs and their owners.

Because you and your dog are active in our Adventure Dog Program, we are writing to invite you to participate in a series of Wildrose Journal articles featuring Adventure Dogs and their owners.

We would like to begin publishing stories with the next issue. Here’s how we suggest that we proceed with this project. Those of you who are interested can draft notes about your experiences with your dog and submit them to us. We’ll work on editing them into a series of Journal articles (from about 900 to 2500 words each).

Here are some things to consider in drafting your notes:

  • First, you may introduce your dog and tell a little bit about getting your dog, training it, and any significant points you’d like to share about you and your family’s life with your dog. Familiarize us with your dog’s history with you.
  • Second, you may explain your interest in the Adventure Dog Program. How did you and your dog begin in the program? What activities do you do? What journeys or interesting outdoor travels have you taken?  What merits are you working on or have you and your dog achieved? How do you work with your dog to develop the set of sub-skills that build to success in an activity?
  • Third, you may narrate a story about you and your dog, focusing on “a day in the life” or you may want to tell about achieving one particular milestone, or tell about a favorite pastime for your dog and you.
  • Fourth, explain how the adventure dog activities have strengthened the bond between you and your dog.
  • Fifth, discuss your future goals with your dog.
  • Finally, please include high-quality photos of your dog and you including some of your dog on location as you travel or action shots as you work toward some merits.

Will you join in this venture? Please reply to this email and let us know whether you’re interested. If you are interested, please let us know when you can submit some drafted notes to us. In order to put together a story for the next issue, we would need drafts submitted in a few weeks. Those of you who need more time may send material for later issues.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Ben McClelland and Danielle Drewrey

Wildrose Kennels

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Billups Coffee

5f075124db06462dbb64b7b734da8797Wildrose Gus (Deke x Mira) joined the Billups family December of 2015. Living in Oxford, Mississippi we are fortunate enough to be right in the backyard of Wildrose’s beautiful property and talented trainers. We quickly began attending training seminars that winter and you better believe a fresh cup of coffee accompanied us to each training session. As our friendship grew with Mike, he inquired about the Billups Coffee we always seemed to have with us and pressed us on how and why we started the company. The truth is our passion and slight addiction to coffee partnered with the family history made Billups coffee come easy.

History: Billups Petroleum was founded in Mississippi in the late 1940s along with the slogan ” Fill-Up with Billups” which depicted a friendly signature handshake. In the ’50s and ’60s the business grew to include gas stations throughout the southern states and east coast allowing travelers to pull over and fill up when they saw the now well-recognized slogan and friendly handshake. All good things in life have an expiration date and around the mid ’60s Billups Petroleum was purchased by various entities including Charter Marketing, Citgo and Exxon.

Billups Coffee: We had always wanted to do something to memorialize our family history and that partnered with our coffee passion lead to Billups Coffee. From there the ideas flowed smoothly (pun intended). To play off of Billups Petroleum we decided on launching the line with three different types of coffee ‘Premium’, ‘Regular’, and ‘High Octane’. Mike enjoyed the history and of course a good cup of coffee. After sampling all 3 types, he now supports the Billups Coffee which can be found in the Wildrose shop, Wildrose Trading Company as well as online at BillupsCoffee.com

Billups Coffee Iced Cocktail Brew Billups Coffee as usual, let cool. Pour coffee into ice trays and freeze. Place frozen coffee cubes in a glass and pour your favorite……Kahlua, Bailey’s, Disaronno, etc.

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