Special thank you’s to: Mindy Ladner, owner of Pirogue and Katie Behnke Photography for capturing Pirogue in action!

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Wild Recipes – Blackened Tacos

By Tom Smith, Wildrose Mississippi

1 quart fresh crappie
Blackened seasoning 
Canola oil


Bam bam sauce
Keto Mayo- 1/3 cup
Ketchup- 2 tablespoons
Coconut aminos- 1 tablespoon
Garlic powder- 1 teaspoon
Hot sauce- 1 teaspoon 

Blacken the crappie in an iron skillet on medium high. I like to season both sides when I cook the fish. 

I put the fish on the bottom of the taco followed by slaw, bam bam sauce, jalapeños (if preferred), avocado and sour cream. 

Texas Ranch Water 
Fill glass with ice
2oz tequila blanco
Squeeze of lime
Splash of simple syrup
Topo Chico twist of lime soda
Stir and enjoy. 
Salted rim if desired



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Wildrose Wyatt

When selecting dogs for broodstock we first look to check off all the health requirements, then we move to the criteria that are less binary and more difficult to quantify. In our breeding program we want dogs that are going to make training easier, or maybe give pups more talent in field at finding game. Every once in a while we come across a dog that elevates our program in both of those areas. Wyatt is one of 6 littermates that I have had the pleasure to train, each of which have been at the top of my charts for temperament and ease. What is unique about these pups is that they started out calm and studious and then with training came growing confidence, boldness and yes some energy, but that channeled energy has produced not only capable but phenomenal game finders in  the field. Wyatt’s sister, Katy, spends her time at Stuart Ranch Outfitters, working the ranch all spring and summer in preparation for busy fall and winter days bringing ducks and geese back to eager hunters. Throw in impeccable health scores and we have the makings of a great dog.

Now how do we know that the dog will produce the pups we are looking for? The tale of the tape is always in the bottom line of a pedigree. Take for instance INT FTCH Beiley’s Aguzannis of Fendawood, his mom, mom’s mom, and mom’s mom’s mom are all FTCH or FTW’s. This strong bottom line is likely why he is a favorite sire across the spectrum of lab breeders out there. He’s not a splash in the pan of a great trainer and a lucky dog coming together. Many dogs have won the British championship, not all have gone on to consistently throw great pups. I think of dogs like Deke the DU Dog, whose mom was a FTW, his sire Kane out of a FTCH, or  INT FTCH Shimnavale Excaliber, titled mom. 

What about legacy dogs, well, the mom line is still the most important line. No titles or tests over here to prove a dog to the standard available in the UK and Ireland. Here we are basing breeding decisions in eyes of the true judge of all dogs, the “breeder.” A dog we have bred ultimately must pass as an exceptional dog to us and our clients. This is why so many people over the years have come back to Wildrose for pups, because they like the dogs we like. A title is only a judge’s opinion at the end of the day and sometimes they are wrong, maybe the dog had a good day that day. As a trainer we spend every day with a dog, if a dog can pass as a worthy dog to breed after being judged everyday then it must be alright. 

So what about Wyatt?? Wyatt’s sire is the great INT FTCH Shimnavale Excalibur who I already mentioned, but the most exciting thing about Wyatt is his mom’s line. Tia is a cross between Deke and Sprint, both bred by Mike Stewart, both exceptional dogs. Sprint’s mom might be the most special of them all. Her mom, Beretta had the distinction in her life of being Mrs. Cathy’s personal dog, and Beretta’s mom, a FTCH. It just doesn’t get any better.

We have been extremely pleased with Wyatt and his pups so far and are very excited for the what the future holds with him.




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Wildrose Gala Announcement

This year, 2022, Wildrose celebrates 50 years of continuous service to the Sporting Labrador Enthusiasts. Join the Wildrose Pack for a celebratory evening marking this milestone on the training grounds of Wildrose Mississippi. Enjoy an evening of music, socialization, celebration, and Wildrose Labs along with an assortment of Southern dishes to please any pallet. Many of our partners will be on hand with special displays to enjoy along with an auction specially donated items with proceeds supporting our nonprofit Wildrose Service Companions. Of course, Wildrose dogs are welcome and expected.

Click to purchase event ticket

Contact Wildrose at 662-234-5788, info@uklabs.com

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Mira, The Pinnacle’s Facility Dog

A Partnership between Wildrose Kennels and The Pinnacle

By Dr. Ben McClelland

“Typically, a therapy dog has one handler and caregiver. What happens when a dog has multiple handlers and caregivers? And it serves as a therapeutic assistant for many people? That’s the life and career of a facility canine. Such a situation requires a great dog and an equally great facility staff. Mira and The Pinnacle are the definitive example of this cooperative arrangement.” –Scott Wilson  

Wildrose Neon Mira, “Mira”

For well over a decade Wildrose Kennels has been involved in raising and training service dogs, in addition to gundog and adventure dog companions. In 2008 “Wildrose established the Masters of Scent program and our progeny gained a significant reputation with the Service Dog Community – diabetic alert companions, accelerant detection, search and rescue canines and therapy dog companions.”  The following year Wildrose held the first National Conference for Diabetic Alert Dogs and also “founded the Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dog Foundation housed with Create Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit to support the placement of Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs. The foundation continues today as Wildrose Service Companions” (Wildrose Historic Timeline) and we thank all our gracious donors who make placing dogs like Mira possible through this fund. Over the years Wildrose has placed numerous dogs for scent alert service work and as therapy companions. In 2014 I edited Lifesaving Labradors: Stories from Families with Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs, a book published by Koehler Books, featuring a dozen medical alert teams.

Drs. Scott and Roxy Wilson relocated to Oxford from Illinois and became game-changers for Wildrose’s service dog program. In 2015 they adopted Widgeon, who took to his retirement career as a therapy dog and, with Scott’s guidance, earned his American Kennel Club Therapy Dog designation in less than a year. For two years Scott and Widgeon volunteered as a therapy team, visiting area schools, hospitals, and retirement homes. Scott soon became a licensed Pet Partners therapy team evaluator and in 2017 he became a certified educator for canine service teams in North Mississippi and West Tennessee.

Wildrose Widgeon

Scott and Widgeon—along with other Wildrose service dog teams, including Eider and I—made regular weekly visits to various care facilities, including Pinnacle, a full-service assisted living community with a memory care center. As Scott notes, residents in community care facilities respond well when a therapy dog visits because it’s a change of pace, a break from the daily routine. Moreover, most everyone is generally aware that there are positive health benefits from a friendly dog visit, but Scott reports the specific health benefits, as documented in scientific studies: a 63% reduction in blood pressure; 3% slower breathing rate; 22% drop in pain severity; 19% boost in energy; 48% decrease in depression; 64% drop in feelings of anger; and 39% decrease in pain (Nagengast, Coakley, and Mahonel).

Besides the fact that Mira is an exceptional canine, her success as a resident facility therapy dog can be attributed to the staff’s whole-hearted commitment to her membership in their community life. Quite literally, Mira lives in the Pinnacle offices. Her kennel and primary bed, plus food and assorted care items, are located in the office of Mary Margaret Wamble, the Activities Director. Mira’s schedule for airing, feeding, exercise, training, and visiting is posted there.  But she also has a bed in the office of Nicole Smith, the Executive Director, one in the office of Ryan Fulcher, Director of Nursing, and one in the physical therapy area. Displayed in the hallway, a colorful poster with Mira’s picture welcomes her as a new resident.   

Not only did each staff member take ownership of the idea, but also all of them (who also have personal pets at home) bonded with Mira and integrated her into their daily routines. So, as soon as Ryan arrives each morning, he takes Mira out for her morning exercise. When LPN Maddie McFarland, begins her morning rounds to wake residents and give them their medications, Mira accompanies her in each room. The residents respond enthusiastically to Mira. In fact, she motivates many of them to wake up and begin their days, especially some who were slow to arise in the past.

Likewise, when Mary Margaret Wamble, the Activities Director, begins her daily routine, Mira not only accompanies her, but also actively participates in all of the events, including the arts-and-crafts session, and the once-monthly resident counsel meeting for all residents. Moreover, every weekday at 9:30 a.m. Mary Margaret takes Mira outside in an enclosed yard to interact with the memory care residents.

Mira, essentially, is an adjunct staff member. She’s not just a visitor or an accessory. She’s a principal participant in daily life at Pinnacle. 

Some residents also include Mira in their daily—and nightly—routines. Bill and Dot Denton, for example, make daily visits with Mira a special time. Bill, who had owned a wonderful Labrador, has bonded with Mira, inviting her to join him in his suite for extended stays, usually including napping with him. Another resident, Rosemary Adams, who stays active in the evenings when others are abed, walks with Mira throughout the facility. They both enjoy the quiet companion time together. 

For her part, Mira is an active partner. She is not a passive presence; rather, she seeks close physical engagement with everyone—including an occasional, gentle lick on the hand or cheek for those residents who offer themselves to it. Many residents want to pet Mira. Others want more physical contact, including letting her touch them.  

Mira’s Background

Wildrose Neon Mira, “Mira” was born on December 7, 2012, at Wildrose Mississippi of parents with distinctive heritage. Her sire was Field Trial Champion Delfleet Neon of Fendawood, “Del.” Her dam was Astraglen Farah “Molly,” a Heritage dam.  From her early days Mira received background training in the home of a Wildrose trainer. A puppy with high energy, she showed promise of becoming a great retriever. Entering into formal gundog training at seven months of age, she successfully progressed all the way through the program. After she passed her training course and all of her health exams, she qualified to become a mama dog for Wildrose. Following a wonderful career delivering many fine litters, Mira was retired from the breeding program—at seven years old—and placed with a family that always found her so sweet and loving. However, two years after her placement, circumstances changed with the family and she rejoined the staff back at Wildrose, staying with a trainer and awaiting the best placement for the next chapter of her life. When the staffs of Pinnacle and Wildrose began pursuing the idea of a facility dog for The Pinnacle, they found that nine-year-old Mira was the perfect fit.

Challenges Ahead

 Because of the Pinnacle residents’ positive experiences with therapy team visits by Wildrose dogs, such as Widgeon, Roxy, and Eider, the staff discussed the idea of getting a dog full-time, one that would be theirs, one that would be available as the residents’ companion every day. So, the staff made a unanimous decision, discussed the idea with Scott, and the planning began, eventually leading to trial visits with Mira in January, 2022, and to her placement at Pinnacle as her home. From the first day this venture looked very promising and in just a few months it has become a resounding success.

Even with Mira’s impressive debut as a facility dog, challenges await her and the staff as their venture moves forward. One has already become evident: the residents, being kindhearted, naturally want to offer Mira treats. And she loves receiving them. Scott acknowledges this issue, telling an anecdote about another facility dog: “My first encounter with a facility dog in an assisted living environment was at the Mississippi State Veterans Home. One of the staff had a marvelous golden retriever, Clifford, who was as friendly as he could be and more than willing to approach and comfort any of the residents and staff. I met Clifford the first time I visited the MS VA home with my first therapy dog teammate, Wildrose Widgeon. Clifford had one serious health issue—his weight. Unfortunately, everyone including the staff was willing and anxious to feed treats to Clifford. Consequently, he weighed twice his optimal weight, but I’m quite certain he never complained.  Therein lies one of the major challenges for a facility dog. Not only does the canine have to manage his own bathroom habits, the dog must remain calm, friendly, fearless, stable, and responsive—and occasionally politely refuse food when offered. Moreover, the staff and residents must assist in this task.” 

The Pinnacle staff has begun to do its part by posting a notice about Mira’s nutrition and urging that nobody give her treats. Following through on this policy on a regular basis is the challenge that everyone faces.

I know that all Wildrose pack members join me in wishing Mira a fulfilling life as she helpfully touches the lives of all of those in her home—Pinnacle of Oxford.  


Nagengast SL: The Effects of the presence of a companion animal on psychological arousal and behavioral distress in children during aphysical examination. Journal of Pediatric Nursing 19976. Coakley A, Mahonel E; Creating a therapeutic and healing environment with a pet therapy program. Therapeutic Clinical Practice. 2009,15930,141-145.

Wildrose Website, Historic Timeline.



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Wildrose Midwest March Training Blog

Wildrose Midwest has officially launched our new website, uklabsmidwest.com. On our site you will find lots of information on our dogs, training programs, breeding calendars, upcoming events, both locally and nationally, and lots of great advice from our rich history of training blogs. We hope you will enjoy the site for years to come.


Wildrose Handler’s Sessions

Over 125 handlers and their dogs from across 26 states traveled to Wildrose Kennels in Oxford Mississippi for our four-day handler’s workshop. The workshop was divided into two days for Basic Handlers and two days for Advanced Handlers. Participants in the Basic Handlers focused on core steadiness and retrieving skills using a safari style learning program that moved across 24 different skill stations over the course of their two days. As we moved into advanced handler’s the drills were significantly more challenging providing handlers and their dogs the opportunity to work on complex land and waster retrieving scenarios. Handlers were taught and supported by 20 Wildrose trainers who came in from across the country.

Check out all the fun and learning our handlers had on our Facebook page.Wildrose Midwest will be running local (S.E. Wisconsin) handler’s workshops beginning this spring, but in a slightly different format featuring an 8-series workshop with very small classes dedicated to individualized instruction. Classes will be limited to a 3:1 handler to trainer ratio. If you are wanting to train your own dog, but would like to use the proven-Wildrose Way, this would be a perfect opportunity for you. Class participants are provided special access on our web site for 1:1 communication with our trainers and the ability to post videos and receive individualized feedback. Visit our website to learn more about Wildrose Midwest Handlers Workshop.


Our second round of “spring puppies” has arrived. River and Whiskey (pictured L-R with Trainer Chris Korff) are setting into their new training surroundings.

Our final grouping of puppies has just been born and will be coming in for training the week after Easter.If you are interested in learning more about our puppies and started dogs, please contact us.

Chronicling Our First Year of Training

We are now are seeing our puppies doing a very nice job with the following basics:

  • Housebreaking – The time that we spent waking up in the middle of the night and taking the puppies out frequently during the day has paid dividends. The puppies’ bladders are now strong enough that they can go 3-4 hours between bathroom breaks during the day and 7 hours overnight.
  • Name recognition – Having a dog understand their name and their name be a precursor to commands is a key part of their development.
  • Steadiness while waiting for food and threshold training – These behaviors are well entrenched and have become a habit rather than something we need to continually remind them of. Note: Depending on the size of the puppies, we will switch over to feeding 2x a day ~ 2 cups per feeding.
  • Sit -Puppies are obediently sitting upon command and also every time that we stop on a walk. See how we teach and reinforce the sit command. 
  • Recall (come) is coming along nicely leveraging their desire to be with us. We continue to have a 1/4″ nylon rope lead around the dogs in the yards, so if they don’t immediately recall upon being called, we can reel them in.
  • Beginning place training – Place training on Kuranda beds in the house should be progressing to the point where a puppy will stay on place with you in the room for at least 10 minutes. We have begun introducing distractions, such as leaving the room, for short periods of time.
  • Outdoor Cato board work – Every outdoor training session we have involves some time on the Cato boards. Even if it is just walking up to them and having the puppy sit down. Our puppies are excited to run over to the Cato boards and wait for some type of training to occur. This behavior will pay dividends later in our training. These short Cato board videos will show the progression of how our dogs learn to incorporate a wide variety of skills on/from their Cato boards. Cato to Cato. Initial Retrieving back to a Cato board.
  • Refining the heeling skills – Our expectations are beginning to increase in terms of the puppies heeling. Even for those who are doing a good job, we continually use a leash/rope to make sure that the proper position is well entrenched and there is no cheating.
  • Beginning Retrieves – We have given the puppies 2-3 retrieves per week in a very controlled environment to make sure we are reinforcing the behaviors we want.

This month’s work is focused on:

More advanced lead work – We are now working with our puppies to make sure their new-found confidence doesn’t turn into over confidence where they begin getting out ahead of us on lead because they “think they know where we are 

  • going”. We look for the puppies front shoulder to be by our foot and their head to be turned slightly inward toward us looking for where we are going. To make sure the dog is following our lead, we will introduce walking in squares and reverse heeling. The following video shows an example of both.
  • Denials – In order to build a patient and steady dog, they need to learn a lot of self control. The best way to do this is with denials. Denials can be any ball, bumper, Dokken that is thrown in front of of the dog while they learn to sit patiently and not break for the object. In the beginning, you will likely need to stand right next to your puppy with his lead in your hand as they will likely try to break for the object out of excitement. You will quickly see their learning kick in and after a short while they should start to settle in and break less frequently. We use a ratio of 10:1 Denials: Retrieves. What this means is that you will throw 10 denials (and you pick them up). If the puppy sits still and is patiently waiting, then they get the 10th retrieve. Over months, this builds incredible steadiness in the puppies.
  • Place Training – Rather than try to build up the duration that puppies stay on their Kuranda bed, we begin working more with distractions such as you walking out of the room for a minute or two, someone coming to the door and ringing the doorbell, etc.. If your dog gets off the Kuranda bed, which they inadvertently will, pick them back and up and put them back on the bed with a “place” command. The puppy is still in the learning phase, so our verbal and physical corrections are not very harsh.
  • Retrieving (beginning trailing memories) – With your puppy on lead, walk out on the short grass and place a tennis ball on the ground. Your puppy should be pretty excited by this, but don’t let him get at the ball. With your puppy at heel, walk away from the ball about 5 yards. Have your puppy sit facing the ball and then release him by name for the retrieve. he should have the desire to run out and get it. If not, you can walk closer to the ball and pick it up or kick it a few feet to rebuild some excitement. Once he picks up the ball, in an excited tone, recall him back to you. If he does not come right back, grab the nylon rope/lead and reel him back in. When he gets back to you, don’t immediately take the ball from him, but let him keep it in his mouth for a bit. When you do take it away, use the command “give” – although he will not know what this means at this point. See beginning demo video.

Loss Training – Using a tennis ball that has some scent (either natural feathers, or a scent stick) place the ball in a wooded or high grass area allowing the puppy to see you place the ball. Then release them by the object and when they get close use the command “loss”. In the beginning, you will make this very easy for the dog to see and find the ball. Gradually, you will move the ball to higher grass areas and begin to conceal it under leaves. This will be great fun for the puppy to learn how to use his nose to find things. Make sure that you still have the leash/rope around his neck so if he does not come right back upon your recall command, you can reel him in. Demonstration video of loss drill.


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Wildrose History Part II

2000 -Present

“The Build”

Coupled with much excitement and anticipation, a full-time commitment was made to Wildrose January 2000.  The kennel move from Grand Junction was completed the prior year and our development of the 143 acres in Oxford, Mississippi with the vision of a world-class training ground was clear and underway.

Our objective for the company was to create a full-service sporting dog facility, utilizing British Labrador genetics and train with a balanced approach to create a gundog of duality, teach handlers, and create a sporting lifestyle community of followers that embraced the Wildrose Way. We clearly defined the desirable “product” The Gentleman’s Gundog. A lab capable of retrieving ducks in the morning, quail that afternoon, then compatible in the home with the family that evening. Our company was to become a “one stop” resource for our clients… puppies, available trained dogs, training options, educational workshops, and field-tested products available to complement the client’s experiences.

With the clarity of purpose well defined in mind and the understanding of our goal of quality (to exceed expectations), our first kennelman was hired and training services expanded as orders and requests for services began quickly rolling in.

FTW Drummer

By early 2000, Wildrose had imported our first titled sires:  FTCh Angus and FTW Drummer.  To collect Drummer, I ventured to N. Ireland that spring to visit Nigel Carville, who had arranged Drummer’s placement with us.  Before meeting the big yellow male, a stop was made at Sam’s Jennet’s home to arrange a training date and collect Drummer.  A late afternoon visit in the UK to one’s home, of course, required a spot of tea. Sam properly served an excellent brew, laced heavily with an Irish libation and being a gracious host, the offerings continued for some time.  After the enjoyable social, I was introduced to our first titled sire, Drummer.  Beyond the influences of the lovely Irish “teas,” the big yellow dog was impressive. One must really appreciate Irish custom and hospitality.  

Both Drummer and Angus became very popular at Wildrose. Drummer was featured in an advertisement for Avery and on the cover of an Orvis catalog, as he was one handsome dog. At retirement Drummer went to live with James Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape. Angus’ progeny remains in Wildrose heritage lineage today.  

Three significant occurrences for the company in 2001:

  1. The first was the creation of the Wildrose newsletter which later became the Wildrose Journal, our online magazine, which now reaches 23,000 subscribers.
  2. Ducks Unlimited contacted Wildrose with the possibility of creating a company mascot for their television show, “The World of Ducks,” and public appearances.
  3. Wildrose hosted our first Handlers Workshop, a two-day event to help our clients become effective handlers of their dogs. This event has occurred each spring uninterrupted to date. 

Eric Keszler of Ducks Unlimited and Mike developed the idea of Drake, the DU Dog, that could be trained in short, filmed segments, then featured on DU TV weekly in addition to making public appearances representing DU’s waterfowl conservation message.  The series followed Drake’s training from puppyhood through his participation on the 2004 US Gundog Team at the P & O Irish Sea International Gundog Competition in N. Ireland (The US team won the event.) and on through his senior years totaling eight consecutive seasons of training tips the Wildrose Way.  

People have related many times how they followed our training tips without the use of e-collars and force fetch to develop their own gundogs, step by step.

Drake’s replacement was Deke in 2008 and the training segments with DU continued uninterrupted to date (2001 to present) making the series of Drake & Deke and “Training the Wildrose Way” the longest running TV production on gundog training in history.

In 2002, Wildrose and the DU Dogs became a regular feature, representing DU at the Great Outdoor Festivals in Memphis, TN, and Oshkosh, WI.  

In 2003 it became apparent that an element missing in our training services was exposure to fast-moving water and streams. The various water resources at the Oxford facility were non-moving.  Hunting on rivers and swift-moving streams proved to be a challenge for dogs lacking in exposure to these environments.  The solution was to develop a second training location offering moving water: OZARK. The property is located on the Little Buffalo River in Newton County, Arkansas, one of the most rugged sections of the Ozarks.  The training grounds offer 2/3 of a mile of riverfront and excellent tall grasses with rocky exposure. Our river training services at this location remain in operation today, “Wildrose of the Ozarks.”

Wildrose Arkansas

Wildrose became Orvis Endorsed in 2003 for sporting dog services and Pro Shop, a relationship that developed into their assistance in the publishing of our training book, Sporting Dogs and Retriever Training, the Wildrose Way. (Orvis Press, 2012)

Significant benchmarks were achieved for the Wildrose vision in 2006:

  1. We produced our first proprietary DVD featuring the Wildrose balanced methodology for gundogs.
  2. A Wildrose dog had been delivered in every state and each Canadian province encompassing North America.  
Wildrose Way DVD and Upland Gundog DVD

During these years as we continued to expand our market and brand recognition, many staff members contributed to the success, so much so that Part III of this series will be dedicated to recognizing them and discussing of the Wildrose Way training methodology’s development.  So, please excuse the omission at this point.

Wildrose was afforded the opportunity to open a summer training facility at Clear Creek Ranch, Granite, CO, in 2008.  The location was previously an Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Destination offering fast-moving water resources for river exposure for dogs in training. At 9000 ft. altitude, summer mornings are much cooler than Mississippi and Arkansas and offered no challenges presented by snakes and ticks, a perfect location for summer, pre-season tune-ups for gundogs and adventurers.  

In 2008, it became evident that there was a parallel unfilled need in the sporting dog lifestyle market that did not necessarily involve hunting.

Wildrose Colorado

The back story:  Cathy, Whiskey, one of our sires, and I were training in Colorado for the summer. One afternoon after a hike we were enjoying a visit to an outdoor oyster bar in Aspen, CO.  Whiskey was, as usual, well mannered and controllable in this public setting.  A bit of time passed before a gentleman approached and asked, “How did you get your dog to be so well behaved?  My dog… no way.”  Soon a couple more similar remarks from passing individuals occurred and to each I responded, “I train dogs and these behaviors are the typical result.”  In turn, for purposes of polite conversations, I asked of their professions, and each responded similarly, “I manage money.”  After the third interested money management party departed, I turned to Cathy and said, “There’s a market for this.” 

The first step to building a brand is to identify a need, then fill it, and there it was, the need of a controllable canine family dog for outside activities. This opportunity began our Adventure Dog training and later our certification program, created to develop a destination companion that is prepared to go anywhere, anytime, under any conditions.

For sure, there were raised eyebrows and doubts among some of my associates as to the future of such an offering but once the Wildrose Adventure Dog was introduced as a lab that was compatible in the home and controllable on any outside adventure the program, its graduates became just as popular as the Wildrose Gentleman’s Gundog.

In 2008, Wildrose expanded its training services to include Diabetic Alert Service Dogs (DADs).  The training involved four elements to develop a dog to the point it could consistently alert a diabetic’s low blood sugar.  We called the program “The Masters of Scent.”  The Wildrose British dog offers the necessary elements of a DAD… calm temperament, social nature, smaller in size, trainability, and superb scenting abilities.  The combination worked perfectly.  The Wildrose DAD training included:

  1. Public Access
  2. Scent Discrimination
  3. Chaining an alert (passive but obvious)
  4. Controllable obedience

Wildrose founded a nonprofit to support our service companions program funded through donations.  The Wildrose Service Companion Fund is managed by the Create Foundation of Tupelo and continues to date supporting a variety of service and therapy dog needs.

In 2009, in the depth of the recession, writer Monte Burke called, requesting an interview concerning the topic of recession-proof businesses.  The article was submitted to Forbes Magazine, as they searched for unique businesses that were prospering given the worldwide financial difficulties.  What chance did a gundog facility have in such deep water?  Surprisingly, Wildrose’s story was chosen to be in the finalist and a photographer was sent to Wildrose. In the end, we got the cover shot and an article placing Wildrose Inc. in the top five businesses reviewed. One cannot imagine the calls that rolled in after that issue of Forbes Magazine was published.

That same year Garden & Gun Magazine selected Wildrose for one of their “Best in the Sporting South” recognitions. In 2012 Garden & Gun graciously selected Wildrose for the same honor again with Deke’s photo taken by Andy Anderson gracing the cover.  This issue became popular and sold out quickly.

Ben McClelland published Lifesaving Labradors in 2013, which includes stories of Wildrose Service Companions and our training book, Sporting Dogs and Retriever Training, the Wildrose Way, now in its 5threprint, was published detailing our balanced training methodology in 2012.

In 2013 Forbes once again published an article on Wildrose and our service to the sporting dog community.  The article, “Lux Labs” appeared in their supplement magazine, Forbes Life, for subscribers of Forbes but this issue didn’t feature Wildrose on the cover.  No, Ivanka Trump “stole” the prestigious cover shot; nevertheless, we were honored.

In 2013 Deke appeared again on the cover photo for the 10-year anniversary of Garden & Gun Magazine along with two other dogs that had previously appeared on the cover.  The shoot was held at George Hi Shooting Preserve in North Carolina.  The photo did take a bit of effort as the Golden Retriever involved kept punching out for a frolic in the lake, returning after much encouragement, soaking wet.  Deke, as calm as ever, did not understand the Golden’s issues.  “Sit here and let’s get this done,” was his communicated expression.  

Tom Smith with his Wildrose lab, Dixie, assumed the new position of General Manager with Wildrose in Oxford in 2014. This important placement of a talented leader to assume the responsibilities of daily operations at our main kennel became an initial step for our future development…regionalization. Tom’s years as General Manager gave him experience in all kennel functions from health care to training enabling his transition to ownership of the Mississippi facility.

2017 was a huge year for our business progression.  Wildrose developed two regional locations with GC Billups in Dallas at the Dallas Hunting and Fishing Club, established in 1885, and our third facility in Mebane, North Carolina, close to Raleigh, opened to serve our East coast clients, owned by Kirk Parker.

Regionalization enabled Wildrose to better serve our nationwide clients providing service closer to their home and it shortened the wait for our ever-growing request for puppies, trained dogs, and services.

In 2017 Wildrose partnered with our sponsor, Purina ProPlan, to address a void in the sporting dog market.  There was a need for a comprehensive training resource that covered how to start a sporting dog puppy.  Most materials available mentioned puppy backgrounding, then advanced quickly into basic training.  Our production filmed at Wildrose Mississippi, provided 16 lessons on how to properly teach a puppy the skills that will endure a lifetime.  The final product is available now at uklabs.com and was also featured on the American Kennel Club website for some time.  

The product endorsement advertisements, filmed simultaneously for ProPlan, resulted in winning an Emmy and ran two consecutive years during the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden on the jumbotron promoting Purina Pro Plan.

In 2018, Tom Beckbe sporting apparel and Wildrose teamed to produce a step-by-step feature on training the upland gundog.  It was filmed by Will Hereford, who brilliantly captured our balanced training methods for flushing and recovering upland game birds.  Tom Beckbe clothing is the official endorsed outerwear at Wildrose.

After 5 years as Wildrose Mississippi General Manager, Tom Smith assumed ownership of the Wildrose Mississippi region in 2019. Mike and Cathy then directed their full-time attention to the Wildrose International regional locations and operating the seasonal training grounds in the Ozarks and Colorado.  In 2020, Steven Lucius, Senior Trainer at Wildrose Oxford with 12 years’ experience, became co-owner with Kirk Parker of Wildrose Carolinas.  Steven provided a wealth of training experience to Wildrose Carolinas.  Allan Klotschke became an associate trainer for the North Central region, home based in Wisconsin in 2020. He arranged a partnership with Kohler Resorts at their River Wildlife destination to serve as training grounds for Wildrose Midwest and conducted a series of successful workshops.  In 2022, Wildrose Midwest became our fourth licensed regional facility, owned by Allan Klotschke.

The Wildrose journey has taken many trails that continue developing today as we celebrate 50 years of sporting dog excellence.

To all our clients and followers of the Wildrose Way, thank you!

1.Wildrose Whiskey
2.Irish Sea International Retriever Competition and Atlantic Cup Trophies, 2004 (Drake as a team member)
3.Mike Stewart inducted into the Mississippi Outdoor Hall of Fame, 2018
4.Drake’s Ducks Unlimited Canine Club Tag #1
5.Deke and Purina Pro Plan at the DU national convention
6.Wildrose Earth Roamer (@wildroseroaming)
7.UK partner Nigel Carville
8.Front gate at Wildrose MS
9.Steve Haight with Solo and Mike Stewart with Whiskey and Hamish – Filming for Benelli’s American Bird Hunter, SD
10.Pinny, WR MS first import with her first pup, 2000
11.Mike Stewart and Milton Starnes hunting the Yocona River with Pinny
12.Wildrose Hamish
13.The Wildrose Boat that can be found on property today
14.Original Wildrose retail shop
15.FTW Whiskey and FTCH Kane
16.Wildrose Carolinas
17.Wildrose Texas
18.Map showing puppies, started, finished dogs across the United States

In Part III, (The Way) we will discuss the development of our training methodology, our staff and partners who have contributed so much to the Wildrose brand over the years.

In our final segment, Part IV, (The Sun Never Sets) we will explore the opportunities and changes that occurred through the years that lead Wildrose to where it is today and our vision for the future. 

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An Appreciation of Wildrose Kennels and Introduction 

“The Story of Wildrose”

By Dr. Ben McClelland

For ages people have been living with dogs and telling stories about them. In contemporary American culture dog-hunting traditions are experiencing a renascence while new outdoor activities with dogs are burgeoning. Also, in the service alert dog field more and more people are living with attendant dogs. People from all of these arenas of the dog-handling world have stories that they love to tell about their canine companions. 

For us—members of the Wildrose family—our lasting relationships with our companion dogs begin here at Wildrose Kennels in the Piney Hills of northwestern Mississippi, eighty-five miles southeast of Memphis, Tennessee. This is Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, his “little postage stamp of native soil.”  In fact, Faulkner, who wrote the memorable hunting tale, “The Bear,” hunted the nearby Yockna River bottom for rabbits, big swampers. He and his hunting buddies ran gundogs in the woods and the upland meadows of these ridges and hollows that undulate into the horizon like deep, ocean swells. Mr. Bill also fished in nearby Enid and Sardis Lakes, as well as in the Tallahatchie River, the county’s northern border. Even though his fictional county’s real name is Lafayette—after the renowned Revolution-era French general who trafficked here—nearby counties carry tribal names: Chickasaw, Itawamba, Pontotoc, Tallahatchie, Yalobusha. Area mounds reveal ancient inhabitants that antedate by thousands of years the native tribes that inhabited the region when DeSoto ventured this far north. Place names reveal old Indian settlements, as well as famous battles of the Civil War. In nearby Oxford and on the Ole Miss campus monuments memorialize our civil rights struggle.

However, despite history and old stereotypes, Mississippi is not just a literary landscape and no longer a frontier region. Nor is Mississippi still burning, as we Wildrose pack members can attest. Quite the contrary. Through both its process and its product Wildrose Kennels embodies the best of the New South. Wildrose International’s President, Mike Stewart, a man steeped in this region’s hunting traditions, combines an old-fashioned work ethic with a progressive entrepreneurial vision to develop a brand that competes effectively in today’s global marketplace. 

So, the ride along Springdale Road nowadays to Mississippi’s Wildrose Kennels carries us into a uniquely modern culture. Wildrose integrates advanced genetic practices with a pure breed of Old World dogs and distills contemporary scent imprinting with ages-old training traditions to produce intelligent, easy-to-handle Labrador dogs. Wildrose Labs are loyal companions with exceptional skills for retrieving, for adventuring, or for alerting. Visitors to Wildrose Mississippi may hear versions of Southern drawl, but international elite canine is really the dialect spoken here.

Photo by Little Q Ranch

Several times a month—usually on Fridays—visitors arrive to pick up their Wildrose pups, traveling from every state in the union and from many places around the globe. On a fall morning folks navigate S-curves on the hilly lane through stands of deep green pine punctuated with mixed hardwoods, their leaves tinted red and yellow. Breaking out into spacious croplands, the visitors see an empty cotton wagon—red and rusting—at the edge of a field, a mute witness to the long-gone days of King Cotton. Nowadays winter wheat is the crop. Many fields are punctuated with the straw bales, looking like giant spools of thread resting on short stubble—all glistering gold in the sunlight, as shiny black crows caw and flap onto them.

Puppy Picking Day

Eager owners-to-be drive through Wildrose’s entrance—stone pillars encasing the wrought iron fashioning of the puppy-with-a-bumper logo surrounded by ducks aflight. Having waited month after month to welcome seven-week-old British Labs as the newest members of their families, they are embarking on journeys to fulfill the hopes and expectations of an outdoor lifestyle. Pups of promise await them in the standard colors, black and yellow, as well as the color du jour, fox red. It’s puppy pickin’ time at Wildrose. And more new stories will begin.

Front entrance to Wildrose Mississippi

 All of our stories emanate from Wildrose Kennel that has its own story of fifty years in operation, where owner Mike Stewart fulfilled his passion for outdoor life with dogs by developing the best product, developing a brand—Wildrose—and marketing the Wildrose dog as a companion to the active lifestyle. This is an inspirational story of a man, achieving his dream of passion for outdoors and translating it into a business that enables active families to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle with well-bred and -trained dogs.

Determined and disciplined, Mike Stewart, a veteran dog handler, had a passion for the outdoors and wanted to develop a gundog complement to that lifestyle. He began modestly, working hard with his dogs and studying business models. Not kennel businesses, but Harley Davidson and Mercedes-Benz. Stewart aimed to do more than sell dogs. He envisioned developing the best product, marketing a lifestyle concept, and developing a brand to fulfill it. When a kennel with a good name fell on hard times, he acquired it in liquidation. Looking for good bloodlines for breeding, he lucked upon good old Irish stock. Through years of more hard work, savvy Stewart not only raised masters of technique and personal style, but also catapulted two of them into sports world celebrity. For nearly a decade Drake was the Ducks Unlimited mascot that starred in the DU weekly television series’ training segments “World of Ducks.”  Following Drake’s retirement, Deke became DU’s mascot and one of Stewart’s star performers in shows and seminars around the country.

Adventure Dogs in CO

With the media exposure Wildrose Kennels boomed into a big business. Stewart teamed up with major outdoor companies, such as Ducks Unlimited, Orvis, Filson, Beretta, Outside magazine, Purina ProPlan, Blixt & Co., a premier traditional, English-driven, pheasant-and-partridge-shooting outfit based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. More recent partners include Wren & Ivy, Tom Beckbe, Gunner Kennels, and Yeti. In addition, Stewart developed a trademark on the unique puppy logo, the Gentleman’s Gundog™ as well as creating the Adventure Dog brand. Stewart has positioned Wildrose as the only kennel business of its kind, one with a unique product: its UK strain of Labrador Retrievers along with its advanced scent training and Old World methods of soft obedience and field training. 

            Over the years Stewart, his brand of dogs, and his unique training method have been touted in over forty magazine feature stories. The interior walls of the Super Learner Center at the Oxford kennel are covered with large, framed reprints of the colorful and informative, published offerings. Several portraits of Wildrose dogs also adorn these walls. When entering the Super Learner Center, it’s like stepping into a Wildrose Hall of Fame.

A few, singular articles identified and launched the brand to broader and broader markets. Garden & Gun magazine named Wildrose the Best in the Sporting South in its December 2009/January 2010 issue. A 2009 Forbes cover story featured Wildrose as a high-end, recession-proof business with annual sales topping $1 million. 

 A story in Covey Rise Magazine, narrated the moment that Stewart had an “Aha!” realization:

“I was standing there with a guy who had driven down from Nashville because he wanted me to train his retriever and his pointer to work together,” recalls Stewart. “He was one of those true Southern gentleman types, he even wore a white suit.” And as his genteel client watched Stewart train his dogs, he uttered the words that would set Mike Stewart on his current path: “Mike, what you train are gentleman’s gun dogs.”

“That was really the start of it all,” says Stewart. “That’s the market I decided on—well-mannered dogs you could live and travel with. What I like to call ‘dogs of duality.’” (Chad Love, “Dogs of Duality, Training the Wildrose Way.”)

            A second Covey Rise Magazine feature article documented Wildrose’s popular, communal pheasant hunt in North Dakota, where nearly two dozen handlers and their disciplined Wildrose dogs demonstrate both TSR (train, shoot, and retrieve) in the field and calm repose in the hunting lodge in the evening. (“Travel Ball for Retrievers, Hunting the Wildrose Way.”August-September 2016).

Thus, Stewart and his skillful trainers and associate trainers are not just selling dogs, but rather branding products and exporting companions for a lifestyle: skilled outdoor adventuring and hunting, as well as disciplined behavior at home. 

In addition, the Wildrose Trading Company offers the gear and apparel to do it all in classic style. And Stewart is not done dreaming. He’s already developing the next big thing, Wildrose International with regional operations. 

Mike Stewart’s success in developing Wildrose Kennels encompasses the worlds of sport dog enthusiasts, hunters, outdoors adventurers, and the service dog community. Central to Stewart’s enterprise is his commitment to high quality in all aspects of the business. Moreover, the kennel’s mission statement expresses Stewart’s aim to develop a specially bred and trained, family-oriented dog: “Wildrose Kennels breeds, trains, and imports the traditional British Labrador that is the perfect complement to a family’s sporting lifestyle.”  Wildrose Kennels has sold hundreds of fine dogs to a wide spectrum of American families that pursue American outdoor lifestyles. Wildrose also has clients both north and south of the U.S. border.

Under a large conceptual lifestyle umbrella, Stewart has spawned a legacy. More than just training and trading in dogs, he is trafficking in cultural traditions and enabling people to envision and enjoy active lifestyles. In the lead up to the fiftieth-anniversary of Wildrose’s founding, Stewart will be telling the story of Wildrose in a series of Wildrose Journal articles, beginning with the history and, later, including the business model, the development plan, and the vision for the future.

Mike Stewart pictured with Wildrose Pappy (Deke x Teal)

Dr. Ben McClelland

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Wedding Day Training

by Meg Veitenheimer, Wildrose Texas

You might think training a dog to be in a wedding would be an easy task; but, once you sit and consider a wedding is one major task, along with a truck load of mini-tasks, you might think differently. In this article, I will break down typical wedding day obstacles, necessary wedding day skills and describe how to turn these into training drills to prepare you and your fuzzy friend for your biggest day! Most importantly, consider your dog’s breed, age, training level and comfortability in public places before expecting too much of your dog on one of your biggest days.

The most important mini-tasks/skills involved in a typical wedding day would be potty training (obviously), heel, sit/stay, and recall.  Always start your training drills at home with little to no distractions.  The best approach is to set your dog up for success by working on the basics at home or somewhere he/she is familiar.  Potty training is often thought of as a given, unless your venue is strictly outside, or, you and your guests don’t mind the wafting smell of dog urine or poop (highly doubtful).  Kennel/crate training is very helpful with potty training in that consistency is the key to being successful.  Additionally, starting slowly is the best way to set your dog up for success. 

Photo from Hannah Harris, Training the Wildrose Way group page on Facebook

First, begin working towards heel and sit while your dog is on lead.  Heel might be the most important wedding day skill, especially if you are wanting them to walk calmly and controlled down the aisle accompanied by someone or on their own.  With your pup on your left side, encourage them to stay close to your side while walking.  You do this by adding influence to the lead (meaning giving small quick bumps on the lead) until your dog stops pulling forward or lagging behind.  A reverse heel is also helpful at this point in training.  If your pup is pulling ahead of you, stop walking forward and begin walking straight backwards.  This process requires the dog to turn around and follow you.  After approximately 10-12 steps backwards, start walking forward and help the dog into a heel position.  Repeat this over and over again, increasing the amount of influence on the leash as needed.  When training the ‘stay’ command, place boards work wonders.  They give a physical boundary for the dog to learn that is where he/she is expected to stay. Direct the dog onto the place board, and if he/she breaks, firmly place the pup back and repeat the command ‘stay’ or ‘place’ more firmly.  A lot of ‘wedding pups’ are expected to stay up at the altar with a wedding party member or on their own.  This is why ‘stay’ is such a crucial wedding day skill.  

Second, recall can be a tough skill, especially when adding a plethora of wedding day distractions. One great way to start working on recall is with your dog on a long lead. Put him/her into a sit stay, back away from your pup and call the pup to you using the pup’s name and a ‘here’ or ‘come’ command. Repeat this and continue expanding the distance between you and your dog. Many ‘wedding dogs’ are expected to recall from the back of the church, down the aisle. You can set up a drill like this within your home or on a public patio, with multiple chairs. Line a group of chairs and create an ‘aisle’ scenario. Heel/recall your dog up and down, repetitively, until he/she is proficient and then add more distractions.

Picture from Training the Wildrose Way group page on Facebook

If the actual wedding day is to be considered the one major task, you must consider each of the following factors, and how they might affect your dog’s behavior on the wedding day: crowds, chaos, loud noises, distractions, young children, elderly, food, the occasional real or faux fur attire, purses, etc.  The good news is that you can turn each of these factors into some sort of training drill to help you prepare your pooch for the big day.  The most important thing to consider, when thinking on these particular drills, is that dogs are very adaptable creatures.  That being said, they need help along the way…”shepherding,” if you will.  The best way to shepherd your pup into a calm, confident, and obedient wedding show stopper, is by getting him/her out and about as much as possible.  AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.  Riding in the car to the bank, the gas station, the grocery store on a cool day, etc. are all wonderful ways to introduce dogs to traveling and experiencing new things.  Keep in mind, you need to project and expect a calm confidence in order to achieve this goal.  When your dog gets flustered, take a deep breath and shepherd him/her into displaying the mindset/behavior you are expecting.  Home Depot is a wonderful place to do training drills in public.  Stores and atmospheres such as this, encompass the crowds, chaos, loud noises, and distractions, but in a very controlled environment.  Dog-friendly restaurant patios or bar/grill patios are equally as effective in helping you guiding your pooch into being the bell of the ball, so to speak!  The more your pup gets out and experiences these car rides and public places, the more calm and confident your canine will be on your big special day!

Photo from Colin Harris, Training the Wildrose Way group page on Facebook
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A Story of Fine Dogs, Unique Training, and an Authentic Sporting Lifestyle Brand


Mike Stewart is the President of Wildrose International, the oldest, largest and most diversified breeder and trainer of British Labradors in North America, with full-service kennels in Oxford, Mississippi; Dallas, Texas; and Mebane, North Carolina, and with additional training facilities in Granite, Colorado, and Jasper, Arkansas. Wildrose specializes in producing Irish and British Labrador retrievers as “The Gentleman’s Gundog,” “Adventure Dog,” and “Service Companion.” 

Photo by Katie Behnke

The 50-year story of Wildrose Kennels is really a narration of many similar “trails” that crossed over time, not an isolated, single idea.  The journey has been and continues to be a progression, an intersection of vision, passion and opportunities that unfolded over the years.

Biz Stone once said, “Timing, perseverance and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”

That statement, in fact, is an accurate summation of the Wildrose Journey.  Today, the outcome is obvious but there are many back stories, facts, experiences, and relationships, some that remain in the shadows unknown to many, that make up the Gentleman’s Gundog brand of today.  With our 50-year celebration at hand, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the story that began decades ago as simply as “a boy and his dog.”

Growing up around a horse stable where Mike’s father trained Tennessee Walking Horses, everyone contributed.  As with many Southern families at the time there were always dogs about, primarily “bird dogs,” Pointers and Setters trained for hunting quail.  Wild quail in those days were plentiful in the hills of North Mississippi, making bird dogs popular with wingshooters.  Mike’s job as a youth was to care for the Stewart string of bird dogs and so the passion for the sporting dog became rooted early on.  Visitors to the stable would ask Mike, “Are you going to be a horse trainer like your dad?” His answer was “No, I’m going to be a dog trainer.”  Destiny?

Even before the age when he could actually shoot, Mike enjoyed training young starters as well as following in the tracks of hunters as they conditioned the dogs preseason, and then pursuing the wily coveys of “King Bird.” By his early teens, he even developed a small enterprise training Pointer pups to hold point, the whoa command and lead training both for the family’s dogs and a few others.

Over the years in high school, he enjoyed hunting his squirrel dogs, Butch and Red, while traveling about to locations in his 1960 VW bug.  At 15, he even trained a highly talented German Shepherd for agility and protection using an old Coast Guard manual that he found at the Ole Miss Library.  The dog’s name was Sam and much to his parents’ concern, the dog became very effective at the personal protection game.

The Trails Begin to Parallel

By 1972 he was training his first black Labrador, Cindy, for hunting. Duck hunting was gaining in popularity in the area as the wild quail population diminished.  Hunters wanted retrievers and the “Stewart” services were sought out.  Mike began offering training for Retrievers and obedience companions after hours of work and college attendance many times making house calls on his motorcycle for private consultation.  After his Britney passed, focus continued on his squirrel-treeing dogs and the occasional retriever. Also, working with problem dogs and those obedience issues in the Oxford community became an interesting side business for him. So, it went through his career in Law Enforcement, dog training as a part-time enterprise that was actually a passion.

Meanwhile, in 1972, Robert Milner established Wildrose Kennels in Grand Junction, Tennessee and ultimately, in later years, began to breed American Labs crossed with labs of British genetics to develop a clientele for biddable wingshooting companions.  His methods became popular with many duck hunters.  The two trails of Mike and Robert continued to develop in parallel through these early years.

Stewart’s K9 interest shifted in the 1980s toward breeding, training and trialing Beagles. Still his main English Hound “Queen” remained as his main treeing dog.  In 1988, he acquired the 143-acre property in Oxford for training purposes and began developing the facilities that host Wildrose today.

Ed Apple, of Memphis, Tennessee purchased Wildrose in Grand Junction and its properties in the early 1990s from Robert Milner who returned to corporate life in Memphis.  Apple continued to improve the facilities and quality of the British broodstock, converting the lines to 100% British or Irish genetics.  He imported the first Field Trial Champions for the kennel in 1995 named Toby and Solo, one yellow and one black.  His quality improvement initiative was soon apparent.

By the 1990s with the new property developing rapidly in Lafayette County, Mike began emphasizing training multiple sporting breeds including Setters, Vizslas, large-breed dogs for obedience (Standard Poodles to German Shepherds) as he kept his Beagle rabbit dogs active.  Soon the calls for training services overcame the practicality of retaining the Beagles as kennel space became needed.

Interestingly, today’s Wildrose Way training methods show evidence of these decades old experiences: 

            Obedience: patience and discipline

            Retrievers for waterfowl

            Low-force methodology

            Beagle training for tracking and scent work

            Bird dogs for backing, steady to flush and pointing

Imprinting baby colts

Halter breaking and teaching colts to lead and whoa

All disciplines, although somewhat dissimilar, compose the Wildrose Way of developing gundogs and adventure companions today.

In the late 1990s, the training focus became more specialized: obedience companions, retrievers and the occasional versatile pointer breed for quail, dove and duck.  

Now, another trail emerges.  In 1998 Mike was contracted to train a retriever and setter together to hunt quail for a wingshooter in Nashville.  Today, we would refer to this training as our Strike Dog program.  When the man arrived to collect his two shooting dogs, he was surprised to find that both worked well afield without e-collars, had never been force fetched to retrieve, yet did so quite well.  Both were steady to point, flush, shot and were a pleasure to be around, calm and obedient.  Mike was impressed with the man’s appearance: proper shooting attire, shooting coat, handlebar mustache, crooked-stem pipe and a large-brim hat.   No camouflage clothing.  An image was forming in his mind realizing full well that appearances in business matter.  Then there were the man’s comments as he reflected on his dogs’ performance, “Well, you are training the Gentleman’s Gundog.”  Mike replied, “I can use that.”

And, so, the image of a gentleman and his dogs became the handle for the future brand for Wildrose.  Now, the Gentleman’s Gundog is a U. S. Trademark for Wildrose, the first and likely still the only registered Trademark for a sporing dog brand in the U. S.

In 1999, the kennel began to get some talented young dogs in for training that were easily trained, calm and smaller in size.  These dogs fit perfectly into our no-collar program.  These youngsters were purchased from Wildrose in Tennessee.  Further, Mike learned that the kennel was being liquidated, going out of business.  Mike’s father had purchased a couple of great Labs previously from Wildrose (Toby) that turned out splendid, so off Mike went to visit Ed Apple in Grand Junction about the purchase of a few of his remaining dogs.  Little did he know that yet another trail was about to converge.       

In 1999 Stewart purchased the entire Wildrose company from Ed Apple and merged it with his existing training facility in Oxford. As the Tennessee property, facilities, and dogs were liquidated and sold as individual components, Mike secured the rights to the company’s name, client records, data base, website, kennels, equipment and logo. Matched to its new home base in Oxford and Mike’s respected training programs, Wildrose Kennels was born again as “The Gentleman’s Gundog”.

Soon after, another important trail materialized and intersected perfectly.  Mike discovered an obscure telephone number noted on a set of import registration papers.  The number was to N. Ireland.  One phone call later to introduce himself resulted in meeting Nigel Carville on the other end of the line, the beginning of a valuable, multi-decade relationship between the two dog trainers.

Mike, at Nigel’s invitation, arranged a trip to N. Ireland to discuss his vision, the future of the new Wildrose.  Nigel was immediately on board.  After over two decades, the two remain fast friends and business partners.  Nigel went on to win the 2005 Irish Championship with International Field Trial Champion Astraglen Brooke. Over the years, her progeny and that of her sister heavily influenced the Wildrose bloodlines in the US market.

Nigel Carville

By 2000, the vision of the Gentleman’s Gundog, a dog of duality, was a reality.  The goal: to produce a healthy Labrador which possesses natural gamefinding ability, of biddable nature and one of reasonable size and conformation, an authentic British Labrador that is the perfect complement to a family’s sporting lifestyle.

With everything in place and opportunities developing, it was time to make a full commitment to the company.  Mike retired from the University of Mississippi as Chief of Police, January, 2000.

 Then his dream held as a youth was fulfilled… he was a dog trainer.

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