Perhaps you’ve welcomed a new pack member home this spring. A new puppy brings anticipation of successful days afield, coupled with high hopes for the dog’s performance upon reaching maturity. Handlers working their first Wildrose dog approach training a new puppy with a sense of eagerness. Patience quickly becomes a much-needed virtue when traversing the long road ahead in preparing the new pup for success in the field and home.
Training begins the day your new pack member arrives home. The first seven months of a puppy’s life, referred to as backgrounding in Wildrose circles, is critical to the long-term development and success of the new pack member. Backgrounding centers on establishing a carefully crafted daily routine that includes crate training, airing out, feeding, place training, socialization, tie-out, heeling on lead, basic verbal commands, sit to the whistle, and simple retrieves including trailing memories and 180s.
Developing and following a consistent daily routine for the new puppy is key to backgrounding success, and foundational in preparation for more advanced training. Behaviors instilled by the handler during the first seven months of a puppy’s life are most often permanently ingrained, so choose your teaching lessons wisely. Put simply, developing obedience during this time period is foundational to future success. An excellent resource for the new handler training their first Wildrose dog is the first four chapters in Sporting Dog and Retriever Training the Wildrose Way, by Mike Stewart, which provides basic training instruction for the new handler. Also, take advantage of the complimentary 16-lesson “Starting Your Puppy, the Wildrose Way” videos at uklabs.com produced in association with Purina.
Kennel and associate trainers are available to answer questions during this critical developmental period. Reaching out with questions is well worth the time and effort when considering the long-term expectations for your new Wildrose companion. Be wise, consider your time, ability, and experience as you set your new pack member up for success!
Alan Newton, Associate Trainer firstname.lastname@example.org
Napoleon is said to have made the comment, I’m paraphrasing, “when I realized people would lay down their lives for little bits of colored ribbon, I knew I could conquer the world…”
How’s that for an opener?
I’ve been on the ribbon circuit since my dog, Wildrose Tara, was a puppy. Both United Kennel Club (UKC) and American Kennel Club (AKC) trade organizations have versions of hunt tests based on waterfowl and upland hunting scenarios. Each group awards ribbons and points for passing grades. The chase for ribbons excites and satisfies those of us who like to train and compete. The competition is against a “standard,” not with other dogs, though just as with high school math class, “grading on the curve” can happen. In other words, if all dogs are struggling with an aspect of a test, the judges may use discretion in scoring. Like all judged events, subjective evaluation is part of these tests.
Hunt tests are considered to be a team sport. Handlers receive as much scoring input from the judges as the dogs do, as each dog/handler team communicates and navigates the defined and often technical course. Tests often use topography, the lay of the land, and other natural nuances as “factors” to influence a dog’s ability to remember a mark or stay on a straight line for a blind retrieve. “Technical” ponds are built that include islands, fingers and points, all used to challenge a dog/handler team. A tough blind retrieve may require a dog to cross a finger of land, with reentry into water for a long swim. Another scenario might have the dog skimming the tip of a point of land, keeping the dog “wet.”
Tara is my second Wildrose dog. She and my first dog, Kayla, were bred from the same sire, Blackharn Bob. The Dams were Astraglen Dawn and Brooke, respectively. (Tara’s litter being through artificial insemination). The two dogs are half-sisters, with Bob being the constant. Kayla was also a competitive retriever, with tremendous marking skills and nose work that set her apart. She too had a wicked level of drive. Bob’s lineage was prodigious, to say the least. Ask Mike Stewart about all the dogs he’s imported and trained, and he’ll single out Bob as one that was special. In the world of retrievers, Bob was royalty.
Tara has excelled in most phases of testing. We received our UKC Finished title by the time she was two, and an Upland title before she was one. We recently achieved the 500-point level, which is the first major milestone after getting a Finished title. Each UKC Finished test is worth 15 points. We also received our Master title in AKC testing not long ago. AKC tests were notorious for being difficult to enter until they changed the rules recently, allowing amateurs to enter before pro trainers. We waited almost three years to enter an AKC Master test. Prior to the rule change, tests would fill up in less than 60 seconds.
Both trade groups’ tests are very technical. Marking, lining and control are central to what judges look for. AKC tests tend to be more involved, with walk-ups, double blinds, poison birds and a scoring system that is more detailed and perhaps more subjective, though that could be argued. And both group’s tests are “pass/fail,” with a trip home possible seconds after the first bird is thrown. Breaking, poor sportsmanship, and other flagrant behaviors sometimes elicit the comment, “put a rope on your dog, sir,” and “thanks for the donation…” from either of the two judges.
Tara loves the adventure of test weekends, the loading of gear, coolers, food, the overnight accommodations. She insists that I keep a window down during the drive so she can sample the outside air at various mile markers – the scents of the roadway giving her a sense of where we’re headed.
We’ve been all over the Southeast chasing ribbons. During a test, Tara actually drools at the line as birds are being thrown. She is also a leaper, sometimes called a “big air” dog – not always the safest behavior in a stick pond – but leap she does, despite me trying to discourage it at a very young age. At one test, a “wipeout” mark was thrown, left to right, landing only about 15 feet from us in the water. Tara leapt so high and so far she landed on the bird, taking it and herself completely under water. She must have gone ten feet up and 15 feet out. One of the judges laughed so hard he fell off his camp chair, knocking his coffee and scoring book up in the air and on the ground. The other judge laughed so hard at the first judge that he fell off his chair. A good time was had by all, so to speak, and Tara passed the test.
Tara was blessed with an abundance of prey drive, a Wildrose trait, and one that separates average dogs from exceptional ones. That prey drive can be fabulous in a duck hunt or a pheasant drive, but it can be ulcer-inducing in a technical, prescribed and judged test. Nevertheless, drive is essential for a solid retriever.
It’s been said that there are dogs that do what they do because they have to, for fear of correction etc., and there are those that do it because they love it. Tara loves it. And that’s why I do it, not just the testing, but the pheasant work, quail, partridge, ducks, geese. Ribbons are great but, Napoleon notwithstanding, once you have a pile of them, or milestone certificates and jackets with patches exclaiming another rung on the hunt test ladder, it really comes back to why I have a Wildrose dog. I wanted a companion. I wanted a partner in the field. I wanted to see a dog learn, and I love exploring a dog’s DNA and selective breeding traits through training. The tests are fun, and they give us something to do in the off-season, which, for a dog with preternatural prey drive is almost essential. Tara would need psychological counseling if we could only pick up birds for a couple months.
So the chase for ribbons has its place, but the essential place for a Wildrose dog is in a pheasant field or a duck blind. There’s no ribbon in the world as impressive as watching a dog break ice in a swamp at daybreak, chasing a crippled bird destined for the table. And there’s no judge’s score that can equal a handler’s pride when their dog gives chase to a wounded chukkar in tough cover. Game conservation is still our dogs’ purpose in life – and it’s our benefit to watch them do it.
In the Midwest it feels like we missed spring and went right to summer. Now that we have temps moving into the 90s with high heat indexes, it is very important that you closely monitor your training routines and exposure to enclosed spaces. When the temperature + humidity exceed 140, then we conscientiously move our training to the early mornings / late evenings and ensure plenty of water work to keep the dogs cool. If you are transporting your dogs to and from the training grounds, NEVER leave them unattended in a warm car. Battery operated fans are a great tool to use, but still are no substitute for common sense. Any outside temperature over 70 degrees should be considered too dangerous to leave your dog in the car without plenty of ventillation.
The progression we are seeing with our 6-7 month old dogs is impressive. Not every day is perfect and we need to continue to resist the urge to push them too quickly. It is amazing how quickly their minds can regress when we stop working on a core skill for even a week. Although it tends to get a little mundane from a trainer’s perspective, don’t stop working on the fundamentals. We incorporate group work into our training whenever possible – beginning with all of the dogs sitting on place boards and then calling them off individually to work on their drills. The steadiness that the remaining dogs develop while waiting their turn is priceless. If you do not have multiple dogs to train with, set your dog up on a MoMarsh stand or Cato board in the yard while you have company over for a summer BBQ and yard games.
New Skills We Are Teaching This Month:
Back casting -Our dogs are now at a development level where they are ready to learn casting. When teaching a dog to go “back” we like to further refine that by telling the dog which way we want them to turn – to their left or to their right. There are multiple, practical reasons that make it important to teach your hunting dog how to spin left or right:
In most hunting situations, seldom is an object directly behind the dog. It is either off to the left or the right a bit. We always begin with casting back to the appropriate distance before sending them side to side.
Sometimes the slope of the land will bias a dog in one direction or another. If you think of the sport of golf, we sometimes purposely aim slightly away from the target recognizing that our ball will naturally roll down a slope.
In an effort to properly align a dog with the scent cone to help them find the bird, we will want to make sure the dog is approaching the bird from downwind.
To teach this drill we begin by finding a straight edge like a fence line or side of a building. By using the fence line or building as a barrier, we are almost guaranteed the dog will turn in the correct direction. Begin by heeling your dog and placing a trailing memory in line with the fence line and then heel your dog back along the fence about 5 yards and have them sit while you continue to walk away from them. When you are back to your starting position, stop, turn and face your dog. With your dog facing you and their right shoulder up against the fence, put your right hand (palm out) about chest high, then at the same time push your hand (still palm out) straight up in the air and give the verbal “back” command. In the beginning, your dog will likely not understand what you want, so the closer you are to them, the more instructive your body language will be. I usually begin by taking a step 45 degrees toward the dog to help them understand I want them to go back and which direction to turn. See a video example of this drill. I will work on this “right back” for a solid week before moving on to the left back. As you might imagine, the left back is just done in reverse (i.e. you walk the other way along the fence line, line the dog up so their left side is tight against the fence line and then use your left hand to give the “back” command. We always emphasize back casts before side casts (which are easier). So make sure you have your back casts really entrenched for a couple of weeks before introducing side casts.
Pull push drill – There are two prerequisites for this drill; 1) your dog must be able to remote stop on the whistle and 2) your dog must understand back casting – both left and right. To help ensure the dog is doing this drill correctly, you may want to continue running this along the fence line described above. Heel the dog dog out about 20 yards and drop a trailing memory. Give the dog a soft “no” indicating they are not to retrieve this right now, and walk away from the bumper down the fence line. When you are about 10 yards away from the bumper, give the dog a stop whistle (1 on diagram) while you continue on walking another 10 yards. As you reach your stopping point, turn and face your dog. With your two arms outstretched, blow the recall whistle whistle (three peeps). When your dog is 1/2 way back to you, blow the stop whistle (#2 on the diagram) and have them sit. As you blow the stop whistle you will need to determine which direction you want them to spin and put up the appropriate hand. NOTE: If they don’t sit immediately, walk them back to the point where you blew the stop whistle and make them sit there. Now with your hand out in front of your chest, slide it upward and give the back command at the same time. When the dog picks up the bumper, have them retrieve it to you. See video example of this drill. You can and should mix up the cadence of this drill as your dog will begin to anticipate when you are going to stop them. Sometimes, recall them, then sit, then recall again a short distance before sending them.
Water Retrieves – With the warmer temperatures and the dogs doing well with their retrieving, we continue to work on water retrieving. The water offers the dogs a good chance to cool down as well as demonstrating how well they understand the job at hand when our control becomes limited standing on shore.
Double Retrieves – Last month we began introducing the dogs to two bumpers (doubles). As we continue to work on this drill, we are setting the bumpers closer together and teaching the dogs specifically which one we want them to run to first. Sometimes we do this with bumpers that are equi-distant while other times will introduce a long-bird, short-bird sequence. When running your dog on doubles, make sure you have a check cord on them in case they get confused and break from one bumper to another. Do not let bad habits (switching) into your training. See video example of how to run this drill.
Beginning Introduction to “live” birds – Duke began his introduction to birds last month with a feather tied to a cane pole and having that “flush” in front of him. Next we put a live pigeon on a harness connected to the cane pole with a string. With the dog sitting on their Cato board, we let the pigeon fly over/around the dog and look for the same steadiness that we expect with denials. For young dogs, this live bird can be pretty tempting, so it is best to have a second trainer work the bird while you concentrate on your dog. See video introduction of live bird.
More Adventure Dog Work – We continue to introduce Duke to lots of new environments and objects to help prepare him to be an Adventure Dog as well as a hunting dog. This month’s introductions include an ATV. As with all introductions, we start very slowly and just let the dog get acclimated to the new object. Ultimately we want the dogs to be able to heel at the side of a moving ATV and to ride on the back of an ATV sitting steady. See video example of ATV familiarization.Video heeling alongside ATV.
It has been 23 years since Wildrose joined our Mississippi training facility (est. 1988) and one could only describe these years as being a whirlwind journey. From the beginning, with one full-time and one parttime staff to the expanded footprint of the Wildrose regional training facilities today located across the country, who could have envisioned such an outcome those many years ago?
With the celebration of our 50th Anniversary (est. 1972) this year, we embraced the opportunity to reflect on those exciting and often challenging times through articles in our last three Journals: “The History of Wildrose.” Obviously, we could only touch briefly on many of the people and opportunities we encountered along our trails but as this is the concluding chapter of the series, we do not want to retire our reminiscing without expressing our gratitude to all those individuals who joined our journey with passion and creativity as well as our supporters who walked this trek with us.
Without talented team members, passionate enablers, contributors, sponsors, and especially loyal, enthusiastic clients, Wildrose would not have risen to the signature we enjoy today.
To our tribe of followers, thank you, Wildrose pack!
The Wildrose Journey Continues
Opportunities arise in the most unexpected ways and can prove to be rewarding if recognized and acted upon. This has been true throughout the history of Wildrose. Several of our more beneficial outcomes occurred as surprising opportunities.
In 2016 Wildrose client, Joe Crafton, approached us with an exciting idea. He was in the process of developing the historic Dallas Hunting and Fishing Club (est. 1885), the oldest sporting club of its type, west of the Mississippi. His suggestion was to place a Wildrose Kennel training facility at that location in conjunction with his vision for developing a sporting community of wing shooting and fishing enthusiasts. The full-service Wildrose facility would be an excellent fit, no doubt.
As many will attest, having a vision is one thing but developing a feasible plan then follow through with the actual execution is quite another. “Good idea, now how will it work?”
After much deliberation, the second opportunity arose. Guy C. Billups expressed interest in becoming a Wildrose affiliate trainer. He was living in Texas and had attended Wildrose events, so he understood our methodology. There it was… the vision, a plan, and the execution opportunity merging all at once. By early 2017, GC and Joe Crafton had construction underway making the Wildrose Texas facility and training grounds a reality. That fall the official, well-attended, grand opening of Wildrose Texas was launched at Collector’s Covey in Dallas.
Simultaneously, our vision expanded for regionalization to provide enhanced, accessible services in different sections of the country. Each site would be a licensed facility with universal operational standards, each specializing in the Wildrose Way of training and business practices. An oversite company was founded as Wildrose International operated by Cathy and me to coordinate the developing regions assuring a similar client experience at each location while operating in compliance with the Wildrose methodologies. Our goal was to decentralize, yet maintain a one-kennel concept, operating in different locations across the country to better serve our expanding client base.
Our next opportunity came also in 2017 when Wildrose client, Kirk Parker, approached with the desire to open a Wildrose facility in the Raleigh/Durham area, a rapidly growing population area in the Eastern region of the country. The Wildrose presence on the East coast was strong so the location was a perfect fit. Once the property was located, construction of a multi-purpose facility began hosting challenging terrain and beautiful water sources. Shawn Yates joined our staff in Oxford for months of initial training in preparation for meeting the needs of clients at Wildrose Carolinas.
As the kennel developed, so did the need for additional staffing for training, health care and general management. Senior Wildrose trainer, Steven Lucius, with 12 years’ experience, saw the opportunity and expressed a desire to become a co-owner with Kirk at Wildrose Carolinas. His experience and talents have complemented the growth of our Eastern facility.
Wildrose General Manager in Oxford, Tom Smith, who had been with the company since 2014, took command at our third regional kennel, Wildrose Mississippi, in 2019. His years in management with the company allowed for a seamless transition to ownership of the Southern regional site.
Allan Klotsche became an association trainer with Wildrose representing the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area in 2020 and teamed with senior associate trainer, Craig Korff of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Allan’s goal was to lay the foundation for establishing a full-service Wildrose facility for the upper Midwest region.
In 2022, Allan established the area as a licensed site, Wildrose Midwest. He developed some exceptional partnerships to enhance the Wildrose experience for clients offering superb workshops, training services and by developing an excellent training blog. We look forward to further developments in this popular region as Wildrose services expand.
Our two well-established, satellite, training grounds remain active for seasonal services. Wildrose of the Ozarks, Jasper, Arkansas (est. 2003), serves as a winter river training destination and Wildrose Colorado, Granite, Colorado (est. 2009), is our advanced summer training camp for upland and waterfowl retrievers. These regional facilities are seasonally operated by Cathy and me.
The purpose in our vision in expansion through decentralization is simple: regionalize the Wildrose talents by making our unique services more accessible to our clients and followers across the country.
Volunteers, supporters, contributors, and references are each extremely valuable to any company’s brand. Within these groups at the fringe of the benefactors are the enablers. These are the truly dedicated individuals who are embedded in the brand’s culture, people who rise to challenges and make contributions that endure. They are change agents who work for the cause out of passion, commitment, and love of the dogs. Enablers “move the ball.”
Wildrose is fortunate to host several such enablers that have made historic contributions to the Wildrose Way.
Dr. Ben McClelland
As Dr. McClelland was approaching retirement as the Schilling Chair of Writing with the University of Mississippi, English Professor, and former Director of the Ole Miss Writing Institute, he began a volunteer relationship with Wildrose Kennels as a Resident Writer, Apprentice Trainer and as an avid Wildrose enthusiast owning several Wildrose dogs that he raised and trained for hunting as well as companionship. His Wildrose companions would often accompany him as he continued to teach English and writing classes at Ole Miss, much to the delight of his students.
In the spring of 2011 and 2012 he attended the Wildrose DAD conferences, interviewed participants, and participated in the training sessions. In the spring of 2011, he began his background work collecting stories and information about the participants involved with our Diabetic Alert Dog Program. The outcome was his excellent book, Lifesaving Labradors: Stories from Families with Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs published in 2014. The personal narratives of the dozen diabetics, their Wildrose dogs, and their diabetic caregivers are the heart and soul of this book. With all book royalties going to the Wildrose DAD foundation, Ben was instrumental in working to support this Wildrose nonprofit housed with Create Foundation in Tupelo, Mississippi through his writing, coaching and fund-raising efforts.
McClelland also established the online blog/journal that we all enjoy today, and he continues to support the Journal as an editor as well as authoring numerous feature Journal articles over the past decade. Today, with an expanded editorial staff (especially, Danielle Drewrey) the Wildrose Journal is a social media leader in its class with over 23,000 subscribers and a consistent open rate of 40+%. Dr. McClelland continues to donate his time and efforts as the editor of each WildroseJournal publication.
Drs. Scott and Roxy Wilson
Scott and his wife, Roxy, bought their first Wildrose dog in 2013 and have since added 4 other Wildrose dogs to their pack. At that time, they were both professors at the University of Illinois. Scott and Roxy eventually retired to Oxford less than 3 miles from Wildrose Kennels. A retired professor and Material Chemistry Lab Director at the University of Illinois, Scott changed his title to Wildrose Service Companions Director becoming an essential volunteer with our Wildrose Service Companion program.
In this role, he set up school visits for our dogs to work in special education classrooms, worked with a local assisted living home in securing a retired mama dog to work with the clients there, visited a boys’ home regularly with his Wildrose dogs to provide therapy, placed dogs with veterans from our military services to assist them with PTSD and he’s currently working with a high school counselor in search of the right dog to assist with the needs of their patients and students. His own dog, Wildrose Roxy, is a registered Volunteer for Baptist Memorial Hospital where she supports the staff as well as the patients.
These are a few of his volunteer efforts coupled with earning his own license through Pet Partners to evaluate and register qualified therapy animal teams seeking to meet stringent criteria to function as a therapy companion team in public areas. Scott and Roxy travel to all our regional facilities offering training and certification assistance with our therapy companion programs.
The Purina ProPlan Team
Purina ProPlan is the nutrition of choice for Wildrose Kennels, and the company is an important, influential partner of Wildrose. The ProPlan staff has served as a superb consultant, educator, and resource for our staff, and they remain a valued sponsor of Wildrose demonstrations, events and of the training tip series on DUTV. ProPlan products are supported by world-class nutritional research and unequaled quality control in production. We trust the professionals of Purina to deliver excellence food for our dogs providing us also with absolute confidence in recommending their products exclusively to Wildrose clients.
As partners, I cannot say enough as to the contributions the Purina ProPlan team has made in support of the Wildrose experience, from our popular “Starting Your Pup” video series to our Emmy-award winning testimonials they produced as well as the many public appearances we have enjoyed together. Their team of professionals has proven to be valued enablers of the Wildrose Journey.
Wildrose has developed several proprietary resources that enhance our services. One is KennelPlus, launched on behalf of Wildrose International in the implementation of the one-kennel concept. The network links each regional location to a consolidated database formatted to create and store individual portfolios for each Wildrose dog produced. According to the American Kennel Club, our network is unique to any kennel facility in the U.S.
Nothing on the market existed to meet our networking needs for sharing records between facilities so Guy Billups and his wife, Kelsey, of Wildrose Texas worked with the KennelPlus Company to build the product. Over the years, the system has been tweaked to meet our specialized record requirements. All records were backdated to 2017 creating portfolios for every puppy delivered.
Each dog’s portfolio documents all relevant data: registration information, health records, owners’ information, microchip numbers, etc. Once established, other information is added as acquired: training contracts, evaluations, training tracks, and health records. Most importantly this documentation is retained indefinitely and is accessible by each regional facility. KennelPlus builds a Wildrose dog’s portfolio that follows the dog permanently.
SEAM is the acronym for the Wildrose sporting dog boarding activity program: Strength, Endurance, Agility, Mental conditioning. On average, dog boarding services provide little structure or activities that are beneficial for sporting dogs in their care, some activities can even be detrimental. The Wildrose SEAM package is different.
Wildrose recognized this problem and problems present opportunities in a market. Guy Billups, Wildrose Texas, drawing upon his experiences with the Rice University athletics physical conditioning program and input from the professionals at Purina, developed a unique activity program for dogs in short-term boarding. The system promotes physical conditioning, mental stimulation while refreshing skills and behaviors important to sporting dogs of any breed. The SEAM System.
Dogs in boarding receive daily structured activities that complement their prior training or behaviors expected afield, on trail or around town. This differs for most boarding facilities that do not reinforce appropriate behaviors or provide beneficial structured, stimulating activities beneficial to the sporting dog. SEAM accomplishes these desirables. The program is open to all sporting breeds at most facilities and available at all sites for Wildrose dogs.
Joining the Pack
Wildrose workshops and events have continued since 2001 to expand offerings for clients and followers interested in the Wildrose Way of training and outdoor sports promoting travel to destinations with their dogs for engagement in learning experiences and activities that are enjoyed by the dog and handler alike. Wildrose activities are client-oriented offering excellent opportunities for participation and building relationships with other Wildrose pack members.
Many of our activities and destinations established over the years remain popular today: Blitx & Co, Idaho (Driven Picking Up), Blackfly, Bahamas (Adventure Dog- Fishing), Westervelt, Alabama (Wing shoot/ Picking Up), Wilson, Arkansas (Quail Hunting), Little Q, Oxford, Mississippi (Quail Hunting), Greystone Castle, Texas (Picking Up), Adventure Dog Rendezvous (various locations), Basic and Advanced Handlers Workshops, Mississippi, Wildrose Midwest, Wisconsin (variety of workshops), Double Gun, Mississippi, (wing shooting), Zeke’s Dakota Pheasants, North Dakota (Pheasant Hunting).
Wildrose hosts a number of social media platforms in addition to our interactive websites at uklabs.com, each designed to engage visitors in the Wildrose culture and activities. These include:
Facebook and Instagram accounts for:
Wildrose Kennels – Midwest
Training the Wildrose Way
Wildrose Midwest Training
YouTube features on The Wildrose Way
Follow our journey as we share the Wildrose Way through these accessible platforms. Thanks to Katie Behnke (Mississippi), Derek Helms (Texas), and Tennent Rich (Carolinas) for their contributions to these important platforms for our tribe of followers.
The Adventure Continues
The definition of an adventure is not really knowing how it will turn out. The excitement and the enduring memories are discovered in the journey not only in the celebration of the destination. We regard Wildrose as an adventure.
To be sure, there is a vision for Wildrose International and a plan forward, but plans must be flexible in application to seize moments of opportunity. For a business to remain relevant it must be in a constant state of development and recommitment embracing the ideals of continuous improvement to exceed expectations, but while accomplishing this Wildrose will remain committed to holding to the traditions of its heritage brand, 50 years in the making.
A brand once established becomes a promise. As the Wildrose Journey continues, our promise will endure…
The sun never sets on the Wildrose experience.
Mike and Cathy Stewart Wildrose International Cathy@uklabs.com
Becoming an effective, positive canine leader involves communicating with the dog, understanding canine behavior, and becoming a problem solver.
—Mike Stewart, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training The Wildrose Way
The trainers on the Wildrose staff embody those essential elements, and no one more so than Steven Lucius. Many of us who have accompanied Steven on the training ground can attest to his leadership skills.
Attending group-training sessions in Oxford some years ago, I observed Steven as the trainers gathered with their dogs in the parking lot near the client dog kennel. Each dog sat at heel as we waited for everyone to join in. On several occasions while waiting, I observed Steven focusing intently on developing and maintaining eye contact with his dog. When I asked him about this practice, he said, “It’s how we can both read each other,” mentioning the popular metaphor of “the eyes being the window of the soul,” meaning that a trainer can really connect emotionally and physically with the essence of the dog through sustained eye contact.
Mike’s maxim, “Own the Eyes,” enabling direct communication with the dog correlates with this (Stewart 75). Steven added that dogs’ attention span and eye contact vary; some take readily to making eye contact and giving full attention to the trainer, while others require more time and repeated practice to be able to hold eye contact for as long as three to ten seconds. Every command from the handler begins with establishing eye contact and saying the dog’s name, so this practice is an essential foundation to training success. Steven understands that being consistent in this practice lets the dog know that it doesn’t go anywhere to begin fun activities in the field until it exhibits good eye contact. Danielle Drewrey also noted that this practice was part of Steven’s ability to connect and really build a relationship with each dog that he trained.
Erin Davis concurred with Danielle, saying that she enjoyed working alongside Steven and “watching his gift for reading dogs and his ability to capture their individual motivators.” Additionally, she added, “I appreciate his insight on troubleshooting and willingness towards idea sharing. While he doesn’t always say much, what he does say has weight. He may not converse at a loud volume, but his choice of words is filled with honesty, realism, and encouragement.”
From her observations Bess Bruton agreed, saying, “As a trainer, Steven is considerate, patient, quiet, composed, and successfully reads the dog. . . its personality, its sensitivity level, and its knowledge level. This keenness lets Steven adjust his training program to fit each individual dog.” Bess said that she emulates the qualities that she has observed in and learned from Steven, concluding, “his success in turning out well-trained dogs is proof of his quiet demeanor, consistency dedication, and love for our canine companions.”
In 2008 Steven began as a part-time kennel assistant when he was an undergraduate student at Ole Miss, but he wasn’t the first Lucius to work at the kennel. Years earlier his brother, Charlie, worked at Wildrose during his college years. The Lucius brothers hail from Marietta, Georgia, and both earned degrees in marketing from the University. Steven got his first dog when he was a junior and, after work, he followed Mike around, observing how he trained dogs. Then Steven would apply those techniques to training his dog.
In 2010 Steven was promoted to training apprentice, shadowing Mike and working directly with Mike’s string of started and finished dogs. At the time Mike remarked to me that he was investing a great deal of time developing Steven’s training skills and he hoped that Steven would stay at least five years on the job. On June 1, 2011, Steven was promoted to assistant trainer working with the gundog and adventure dog training programs. Then, in 2018 he became senior trainer, coordinating all training operations at the Oxford facility. Not only did Steven return a remarkable dividend on Mike’s investment, but he also made an enviable transition from holding a job as a dog trainer to developing it as a career.
As a trainer, Steven built lasting relationships with client, beginning by communicating with owners every month through phone calls and photos, plus text messages. Moreover, he asked each client dog’s owner to visit with him and the dog midway during the seven-month training period and at the end. Both visits give the owner a chance to work with the dog, going beyond basic obedience training to retrieving and handling the dog in the field. The midway visit enables to owner to see what progress the dog has made. By that point most likely the dog has competed hold conditioning and is engaged in casting work. The final visit lets the owner see the finished product: the dog’s development from a pup to a started gundog.
Steven recalls a day years ago when he realized that his work was evolving and he called his father and said, “I enjoy getting up every day and going to work.” His father replied that ninety percent of American workers wished that they could say the same and that Steven was fortunate to have found such meaningful work.
On June 3, 2017, Steven added even more meaning to his life by marrying his lifelong partner, Schuyler Corderman, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. They began their married lives in Oxford, near Wildrose Kennels. Schulyer was completing a second undergraduate degree in education at the University of Mississippi.
In January, 2020, Steven became co-owner of Wildrose Carolinas and he and Schuyler moved east to begin a new chapter in their lives. The most recent family event was the arrival, ten months ago, of Steven Dickson Lucius Jr., who goes by “Sandt.”
Steven’s personal dogs include ten-and-a-half-year-old Archer and Ivy, who is nine-and-a-half years old. Archer (Wigeon x Purdey), who is descended from Angus’ lineage and was a Sire at the Oxford location, has hunted both upland and waterfowl. Archer’s been hunting in the Dakotas, Mississippi, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Ivy (Murphy x Pinny) is a retired momma dog and spends her days going to the kennel with Steven in North Carolina, and going home and lounging around the Lucius house, enjoying retirement. Steven and Schuyler have recently added Witmer (Archer x Kate), who is two years old and is in training.
Establishing a Wildrose kennel in Mebane, North Carolina, involved years of personal connections and business intersections. In Forbes Magazine’s April 2009 edition, Wildrose was featured as the cover story, “Luxe Labradors.” Kirk Parker recalls reading the article while waiting for his youngest son to be born. He remembers being thoroughly impressed with the methodology and approach and declared that he would have a dog one day. A few years later, Kirk made a deposit and in 2015 travelled to Oxford to pick up Gamble, a fox red male (Red x Daisy). Kirk’s goal was to pick the boldest and hardest-charging dog he could and, knowing it would be a gamble, hence his name. Anyone who knows Gamble understands how well Kirk succeeded in his goal.
And Gamble was the nexus—connecting Steven and Kirk, and also connecting their shared career aims—because Steven trained Gamble and during Kirk’s many trips to Oxford, he believed there was an opportunity to carry Wildrose to the east coast, establish a facility, and begin breeding and training Wildrose dogs. Kirk envisioned bringing the Wildrose way, the soft training methods, to others in the area, which mostly focused on American labs, e-collars, and hunt tests/field trials.
Kirk shared his interest with Steven and approached Mike about the idea, which evolved from there, eventually becoming a licensee, finding a location, and then executing on the work to curate the type of facility consistent with the Oxford and Texas sites.
Located thirty-some miles east of Greensboro and twenty-some miles northwest of Durham, the Wildrose Carolinas property was once a tobacco farm and later became a Pine Farm. Fields were cleared along its rolling hills and annual burns take care of the underbrush. Ravines and creeks run through the picturesque property. A nine-acre pond sits at the property’s entrance and the road winds around it to the main facility, which features a 4,000-square-foot kennel building, including a healthcare room, a retail shop, a lodge, and a manager’s house.
To develop this former timber property into Wildrose facility, power, water and a septic system had to be installed. Moreover, there was a great deal of harvesting and clearing of timber to make open training areas. Efforts continue to develop habitat, maintain the three-mile road system, manage the timber and upland habitat, and provide crop sources for wildlife and training purposes.
A three-acre impoundment was built for planting corn or other crops, then flooding it for waterfowl. The habitat features mostly wood ducks, but the hope is to attract other species over time. The property features twelve water sources, including a ten-acre lake, a technical pond, many smaller ponds at different elevations, and a long beaver swamp.
The annual control burns of the entire property in late winter and early spring have transformed the landscape. The goal is to be able to hunt ducks in the morning, eat breakfast at the lodge, chase quail in the midmorning, enjoy lunch, and hunt more quail (or hunt in a deer stand), and conclude the day relaxing around the fire-pit with a cocktail and grilled dinner.
A skilled staff maintains the kennel operations.
Chris Torain is a full time trainer in his apprenticeship. A native of Cedar Grove, North Carolina, Chris realized his love for dog training after purchasing his first lab, “Gia.” In Chris’ quest to learn more information about labs and their training, he discovered Wildrose Carolinas, and started working in February 2021 doing maintenance and caring for the Sires and Dams. In August he began working full-time at the kennels and became an apprentice trainer in September 2021. His knowledge of waterfowl and upland hunting makes him an exceptional member of the team.
Cacia Jones is a specialist healthcare, taking care of and raising puppies from whelping on. Cacia moved to Durham, North Carolina, from Vancouver, WA, two years ago and has enjoyed living here since. She joined the Wildrose Carolinas’ team a little over a year ago, helping take care of the medical needs of the dogs at the kennel as well as helping whelp and raise the puppies. Cacia has always had a passion for animals and in fact at a young age deemed herself a princess who would take care of all the animals. Staying true to her dreams, Cacia has been a veterinary assistant for four years and besides working at Wildrose Carolinas has also been most recently at a local ER/Exotic veterinary clinic in Raleigh. She will be graduating this coming Spring from Arizona State University with her Bachelors of Applied Science – Preveterinary medicine. Cacia hopes to eventually become an ER veterinarian who does conservation work on the side. In her spare time she spoils her two cats and Coonhound mix and participates in an improv club. Her favorite holiday is Halloween, though her favorite holiday treat is Egg Nog. She is also a huge fan of the Harry Potter and Outlander series.
Avery Doughty, who found a passion working with Labs at a young age, assists with training momma dogs twice weekly. Avery attended Carson-Newman University, Jefferson City, Tennessee, as the freshman of the year. While she studied business, she attended on a fishing scholarship and acknowledges that she has fished all her life. Avery is transferring to North Carolina State University to pursue a degree in animal science and continue to follow her passion for training Labs at Wildrose Carolinas.
Alan Newton is a graduate of East Carolina University, holds master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Clemson University, and is a member of the biology faculty at Davidson-Davie Community College. Alan acquired his first Wildrose companion Shadow (Deke x Heather) in 2014. Participating in a wide variety of Wildrose workshops over the next several years, Alan developed his knowledge of training the Wildrose Way, and in 2017 was invited to become an Associate Trainer. Alan spends summers training at Wildrose Carolinas and as a member of the Yadkin River Retriever Club. His training methodology centers on developing obedience excellence coupled with outstanding skills in the field.
An entrepreneur and business owner from Raleigh, North Carolina, Kirk is involved in all aspects of Wildrose Carolinas. Kirk grew up training and hunting with a variety of dogs and is passionate about the sporting lifestyle, particularly pursuits with his dogs.
Kirk has three personal dogs: Gamble, a fox red male (Red x Daisy); an imported Black male, Bruce, who is out of Waysgreen Apollo and a FTW; and Wager, a twenty-month-old, red male [Gamble x Ivy (Lucius)]. Kirk also owns an English pointer, Pearl, that is used to complement our upland game efforts. Last, Kirk has an eleven-year-old English Cocker, Lulu, a founding and life member of the indiscriminate petters’ anonymous.
Gamble and Bruce are very experienced dogs and have hunted upland birds in North Dakota; upland birds in Alabama and North Carolina; waterfowl in Canada, Missouri, North Dakota, North Carolina, and Virginia. Wager is still coming along and has been on many tower shoots. Kirk is eager to get him the upland and waterfowl situations this coming season. Kirk also hunts deer, turkeys, and large game in the west when he can, enjoying the challenge of figuring out the hunt and then pursuing the species. For him, the harder the better. And as far as hunting waterfowl and upland, he likes waterfowl, loves upland, and really only enjoys them with dogs.
Kirk is happily married to CC for twenty-eight years. They have three children, son, Van (21), daughter, Bailey (20) and son, Brown, (15). Brown has his own Wildrose heritage dog, Harlan, a black male (Gamble x Claire).
Kirk’s development as a dog trainer, just like with our dogs, always continues. Over the years, Kirk has learned a great deal about the Wildrose Way and how to apply it. He believes himself to be a much better handler, than trainer, although he feels that he can teach the concepts well and is fully versed in the “why” behind what we do in the Wildrose way. Most of his training is with more experienced dogs or helping along the way with dogs in training to teach a specific skill.
Being part of Wildrose, a recognized and well-developed brand is critical to the Carolinas’ kennel’s success. The signature brand allows instant credibility and a set of standards already in place to execute. It also provides a much better reach, access to resources and knowledge and allows for a much more robust offering and experience for clients.
And equally important is the network of people involved. One of Kirk’s favorite parts of the Wildrose experience is being able to meet and spend time with people of all kinds from different locations with the commonality around our sporting companions. No one can ever take experiences away from him and he has many and looks forward to many more. Having developed some great relationships since his involvement in Wildrose, Kirk would not trade the experiences or relationships for anything.
Visitors to and clients of Wildrose Carolinas can see that the gamble that Steven and Kirk waged in launching this new venture has paid off—and continues to maximize on their gambit.
Mike Stewart, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training The Wildrose Way, New York: Universe Publishing, 2012.
This is WR Tess (Otto x Nell) a 4 1/2 month old female making a retrieve from the water. She loves the water. Please notice the aggressive, confident entry Tess already has and the important fact that before doing any retrieves in the water Tess previously learned to return to me and to sit and hold until I take the Dokken. This way the pups continue the good early behaviors learned doing retrieves on land and also allowing us to “shape” that good early hold that Tess has at just a little over 4 months.
Too often we see young pups that are learning to retrieve from the water, without having previously learned the early basic “hold” and good return directly to the handler, and they will stop to shake off as soon as they come out of the water and will spit out the Dokken creating a habit that can be hard to break later on.
Also, please note that Tess sits calm and steady until sent for the retrieve and will return right back to me. This is an example of having each of the skills that are part of retrieving pretty well established before the actual retrieving in the water is begun.
Please remember a few Wildrose Laws that clearly apply here:
Law 3-What is conditioned in your pup between 6 weeks and 6 months won’t go away. You need to imprint the behaviors you want and avoid allowing those you don’t want.
Law 4-Don’t train in behaviors that you will have to try to train out later.
Law 5- This very important one especially when working with young pups: Make haste slowly!!! Don’t be in a rush to push your pup to do tasks when you haven’t properly established the early foundational individual skills that are part of the behavior or performance category you are trying to develop.
After a winter mixed with snowstorms, sleet, rain, and variable temperatures across the country, we’re all feeling pretty excited about the arrival of spring and summer. But whether winter in your region was colder, warmer, or wetter than usual, you’d still better prepare for the same aftermath: an explosion of activity in our bug populations, including the number of ticks.
In fact, pest control experts are predicting this season will likely be as bad or worse than previous years throughout many parts of the country, citing such tick-welcoming factors as trash and debris pileups, a surge of construction sites, and an expansion of outdoor dining spaces as reasons for the increase.
Another spike in the bug population is particularly disconcerting given that, between 2004 and 2016, the number of reported cases of disease from tick, mosquito, and flea bites had already tripled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So is our only option to spend the summer month indoors, hidden away from nature?
While the numbers are concerning, you don’t have to let them deter you from enjoying the great outdoors this season. Instead, add some natural and effective tick repellants and avoidance techniques to your tick bite prevention plan so that you can soak up the healing power of the outdoors and protect yourself from Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses at the same time.
Tick Avoidance Tricks
The best way to ensure you don’t get bit by a tick is to eliminate close encounters altogether. While that’s not always 100% possible, taking these steps will minimize contact significantly.
1. Wear Protective Clothing.
Before you venture outdoors, pull on a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt and pants that extend all the way down to your feet — especially if you plan on enjoying a wooded area. Long sleeves and pants will act as a barrier to your skin, while light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks more easily.
2. Stay on the Trail.
Whether you’re hiking, biking, or jogging outside, stick to a well-managed path or trail. Ticks are less likely to hang out in sunny, open spaces with minimal leaf litter or brush to conceal them.
3. Perform Regular Self-Checks.
Even the quickest physical contact with vegetation is enough to pick up a tiny hitchhiker. So if you have a close brush with nature, stop and check for ticks. Remember that some ticks are smaller than a pinhead – they can be extremely difficult to spot – so pull out your reading glasses if you have to.
4. Don’t Overlook Your Pets.
Ticks and other blood-sucking insects can also pass on harmful diseases to our furry friends. Have your pets regularly treated to reduce ticks and fleas. When your dog comes inside after running through the yard, check them thoroughly for ticks. Remember: Ticks like to hide in stealthy spots, so check your dog’s gums, ears, toes, tail, groin, and around the collar, along with the rest of the fur.
5. Maintain Your Yard.
Ticks love to hang out in tall grass, so be sure to keep your lawn trimmed this spring and summer. They also enjoy moist, shaded woodpiles. If you stack firewood in your yard, for instance, make sure it’s in a spot that gets some sun to help keep it dry.
You can also use wood to your advantage. Ticks don’t enjoy crossing over rough surfaces, so use wood chips or gravel to create a 3-foot-wide barrier between your lawn and any wooded areas. It’s not foolproof, but it will go a long way toward keeping ticks out of your yard.
6. Replace Deer-Friendly Plants.
As enjoyable as seeing deer in your backyard might be, they often carry Lyme-bearing ticks. Consider removing plants that attract deer if you can, including apple, pear, and cherry trees, as well as rhododendrons, rose bushes, pansies, daisies, lilies, tulips, and black-eyed Susans. Instead, you can replace them with plants that are not typically deer favorites, such as ornamental grass, red osier dogwood shrub, lavender, yarrow, dwarf aster, and creeping juniper groundcover.
Natural Tick Repellents
Most natural tick repellents are made with essential oils, a non-toxic alternative to synthetic insecticides and repellents that can cause skin irritation, dizziness, and disorientation when applied incorrectly. You can make your own natural solutions or buy them readymade online or in many health stores. Here are some chemical-free options for both homemade and store-bought blends you can feel good about:
1. DIY Blends
This essential oil was shown to be highly effective at deterring Lone Star ticks in a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Combine equal parts rose-geranium oil and coconut oil, and apply it regularly to your arms, neck, waist, and ankles.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus
Some research suggests that a 30% lemon eucalyptus oil preparation can be as effective as DEET in preventing both mosquito and tick bites. To make your own, mix together 30 drops of oil of lemon eucalyptus with 4 ounces of witch hazel (you can also use apple cider vinegar or vodka). Some people also add a teaspoon of vanilla, which may further repel ticks.
Other Essential Oils
Research also suggests clove, thyme, citronella, and oregano compare favorably with DEET, but they must be reapplied more frequently than chemical tick repellants. Combine them with equal parts water or alcohol, shake, and apply.
2. Store-Bought Blends
Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent: Made with Citriodiol, a clinically proven 30% lemon eucalyptus oil preparation, it should be applied several times a day when spending time outdoors. Citriodiol is the only plant-based ingredient recommended by the CDC for repelling insects.
YAYA Organics Tick Ban: This tick repellent contains 100% plant-based ingredients. It’s full of essential oils that drive away ticks, including geranium, cedar, peppermint, and thyme.
While botanically-based bug repellants have a lower risk of unpleasant side effects, you may find they are not as effective as chemically-based ones. Below are three chemical tick repellent options that are known to work well.
DEET is the active ingredient in many popular tick and mosquito repellants, and it may be used on your clothing or skin. Although it’s considered the most effective chemical repellent, it can irritate the skin or cause rashes in some people. If you have a sensitivity to DEET, one of the other natural or chemical tick repellents may be a better option for you.
Apply permethrin as directed on the product to your clothing, socks, shoes, and outdoor gear. Note that permethrin isn’t for use on your skin. The chemical repellant is a non-staining, odorless, water-based substance that dries and bonds to cloth fiber. It resists degradation by sunlight, heat, and water. As a synthetic form of natural pyrethrin — a compound in chrysanthemum flowers that’s toxic to insects — permethrin specifically targets the insects’ nervous system and has low toxicity to mammals.
This synthetic compound is made to resemble piperine, a natural component of plants that is used to produce black pepper. Some studies show that picaridin can deliver long-lasting tick protection.
Self-Check and Tick Removal Steps
When prevention doesn’t work, diligent self-checks can help you detect and remove ticks from your body as quickly as possible and reduce the risk of contracting troublemaking microbes. Follow these four steps after you spend time gardening, hiking, picnicking, or enjoying any outdoor activity.
Start with a thorough tick-check on your clothes. If they’re all clear, toss your clothes into the dryer and tumble dry on high heat for at least 10 minutes. Or, wash them in hot water. The high heat will kill any tiny ticks you might have missed.
Before you get dressed again, conduct a full-body check. Ticks prefer warm, moist places, so be sure to check your armpits, in and around your ears, the back of your knees, between your legs, and around your hairline. If you have time, jump in the shower for a final tick check and rinse off.
If you do find a tick, remove it immediately. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick’s mouthparts as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Don’t twist or jerk the tick — this can cause parts of the insect to break off and remain in the skin. Instead, pull upward with a steady, even motion.
After removing the tick, thoroughly cleanse the bite area using rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water, and wash your hands. If you wish to get the tick tested for harmful microbes, place it in a jar or plastic bag with a moist cotton ball and send it to a testing lab, such IGenex, Ticknology, or TickReport. To dispose of the tick, submerge it in alcohol, then flush it down the toilet or place it in a sealed bag or container in the trash.
Even with speedy removal, contact your healthcare provider about the bite. Because Lyme disease testing can be inaccurate in the early stages, some physicians may wish to treat you with a preventative course of antibiotics rather than adopt a wait-and-see approach. Note: Not everyone who contracts Lyme disease develops the classic bull’s-eye rash, but if you do, that’s the telltale sign you’ve contracted the tick-borne illness and should seek treatment.
Finally, remember that maintaining a strong immune system is key to fending off any tick-borne illness: Utilizing a comprehensive herbal therapy protocol, following a healthy and plant-heavy diet, staying physically active, and minimizing toxin exposure and stress is your absolute best recipe for optimizing your health and wellness.
Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme.
You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.
FTCh Dunjailin Rocky Rogue of Westerkames, call name “Diesel” was sired by FTCh Levenghyl Malusi and his mom is Greengates Rose. We are extremely excited to get this Field Trial Champion sire over to the states to join the Wildrose Pack. Over the past few years, we have had multiple pups out of Diesel, all of which have proven to be great dogs. One of them is our very own momma dog, “Bella.” Diesel was another dog we were personally able to watch at the 2018 British Championship, which was just one of the times he qualified for the championship. Diesel was impressive to watch work. His power, strength and passion in conjunction with the complete control in which Kirsty handled Diesel were exciting to witness. They were a fantastic team to watch. Upon Diesel’s arrival we quickly learned that he is nothing short of a sweet, lovable teddy bear. Diesel is on the larger side for a British Labrador weighing in at 75 pounds but he’s a gentle giant for sure. Sticking with our ethos of the best possible female lines, Diesel brings in that same quality on the sire side and the titles to back it up.
FTCh Diesel’s Accomplishments
-1st Gordon District Gundog Club novice trial 28th of October 2014 -2nd place Tayvalley Gundog Association 5+6 of November 2015 -4th place Scottish Gundog Association 28th +29th of October 2015 -Awarded a Certificate of Merit at a working test 15th of May 2016 -4th place CLWYD Retriever Club 13th +14th of September 2016 -Certificate of Merit Strathmore Working Gundog Club 7th +8th of October -2nd place one-day open Golden Retriever Club of Scotland 20th of October 2016 -2nd place Labrador Retriever Club Open 31st + 1st of November 2016 -4th place Guns Choice Yorkshire Golden Retriever Club 5th of January 2017 -1st place Strathmore Working Gundog Club 6th+7th of October 2017 -1st place North of Scotland Gundog Association 11th +12 of October 2017
This making him a FTCH
-3rd Lothian & Borders Gundog Association 7+8 of September 2018 -1st place 17th+18th of October 2018 at the Highland Gundog Club