by: Mike Stewart

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

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

0-8 weeks – Super Learner/Super Scent

2-3.5 months – Backgrounding, the Essentials

3.5 -7 months – Early Starts

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

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


What to Avoid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wildrose Photo Contest 2016

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


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

“Floyd The Vizsla – @floyd_the_vizsla

I’m a Hungarian (Magyar) Vizsla!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Join Us In A Publishing Venture about Wildrose Adventure Dogs

Dear Adventure Dog Folks:

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

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

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

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

Here are some things to consider in drafting your notes:

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

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

We look forward to hearing from you.


Ben McClelland and Danielle Drewrey

Wildrose Kennels

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Billups Coffee

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

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

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

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

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The Life-Long Adventure of Wildrose Valentina

by: Sammye Pisani

1cdd26c523094782a4938587853eb875And so our Wildrose Adventure begins! It was puppy-picking day on January 18, 2013, and my husband, Mike, and I had the choice between two black females from the litter of Deke and Yellow Molly. I kneeled on the floor as the first pup walked away from me, seemingly uninterested. The second female scurried over, crawled up on me, got on her hind legs, and gave me the sweetest puppy-breath kiss. I looked at Mike and said, “What do you think?”

He replied, “It’s up to you, but she really seems to like you.” It was fate…Wildrose Valentina (Vivi) had chosen me! As I walked by each of the Wildrose staff members with Vivi cuddled in my arms, every one of them said, “Those eyes!” I had no clue what they meant, but now I do. Vivi still has those spectacularly focused eyes, especially when I throw her training bag over my shoulder.

I had the best of intentions for training Vivi to be the model dog that every Wildrose pup has the ability to become. I soon found out that although she was more than capable, I was sadly lacking in many ways to be the formidable handler I had envisioned. Many “life things” also got in the way. Not long after attending the Starting Your Dog the Wildrose Way group workshop in Spring 2013, I gave up on my dreams of achieving success as Vivi’s handler. I even gave up on basic obedience. I felt like a miserable failure.

98451ceff7ee495583f0ce8f14c970e2Fast-forward a year and a half later to November 2014. It was a few weeks before Vivi’s second birthday, and I had renewed energy to begin training her again. I told Mike that I would like to remove Vivi and myself from the family dynamic we had created with him and Claiborne, our rescue Golden Retriever, who joined us just three months before bringing Vivi home. I thought it would be the best way to reset the relationship between Vivi and me. We could then return home and apply our new skills. Mike agreed with the idea. I would transition to handler and she to trainee, as opposed to the blurred lines I had created.

Before I fully committed, I remembered that the Wildrose staff had encouraged owners to contact them with questions. Boy, did I have questions! I reached out to them, told them about my plan, and asked if they would be an educational resource for us. Luckily, they said yes. Armed with the Wildrose training methodology and the support of Wildrose trainers, Vivi and I headed off to a remote country location for one week to begin our endeavor.

Vivi and I started with baby steps. More like infant steps. We began with the very basics: Wildrose Law #1 – Dogs are looking for a leader, Law #2 – If dogs can’t find a leader, they will attempt to become one, and Law #14 – A dog will not follow an unstable leader. I must say these three laws were the most difficult to establish because I had not instilled them from the beginning (Laws #3 and #4). Honestly, I almost gave up again – on Day 1! But with the encouragement of the trainers, my thought that Vivi deserved more from me, and sheer will and determination, I pressed on.22209f571f344d998f9d522a9881421e

Day 2 went markedly better. We were so much more successful because I stopped expecting myself to be perfect. I was more patient, and I began applying Wildrose Law #5 – Make haste slowly (what???…Said to the woman who was taught to make things happen – and fast), and Wildrose Law #6 – Solve one problem at a time. We spent hours each day working together, and I spent hours each night making notes of training “A-Has” and accomplishments. By the end of the week, Vivi and I were a completely different team with well-defined roles. We had gone from an utter joke (i.e. remote stay = not even an inch between us, much less remote!) to a solid foundation of basic commands. Two pieces of advice that I really took to heart that week were, “a dog is always in training,” and “look for training opportunities in your house and neighborhood.” With great pride, Vivi and I were heading back to our family.

737795e81ce04d54963546fcc8c81bd1As is always my first tendency, I arrived home in my black and white mode…rigid, with no room for adjustment. After all, they are LAWS, right? During that first week, Mike and Claiborne probably wished I had stayed in the country and sent Vivi back home on her own! Soon though, I gravitated toward the color and dance of our unique world, all the while reinforcing and expanding upon the skills Vivi and I had learned while we were away. Claiborne, who was an excellent training distraction and had virtually no training, began to mimic some of Vivi’s new and improved behaviors. I communicated this phenomenon to a Wildrose trainer, telling her I was actually having fun. She replied, “The pack mentality is amazing, especially if it is working in your favor!”

Vivi and I spent the next year greatly expanding our skills, eventually graduating to more advanced off-lead work in both urban and rural areas. We worked together every single day, sometimes simply reinforcing a behavior, sometimes adding a new lesson. I became so enthralled with Vivi’s drive to work and learn and astounded at my own personal growth that I decided it was time for another challenge. The time had come for Vivi and me to have another weeklong intensive. However, this time we needed a specific goal. I don’t hunt (yet) so I was at a loss for ideas. Again, I reached out to the Wildrose staff, and trainer Danielle Drewrey suggested the Wildrose Adventure Dog Certification Program. It completely fit our lifestyle, and it is a do-it-yourself training that can be completed at your leisure without having to attend a workshop to get started.654adb3f732e42d09591895cb3080575-1

With Mike’s blessing, Vivi and I headed to the country again in November 2015. Using our certification manual as a guide, we began working on our first skill sets and corresponding merits. Building on what were now ingrained habits, Vivi and I began quickly accomplishing our merits. If I were having trouble with a particular merit, a Wildrose trainer would give me a useful training tip. Soon thereafter, we would check that merit off our list. By the end of that week, Vivi and I had completed all the merits for five of the skill sets. As a result, Vivi earned her very first award – her “Trail Rated” patch. Again, I couldn’t believe what we accomplished together. I was so proud of her!
a2973cb17c5e448aad5c9a2fb6f711b3Upon arriving home, I immediately registered for the Wildrose Adventure Dog Workshop that was going to be held at Wildrose Arkansas in May 2016. After our first embarrassing experience at a group workshop so long ago, I had been reluctant to attend another one. But with a renewed confidence in our relationship and training along with my more humble and forgiving approach, I saw it as an opportunity to share this experience with other people and their dogs. Vivi and I worked over the next six months to achieve the merits in additional skill sets in hopes of earning our next patch at the workshop.

Enter May 20, 2016, Wildrose Arkansas. An exquisite piece of property situated in the middle of the Ozark Mountains, complete with the Little Buffalo River running through it. Cathy Stewart’s self-proclaimed “Happy Place.” Most of the trainers and attendees were strangers, but it didn’t take long for the dogs to break the ice! And thus, the camaraderie began.

c57b04cf3f48420b85a6fa0507bce283For the next two days, we hiked, biked, fished, kayaked, hunted, and broke bread together (check out Instagram #WildroseExpedition2016 to share in some of the adventure). We also spent a lot of time talking and getting to know one another’s stories…truly invaluable. Last, we all parted that Sunday afternoon feeling a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Every dog earned a patch that weekend, and Vivi earned her second, “Adventure Dog Certified.”I left with even more admiration and love for her, which I didn’t think was possible. I feel certain that many of the other owners, if not all, feel the same way.

Participating in the Wildrose Adventure Dog Certification Program will strengthen your bond with your dog and help you both evolve in ways you cannot even imagine. Just say yes! Start your very own Adventure Dog team today!

9e22f083998a4cc29613b78182006f6eVivi and I are now working on skill sets to earn the final coveted badge – “Master Trekker.” We have begun with Equestrian, and so our adventure continues…

Sending infinite appreciation and gratitude to Mike Stewart, Cathy Stewart, Danielle Drewrey, Blake Henderson, Steven Lucius, Chelsea Harris, Tom Smith, Erin Shay Davis, and Sarah Barnes for sharing their wisdom, enthusiasm, and patience with Vivi and me.

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Hunting Public Land? A Great Dog and Great Gear Make All The Difference

by: John Loe

“So we’re gonna to set up here tomorrow,” explains my Dad, showing my Grandfather and me the spot on the satellite photo tacked on the camp wall.

“How far is that from the dock? 30, 35 miles?” my grandfather asks, characteristically weary about how far his son and grandson are taking him.

cdfdddfc8b89419c894e81aa916c658f“Yeah, maybe a bit farther, but I scouted it yesterday afternoon, and the birds were so thick in there you couldn’t shoe horn in another pair! And after they got up they went right back down, and there’s a perfect spot to put the boat with the sun directly behind us,” my Dad replies eliminating any chance for a chance for a less aggressive strategy.

“Alright, so we need to leave at 4 to be on time,” I inform.

“Yep, 4. I’m off to bed after one more, it looks like Miles might actually have to pass the ball here,” my Dad says while grabbing the red wine and gesturing at the big screen showing LSU facing 3rd and 8.

That’s how our evenings go in the Loe family hunting trifecta.

After a great decade of hunting in the 1990s my father, grandfather, and I found ourselves without a steady place to hunt ducks.  The previous land had lost its magic, like many famed Louisiana duck leases, due to dramatic saltwater intrusion. After experimenting for a few years without consistent success, we settled on hunting public land accessible only by boat.

Hunting public land involves some major barriers that scare off a lot of hunters: many of the better areas are accessible only by boat, permanent blinds are banned, and one must deploy and retrieve decoys each day. Without question, hunting on public land dramatically increases the work involved.

That’s why we quickly learned that having a great dog and great gear make it possible to have an enjoyable experience and not exhaust oneself. Our Wildrose finished retriever, Broom, is a 4 -year old yellow male. Broom is our second excellent hunting companion from Wildrose. Our first, Maggie, is still happy and healthy at 14, but after picking up about a thousand birds and ducks, she does her retrieving in a heated swimming pool. Broom at 4 is ready to go and in the prime of his career. Like a running back at the top of his game, Broom is fast, bold, and confident; but he still knows who’s in charge and how to take direction.

Often our days start out with temperatures around freezing and crossing open water in small boats is usually a necessity to find the birds. That’s why we use Predator Gear Drysuits, a product we invented after years of hunting public land. Predator Gear Drysuits make hunting in boats and cold climates safer since unlike waders they can’t fill with water after being overtopped – in fact you can’t get wet all.  Unlike waders with ill-fitting boots that are tough to walk in and neoprene that doesn’t breathe, Predator Gear lets you wear lace up boots making walking easier. And the durable and highly breathable material keeps you from getting hot when the sun comes out, no more pooling sweat inside old waders.pred2

“Throw the anchor on that corner of the bank.”

“No not there, THERE!” my Dad corrects me over the engine noise.

“Alright it’s hooked, pull the skiff in and let’s get going.” I yell back at him, never one to take direction gladly.

After the scouting, the long dark boat ride, putting out decoys and hiding our hunting skiff in the natural vegetation, the action finally begins.

“Ok, here they come, looks like 6 pintails from the left, 10 o’clock,” I inform.

“Yep, got em” my Dad slowly turns his head to my side of the boat blind.

“Boom! Boom! Boom” My Dad and I unleash the fury from our trusty Berettas 390s.

“I got 2 over here,” I say with a smirk knowing I got 1 more than my Dad.

“1 shot 1 duck for me! But then I lost them in the Roseau, so fast when they’re going downwind and you’ve already shot at ’em!” my dad says putting a happy face on the outcome.

“Grandy you didn’t shoot? Too fast for you?” I ask, already knowing the answer.

“Nah, I’m gonna wait till the sun’s up more, I’ll let you two have the early action.” At 89 he still loves the hunt but has slowed a bit, so the later big duck activity in the bright sun is more his game these days.

“Let’s wait a few minutes before picking them up, this is prime time,” I say stuffing shells into my gun.

“Broom!” I release our star player, he leaps off the bow of the hunting skiff, rocking it slightly, then he lunges across the shallow mud flat after the farthest Pintail.

“You sure don’t have to coax him out there, even after making him wait a while,” my Dad says.

“Yeah, it’s in him, plus after pushing the boat over that mudflat on the way in here and putting out all the decoys, can you imagine us having to retrieve that bird? Whew, exhausting” I say, pointing at Broom chasing after the Pintail on the far left that is quickly being spirited away with the current.

“No way I’d be getting it, that’s for sure,” my dad acknowledges. “Especially when it’s just Grandy and me, we couldn’t pick up the birds without Broom. With him, no big deal. He picks ‘em all up every time.”

Take it from me – if you hunt on public or unimproved land a Wildrose Retriever and a Predator Gear Drysuit will make your days less work and more fun.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

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by Mike Stewart

Wingshooters, especially waterfowlers, have lived this moment:  a shot bird drops directly into moving water making a dramatic splash which attracts the total attention of the gundog on duty.  With a prompt release, the trusty companion takes a direct heading to the marked fall only to discover the bird is no longer there.  The current of the stream has intervened and carried the bird adrift.  Totally convinced of the bird’s location, the dog ignores signals, whistles, and superlatives preferring to stay with the hunt at the point of “splash down.” All the while, the bird continues to drift out of sight.  Overcoming this disappointing scenario involving a determined hunting dog will take a bit of specialized training on moving waters such as a creek, fast run off, or river.  The conditioning will handily transfer to other types of water work such as birds down in high winds or picking a swimmer, a wounded bird making an escape on water by padding and diving.

The Wildrose Way is all about training for realistic field situations and the recovery of game.  No bird left behind.  Training on moving water addresses both goals.  Here are the steps we take to acclimate retrievers to birds that fall into moving water.

Step 1:  Watch

Lesson one is to teach the dog to watch a moving object on the water.  I prefer a tennis ball or a small bumper that floats high on the surface. An easily seen, attractive target.  With the dog sitting patiently at streamside, toss the object upstream making a splash.  Allow the object to drift past your location, hopefully holding the dog’s total attention.  As the target drifts downstream, release the dog for the retrieve. Gradually increase the distance and duration of the float.


  1. This is great steadying work.
  2. Do not look down at your dog. Your eyes/attention will attract the dog and disrupt its focus.  Remain still and follow the movement of the object with your eyes.
  3. Release the dog by name or command, but do not line the dog. Your movement will break concentration.  No physical movements on the part of the handler unless the dog has lost the object.

FullSizeRender (1)

Step 2:  Downstream Float

Toss a mark downstream causing a splash.  Maintain your dog’s steadiness as the object begins its float away.  Again your attention must be on the drifter.  Release the dog for the chase before it loses concentration.  Be prepared to assist initially by handling or tossing a few rocks to indicate direction.  Success matters.  Gradually extend distance, release time, and water speed.


  1. Do not attempt training on moving water for drifters until your dog is thoroughly trained on whistles and hand signals on water.
  2. Begin in shallow parts of the river where the dog can keep its footing and bound through the water. This will give the retriever a higher stance to see the object rather than swimming.

The dog learns to focus “eyes on the ball” scanning the water’s surface area rather than running to the mark and holding a hunting pattern.  Moving water training is sight work.

Step 3:  Upstream

Now the more challenging aspect of river training.  A mark is tossed upstream, creating a splash.  The object begins its downstream movement, yet our dog, upon release, again goes directly to the fall area.  Now the dog must realize that all is not what it seems.  The marked bird is on the move.  Again, assistance may initially be in order for success, but quickly previous lessons pay off and the astute waterdog recognizes the current’s direction and scans the water’s surface.  The dog has learned that birds will be moving downstream, so go with the flow.


IMG_6296 (1)


Step IV:  Extensions

Now real action may begin.  Using a handheld launcher, fire a bumper up or downstream, dead center of the water source as the dog patiently watches.  Release the dog for the mark to discover if the training has been successful.  The aware dog will head to the fall area, recognize the current’s direction, and scan the surface for the moving object rather than hanging in the fall area.  Now, we are training waterdogs!

Our final step will be to use cold game birds on moving water for a more realistic experience.

River training is an important step in finishing any gundog, upland or waterfowl.  Wildrose accomplishes this type of experience at our two river facilities in Arkansas and Colorado.  The exposure has paid huge dividends for our clients afield.

You never know when the occasion will arise that your dog faces the challenge of recovery of a drifter.  Best advice, go prepared.  These abilities may gain both you and your dog a round of admiration and compliments from fellow wingshooters.  You picked the one that otherwise would have been lost.

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Dos and Don’ts on Grooming

from Lanette Drewery – Wildrose Kennel Health Manager

  • Do not “over” wash your lab. Once or twice a month should be sufficient unless circumstances require otherwise – then use a natural shampoo. Though you may see animals washed on TV with dish soap, never use dish soap to wash your lab.
  • Never shave or trim a lab’s coat.
  • Do not put cleaner such as peroxide in a dog’s ear. A dog’s ear canal is “L” shaped and introducing liquid may cause more problems with bacteria.
  • Do clean the inside ear flap if necessary with a damp cloth.
  • If you do brush your lab’s teeth, do it routinely before a tartar “build-up” begins.
  • Trim nails once a month.

A Dremel tool with a sandpaper tip attachment is popular for removing nail growth quickly and with more precision.


Using a nail cutter tool is recommended. Seeing the “quick” with black nails if often difficult and may require professional assistance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Take Care of Your HERO – Brushing, grooming and cleaning keeps your lab looking fantastic and feeling great!

If taking a quick dip in the pond or romping in gulf ocean surf, labs are first in line for the challenge. If instead you’re working in heavy cover, tall grass or mud flats, chances are your lab will need attention before the day is done. Though cleaning may be necessary, look at it as another opportunity to take advantage of “bonding through grooming.”

muddyThe lab coat consists of a double layer; a course outer layer of hollow hair and a thick undercoat of fine hair that’s always growing. The softer undercoat helps to keep the lab warm in the winter a cool during summer months. Frequent brushing removes dead hair and dirt. The brushing may not be enough however, and a bath is required to remove mud, salt residue or an organic, Earthy pond smell.

Most commercial dog (and human) shampoos use a formula heavy in sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) or a similar, chemical derivative. SLS is a harsh chemical typically used for floor degreasers or as an automotive cleaner. However, using a SLS based shampoo can strip your lab’s coat of all important oils necessary for a soft, sleek and buoyant coat. Less buoyancy means your companion must work harder to stay afloat. Further, SLS can result in a brittle, dull coat and flaky, itchy skin.

A natural alternative to SLS is an oil-based shampoo formula. This type of soap or shampoo is made with saponified vegetable oils that clean without totally stripping the lab’s coat of naturally occurring oils. In addition, natural oil-based oil shampoos retain glycerin; a natural humectant. This type of shampoo can be used frequently without fear of performance degradation or causing itching and scratching that may lead to dreaded “hot spots.”

You may choose to use an “in-between” silicon oil based bath spray that will help to repel fleas and, with brushing after application keeps the coat slick and smelling fresh.

Demonstrate your love by checking your companion’s eyes, ears, feet, teeth, nails and coat daily. Look for mud, matted fur, sore spots or any area where the coat is rubbed off. This type of frequent attention is an important part of detecting and preventing common medical problems. Be gentle and make grooming together a happy experience!

Sheri Marshall
Lil’ Bud and Becky Shampoo and Pet Care Products Formulator

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Wildrose Adventure Dog Stories

Note: Since Wildrose Kennels officially launched its Adventure Dog Certification program in mid-June, 2011, participant interest and activity have been very enthusiastic, to say the least. With this issue we begin sharing the stories of some adventure dogs and their owners. Here is our debut story in the series. –Ben McClelland & Danielle Drewrey, Editors

Joe Weimer & Wildrose Leonidas, Roaming Shores, Ohio

At the end of February, in 2014, my wife and I drove the nearly 14 hours from Cleveland, Ohio, to Oxford, Mississippi to pick up our Wildrose (Ben and Jill) pup. At Wildrose we met a few of the friendly trainers who took us on a tour of the facility, we attended the puppy-training seminar, and we saw some of the trainers working with a few of the dogs. The most impressive thing was when the trainer took a dog into the flight pen off leash at heel and flushed all the birds while dropping the bumper. The dog and handler flushed the birds once again and, on command, the dog retrieved the bumper without being distracted by all of the flapping wings. I don’t know many people who have that much control over their dog. At that moment, I thought I want my pup to be like that dog: to be obedient in all situations so that he would be able to go anywhere with me. So the training began.

Leo2IMG_1984When we brought our new pup back to Ohio, we named him Leonidas (Leo) after King Leonidas of Sparta. The first week home Leo had a respiratory infection because he is a Southern boy whom we brought to Ohio’s -25 degree weather. It was extremely challenging trying to potty train a new pup in the frigid cold temperatures and about a foot of snow on the ground. Training began as soon as we got home and not a day went by that first year that we didn’t have at least one or two training sessions. After the first year of training, I felt that I had a good obedience foundation so we moved into more advanced training. In year two Leo received his Junior and Senior Hunt test titles and had a great first year of hunting: retrieving geese, ducks, and doves.

My wife and I love the outdoors and Leo is the perfect companion to go on all of our hiking and cross-country skiing adventures. Last summer we drove out west and hiked, with Leo right by our side, at Palo Duro Canyon in Texas; the Painted Desert National Park and Sedona, Arizona; Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Mount Olympus in Salt Lake City, Utah; and Telluride, Colorado, where Leo even rode in a gondola to the top of the mountain with us. We also hiked in and around Rigby, Idaho.

Leo even ate dinner with us at Sadie’s of Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Pig & a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City, Utah, and also restaurants in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Sedona, Arizona, just to name a few. People would bring water out to Leo while we ate on the patio, for instance.

Most of the trip we stayed at La Quinta Hotels which are extremely accommodating to people with large breed dogs and they do not charge a pet fee. Another valuable resource was Bring Fido helped us find pet friendly restaurants, hiking trails, and dog parks so that we could get out of the car and stretch our legs. The western states are very accommodating to people with pets compared to Ohio, where there are limited pet friendly public places to go with your dog.

Once we got home from our trip, I received an email about the adventure dog program and couldn’t believe I didn’t sign up for it before our trip. The program intrigued me because it was a way for me to advance my training and bond with my dog. I don’t want my dog to get bored and neither do I, so this was exactly what we needed. Leo earned his Trail Rated and Adventure dog certification, and became Therapy Dog Certified. (I am a Physical Education teacher that brings his dog to work, how cool is that!)

When I took the Therapy dog class, which was a 6-week class, I didn’t know what I would have to do to get my dog do to pass the test. Three weeks into the class I signed up for the test and passed. The test involved obedience and a friendly, loving dog, all of which qualities Leo possesses.

Leo 3IMG_1994[1]Currently, Leo and I are working on our Master Trekker adventure dog certification. We just completed boating last week and, with only 2 merits to go, I have decided to do mountain biking and either horseback riding or tracking. I raised Leo to be quiet so alerting me with a bark once he finds a person might be challenging even though he has a great nose and is an exceptional tracker when we play search and rescue. The other challenge is trying to find someone with a horse that I can train with. So I haven’t made up my mind which one I will do yet.

Working with Leo on each sub skill for the adventure dog program has been easy because I had already built the foundation of obedience in that first year from following the Wildrose way of training. People make comments all the time on how well-behaved Leo is, but what they don’t know is how much work has gone into it. I took a lot of criticism from family and friends on how I was training Leo. Now that they have seen the finished product, I have people asking me for advice all the time. From my experiences people want a well-behaved dog, but don’t want to put in the time to get the dog to that point.

Leo 6IMG_1995[2]I also joined a retriever club so that I could have access to property to train on. It is obvious that anyone who sees Leo and me knows that we have a partnership, a team, whereas, a lot of other handlers that I come across do not have that same relationship with their dogs. When we are in the field working, there is a mutual respect where I get constant eye contact from Leo. One thing that stuck with me from reading Mike Stewart’s book was “capturing the dogs eyes, if you have their eyes you will have their attention.”  Leo might not be the best dog on marks but he is exceptional on lining blind retrieves and handling, which is all about trust in the handler.

When waiting to run a Hunt Test, I always get Leo out of the truck at least an hour before we run and you can find us cuddling under a shade tree or the truck’s tailgate. A lot of other handlers get their dogs out in just enough time to air the dog, then to the line they go. I very seldom ever raise my voice to Leo, whereas, I experience other handlers who constantly yell at their dogs in frustration. My wife laughs at me because I always give Leo a pep talk while in the holding blind waiting to run.  At family picnics I can sit Leo, without a tie out or leash, and walk away and his eyes never stop watching me while I am away from his side despite distractions everywhere. Wherever I travel, Leo goes and the majority of the time, unless required, I do not use a leash on Leo. He simply wants to be by my side and nowhere else, except when retrieving a bird, of course. Earlier I mentioned about forming a bond with my dog and the adventure dog program has helped to make our existing bond even stronger. I truly feel there is nothing that Leo cannot do.

Leo1IMG_1983[1]Some future goals that Leo and I have are to earn our Master Hunting Title, for which we will enter our first master hunt test this fall. A goal of ours is to never fail a hunt test, which is not very common from what I see among handlers and their dogs. I just began shed training in the spring and look forward to finding our first shed next year. I also want to start training him to hunt a blood trail so that if I ever lose a deer I can go home get Leo and he can help me track the deer.

Leo is now 2 ½ years old and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I pretty much take him everywhere with me as long as they allow dogs. Unless you looked down you wouldn’t know that I had a black lab at my side. He is truly a great companion. After a hard day of work Leo loves snuggling on the couch and getting a foot massage.

Who knows what our next adventure might be, but I do know Leo will be by my side. Adventure on!

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Wildrose “Quin Tess n tail”

pronounced “Quintessential”

by John Musser

Whelped on January 2, 2005, one of five females, of Angus and Tess II, at Wildrose Kennels near Oxford, MS., beloved Musser family member and devoted gun dog….. lovingly put to rest July 1, 2016.

IMG_2403With retirement in sight, my wife, Melanie and I were actively discussing our respective bucket lists. On one occasion I announced that there was one thing I had always wanted. Melanie at once gasped, “oh no, you want a boat.” No, I said, I want a hunting dog.“ No problem she said, If you want a dog, why wait, get one now.” Just so we were clear I explained it wasn’t just any lab that I wanted. I went on to detail the attributes of the quintessential hunting dog I desired. When I finished we shared the understanding that this was going to be an endeavor requiring a serious commitment and considerable resource. You don’t have to call me twice to dinner! The saga had begun.

Researching the internet led us to the renowned Wildrose Kennels, but to be sure we made the trek from Michigan to Oxford to meet the trainer and see the operation first hand. We were extremely impressed. Their reputation for turning-out labs with the exemplary gun dog qualities I desired was instantly confirmed once Mike and Cathy walked us through the process and showed us around the operation.

We first met our Tess on February 18, 2005. She was distinctly unique among her four sisters due to her shyness, sleek coat and wagging tail. Thus the AKC registration, “Wildrose Ouin Tess n tail”. I remember Mike’s parting words to each of the new owners on pickup day, “Each of your Wildrose dogs are very special – don’t screw them up!”

Tess (or “wiggle-bum”, as she was affectionately called by my grandson) was certainly special. She was a very quick start with her obedience and basic training and showed an intense desire to please almost from the day we met her. Most who met Tess during those first few months expressed amazement at how well mannered she was around other dogs and strangers. Though sweet she was, when it was time to train she was all business. Ditto at dinner time.

Tess was a great traveler. On our first trip together while checking-in at a hotel the desk clerk was reluctant to allow Tess to stay in our room. I reasoned that Tess was less likely to make a mess than my brother who they were allowing in the room. All the while we were discussing the situation Tess sat at heel quietly. After peeking over the front desk to see how Tess was behaving, the clerk said it would be ok for Tess stay in the room but they might have to reconsider the decision regarding my brother. Just to show off, the next morning we went to the continental breakfast with Tess. She sat quietly outside the breakfast room until we finished and had checked out. Knowing her passion for eating, that episode told me a lot about whether she was steady enough for prime time in hunt South Dakota.

Before we knew it the time had come to return Tess to Wildrose for her next level of training regimen. Mike and his staff worked with Tess everyday for six months. When we came to get her after this training Mike took me on a walk to demonstrate what Tess had learned. I was so proud of her. This was my dog following each command without hesitation or fault. I was astonished when Mike brought her to the caged pheasant pen. Mike proceeded to throw the bumper into a dozen or so pheasants at the end of the pen. With pheasants flying every which way he sends Tess into the fray to retrieve the bumper. Holy Toledo, how could any dog stay focused, but she did. That little demonstration nearly popped the buttons on the front of my shirt. Somebody call South Dakota and warn the pheasants that Tess is ready and she’s coming soon to town!

Soon thereafter Tess and I were pheasant hunting in South Dakota for the first time. My dream had come true. This was the real world and Tess had some things to learn and so did I. Mike always said developing a Wildrose gun dog was more about training the owner than training the dog (right you are, Mr. Stewart). Despite my best efforts Tess turned out fantastic.

One lesson taught early on was when Tess learned about barbed wire, the hard way. A bird got winged and I sent Tess to run it down. Tess got momentarily snagged on a hidden fence but broke free and ultimately found and retrieved the bird to me. She suffered a gash above her eye and a slash on her leg. Fortunately the car and first aid were close at hand. It also helped that there was an emergency room doctor in our hunting party. After we cleaned her up we covered the dressing on her leg with duct tape as that was all we had. A bit later we called it a day and posed for pictures with the dogs and harvested birds. Unfortunately I sent a copy of the pictures to Melanie and within seconds she emailed me back wondering why Tess’ leg was all taped up. I had no choice but to confess she had been hurt. After reassuring Melanie we took Tess to the local vet to get stitched up. Tess never skipped a beat and hunted full-tilt the remainder of our trip. Lessons learned – introduce your dog to barbed wire before you hunt and be sure to crop pictures of the dog as needed before sending them to your wife.

After the first year of hunting with Tess and even though I was delighted with her performance I felt she could benefit from the advanced training offered by Wildrose. In the interest of brevity let me just say it was well worth it. What was good before became great and what was great became outstanding.

Before we could get to South Dakota the second time Tess was diagnosed with heartworm, despite having been on a rigorous preventative treatment program almost from birth. She became very  debilitated and gained a lot of excess weight due to the steroid treatments. For months we couldn’t even let her play in the yard. The recovery was slow and at times we thought we might be fighting a losing battle. Through it all Tess was incredibly stoic and kept fighting, never not wagging her tail. Finally she started to improve but not enough to allow her to hunt. It hurt to leave her at home when I went to South Dakota that next year.

Tess and I spent the next summer rehabilitating.  Amazingly, she  made a remarkable recovery and was on top of her game as we returned to South Dakota. If there was a retrieve to be made she did it. If there was cover you wanted her to hunt she never balked. If other dogs couldn’t locate a cripple Tess would often make the retrieve. Her nose was her best asset and a marvel to behold when she would position herself to wind and locate downed birds. No question she really knew her business.

In the off season Tess and I would practice by playing hide and seek the bumper in the basement, which was half finished and half unfinished. I’d have her sit while I hid the bumper in the unfinished side and then I would send her for the retrieve. You could not fool that girl. The same was true outdoors as she demonstrated weekly her prowess by locating and retrieving the Sunday New York Times (the size of a snow goose) wherever in the shrubs it had been tossed by the delivery boy.

Tess’ troubles didn’t stop with the heartworm. As time passed chronic joint arthritis continued to worsen and the effects became more evident. While there was no indication of diminished interest in hunting even up to the end, you could see her losing mobility bit by bit. Increasing the type and dosage of various medications seemed to provide some comfort for her but after a few more years it was clear the meds weren’t doing enough. In good conscience I couldn’t hunt her any longer. Her obvious pain was hard enough to witness but It was truly heartbreaking not to take her hunting.  At that point we decided to keep medicating her until such time she no longer had reasonable quality of life.

Near the end Tess was pretty sedentary, mostly staying to herself, but continued to rise whenever the other dogs rose to go outdoors. She often would take a short swim in the pond with our two other Wildrose labs. Sometimes we would toss a bumper into the pond for her. She always made the retrieve and returned to heel at my side until I accepted her retrieve. She had such joy in her eyes when she was making these simple retrieves. The same look I had seen so many times before when Tess was retrieving birds.

The only thing that rivaled her excitement for hunting was her passion for eating. She would literally lay in front of the bag of food to guard it from any assault by the other dogs. It’s the only time I have seen her bare her teeth. Without fail, each time she was going to be fed she would crank up the tail wagging and starting doing the rocking horse dance. You could always tell when it was time for Tess to eat because five minutes before or after her designated feed time she would come sit in front of us with her bowl in her mouth. Eating time, like hunting time, was happy time.

We knew our days were numbered with Tess and we often discussed what would be our sign the time was here to let her go. We decided that when she no longer rose with the other dogs or showed a lack of interest in eating we would know that was the end. One morning, wondering why Tess hadn’t come to roust us from bed, as she routinely did, we found her still in her bed, clearly not interested in getting up, not even to eat. That was Tess’ last day.

Tess was family to be sure and we were most certainly blessed to have known and loved her. What a sweetheart, what a devoted friend, what a brilliant huntress, what a stoic soldier……our quintessential Wildrose Tess.

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