How to Talk to Your Retriever

Ducks Unlimited Magazine featured an 8-page article on the Wildrose methodology of “communicating with your retriever.” Katie Behnke’s photos appeared in the article as well as on the front and back covers of the issue (all Wildrose Gundogs). According to the editor, this is only the second time in Ducks Unlimited history that a photographer was featured on the front and the back covers of a single issue. Also, Katie’s cover photo of Wildrose Black Ice (son of Deke the DU Mascot) placed her as the first female photographer to capture a Ducks Unlimited Magazine cover. (May 2023)

Read Article HERE

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Maighmor Madrid “Rosie”

Post from Melissa Warrens’ Facebook Page

Our dear, sweet Rosie passed from this earth yesterday at 10:50 am. As the bells of Holy Rosary coincidentally chimed the call for the Palm Sunday Mass, their glorious gongs rang out along Bayou St. John and in a surreal, regal moment, they escorted our Rosie on angel wings to her Foreverland.

Born Maighmor Madrid in the United Kingdom on July 7, 2005, Rosie came to us as a fully finished retired hunting Dam from Wildrose Kennels. She quickly adjusted to being our loyal, fun, abiding companion pup.

Known for her steady drive and her bionic nose, Rosie had a particular skill of finding lost birds. She was often sent to find and gloriously retrieve evasive birds that left other dogs frustrated and bewildered. This legendary hunting characteristic made her a legacy in the world of Dams.

Rosie knew good food and as she adjusted to retired life, she developed a particular title as a “Pizza Aficionado” and expert on all things bread. She was also known to snag one of Darla’s special-made Thanksgiving carrot cakes or sneak a loaf of Wonder Bread from Aunt Donna’s pantry.

Rosie’s unconditional love provided a sound steadiness to our home and grounded us at the end of long busy days. She taught us to stop and enjoy a moment because there is no time like the present to know you are loved and adored. Her favorite place was bathing in the sunlight of the front yard as she watched the goings on along the Bayou. She loved children and was always in the mood to make new friends. She was humble and loving to all. We would often refer to her as the Queen because of her grace and poise.

Rosie is preceded in death by her best friend Wildrose Pippa. We know that Pippa was bouncing with joy singing Pip-Pip Hooray as Rosie approached the gates of heaven.

Rosie leaves behind two adopted cats, Harry and Patches, who think she is their mom; an extensive sphere of human, canine, and feline family and friends. We are especially grateful for all the family and friends who came by over the weekend to spend special time with Rosie. She loves you all and appreciated seeing you before her journey.

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Introducing Your Puppy To Water

By Guy Billups, Wildrose Texas

Now that we have had our first heat index over 100 degrees in Texas, it’s time to talk about water. If you are raising a future duck-hunting companion, this is a very important step in the life of your future duck dog. Decisions here can mean the difference between a dog that practically lives in the water or a dog that you spend its lifetime encouraging it to do what hundreds of years of breeding meant for it to do. If you are going to do this right, be patient and enjoy the process. If you don’t like getting wet or dirty, raising a pup that likes water and mud is going to be that much harder. Grab your boots or take ‘em off and roll up the pants, it’s time to act like puppy. 

Photo by Aaron Davis

First step is to choose an appropriate location. Find a calm and safe body of water for the introduction, such as a shallow pond, a calm lake, or a controlled swimming area. Ensure there are no strong currents or dangerous hazards present. The more gradual the entry the better. We want the puppy to touch the bottom for as long as possible before deciding to swim. 

Second, familiarize the puppy with the water’s edge. Bring the puppy to the water’s edge and allow the puppy to observe the water from a safe distance. Encourage positive associations by speaking to the puppy in a calm and reassuring manner. Do not force the puppy into the water. Any time you apply force on anything, the reaction is always push back. We want the puppy eagerly straining to get into the water not fighting us from the start even before it knows what it’s fighting against. 

Third, use a trusted companion. THIS MEANS YOU. Get in the water, splash around, and have fun. The temptation of you playing without them will entice most pups fairly quickly to join in on the fun. Keep it positive. Throughout the process, maintain a positive and patient attitude. The goal is to build trust and confidence. Sometimes an adult dog that lives for the water can be a good enticer as well. Just make sure the older dog isn’t going to push the younger pup under accidentally if they get too excited.

Fourth, it is important to realize we have not done retrieves into the water at this point with the pup. It is important for the puppy to know what it is getting into when charging off into the water for a bumper. If you just send the pup in without the pup knowing what is going to happen, you risk the pup reacting poorly due to shock. Once your pup knows what is going to happen though, this will become a favorite and exciting game for the rest of the pup’s life.

Photo by Aaron Davis

Remember, each puppy is unique and the pace of progress may vary. It’s essential to be patient, observe the comfort level, and adjust the training accordingly. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your local Wildrose or fellow pack members for help gaining access to good areas to train and work together in this exciting time.

For more training tips, see “Training the Wildrose Way” on Facebook.

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Wildrose Midwest Settles Into Their New Home

After a year of careful deliberation and site selection, Wildrose Midwest has found their new home and has begun moving in this past month.  Wildrose Midwest’s new home is conveniently located 60 miles north of Milwaukee in Sheboygan Wisconsin.   N8100 Brookdale Road, Sheboygan, WI  53083.

In late 2022, a longtime friend of Wildrose Kennels decided it was time to close down his Labrador training, breeding, and boarding business to find a successor for the property. It was a natural fit for Wildrose Midwest because the property is set up for training, breeding, and caring for labs. The property currently has a nice house, a separate kennel building with 30 indoor heated kennels, another kennel building with 10 indoor/outdoor kennels, an indoor storage facility for equipment and supplies, two barns with inside bird pens, a 6-acre technical training pond, 20 acres of planted fields, forested area, and a small creek.

“It is really an honor to follow in Jim and Judy Powers’ footsteps with this property. Jim and Judy for the first time in 20 years, won back-to-back National Amateur Field Trial Championships (2001/2002) and Judy was honored with an induction in the National Field Trial Hall of Fame.  These are big shoes for us to fill, but it is great to be training dogs on the property and carrying on Jim and Judy’s passion”, says Al Klotsche, owner of Wildrose Kennels Midwest.

Wildrose Midwest is fortunate to have Jill Koren and Bob Rairigh as part of the team for the summer.  Jill, Bob, and Al are working to get the kennels updated before their first litter of puppies is born in early June.

Wildrose Midwest will be gradually opening up their kennel facilities over the summer and looks forward to being fully operational by the time of the Wildrose Cup in September. All members of the Wildrose Pack are welcomed and encouraged to stop by when they are in the area. For those wanting to combine some vacation time with your dog training, nearby Kohler has some of the finest, world-class golf courses, outstanding fly fishing in the rivers, charter fishing on Lake Michigan, luxurious spas, miles of natural hiking trails, and family water parks. 

The Inaugural Wildrose Cup

Wildrose Midwest is looking forward to hosting one of our premier national events, The Wildrose Cup.  This British-style field trial is designed for handlers and finished dogs who would like to test their skills among other like-minded trainers in a setting that is uniquely competitive, while being supportive of one another. The judged competition will involve the handlers shooting with birds in flight along with a non-shooter competitor, an option if preferred. The events for the weekend will be held in and around Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the home of Wildrose Kennels Midwest. Participants will have an opportunity to train at Wildrose Midwest, compete at the 350-acre Sandhill private retreat, compete in shooting events at the local gun club, and dine at the renowned River Wildlife Lodge. Fall is a beautiful time of year to be in the Midwest with the trees changing color, the warmth of the fall sun, and crisp cool evenings.  

Unlike traditional field trials where dogs are gradually eliminated throughout the competition, aligning with the Wildrose camaraderie, handlers and dogs will continue to participate throughout the entire event. Our judges will be challenging the dogs to the level they are able to effectively participate. At the end of the competition, the top dogs will have demonstrated some amazing capabilities, and everyone will have an opportunity to learn from each other. At lunch on Sunday, we will award the Wildrose Cup to the top handler and their dog. We will also recognize a runner-up, as well as a Gun’s Choice Award. While not required, we encourage participants to dress in British field attire and will have an award for the best dressed sportsman or sportswoman.

The Wildrose Cup is open to all Wildrose clients who have a dog and handling experience to compete at this advanced level. The Wildrose Cup is not open to professionals who train dogs for others. Guests are allowed to join for the full event and meals.

Space will be limited for this event.  Interested participants should reach out to or call (414) 336-6754 

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Buttermilk Fried Pheasant Over a Bed of Grits

By Guy Billups, Wildrose Texas

Ingredients: For the fried pheasant breast:

  • 4 pheasant breast fillets
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

For the grits:

  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Place the pheasant breast fillets in a shallow dish and pour the buttermilk over them. Ensure the fillets are fully submerged in the buttermilk. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.
  2. In a large pot, bring the water and milk to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits and reduce the heat to low. Cook the grits for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are creamy and tender. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
  3. In a separate shallow dish, combine the flour, salt, black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Mix well to combine.
  4. Remove the pheasant breast fillets from the buttermilk, allowing any excess buttermilk to drip off. Dredge the fillets in the flour mixture, coating them evenly on both sides. Shake off any excess flour.
  5. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. You’ll want enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/4 inch.
  6. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the breaded pheasant breast fillets to the pan. Fry them for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until they are golden brown and cooked through. The internal temperature of the fillets should reach 165°F (74°C). Fry the fillets in batches if necessary, to avoid overcrowding the pan.
  7. Remove the fried pheasant breast fillets from the pan and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
  8. To serve, spoon a generous portion of the cooked grits onto each plate. Place a fried pheasant breast fillet on top of the grits.
  9. Garnish with fresh herbs like chopped parsley or chives if desired.

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A Wildrose for All Places

By Glenn Elison

Every serious bird hunter, if they are fortunate, has had a truly great hunting dog that shines above all others.  Wildrose Kiska was my great dog. She recently died at the much too early age of five. This is my homage to her.

Kiska was a small lab with heart and drive.  After four decades of bush travel in Alaska, I wanted a compact dog that would easily fit into small airplanes and square stern canoes.  Kiska fit.

Kiska was a methodical, tireless hunter. She was an exceptional bird finder, retriever, and pointer. At the tender age of ten months, she was regularly finding pheasants and sharp-tail grouse my older dog, Foxy, another Wildrose Lab, missed even though Foxy was a good hunter by any standard.  

Hunting was my greatest interest when I brought Kiska home, but I wanted more than that.  I wanted an outdoor companion for all seasons and all places.  Kiska delivered. I am fortunate to have retired in the West where we enjoy a smorgasbord of great outdoor recreation after 40 years of working, living, and recreating all over Alaska. She was my stream side trout fishing advisor, rafting companion, hiking buddy, cross country ski companion, and guard dog when in Alaska bear country.  She was diligent in keeping our gravel bar campsites bear free. 

Kiska was friendly, loving, and social. Just saying her name would start her wagging, not just her tail, but her whole body from the front shoulders to the tip of her tail; the full-body wag.  She was the crowd favorite and camp mascot whether we were rafting and fishing remote Alaska rivers, caribou hunting in the Arctic, or assembled for North Dakota pheasant hunting.  She would go from the ultra-mellow fireplace dog to the laser focused, driven hunter at a moment’s notice.

The last day of the 2022 pheasant season was New Year’s Day 2023. I chose to hunt a long brushy coulee dominated by thick stands of choke cherries and hawthorns.  It was an area that had no resemblance to the famous pheasant fields of Nebraska and South Dakota.  We started a couple of hours after sunup. It was clear and cold with a bright sun that lacked warmth.  After an hour I had two roosters. Another hour brought me to a large stock dam where I planned to turn around.  Kiska went into the brush and soon came out clearly trailing a running bird.  Forty feet into a patch of high grass Kiska flushed a rooster.  The sun lit up the gloriously colored pheasant.  I shot and the bird fell into a side coulee full of brush but without the finality of a well-centered pattern.  Kiska disappeared into the hawthorns. After a minute or so, she returned with the rooster, running back to me drenched in the bright winter sun.  I had no way of knowing that would be Kiska’s last hunt.  If I could have scripted it, I couldn’t have done better.  Kiska provided five years of rich memories, more than most dogs could generate during much longer lives.  I am fortunate to have had her with me in all my outdoor places.

Wildrose Kiska
Sire:  BuccleuchXander
Dam:  Astraglen Tiger 
DOB:  January 9, 2018

Photo Credit: Don & Lori Thomas

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Hats Off to Dr. Ben McClelland!

By Cathy W. Stewart

Dr. Ben McClelland, former Distinguished Professor and Schilling Chair of Writing at the University of Mississippi English Department and retired Director of the Writing Project at Ole Miss has been a dedicated Volunteer Editor of the Wildrose Journal for the past decade. Ben notified us last week that he is ready to retire from his role as editor of the Journal which caused me to reflect upon his many contributions to the Wildrose experience.

When I met Dr. Ben McClelland, he was always immaculately dressed and fulfilled the role of Distinguished Professor in looks and knowledge. I was always in awe of his presentations, his skillful teaching manner, and his abundant talent as a writer and leader. We all have professors/teachers who stand out in our minds as the best in their field and that’s what Dr. McClelland was for me.

Upon my retirement as an educator, I began the full-time role as office manager for Wildrose Kennels.  Much to my surprise, as Ben McClelland embraced his own retirement, he chose to purchase a Wildrose dog and learn the Wildrose Way.  Instead of seeing Ben in his professor regalia, I would look out of my office window and see him donning clothing from Wildrose Trading Company, a whistle in his mouth, and a gamebag across his shoulder.  I kept shaking my head in disbelief… the professor I revered was joining the Wildrose Pack!  As we wrote the history of Wildrose Kennels for our 50th Anniversary, I asked Ben to outline his experiences at Wildrose.

In December, 2010, Ben McClelland began a volunteer relationship with Wildrose Kennels, serving on the staff at Wildrose Kennels as a Resident Writer and Apprentice Trainer. In the spring of 2011 and 2012 he attended the Wildrose DAD conferences, interviewed participants, and participated in the training sessions.  He traveled to Dallas, Texas in November of 2011 to attend the Diabetes Friendly Foundation’s second annual “K9s for Kids” benefit at the Fashion Industry Gallery.  Several Wildrose DADs and their handlers were honored as the Foundation made it possible for other families to receive DADs.  McClelland wrote an online blog and posted several photographs from the event, which raised $12,000 to donate to Wildrose’s DAD Program. In 2014 McClelland’s Lifesaving Labradors: Stories from Families with Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs was published by KoehlerBooks. The personal narratives of the dozen diabetics, their Wildrose dogs, and their diabetic caregivers are the heart and soul of this book.  All book royalties went to the Wildrose DAD Program.

In order to develop a working knowledge of retriever training, McClelland engaged in immersion-style vantage points for two years in field exercises under the kennel staff’s guidance. Pictured below, McClelland sends Eider for a retrieve at the Wildrose Handlers’ Workshop, 2011.

In June 2011 McClelland purchased Mac as a seven-week-old puppy from a Kane and Molly (bl) litter, and trained him according to the Wildrose Way. Mac accompanied Eider and McClelland on regular visits to the kennel.

FTCh Gusty Garry
“Kane,” Imported 2005 is the kennel’s most prolific sire.
Mike Stewart (left) makes introductory remarks before McClelland (center) ran 13-week-old Mac through a basic obedience drill for puppy-pickin’ clients, July 15, 2011.
Mac, Knight, Eve, Eider, and Scout. The Mac Pack, 2019. Photo Credit: Katie Behnke

Over the years, McClelland added Scout (5-2016), Eve (1-2018), and Knight (10-2018) to the Mac pack, training each of them as well. Scout and Eve served as Wildrose broodstock.

Thus, McClelland gained a client’s view of the new-dog owner’s role as he and his dogs interacted with the Wildrose trainers in advanced- and young-dog training activities.  

In addition, Wildrose offered McClelland various other learning activities in those early years, including the introductory training seminar for new owners, the Retriever Training Workshop, and the Dog Handlers’ Workshop with Vic Barlow, Wildrose’s English partner, as well as the Associate Trainers’ Workshop and field work with Nigel Carville, Wildrose’s Irish partner.  Also, under the kennel’s auspices he participated in and wrote online blogs on two quail hunts and a dove hunt at Prairie Wildlife, West Point, MS, and pheasant tower shoots in Westervelt Lodge, Aliceville, AL.  Moreover, he accompanied Mike to Memphis, TN, for a demonstration at the Ducks Unlimited state headquarters during the annual meeting for Tennessee members.  

McClelland also established an online blog/journal and has authored numerous feature journal articles over the past decade.  He helped grow our small newsletter to the Wildrose Journal, a social media leader in its class with over 23,000 subscribers.

During the summer of 2011 McClelland worked with Chip Laughton in his North Carolina studio to select some images for Lifesaving Labradors and to receive instruction in digital photography.  Shortly thereafter, he traveled with two dogs to Vandalia, IL, in July, working for two days with Associate Trainer Jay Lowry, seeing his implementation of the Wildrose training methods and especially learning how to employ live-bird training exercises with retrievers.  Based on this experience, he wrote a brief blog and included a photographic slide show of Jay and his bird-training activities.  Jay has trained two dogs, Ruby and Charlie, which he donated to the DAD Program.  Both dogs are featured in this book.

In August of 2011 Trainer Patrick Allen and McClelland trailered five dogs to the kennel’s Colorado facility at Clear Creek Ranch.  While there, he attended Mike’s two-day adventure dog workshop in Buena Vista, CO, and reported on it in a blog that contained a slide show of 139 images.  

Returning to Mississippi, McClelland participated with Eider in a kennel-sponsored dove hunt at Prairie Wildlife.  Following that event, he reported on the activities of the day for the thirty-five participating clients and their dogs, publishing an online blog with a gallery of photos. 

On September 17 and 18, 2011, McClelland attended and blogged on the Orvis Cup and Family Game Fair Weekend at the Sandanona Shooting Grounds near Millbrook, NY.  The resulting online story carried a slide show of 115 images that he edited from over four hundred.

In the last week of September, 2011, McClelland traveled to Boston, MA, to work with Associate Trainer Tim Clancy to see his kennel operation and training activities.  In addition, he visited with Tim’s wife, Danielle, who was conducting the background training of DAD Roscoe.  He also wrote a blog and posted photos of this experience.

In late October, McClelland attended and reported on the blog about the Double Gun Classic at Wildrose.  This annual competitive shooting and retrieving event, a favorite of many gundog regulars, afforded him access to several prominent dogs and individuals in the Wildrose family.

In 2012 McClelland continued to participate in major Wildrose events, including dove hunts, pheasant pickups, associate trainer sessions, and dog handlers workshops. In October, 2012, he ran Mac in the Double Gun Classic. In the ensuing decade McClelland has enjoyed regular training for his dogs at the kennel and he has continued volunteer activities for Wildrose, primarily authoring feature stories for the Journal.

Ben’s many volunteer hours of work for the Journal are deeply appreciated.  Once a writer, always a writer so keep an eye out for an occasional article in the future penned by Ben. In the meantime, I hope to continue to look out my window and see the Ben I’m accustomed to seeing now with his training apparel working his dogs The Wildrose Way.

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Group Work


A walk-up is an excellent group training exercise that’s enjoyable for handlers and gundogs alike – everyone can play.  The British style walk-up is the same activity used on a large party pheasant hunt.   Blockers are placed at the end of the field that is to be pushed to prevent the escape of running birds.  The walkers with their dogs form a line at the opposite end of the field in relatively close ranks to prevent birds from slipping through the formation. As the line moves forward, the group effectively drives the birds until they are flushed.  Usually, our walkers are fielding retrievers or spaniels.  Pointers may be used but most likely these breeds are reserved for clean-up opportunities or small party hunts.

This training discussion focuses on the skills necessary for a good walk-up and driven gundog.  The quartering and flushing discussion will be reserved for another feature.  For now, we will focus on honing walk-up gundog skills.

Waterfowlers:  Don’t leave the discussion!  You may assume these walkup exercises are not applicable to your water dog’s performance.  Not so.  These experiences will improve the duck dog’s skills for steadiness, marking and remembering multiple falls, as well as improve the use of your dog’s nose in cover for recoveries.  All good stuff, so stay with us.


Group walk-up training is not a single purpose exercise.  Much will be accomplished if practiced occasionally. 

Training Outcomes

·   Steadiness – Remaining steady to marks. Flushes and gunshot become more of a challenge for any dog that is walking off lead rather than sitting still on a stand or in a blind.

·   Excellent marking skills – Often the uplander only sees a short glimpse of the bird falling as their view is obstructed by obstacles or dense cover.  Distance estimation is important.

·   Aggressive hunters of cover – The nose knows. The dog must learn to get to the correct fall area. Then hold a tight search pattern using scent work, not just looking for the bird.

·   Drive – The gundog must be quick and agile to get to a downed bird accurately and quickly despite obstructions.  Many of these game birds, whether wild quail or pheasants, hit the ground running.  A prompt recovery is vital.

·   Honoring other working dogs – As part of steadiness, the proper walk-up dog “tends to its own business.”  No frolicking about with other dogs working afield.

These accomplishments take practice and they make a perfect skillset checklist for a young gundog to experience before their first season. Quartering and flush work come later for a dog of duality.

Let the Games Begin

With our objectives for training well established, let’s take a look at a few of the “Wildrose Way” exercises utilized for walk-up retriever development.

The Progression of Lessons
Walk-up I –Single: A single mark to the front is thrown as the group walks an open field.  Once the dogs understand the concept, move to a field with grass cover.  Begin with the young student on-lead if necessary, but our training objective will be to move to off-lead heel work on walks-ups.

Walk-up II –180°: A single memory is placed behind the walk-up line by each participant.  As the line moves forward, a single mark is thrown ahead of the line.  The line stops and the mark is picked by one dog followed by the memory to the rear.  Whether the mark or memory is the first recovery is the handler’s choice.

Walk-up III – Scatters:  As the walk-up line negotiates the field with dogs patient at heel, multiple marks are thrown forward.  Now several different dogs may participate picking the 3 to 5 marks.

Walk-up IV –Across the Line:  As the line moves forward, a single mark is presented forward at one end of the line.  The outside dog at the opposite end of the procession makes the pick.  This requires the dog to run directly in front of all dogs as they remain steady.  Once recovered, the handlers rotate positions allowing a different dog to be at the end of the line and make a pick while all other dogs remain steady.

Walk-up V – Distractions: Add gunfire, poppers, or launcher dummies to the drill options.  Gunfire definitely adds excitement. Also, incorporate double dog retrieves. As one dog makes a pick and is on the return, send another.

Walk-up VI –Birds: Occasionally incorporate a few cold birds for dogs to find.  Usually, these will be placed as unseens which are dropped without the dog’s knowledge.  The mark for the dog is offered to the front.  Once recovered, another dog is sent to the rear of the line for the unseen grand prize, the biggest motivator: A BIRD!

Advanced/Upland Training Videos

Walk-ups may be further researched with examples as discussed on Pages 156, 195, 205-209 in Sporting Dogs and Retriever Training, the Wildrose Way and seen in videos featured in the Wildrose online library at

Walk-ups are excellent training for any gundog and they remain an important prerequisite for dogs expected to quarter and flush upland game birds.  It’s “first things first” in gundog development. Walk-ups are a great deal of fun, and they provide beneficial group training experiences along the trail to sporting dog excellence.

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By Tom Smith, Wildrose Mississippi

Mike Stewart says one of the secrets of dog training is: “Dogs don’t talk but they are always communicating.” Do you know how to decipher what your dog is telling you? Does your dog understand what you are asking of them? We are going to delve into human-canine communications to help understand what you are doing, or are perhaps not doing, when interacting with your furry companion.

Canine communication can be broken down into 3 main areas, the 3 T’s- Timing, Tempo and Tone (page 41, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training the Wildrose Way). Our dogs read us like an open book. They know when we are happy, sad, mad, upset and the list goes on, but do they truly understand what you are asking from them?


For the last decade or more of training clients, I have found that timing is one of the hardest tasks for handlers to grasp. Our job as handlers is to make a correction or praise immediately when the dog does or does not do what we are asking. For example, when I have a dog on the fence, and we are starting left and right casting, it is imperative to praise the dog when he takes the correct cast. I do not wait until he has gone 15 yards for the praise. It is immediate as soon as he turns in the proper direction and makes the first step. This lets Fido know he is doing exactly what I want. On the other hand, if he turns the wrong way, I am immediately hitting the stop whistle and verbally saying “no.” Dogs live in the moment, if the praise or correction is not immediate they do not understand exactly what is going on. If you leave your puppy in a room and come back and the pup has peed on the floor, you can’t correct him because you didn’t catch him in the act. If you scold him at this point, he has no idea what he did. He has moved on to the next thing he wants to explore. This takes us further down the rabbit hole with how we respond to a specific behavior.

Not only must your timing be spot on, but your response must be correct. We have 3 responses to a pup’s behavior: praise, correction, and neutral. Praise and correction we all understand, but what is the neutral? If your pup lines out for a retrieve, makes the pick, and on the way back decides to do a bit of an independent frolic and eventually comes back to deliver, what is your response? He brought it back to hand, correct? Should you praise? But he also ran around like a goofball. Should you make a correction? Neither. A neutral response here is perfect. As the handler I am not rewarding nor correcting the dog for any of the behaviors he just exhibited, I will take the bumper and reset the drill. If Fido does the same run-about again, we will move to a different area so as not to develop an undesirable habit. Dogs are place oriented so we will move across the property and not run the same drill in that location for a few weeks.


Tempo is the pace (fast or slow) at which you conduct training. This starts when you take the dog out for training. If Roscoe is lethargic and not paying attention, I will walk at a brisk pace for the ramp-up and do a lot of squares to keep his attention. I will throw in some clapping and make the outing really fun and exciting for the pup. Conversely, if I get a dog out and they are fired up I will do what I call a zombie walk. I began walking quickly to burn energy then reduce my pace to a very slow and methodical tempo to get that energy level down to a manageable level. This theory also applies while you are running the drills. If Mattis is up on his claws in a sprinter’s stance, I will move very slowly during the lining process and hold him longer before release to control him. On the other hand, if Ralph is uninterested, I will move much faster and fire him quickly to keep his focus. Tempo is directly related to reading your dog and knowing their tendencies. As you progress as a handler, you will know what tempo to train at immediately when you get the dog out of the days lession which will provide insight on how to conduct your training.


Wow, can dogs read your tone of voice? The pitch of our voice makes a huge difference when communicating with our pup and it dramatically affects how they respond. We are all guilty of “baby talk” with our pups. I think it is just human nature when we see those fat little balls of energy. With my young dogs, I’m going to be much more upbeat in a high pitched tone when I praise them. And use a lower tone or growl when I correct. Dogs, especially pups, are very reactive to your tone when you are talking to them.

Tone really lets the dog know when they are doing something right versus wrong. Watch your pup’s body language when you give them praise with a fast high-pitched tone. Those tails are wagging and you can see the joy in their face. In stark contrast, the body language changes dramatically when you lower your tone and use that growl or “pirate voice.” At this point, except for key words, it doesn’t matter what you are saying it is how you are saying it. Being cognizant of how you are communicating with your dog can make a huge difference in not only your relationship but your progress as you move through the training cycle.

Body Language

In addition to the 3 T’s, I believe body language plays a big role in human-canine communication. When we praise Fido, our body language is very warm and welcoming versus making a correction when we are much stiffer and giving off the “don’t mess with me” vibe. When starting your pup on his first retrieves, we are crouched down and giving lots of praise with a higher tempo and tone to make sure our pup knows we are happy with their behavior. They are less likely to come right back to you if you are standing upright. Make it a big party incorporating the 3 T’s with a welcoming body language so the pup knows he is doing everything right.

As you progress through life with your dog, you will find that your communication abilities with them will become very symbiotic. It will seem as if you both know what the other is thinking. Starting early and understanding how human-canine communication works will enhance your experience with your four-legged best friend while taking training to new heights. When you travel the country hunting, fishing, and exploring, the bond you will create with your dog will be something you remember for a lifetime.

Now let’s get out and train!

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White Bean and Pheasant Chili

From Cheyenne Ridge Signature Lodge

High Adventure’s Corporate Chef: Sean Finley


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 pounds pheasant thigh and leg meat or ground pheasant

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons chili powder

3 tablespoons flour

2 (15-ounce cans) northern white beans, rinsed and drained

1 bunch (about 1 pound) Baby Spinach or Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves

chopped into 1-inch pieces

11/2 cups golden hominy, drained

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for

30 seconds. Add the pheasant, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, fennel seeds, oregano, and chili

powder. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pheasant is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Stir the flour into the pheasant mixture. Add the beans, Spinach or Swiss chard, corn,

and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits that cling

to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 55-60 minutes until the liquid

reduced by about half and the chili has thickened. Add the red pepper flakes and

simmer for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle the chili into serving bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and chopped


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