Dog Dreams, The Main Thing, and Portion Control A Miscellany of Episodes on Reading Your Dog

By Ben McClelland

I began writing this article on routine dog care. I typed out a litany of tips: do’s and don’ts, including vaccines; vet visits; extra hydration in hot, humid days; no table scraps; effective skunk spray remedies; and much, much more. As I read over what I had typed, my eyes glazed over. And I figured many of you readers might have the same response. After all, the folks at Wildrose (i.e., Mike Stewart and Lanette Drewrey) give great health advice in the puppy picking talk. The Facebook page carries lots of helpful advice, as well. And readers can always “Google” any topic on which they need instant information.

I started casting about for another article topic.

Dog Dreams

At that moment I glanced over at Mac, who was asleep, curled up on his bed, lying on his side, and he began an afternoon dream. As I watched and listened to Mac dreaming, I became totally engrossed in his antics.

Bingo! There’s the article topic, I thought: canine body language. What can we learn by reading our dogs’ bodies, waking and sleeping? Have you ever wondered what your dog dreamed about and why? Alexandra Horowitz described her dog, Pumpernickel’s, dream:

This morning I heard her barking in her sleep—the muffled, jowl-puffing bark of dreaming. Oh, does she dream. I love her dream-barks, falsely severe, often accompanied by twitching feet or lips curled into a teeth-baring growl. Watch long enough and I’ll see her eyes dancing, the periodic clenches of her jaw, hear her tiny whimpers. The best dreams inspire tail wags—huge thumps of delight that wake herself and me (Inside of a Dog, 213).

Those are the same as Mac’s dream antics, except that he does not wake himself with tail thumps, but usually moves into a quieter sleep mode. Horowitz reviews some of the theories about the dreams’ meaning, similar to those for humans, such as replaying physical feats or rehearsing social engagement with others.

What is not observable from his body language is why Mac can snooze all afternoon and wake up just in time for his late afternoon walk, which is followed by his regular feeding time. As it turns out, without any outside stimulus, a dog will sleep until it senses—by an internal clock—that it’s time to wake up. Horowitz explains that a “pacemaker” in the dog’s brain follows Circadian rhythms throughout the day, including “feeding-related cycles,” regulating the dog’s activities (212-214). So, at the appointed hour Mac wakes according to his internal clock, leaves his bed, and hovers around me impatiently until I lead him out for his walk in a local park, after which we return to the house for his daily feeding.

0.Mac (McClelland) copy

For as much as I read Mac’s body language when he’s around the house, I should’ve been more observant one day in the field last fall.

Make the Main Thing the Main Thing

Because Mac is a healthy, high-drive, five-year-old, I greet him for our morning exercise time, checking the weather, but simply expecting him to be physically AOK. On this cool fall day in 2015 we worked several water retrieves (memories and marks) at Wildrose. Mac worked eagerly and vigorously for over a half hour, launching into the water for each retrieve and swimming a good distance for some long ones. We returned to the truck, I loaded him onto the tailgate (his usual resting place), and I went to the flight pen to take some pictures for an article on the kennel’s bird program. Then I returned to the truck to fetch Mac to make some shots with him at the pigeon recall house. When I approached him, I noticed that he had thrown up fluid on the tailgate and he did not lift his head when I came up to him.

This is the point at which I should have been reading his body language carefully. But, no, my mind was focused on the wrong thing: I was in a hurry to take pictures. I mistakenly thought that he was just tired. Standing next to him, I called Mac down, told him to heel, and I began walking briskly down the road toward the recall house. Mac, however, was lagging behind, his head low. I urged him to come to heel and he obeyed slowly. After a few more yards, he became very woozy—ataxic—and collapsed. His eyes rolled back in his head and his gums turned white. He was out and appeared down for the count.

Fortunately for me and Mac, Blake Henderson and Lanette Drewrey were there to assist in a rescue. With unconscious Mac loaded in her truck, Lanette went into Nascar-driving mode and rushed Mac to the vet, who revived him. After some saline drips Mac appeared normal, unfazed. Meanwhile, I recriminated myself repeatedly for being so heedless of the early signs of Mac’s obvious distress.

(As I was driving my truck to the vet, trying unsuccessfully to keep up with Lanette, I wept, certain that I had lost my dog. And it was all on me. I had raised Mac from seven weeks, worked with him through the Gentleman’s Gundog training regimen, and hunted with him through two seasons.)

That day and over the next several weeks vets in Oxford and at Mississippi State University’s college of veterinary medicine completed a full medical workup on Mac, taking x-rays, EKGs, and running batteries of tests on everything. Mac wore a portable heart monitor for twenty-four hours and the reading was sent off to a clinic in New York that specializes in canine cardiology.

Because Mac became ataxic and collapsed without any apparent reason, the vets suspected EIC (exercise-induced-collapse) syndrome. (Ataxia is an inability to coordinate voluntary muscular movements, symptomatic of some central nervous system disorders, not due to muscle weakness [Merriam-Webster]). Therefore, a blood sample was sent to a clinic in the Midwest that specializes in EIC. (For more information on EIC refer to Hoskins’ article, listed below in Works Cited.)

All of the tests reported no sign of any physical or neurological disorder and no indication of EIC whatsoever. Duck-hunting season was upon us. I was very concerned about what to do with Mac. Should I take him hunting or retire him from the field? Reviewing all of the data and various written reports with me, Mac’s vet (himself a hunter and an owner of Labrador retrievers) said, “Considering the thoroughness of these results, if I were you, I’d take the risk. He’ll probably be just fine. And if he drops dead on a hunt, at least he will have died happy.” We both had a good laugh, but as I left the office, I still worried about Mac.

1.2013-01-04 MacScansSky(4.5x6)Eventually, I decided that I would take Mac hunting. On opening day I was a nervous wreck, watching his every move. On his stand while decoys were set out, he looked up into the dark sky and whimpered, a sure sign that ducks were already circling. I tapped him on the head to settle him. And soon the action began. He performed just as he always had, retrieving with enthusiasm throughout a morning with three shooters.

On the truck ride home, I put him in the backseat of the truck, not in his truck-bed box. I wanted to keep a watchful eye on him. After napping on the ride home, he was fine, same playful Mac as he always had been. And he went on happily working throughout duck season. I say “happily” because he perks up every morning when he sees the waders and hunting gear loaded in the truck. Talk about reading body language, I swear he smiles on the ride to the blind, as he peers around the bottom from the ATV. The episode of collapse was a fluke, and a preventable one, had I read Mac’s body carefully.

Portion Control

As most of you have probably experienced with your Lab, they are voracious eaters. A Kane and [Bl.] Molly offspring, Mac stands tall and has a long body. And he is always hungry. If he puts on an extra couple of pounds, it’s not very noticeable on his big frame until he sits, and then the thin part of his hourglass figure thickens a bit. After he was neutered and added a couple more years of age, his metabolism appeared to slow a bit, so I have had to keep an eye on his weight, especially in the off-season.

Dr. Brian Zanghi, a Ph.D. research scientist at the Nestle Research Center, visited Wildrose and gave excellent advice on nutrition when he made a presentation to the staff. Three articles on his nutrition research appear in the Wildrose Blog archives (May, September, and November of 2014) for any readers who wish to review his findings. I found very useful his suggestions on how to determine a dog’s body condition:

Three key things to observe for are

1) the “hourglass” shape of the body when viewed from above, with a narrowing at the abdomen;

2) a tuck in the belly when viewed from the side; and

3) the ability to slightly feel the individual ribs, possibly without being able to see them. Of course the relative thickness of a dog’s coat will affect this observation.” (“Wildrose and Purina Partner on Nutrition,” Wildrose Blog, May 17, 2014).

Reading your dog’s body daily is the key to a keeping him at a proper weight. Food portion control and regular exercise go hand in hand in managing a dog’s weight, just as they are with our bodies. (I just wish I could be as disciplined in food portion control for myself as I am with Mac!!)

Now I’m off to look up some related article topics: What about dogs eating grass and dried earthworms?

Works Cited

Horowitz, Alexandra. Inside of a Dog. New York: Scribner, 2009.

Hoskins, Johnny D. “Exercise-induced collapse in Labrador Retrievers,”

McClelland, Ben. “Wildrose and Purina Partner on

Nutrition,” Wildrose Blog, May 17, 2014.

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Meet FTW Broadbog Billy “Billy”

Billy (1)

DOB:  September 21, 2013

Imported June, 2016

Billy is our most recent arrival to join our team of excellent Gentleman Gundog sires.  Billy’s sire is International FTCh Waygreen Apollo “Scott,” who was trained and trialed by Wildrose UK partner, Nigel Carville.  Scott qualified three consecutive years for both the Irish Kennel Club Championship Stake and the IGL (British) Retriever Championship earning a Diploma of Merit in the latter in 2015. In 2016, Scott further distinguished himself by placing first in two conformation shows, one with the British Kennel Club and another with the Irish Kennel Club.


Interestingly, Billy’s grandmother, Shimnavale Delta, is a Wildrose dam.  She has produced exceptional puppies during her tenure at Wildrose.



Billy has the drive, stamina and natural gamefinding ability one would expect from a British Field Trial Winner.  Like his sire, Scott, he is a handsome Labrador.  Billy has the classic conformation and temperament of a gentleman’s gentleman making him an excellent sire for the Wildrose lineup of superb sporting dog companions.

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Meet FTCh Shimnavale Excalibur “Taz”


DOB:  May 27, 2010

Imported, 2016

FTCh Shimnavale Exalibur, “Taz,” joined the Wildrose sire lineup in 2016 just after competing in the 2015 Irish Kennel Club Championship Stake.  Straight away Taz distinguished himself as a superb retriever whether on land or in the field.  Boldness in water, excellent handle and superb scenting abilities combined with a delightful personality make him a perfect Gentleman’s Gundog.

Taz’s sire is International Field Trial Champion (Int. FTCh) Marranscar Blackcap, known to us as “Drake.”  Drake, trained and handled to distinction by Wildrose partner, Nigel Carville, earned many field trial awards including a Diploma of Merit in both the IGL (British) Retriever Championship and the Irish Kennel Club Championship Stake. Wildrose has produced quite a number of successful dogs in the past sired by Drake.  Additionally, we imported a finished dog, Storm, who is a direct son of Taz and he, too, has developed into a dynamic gundog.

Taz-5 (1)

The three-generation pedigree of Taz’s dam, Greenbriar Cocoa of Shimnavale, is outstanding with 100% of the dogs earning Field Trial titles.  Further, her 4th generation lineage combine some of the most notable names in UK retriever history including:

FTCh Saxaphone Express

FTCh Pocklea Remus (IGL winner)

FTCh Lafayette Tolley

FTCh Kennefer of Leadburn

FTW Greenbriar Solitaire

Excalibur’s competitive career in the UK has been impressive totaling 17 field trial awards of which 6 were 1st place.  These do not include his novice stake awards.

Member of the Winning Irish CLA Team, 2013

Member of the Winning UK team at Chatsworth, 2013

Qualified and participated in the 2015 Irish Kennel Club Champion Stake

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Glenshee Ghillie of Craigenross (May 4, 2001-April 22, 2016)

By Bill Behnke

Somebody once told me that bringing home a puppy is pretty much assured to be a “countdown to sorrow.”  I didn’t realize how much truth there was in this statement until this morning.  Today I lost a very special friend.

Field Trial Winner Glenshee Ghillie of Craigenross (“Ghillie”) was born at Wattieston Farm in Kilbirnie, Scotland and was imported by Wildrose Kennels in 2003.  Later in 2005, Wildrose imported Ghillie’s littermate, Field Trial Champion Gusty Garry (“Kane”).  Both Kane and Ghillie possess an impressive pedigree with 12 titled ancestors of 14 in a three-generation pedigree, including FTCh Pocklea Remus on both the top and bottom of their bloodlines.

Ghillie wasn’t my first dog and he will not be my last; however, he will likely be the dog that I will always have the fondest memories of. My story starts in 2006.  I had been hunting pheasant in North Dakota regularly with a group of friends and it became obvious to me that the hunters that enjoyed the experience the most were those that had their own dogs.  For the rest of us, pheasant hunting in the Dakotas was an absurd combination of shooting, cross-country running and hide-and-seek.   Upon returning from North Dakota in 2006, I invested various bottles of good wine and several long nights perusing the Internet looking for breeders of upland trained hunting Labradors.  In my quest, I repeatedly came across many recommendations and endorsements for Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Mississippi.

I will not go through the whole story of contacting Mike and Cathy.  Getting “pre-qualified” for a finished Wildrose retriever involved writing a long letter describing my hunting experience and exactly what I wanted and expected from a retriever, sending off my deposit via FedEx and then pacing around waiting expectantly.  Being a new to the process, I expected finished retriever to arrive almost immediately much in the way a Coke drops out of a soda machine after you put in the last quarter.  Needless to say, I really didn’t know what I wanted nor did I know what to expect during the process.

In February 2007, Mike contacted me and indicated that he “may” have a retriever that “might” be well suited to my relatively ill defined needs.  The only catch was that I would be required to travel from Alaska to Oxford to participate in the Basic and Advanced Handlers Class before he could determine if this yet unnamed dog would be a good fit.  Additional details regarding my prospective hunting companion were scarce and Mike was reluctant to send any photos until he had an opportunity to meet me.  I’ve been through a few job interviews in my life and in every way it appeared that I was being interviewed to determine if I was “suitable” for consideration.  While somewhat frustrated with the next hurdle in the interview process, Sandy and I made immediate plans to travel to Wildrose that March.

A day prior to the start of 2007 Basic Handlers Class, Sandy and I made the 3,300 mile journey from Anchorage to Oxford.  Our plane landed in Memphis shortly before 4PM and we didn’t waste any time driving straight from the Memphis airport to Wildrose to meet our prospective retriever.  Mike and Cathy were having dinner when we arrived and, after waiting impatiently for them to finish, Mike gave me my first introduction to Ghillie.

After some initial discussion, Mike began to introduce me to Ghillie’s handling skills. Off lead Ghillie heeled along side Mike first turning to the right and then to the left.  Mike followed by working Ghillie through some lining and casting drills.  Then it was my turn.  Ghillie walked next to me on a lead as I walked around the yard, he sat when I asked him to sit and he did a few short retrieves.  Casting left, right or back was somewhat beyond my very limited abilities.  Regardless, after five minutes I had firmly decided that Ghillie and I were a perfect pair and I pulled out my checkbook to seal the deal.  This is where the interview recommences.  Mike took the position that he needed to see me work with Ghillie further during the Basic Handlers class before considering if Ghillie and I were a good match.  Clearly my bonifides needed to be further tested before Mike was willing to seriously consider parting with Ghillie.

As I am frequently reminded, my first trip through the Basic and Advanced Handlers Class was a train wreck.  Cast left with your left hand, cast right with your right hand  – this all seems simple in principle but proved much more challenging when there is a dog on the other end of the command.  All through the training, Ghillie remained patient and willing.  He seemed to know intuitively what I wanted him to do and would respond slowly when the command didn’t exactly match what he knew to be the desired outcome.  After three full days of training (and daily attempts on my behalf to complete the purchase), Mike reluctantly consented to letting Ghillie return home with us to Alaska.  It was a wonderful day that I will always be thankful for.  Sandy and I are truly indebted to Mike and Cathy Stewart for enhancing our lives in so many ways.

Ghillie returned to Anchorage to become my full-time companion.  He came to work with me and, when possible, he traveled on business trips with me.  I work in a high-rise that prohibits dogs – a policy that was reversed after others in the building met Ghillie.  It wasn’t too long after Ghillie came home that he was properly “badged” such that he could join me in frequent business meetings at AT&T’s headquarters building in Anchorage.  There were very few places I went that Ghillie wasn’t welcome.

At his core, Ghillie was a true “Gentleman’s Gundog”. We have hunted for pheasants in the open fields of Oregon, Montana and the Dakotas and we have chased covies of quail in Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Florida.  Ghillie and I have sat in countless blinds hunting waterfowl in Alaska, Mississippi and Arkansas.

When not hunting, Ghillie enjoyed adventures.  Our trips took us from Cold Bay, Alaska to Key West, Florida and from Boston, Massachusetts to San Diego, California.  Ghillie has traveled in fishing skiffs in western Alaska, party barges on Red Shirt Lake, corporate jets, commercial turbo props, floatplanes, seaplanes and helicopters.  His quiet nature and solid obedience skills made him easy to take along everywhere.

Ghillie not only won our hearts, he touched others in a similar way. Wildrose protégée such as Buzz, Andy, Dino, Dakota, Ash, Diver, Sasha, Leah, Foxy and most recently Shelby have all found their owners through Ghillie’s influence.  Ghillie has served well in his role as an ambassador for Wildrose in Alaska.

It has been a few months since Ghillie was able to participate in any of my long evening walks with Ice and Opus.  We often wander the same routes each night and something seems missing when Ghillie is not there.  I guess that’s a feeling I’m going to have to get use to and it makes me sad.  I will forever think of Ghillie as being a very special best friend.

Good-bye Ghillie…. I want to thank you for everything you taught me. Rest well my friend…I love you.

Ghillie is returning to Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, MS and will be laid to rest beside his brother Kane in the Wildrose Gundog Memorial Cemetery

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Eastern N Carolina Strawberry Pie

Submitted by Dawson CherryFullSizeRender

In the South, homemade pies/cakes/food in general are good for lots of things (funerals, graduations, sickness, etc).  This story leads to another highly valued use for strawberry pie.  Recently on our travels in Western NC, Wildrose Deacon and I had eyed a rolling, high grass meadow in the middle of a power line access for some good birddog training.  Well after a few loud retrieves (DT launcher in play) in this gorgeous meadow, the landowner that bordered the power line reminded us that we had not gotten permission to use the area.  Immediately we apologized and got our gear to leave.  Fortunately, the landowner happened to see his last retrieve as he walked up.  Deacon had made a beautiful find up and over the hill in deep thick grass where marking and nose finding ability were paramount.   The conversation switched to hunt tests, dogs, labs,  ground hogs, turkeys, etc.  Miraculously, as the conversation ended, the landowner further reassured me that we could use the land as long as we got permission in advance.

Upon returning home, I shared the story with my wife, Molly (cue eyes rolling, telling me not having permission = trespassing in her most lawyerly tone).  She had just finished making my Mom’s strawberry pie recipe, and had baked not one, but 2 pies.  Sensing an opportunity, I traded a couple of husbandly foot rubs for the other pie to go to the landowner.  Immediately, I went to the landowner’s home to offer further apologies and, of course, one fresh strawberry pie.  Overcome with good ole Southern kindness, he reassured me that he was glad for Deacon and me to use the new training grounds and wanted to know how the DT launcher worked.  He went on to further tell me that his wife had thought I had shot my dog repeatedly!  They had heard the noise, then seen the dog, then the dog had disappeared amongst the high grasses.  I quickly went about reassuring her that I would never shoot my dog and again explained my high-powered dummy launcher.  Well we all had a great big ole laugh and a sigh of relief (Deacon was in the truck, proof he was alive and well).

This proves once again that a strawberry pie is a cure for anything!!

Recipe for Ginny Mom’s Strawberry Pie:

1 prebaked 9-inch pastry shell

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. powdered sugar


1 box fresh strawberries

1/4 c. water

2/3 c. granulated sugar

4 tsp. cornstarch

Whipped cream

Grated coconut for garnish (opt.)

  1. Use a store-bought pastry shell or prepare and bake your own according to your own recipe. Cool.
  2. Blend cream cheese and powdered sugar. Spread in bottom of pastry shell.  (If too much cream cheese, cut in half.  Depends on your preference).
  3. Rinse berries, hull and sort, reserving largest and best berries. Crush enough remaining berries to make 1 cup.
  4. In small saucepan, mix water, granulated sugar and cornstarch. Add crushed berries. Bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes or until thick and clear. Cool.
  5. Press whole berries, tips up, into cream cheese.   Spoon cooled strawberry mixture evenly over berries.
  6. Chill for 3 to 4 hours. Sprinkle with coconut, if used.
  7. When ready to serve, top pie with whipped cream or serve cream alongside.
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Widgeon’s Retirement Career and Retirement Pack

by Scott Wilson

More than a decade ago in Ireland a litter was born to Intl FTCH Rozel Rocket of Tasco and FTW Meadowbrook Lass.  One of the pups in this litter was Intl FTW Turning Teal, a remarkable yellow Labrador the Wildrose family has come to know by his call name “Widgeon”.  He was imported to the United States in 2008 where his work in Oxford MS began.  Widgeon hunted, trained, trekked, and traveled with the Wildrose crew throughout his career as a sire.  Much like Widgeon, his pups have proven to be widgeon3exceptional hunters, trekkers, companions and service dogs.  Widgeon is a classic “Gentleman’s Gundog TM”.  We are happy to report that Widgeon is quite healthy and he has officially started his retirement career.

A little more than a year ago the stress of being a “retired” stud living amongst so many viral young studs at Wildrose Kennels was beginning to show on Widgeon.  My wife Roxy and I were honored to be asked if we could provide an “assisted living” retirement home for Widgeon away from the everyday hustle and bustle of the kennels.  We said yes, of course, and shortly thereafter we traveled with Widgeon 500 miles north from Oxford Mississippi to Champaign Illinois in the middle of one of the coldest winters on record.  We enrolled Widgeon in the Senior Care program at an AAHA accredited veterinary clinic within walking distance of his new home and set up several orthopedic beds for him.  During Widgeon’s first three weeks in Illinois he experienced more than a foot of snow with wind chills of 20 below zero.  For those of you who never had the pleasure of working with Widgeon, he has arguably the most relaxed and gentle temperament of any Labrador and he accepted these changes like nothing was out of the ordinary.


In his “assisted living” retirement life Widgeon gets aired at least four times every day, walks 2 to 6 miles every day, trains 20 to 60 minutes every day, still eats just once a day, drinks at least 8 cups of water each day, travels nearly every Tuesday and Thursday to a remote trekking or training site, spends at least an hour in his home crate almost every day, and curls up to sleep next to 3 year old WR Cora (Luke x Delta)  several times a day.  This February we will add 1 year old WR Suzy (Kane x Amy) to Widgeon’s small retirement pack.  As has been said many times before, the only thing better than having one Wildrose dog in your home is having two or three WR dogs.

Widgeon sleeps more than he did during his youth, he dreams about his memories and future adventures several times every day, and while he thoroughly enjoys meeting new people, he is relatively quick to lie down and relax when humans are just talking.  As has always been the case, Widgeon is ready to go on a moment’s notice.  Every single morning after showering and getting dressed I find Widgeon standing by his nighttime place, eyes fixed toward mine, waiting for his call name to heel downstairs to his daytime place whereupon he quickly goes back to sleep for a few more minutes until Cora heels downstairs and we all venture out for a long morning walk.  Anyone who knows Widgeon knows he never just walks, he prances.  Widgeon still articulates every joint in his body with every step.  His tail is down when prancing slowly but it moves to a neutral position at a moderate or fast walking pace and yes, his ears still bounce in rhythm to his prance.  When training, Widgeon still comes off the line with enthusiasm but he admittedly displays the most energy for scented tennis balls and birds.  He really likes quail and his most recent quail picks were in this particular field in St Joseph IL.  <Video 2> We think he seems just a bit bored with feathered bumpers and Dokkens because he always retrieves them but is sometimes a bit slow to deliver.  I hesitate to humanize his behavior but I think he is simply requesting more selective use of his favorite picks.  Widgeon’s memory is still remarkable.  During his first spring in Champaign, while Roxy was setting up a circle memory for Widgeon in our lake, she inadvertently pitched a Dokken up into a tree.  We searched for 30 minutes but could not locate the Dokken, so we decided not to send Widgeon into an unknown situation where precarious branches were overhanging water.  The following day I put a kayak into the water to search from a different direction but still could not locate the Dokken.  As a last resort Roxy paddled her kayak to the opposite bank in case the Dokken had fallen into the water and floated across the lake but still no luck.  While Roxy was searching on the water I was working with Widgeon on the peninsula. On his third retrieve, a trailing memory located in some shoreline bushes roughly 15 yards from where we had lost the Dokken the day before, Widgeon was lined from 80 yards away and he immediately sliced over toward yesterday’s lost Dokken.  When I saw the branches over the water moving I suddenly realized Widgeon was hunting for yesterday’s Dokken as a delayed memory and in a panic I began running toward him.  I was about half way there when Widgeon came prancing out of the bushes to deliver his 24 hour time delayed memory.  I sent him back for today’s trailing memory like nothing was out of the ordinary.


In early January this year we took Widgeon and Cora to northern Wisconsin and spent some time hunting unseen scented tennis balls in the snow.  Observing Widgeon on the hunt in a snowy forest with heavy ground cover is a sight worth seeing.  He seems to measure every step and jump with a very seasoned elegance using only the energy required and playing to the judges for “style” points.  In the middle of one early morning walk I sat both dogs down momentarily so I could clear some snow off a head high pine branch to get that branch away from the trail.  As soon as Widgeon was released to take care of his business he moved directly to investigate that pine branch now nearly 6 feet off the ground.  We often practice off the ground finds, so I could only assume that he was looking for a bumper. Remarkably, Widgeon stood straight up and balanced on a precise vertical to reach up and paw that branch above his head presumably to make absolutely certain there was no bumper.  He did not get excited or jump, he just reached up with a paw in his usual elegant fashion to touch the branch and satisfy his curiosity.  For a fleeting moment I thought he might stroll on two legs over to the nearest tree for a quick pee standing up.  Not exactly what one expects from a dog his size and age.  Widgeon really seems to love the snow, occasionally even bouncing up and down like a puppy with his eyes fixed on his handler whenever it is obvious we are heading for a training session.  So, Widgeon’s “assisted living” retirement home seems to agree with him but there was still something missing.  A great dog always needs new experiences, new challenges to dream about, and a few new techniques to learn so we looked into the possibility of a therapy dog career.

Everybody loves Widgeon and most institutions would have been pleased to accept Widgeon’s help without any officially recognized training but we decided to find out if there were any therapy dog programs in our local community.  As luck would have it, one local group, Champaign-Urbana Registered Therapy Dogs along with their affiliations Pet Partners® (formerly Delta Society) and Dog Training Center Champaign-Urbana (DTCCU) already had a well established training program for therapy dogs.  Pet Partners® helped to develop the AKC awards program for therapy dogs and so our not so rapid journey began.  The very next day we discovered that no dog could register for the CURegisteredTherapyDogs training class at the DTCCU until said dog had achieved his/her AKC Canine Good Citizen award.  To make matters interesting, CGC exams were being administered that very evening at the indoor DTCCU facility and would not be given again in the local area for another three months.  We printed a copy of the CGC test requirements from the internet, loaded Widgeon and Cora into the car and headed over to the DTCCU facility.  We were a bit concerned that our Wildrose dogs might not be prepared for the CGC exam so we carefully read the requirements out loud to the dogs in the car on our way to a large indoor facility full of excited barking dogs.  One of the three large arenas in the DTCCU was set up for dogs and trainers to practice for their CGC exam but Roxy and I decided that our dogs were more than capable of passing this exam as long as the new distractions did not overwhelm their focus.  We heeled into the practice area, occupied two chairs on the perimeter, and sat our dogs down to watch all the other participants practice so Widgeon and Cora could get relaxed in the noisy and bustling environment.  Widgeon stretched out on the floor and almost immediately went to sleep while we waited for our turn.  Cora followed Widgeon’s lead in a few minutes but she stayed vigilant and never really went to sleep.  Widgeon took to the examination arena first and he was marvelous as expected.  After the evaluator had finished her task she asked if Widgeon would like to meet the six support staff that worked the wheel chairs, noise makers and various other distractions.  We heeled over to the six seated volunteers and introduced ourselves to each one separately.  Widgeon gently placed his head in each volunteer’s lap like he knew he was setting the stage for young Cora who was bound to be more nervous and distracted.  Widgeon let these volunteers and examiner know that Cora and her inexperienced handler, me, were part of his gentle pack and deserved every consideration.  Talk about over humanizing a dog!  Cora did great, of course, and she also passed with flying colors.


We immediately registered Widgeon for the next available Pet Partners® Therapy Dog Class.  The Pet Partners® Class, Online Course, and remote examination are quite thorough but Widgeon is ready for any challenge.  Widgeon earned the highest rating on his first attempt and the examiner even penned several remarks about his gentle demeanor.  Of the roughly two dozen scenarios we had to pass as a therapy team, Widgeon scored less than perfect on just two.  The examiner noted that Widgeon was a little slow to sit down on command.  This was very predictable because everyone knows that Widgeon never really enjoys sitting all the way down. <Photo 10 and Photo 11> His only other average score occurred during a remote stay when the examiner was passionately petting Widgeon and I was asked to execute a recall.  Suffice it to say, Widgeon really likes being petted and he required a convincing “Widgeon heel” command to complete the recall.  The examiner, in addition to the observers and volunteers, were all amazed that Widgeon was so relaxed in the midst of 6 humans discussing the next scenario that he would just lie down and rest to wait till the humans finished talking.  There was one unfortunate, unintended consequence from the scenario wherein the therapy dog was required to gently take food directly from the hand of a friendly stranger.  This scenario was well intentioned to confirm that the handler would not allow the dog to accept food from a stranger without permission and that the therapy dog would never nip a stranger’s hand that happened to be holding food.  For the duration of the evaluation Widgeon discretely checked each friendly stranger’s hands and pockets for treats even though only the examiner actually offered a treat.  This was just a safety test and accepting treats from strangers is not a requirement; however, we may have to devise a different habit to replace this unintended consequence.  As documented above, Widgeon doesn’t forget much; I suspect he will remember that taking treats from human hands is nothing out of the ordinary.  We will certainly keep walking, training, trekking and hunting so Widgeon is reminded that the “hunt ’em up” command does not mean “check everyone’s pockets for treats.”  Widgeon and I are already scheduled to help University of Illinois medical students relax through their final exams and also to represent CURegisteredTherapyDogs at an upcoming Cancer Survivor’s Reunion.  We are very excited about his new retirement career as a Gentleman’s and Gentlewoman’s Therapy Dog.

Photo 12

Widgeon has adjusted very well to the new suburban environment of his “assisted living” retirement home.  He understands all of the subtle necessities of suburban etiquette and safety.  Always walk on the sidewalk unless you are directed “off-trail” to allow neighbors to pass or you are heeled into training or trekking areas.  Always stop at every roadway or traffic intersection to make eye contact and heel safely across the auto path.  Always stay composed taking care of your personal business on lead because some suburban areas have very strict leash laws and because the human has no particular desire to search for your deposits preceding the obligatory bag it up.  Always wait patiently while the human collects your deposits.  If you must make a deposit in a flower garden or in Widgeon’s case on a neighbor’s tree trunk, do so carefully with grace and style.  Always approach a stranger with caution and never approach without an invitation.  Always ignore your neighbor’s dog even though he is barking like the sky is falling.  Always ignore the suburban squirrels and rabbits because they lack a clear understanding of nature’s food chain.  Even Widgeon in all his wisdom has a hard time ignoring the dumb suburban rabbits.

After an exciting youth working fields in Ireland and England before heading to America to help create more remarkable “Gentleman’s Gundog TM“ puppies and to pursue a long and very fruitful career training, trekking, and hunting in Oxford Mississippi and all over the United States, Widgeon has landed in Champaign Illinois.  In addition to his new therapy dog career, Widgeon will continue to train, trek, and hunt all over America with his small retirement pack.  In conclusion I have to say that Widgeon has truly “assisted living” in the Wilson retirement home.

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Cross Training

by Mike Stewart

The sun has set on yet another hunting season but this is no reason to allow your sporting dog to grow idle on the couch, living the lazy life.  Off-season dogs need to be mentally energized, physically challenged and their skills honed and even expanded.  The Wildrose Adventure Dog Program is the perfect solution.


Dogs of outside adventure complement the active lifestyles of so many people whether it’s hiking, mountain biking, fishing, or camping.  Destination canines, prepared to go anywhere, are trained in the etiquette of the trail:  patient, controllable, confident, the perfect complement to any journey into nature.

Among the most popular canine adventure activities involve canoes and kayaks.  People love the company of their dog on the water, drifting into the seclusion of the wild.  All that is necessary to prepare any dog for canoeing is a bit of specialized training and a proper introduction to the activity.

Essential Behaviors

It is unwise to place any dog in an unfamiliar situation without appropriate introductions.  This fact cannot be overstated when it comes to small watercraft.  To avoid an unnecessary fear factor, injury or just a miserable experience, pre-launch training is imperative.

First consideration:   Will the student sit still, patiently and quiet for a reasonable amount of time as you sit beside the dog?  Often this will result in a happy, playful response which will be unwelcomed afloat.


Provide a few distractions as you both sit on the ground.  Toss balls, have children run about, move the paddle side to side passing over the dog’s head.  Distractions will pop up while underway that must be ignored.  Dogs should never be tied to a watercraft or to a person to assure steadiness.  Stillness, without restraint, will take practice.


Approach all unfamiliar introductions from the dog’s perspective in logical progression.  Introduce the craft on land first before going to the water unless you are real fond of swimming.  Stabilize the canoe and teach the dog to confidently enter and exit on command.  Sit aboard mimicking the paddle action.  Shake the craft a bit side to side to simulate movement.  Exit the canoe and walk away insuring your canine pal will stay in place alone without movement.  The dog should not exit until told to do so.  Consider where the dog will sit to distribute weight properly with passengers and gear.  Teach the dog his “place” as it will be real time.

Water Work


Move the lessons to shallow water and repeat entry and exit etiquette.  Sit aboard rocking the canoe and crossing paddles overhead.  Add movement, step out and glide the canoe about in the shallows while providing control.  Dogs often react when the canoe hits a rock or the shore.  Practice the experience of pulling ashore encouraging the dog to remain still as everyone exits.

The Float

Now, take to the water with a confident dog.  Practice on calm, safe water before venturing too far from shore or too deep on a wild river.  On pullouts, be sure your dog will stay with your craft or tie him on the bank.  Don’t lose your dog in the wild.  Teach remote stay.

Final Considerations

Swim by:  Condition your dog to swim by the craft as if at heel.  In an emergency situation the dog should be accustomed to staying with the canoe even if swimming is required.

Floatation:  Some canines are not brilliant swimmers and even the best have limited endurance. A floatation vest may be advisable in some situations.

Collars:  Never leave a loose-fitting slip collar or a long lead on a dog underway.  A spill could result in the dog becoming entangled.


We love adventures with dogs; trekkers, trackers, overlanders and, of course, floaters.  Canines prepared to go anywhere, anytime, under any conditions.  Training canoe dogs is fun and canoeing with a well-trained dog is even more enjoyable.

The skills acquired in so many of the activities of the Wildrose Adventure Dog Certification Program cross-pollinate to waterfowling and upland hunting.  Don’t miss the opportunity to get out there with family and friends and make your hunting dog a more versatile sporting companion.


Wildrose River Training Facility, Ozark Mountains

May 20 to 22, 2016

Register online at

We only have two positions remaining as of April 1.

Only a limited number of dogs/adventurers will be taken for this unique, outdoor experience.

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In the Field: Wildrose Deke of Harmony

from Chris Allen


Wildrose Deke of Harmony (Tommy x Susie) passed away just past his fourteenth birthday. Deke was special in many ways. It goes without saying that he was a good retriever. Almost all labs of good breeding can qualify for that. Deke was very focused and loyal. Sitting quietly by my side helping me watch for ducks and he would do this for hours. On public ground we will often have the decoys out well before shooting time and sit drinking coffee. However, Deke felt obligated to sit away from us “guarding” the decoys. Another habit was always sitting beside me on the boat ride and giving the side of my face a good licking. Nice but at 9 degrees not to pleasant. My hunting buddies often tried to get him to sit by them, but his place was by me. There were retrieves that will never be forgotten and places that are full of his memories.

We were hunting in the low teens in a bay mostly ice. The bank we were on had clear spots that we were set up beside. We had killed several ducks and a big group came in and we dropped 3 more. The first two retrieves were easy and fairly close. On the last the wind had pushed the duck down a ways into open space beyond the ice. Deke could break ice only so far and the water became too deep and the ice too thick to break but he kept trying. I went down and waded out to him in water past my waist and he was behind treading water. After a few tries with the gun stock the ice parted and gave him a clear path to the duck with me leaning on one side. Scary in many ways but it’s the one that I’ll remember him by. Sure lots of folks have times that just seem to stick in your mind.


He is missed.  Thanks to Wildrose for such a companion.

Chris Allen

Clarksville, Arkansas

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Cooking the Wildrose Way – Pheasant Breast under Poblano Pepper

by Chris Wilke

My hunting career started late in life and differently from most.  Because my father does not hunt, I did not as a child.  I did, however, grow up in New Orleans and I learned at an early age how important a good meal can be.

When I was in my late twenties, my wife-to-be and I would go out to our friends’ hunting camp (shack in the marsh) to eat drink and be merry while our friends hunted.  On occasion we would watch their daughter so husband and wife could hunt together.  What drew us to spend time in such a “rustic” setting was the friendship and good cooking.  I’m not sure how many times my friend asked me to go hunt with him before I finally gave in.  All it took was once.  As I like to say, “Riding boats, drinking beer and shooting guns, where is the downside?”

Fast-forward fifteen years, three boats, multiple leases and clubs, various shotguns, dogs, and an off-the-grid marsh camp of my own.  I now spend the entire year either hunting, talking about hunting, or planning hunting trips.

One aspect of hunting that I look forward to the most is the fellowship shared around the camp and over a good meal.  It is just not a proper duck hunt unless you have a big breakfast and Bloody Marys when it is over.

Early in my hunting career I had the good fortune to choose Wildrose Kennels for my first hunting dog.  I found not only a good kennel and training program, but also a “club” in its own right.  The Wildrose crowd trains together and over the last few years has started to hunt together.  We call it a training event and I learn something every time, but it is really just an excuse to come together with a good group of people and dogs to enjoy the hunt and each other’s company.

For the last few years some of the Wildrose gang have gone to Scranton, North Dakota, on a pheasant hunt.  Very different from any upland hunt you have been on, everyone walking and posting has at least one dog.  We look like an invading army headed down the road with five trucks pulling three dog trailers.  I have had the pleasure to be part of this group and also the honor to be one of the chefs.  This is one of the two recipes that I have served on this adventure.

Christopher M. Wilke

New Orleans, Louisiana


Wildrose Sailor

Wildrose Harken

Wildrose Jax


Pheasant Breast under Poblano Pepper


Layer in Greased Casserole Dish (in this order):


Several Pats of Butter

1 Pounded Pheasant Breast

2 Slices of Pastrami or Prosciutto

2 slices Monterey Jack Cheese

1 Poblano Pepper Peeled & Seeded (prepare beforehand-see below)

5-7 chunks Brie


Bake at 350 degrees covered for 20-25 minutes.



Poblano Peppers:

Bake peppers at 450 degrees for 15 minutes per side.

Cover and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate

before peeling and seeding.

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by Mike Stewart

An inversion in the Wildrose Way training process is what we refer to as a bridge, an intermediate step assisting the dog’s progression for one particular task/skill to another. Bridges would best be described as baby steps enabling the dog to better understand moving from one activity to another that is more complex, different or challenging. Examples: memories to cold blinds; pull/push whistle stops to stops going away from the handler; handling on land to handling on water.

Let’s consider the process of moving the seasoned dog from memories to cold blinds or unseens.  Sometimes taking a dog from a “seen” situation where the dog knows the approximate location of a fall to lining for a retriever where the dog has no idea of a bumper/birds location proves to be a challenge. That’s a big jump in ability and confidence for an animal that learns best through causal relationships (see p. 121, Sporting Dogs and Retriever Training, the Wildrose Way) and consistent repetition.

The progression to running cold unseens the positive way is:

  1. Memories: sight, trailing, circles, loops
  2. Time delay memories: TDM
  3. Permanent unseens run in familiar locations
  4. Cold unseen

Between each of these levels one can experience a temporary breakdown in progress.  A lack of understanding, confidence or ability inhibits the dog’s path to success.  Here is where bridges come into play.  Remember, in the world of canines, failure is not an effective teacher.  We want success.  This is where good handlers break the problematic exercise down into smaller subskills lessons, teach each thoroughly, and then link the smaller skills into the desired training exercise.  Here inversions prove valuable.  Inversions are not training exercises in and of themselves, rather an inversion is how the exercise is set up to stretch the dog’s ability slightly to overcome a limiting factor in the dog’s progress.  It’s an intermediate step in train for success.

Inversion Application

Let’s take two examples of the use of inversions.  An inversion is simply reversing the way an exercise is set up from the dog’s perspective.  On the road to running cold unseens, inversions are often utilized.  A triple retrieve is normally set up as a circle memory; bumpers are placed at fixed reference points as the dog watches.  The bumper is placed from the standpoint of the dog’s approach as they line toward the reference point (bush, pole, tree, rock, etc.).  The dog is running toward the familiar. We can make the pattern a bit more challenging by inverting the way we place the memory bumpers.  Rather than walking the inside of the circle placing our targets with the dog at heel, walk the outside of the circle tossing the bumpers from behind the reference points as the dog watches, in effect inverting the dog’s perspective.  Complete the circle then run each memory, oldest to newest from inside the circle.


The dog’s approach as he lines to each reference point is less familiar.  With practicing, planning and awareness on the part of the handler, one can discover many applications of inverting bumper placement in the use of all our memory exercises including off-the-ground finds and time delays keeping in mind Wildrose Law #9, “Dogs are extremely place oriented.”  Reverse their perspective of the memory and the exercise becomes a bit more challenging.

Another application of inversion often proves valuable in helping a young starter overcome a limitation the positive way.  Let’s take the example of a young gundog reluctant to enter thick cover to recover game.  If the attempts continue to fail, running open ground into grass, basically through repetition we are conditioning the dog not to enter cover.  The same for a situation where a dog shows reluctance to enter water.  It’s never wise to condition in failure through the repetition of failure.  Enter inversions.


After several failed attempts to encourage the youngster to enter thick cover directly without results, simply invert the situation.  Place a highly desirable target (bird, tennis ball…an object the dog loves to retrieve) as a trailing memory outside the cover.  With the dog at heel walk into the cover the desirable distance, turn and line the dog out of the cover for the pick.  Normally, the student returns boldly with the prize, straight into the cover… exactly the desirable.  The concept works well in any circumstance where a psychological or physical barrier encountered proves to be a problem: ditches, water, woodlands, row crop. Resistance is simply overcome by inverting the dog’s perspective.

There are so many applications of inversions as bridges in the Wildrose Way Balanced Training process.  They are effective approaches when it becomes necessary to take a couple of steps back in a dog’s progression to refine a skill, simplify an exercise or improve confidence.  Inversions enable training for success the right way, the positive way, the Wildrose Way.

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