This is the second blog entry in this series. To read the first, scroll down or click on the title in Recent Posts (in the right column).
Mike calls the group of new-owners-to-be to the entrance of the main barn. He wears dark green field pants and a khaki-colored waterfowl sweater by Filson. The heavy woolen sweater has a sewn-on leather cape bearing the Wildrose puppy logo on the left breast. Mike wears his dark green Tin Cloth Filson cap with the chinstrap clinched over the brim, earflaps rolled up. All of the Wildrose staff members wear this style of dress. While there are variations on this theme, everyone adheres to a uniform company dress code, a team concept that transfers into consistent work habits whether in maintaining kennels or in training dogs.
Entering the large gravel walkway in the main barn, the group stands beneath two banners, showing Orvis endorsements for both breeding and training. Mike explains that Wildrose was the first kennel to achieve both endorsements. Only three have that distinction today.
Everyone watches and listens as Mike stands in front of individual kennels and introduces Wildrose’s legendary sires, whose pictures appear on the website: Kane, Widgeon, Rusty, Whiskey, and Ruff. As he lists their pedigrees and their signal achievements in Irish, British, and international competition, people are amazed to learn of this unique gathering of celebrated UK labs.
When the group makes its way to Drake and Deke’s kennels, everyone sees the celebrities, the Ducks Unlimited mascots. Next-door Indian happily greets the crowd; he is a younger dog that is excelling in training as a hunter and an adventure dog. The group visits the fine dams (Dolly, Pinny, Diver, Molly, Dot, and others, also pictured on the website) and strolls several yards to view the aviary. On the way they pass the graves of several founding dogs that have passed on, including Angus and Baron. As Mike pauses to pay homage to them, he reveals his warm feelings for close, longtime companions. Moving on, he explains that the aviary serves well for training dogs to be steady when birds are flying overhead. Beyond the aviary Mike points out a variety of hunting environments on the grounds, from wooded areas to upland fields with mowed pathways.
Another stroll carries the group past kennels for client dogs in training to the medical facility and the super puppy learning center. In this building the pups are whelped, given health care, raised, and trained until this seventh-week departure date with their owners. The recently built super puppy learning center is a one-of-a-kind educational facility where pups can be trained all year round in a controlled environment.
Mike leads the group to the levee between two large ponds and points out several of the training features, including open water and flooded timber, duck blinds and boats. By now the sun has risen into the bright blue sky and shines mirror-like across the water, but the air is still quite chilly. Along the wooded ridge beyond the ponds is an extensive trail for training adventure dogs to accompany hikers or bikers.
As a trainer with a yellow lab appears on a trail across the pond, a young couple in the group exclaims that he is training their older dog. They offer an on-the-spot testimony to the other visitors. They explain that they had left their first dog, a six-month-old, at Wildrose for several months of training. Each month they came to spend a day or two with their dog and the trainer. Just the day before they had worked with their dog and were so excited to see how much he had learned. Now they are thrilled to be getting another pup.
With the tour of the grounds concluded Mike convenes the visitors in the classroom within the log building that houses the Wildrose Trading Company. He begins with a brief historical orientation to Wildrose and explains the three types of training activities: the Gentleman’s Gundog, the Adventure Dog, and the DAD (diabetic alert dog). During his explanation, Mike circulates several magazine articles in which Wildrose dogs have appeared, including, Field & Stream, Pheasants Forever, Outside, and Gundog. On the store walls hang posters of feature stories and pictures in Forbes and in Garden & Gun.
Mike points out a large map on the rear wall. Clusters of colored pins indicate the locations of Wildrose dogs in all states of the U.S., in all Canadian provinces, and in several South American countries. Large green stickpins indicate the locations of six Associate Trainers and two pinpoint the other Wildrose facilities: on a river in Arkansas and in the mountains in Colorado.
When Mike invites the visitors to introduce themselves and explain their plans for living and working with their pups, we learn that several people are picking up their second Wildrose dog. One couple is getting its fourth. Two rookies are here to pick up first pups. Everyone is eager to get a pup, none more so than the children that understandably find it difficult to sit still when they know that the long-awaited moment is near.
After presenting a slideshow of beautiful Wildrose dogs at work and play, Mike explains the use of several training and care products for new pups and their owners: crates, floor pads, feeding dishes, leads and collars, bumpers, and appropriate treats. Most items are in the new owners’ bags. Others are available at the store, Wildrose Trading Company.
Then, Mike discusses care and training for new pups. Over the years Mike has developed a highly effective means of training dogs: the Wildrose Way. Besides having made two DVDs, numerous videos, and podcasts, Mike conducts training sessions throughout the year. The Wildrose Way is built upon seventeen principles, the first five of which Mike explains to the group, as he demonstrates daily care and training of a pup in its first several months at home.
This is the conclusion of Part Two. Please add a comment below to tell us about your visit to Wildrose. Later, I’ll conclude with the final part of the puppy pickin’ blog, including highlights of Mike’s training session, Lanette’s health care briefing, a demonstration of a young pup, and finally puppy pickin’ and pictures of the visitors, their pups, and the sires and dams.