Participants Report on the Dog Handlers’ Workshop

At lakeside Mike explains the drill for a circle memory to Dale, Sara, Mike, and Andy, as the dogs eagerly anticipate the water retrieve.

In March Wildrose conducted four days of workshops for dog handlers.   On Friday and Saturday (the 18th & 19th) thirty folks participated in the basic workshop.  Fifteen folks worked in the advanced sessions on Sunday and Monday (the 20th & 21st).  Serendipity sent sunshine and weather temps near 80 degrees each day.

Mike Stewart organized and lead the program, with participation by English partner, Vic Barlow, and Associate Trainers Jay Lowry (Illinois), Tim Clancy (Massachusetts), Tom Smith (Mississippi), and with leadership from other staff members: Trainer Ben Summerall, and Trainer and Apprentice Steven Lucius.  All of the staff family had a hand the program’s success from Mary Lee Ward handling all of the meals, as well as the store, and Trainer Patrick Allen trouble-shooting in the field.  Photographer Chip Laughton, Days Afield, snapped pictures of everyone in action.  Of course, Cathy, as ever, served as communications central and the general factotum.

Newcomers found a welcoming community.  Veterans returned to renew friendships.  They came from far and wide, including Nebraska, South Carolina, and California.  Four families and a half a dozen dogs came from Alaska.    The night prior to the event early arrivals enjoyed the gracious hospitality of Bill Behnke, who hosted a dinner at the Colonel’s Quarters celebrating Mike and Cathy’s thirty-third wedding anniversary.

Several participants have sent notes about their experiences.  I will be sharing them here in a series that will continue as long as the reports keep coming in.  We begin here with three.

Justin Carpenter and Wildrose Gary (Nebraska)

I had been familiar with Wildrose through advertisements and television programming but didn’t really know much about them until I communicated back and forth with Cathy and eventually decided I would go down and take a look at the place and pick Mike’s and Cathy’s brains a bit.  On that visit I left a deposit for my dog Gary.  My first choice for my pup’s breeding was Kane X Tammy, but it was based solely on the website.  After visiting and seeing Kane work, I was convinced that I had picked correctly.  Through conversations with Mike, it was clear that he thought I would be better suited for a pup out of Ben.  I held firm on my choice, but when pups were on the ground, I was left empty handed and had to go with my back-up choice. . .Ben X Kela.  Mike was right on the money with his assessment though!  That’s not to say that I wouldn’t have been happy with a Kane pup, but I couldn’t think of a better pup than the one I have now.  I think next time, I’ll let Mike pick my breeding.

So. . .that was my beginning.  On July 10th, 2009, I drove the 17 hours from Sidney, NE to Oxford, MS for puppy day.  We got a tour of the facility, learned all about puppy beginnings and listened to Lanette talk to us about health, nutrition and puppy/dog care.  Then we picked our pups!  I had 2nd pick of the black males and before I knew it , it was my turn to choose.  I took a few minutes and selected my pup, had a few pictures taken, sent some picture messages to some friends back home, gave Cathy a hug and said thanks to her and Mike and was off on the road again for another 17 hour drive.

Since then, I have worked and trained Gary on my own.  I’ve watched the videos over and over and over again.  I’ve kept in touch with Mike and Cathy and Jay mostly and have communicated back and forth with Ben, Tom and Tim a few times as well.  I attended last year’s Basic and Advanced Handlers workshop and was pretty excited to come down again this year and show off all that we had accomplished over the past 12 months.

WRONG!  This year was different and Mike had come up with some new training ideas and drills.  The dogs this year were much further along in the training than they were last year and it didn’t take long for me to see all the holes I had in my training.  When Vic says that dogs don’t lie. . .well. . . he’s right.  Gary told the story pretty clearly.  It wasn’t long before we could see where I had cut corners or had failed to introduce him to certain scenarios.  I thought I would just skate through the classes and drills and honestly was wondering how much I would learn from the weekend.  It turns out that I learned more than I think I did the first time I attended the workshops.  I came to Wildrose this year to enjoy the company and learn more about training my dog.  I had no idea how much I would enjoy it and how much I would learn.  Some of it was hard to swallow, not because I didn’t agree with it or because I don’t want to go to the extent necessary in order to do it correctly.  It was hard because my eyes were opened to how far from finished we were when I thought we were further along.  But it was good.  I needed that and I’m excited to get back to the training.

I train every day, so this isn’t so much a matter of having to dig in and start working harder.  It’s a matter of setting goals and developing a plan leading me toward the end result.  Before I did a little of this and a little of that here and there every day.  I finished one thing that I felt was pretty solid and then moved on to the next, forgetting to practice it all and keep up on the basics.  Now I feel like I have a much stronger direction and, as a result, a plan that makes my goals far more achievable.  I feel like my slate was wiped clean this past weekend.  I was able to clear my thoughts and can now start fresh.  It was a great opportunity to learn new techniques that I can use to address the issues I am having with my training as well as be reminded of techniques I had forgotten about too.  Through it all though, I feel almost as though we found my training “reset” button!

Long story short, I had a wonderful weekend!  I had a great time and I learned a TON!  I can’t wait for next year and this time, we are going to be a lot closer to our goals.   See you next year!

In a lineup Andy (far right) sends Buddy into tall cover to retrieve a launched bumper.

Andrew Kelley and Wildrose Buddy (Arkansas)

Buddy and I learned so much at the Wildrose Dog Handlers Workshop and had an AWESOME time!  Thanks to Mike & Cathy Stewart and the entire staff who made us feel like apart of thier family.  The Wildrose staff was so helpful in helping me with any question I had and showed me very helpful things in training my pup the proper Wildrose Way.  Just after spending a few days with the staff at Wildrose, I can see a stronger “bond” between my pup (Buddy) and me.  They helped me figure out some holes in my training and how to fix the problems that I have created as a handler. Having a Wildrose dog and training him the Wildrose Way has quickly become a joy to my family and me.  I look forward to the next chance we have to return to Wildrose Kennels.

Andy, Jeff, and Sarah with dogs in various goose blind set-ups.

Jeff Ramsey and Wildrose Jack (Tennessee)

I would have to start by saying that the timing of the Wildrose Handler’s workshop happened at a perfect time in my life. I won’t bore you with the reasons why but to say that I definitely needed to get away. For me coming to Wildrose is like, feeling you would get as a kid, the days leading up to Christmas morning. My original plan was to leave work early on Thursday and get to Oxford that evening but unfortunately that plan did not pan out. I ended up getting two hours of sleep that night and headed to Wildrose at 1 am. I got to Wildrose early Friday morning as the sun was coming up. For me its like the line in “Field of Dreams” where the actor asks is this heaven. In the early morning the fog is coming off the training ponds as the geese honk providing the appropriate soundtrack. The first thing you notice as you pull in the gate is that this is a beginner’s dog training paradise.

Jack and I headed out to find Jay Lowry, who trained Jack, to say hello. Jay introduced me to Chip Laughton from Days Afield Photography along with Tim and Tom whom I had not had the opportunity to meet. As we headed back to the truck to get our gear, Mike was coming down from the house and we stopped to say hello, as Mike welcomed us back.

We all signed in and got ready to go. Mike and Cathy outlined the days events and assigned us to our group. I was assigned to Mike and Jay for the morning session. We began in the classroom covering what we were going to cover during our session. Mike covered the four blocks of dog training: Genetics, Methods, Relationship and Handler’s Abilities. I would think that most people would just want to grab their dog and head to the field but at Wildrose you learn that you are a major shareholder in your dogs success. One of the interesting lessons we learned was how the terrain and elements impact the sound of your whistle commands. Mike sent Stephen up the hill about 50-75 yards and had each participant go over the stop and recall whistle commands. You quickly realized how much of a delay there was from the whistle to the time that Stephen raised his arm signaling that he heard you. We spent the morning focused on steadying the dogs through honoring other dogs through a series of training drills. It was truly amazing to see 20 dogs in a line as they flew a live bird down the line. We ran several other drills and then broke for lunch.

One of the best things about coming to Wildrose is the friendships that develop over the course of just a couple of days. The diversity in the people there from all walks of life but all sharing on thing in common, their belief in Wildrose Training methods and the trainers. We broke for the afternoon session with Vic Barlow and continued to reinforce steadiness in the dogs. We each heeled our dog as Vic analyzed how each dog was responding to its handler. If you don’t come away from the weekend realizing how important your tempo and confidence is to your dog, you were not paying attention. You learn to anticipate what the dog is going to do and which hand you should use for your hand signals. Throughout the afternoon you quickly developed new friendships as you learned about the other participants. I met Andy Kelly and his dog Buddy, Ben McClelland and his dog Eider, Dale Barnes and his daughter, Sara, and her dog Gunner, Justin Carpenter and his dog, Gary, and the list goes on.  We broke for the evening and all headed to Taylor Grocery for dinner. The evenings are always fun and I got to really spend some time with Chip and talk about photography.

After a good night’s rest, I got up at 5:30 and started getting ready for day two. At 6 am, I get a text from Jay asking to grab a dozen of Shipley’s Donuts and at 6:15 am the order had grown to two dozen. Whenever I am down to Wildrose I love getting to the facility early to get the day started off early, so after dropping off the donuts with Jay, Chip caught up with us and we grabbed Jack’s dad, Whiskey, for an early morning photo shoot. Chip was great and the shots were amazing, one or more are headed for the walls in my house. On Day 2, after 30 minutes or so in the classroom discussing what we learned before and then what we would be working on today. We worked the dogs with blinds, marks, trailing memories and then working on water. As Mike says, it is all about building blocks success on the land before moving on to the water. That evening everyone headed to dinner but a few of us just weren’t ready and before we knew it we had been talking for nearly 3 hours. We all headed to grab some Sushi in Oxford and then called it a night.

On Days 3 & 4, Jack and I moved into the Advanced Handlers’ Training. This stepped up the training as we learned how suction, barriers, and environments impact the dogs. I learned that my hand signals were not correct and as my part of the relationship was lacking. After a few corrections from Mike and Stephen, I improved upon my handling and could tell as the weekend progressed that I was steadily improving. The Final morning we learned how different environments impact us as the handler. We started off in layout blinds with Jay, progressed to a Duck Blind with Mike and ended with Tim in the flooded timber. After a final lunch and closing my tab at the Wildrose store, Jack and I headed back to Nashville, with a weekend full of memories and lifetime of friendships. You can lose yourself at Wildrose and that exactly what we needed. A shared interest, belief and respect for new found friends and with a slap on the back and a promise to see each other at the Double Gun in October. After adding my new friends to Facebook, I am heading off to my family farm in Cookeville to apply what I have learned and continue to hone my skills building a better relationship with Wildrose Whiskey Jack. If you have never experienced a weekend at Wildrose, you a missing out! A special thank you to all those at Wildrose Kennels for making it a great weekend and for your continued friendship.

Sarah, Rick, and Andy listen to Vic explain the drill of sending a dog under a fence, stopping it, and handling it to retrieve a blind (a tennis ball) hidden in deep cover.

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1 Response to Participants Report on the Dog Handlers’ Workshop

  1. Thanks Andy, Gary and Justin for sharing your experience at Wildrose. We all enjoyed your participation and look forward to seeing you in October. After all, you’re our extended family!

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