Meet Obedience Trainer Chelsea Harris

The most recent addition to the Wildrose training staff hails from Denver, Colorado. Chelsea met Mike and Cathy last summer when they were doing their stint at Wildrose West, where they initially discussed a job as an obedience trainer. Chelsea drove cross-country in August to visit Wildrose and reports, “Honestly, from the first time I drove onto the property, I knew I had to stay.”

At the end of her working weekend with the staff, the feeling was mutual and the job was hers.

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Chelsea has considerable professional experience, as she explains: “I was blessed with a couple of opportunities that presented themselves a few years ago in Denver.  First, I held an internship with a Denver trainer, who was a 100% positive reinforcement trainer. That experience really got me into training a lot.  After a few months with her though, I knew there were other programs that must offer internships and since I wasn’t wholly satisfied with the click-and-treat method used all the time in her program, I looked around. My second internship changed my life.  I worked with Ted Terroux, the most amazing dog trainer in town.  Ted’s mother had been a trainer in Colorado for over 50 years as well and after working with Ted for two years, I got a job at his mother’s kennel. Ted taught me so much about dogs and how to communicate with them. I owe him so much.  Without that experience, I wouldn’t have ended up at Wildrose. Ted’s methodology was more appealing to me, because it’s more ‘balanced.’  In his program we would, of course, build up on the good things the dogs were doing and praise them generously when appropriate, but we also corrected a dog when it made a mistake.  This balanced approach, I found, makes a dog progress through training much faster and with a higher degree of reliability.  With Ted, I assisted in teaching eight training classes a week, including puppy kindergarten, basic obedience, CGC certification class, and an aggression class.  Once I started working at his mother’s kennel, I not only assisted in the eight classes a week, but I also worked full time at her board-and-train kennel.” So, Chelsea come to Wildrose with a wealth of experience with a variety of people and their dog.

Chelsea thinks that Oxford is awesome, although very different from her hometown, Denver. “The biggest change for me,” she says, “is getting used to living in the country.  At first I would go to town every day, just because that’s what I was used to doing.  But I’ve gotten better over the last couple months at not driving the thirty-mile round trip every day!”

Chelsea remarks on the Southern hospitality: “I’ve met some of the nicest people here, all very welcoming and I’ve made some great friends at Wildrose.  I love that everyone on the staff is about the same age and that we really truly are like family.  They welcomed me in immediately and being so far from home, that was awesome for me.”  During her first months here Chelsea has enjoyed experiencing all the special events at Wildrose and getting to know the extended “pack,” the core of clients who regularly attend the activities, such as the Double Gun and the handlers workshops. Chelsea finds the overall feeling of Wildrose “amazing and I feel so blessed to be a part of it.”

Born and raised in Denver, this youngest of three children says that she’s always been a huge dog lover.  What does the city girl and mother of two miss about the West? “I miss the snow terribly, as I have skied and snowboarded my whole life.” Not only is she an outdoors person, but she’s also socially active, enjoying going to concerts, game nights, traveling, and hanging out with my kids. Chelsea loves alternative music, but has recently gained a taste for country. (Thank you, Mississippi!). When she’s reading, mysteries are her preference.

When asked what profession she would be in if she hadn’t become a dog trainer, she said, “I would be a homicide detective without a doubt!” Watching her at work, one notices Chelsea’s keen attention to details and her precise observation of the dog and training situation. With those abilities she’d probably make a shrewd detective.

As the obedience trainer, Chelsea is the first trainer to work with every new dog that comes to Wildrose. Typically working with each one for about three weeks or so until she feels that its obedience is up to par. Then the dog goes into the gun dog program with a gun dog trainer.

Chelsea teaches them several obedience skills and activities, including heel, sit, stay, denials, and entry to duck blinds, boats, and ramps.  Such obedience is the foundation to the dogs’ later training. Chelsea is adept at working on small details, repetitively that many people get bored with it, wanting to skip ahead to the “fun stuff” too fast. Everyone who knows the Wildrose Way, understands that rushing through this basic work is a costly mistake.  The foundation has to be solid or everything else will fall apart.

As do all the trainers, Chelsea also raises puppies for clients, a job that she loves. She says, “The puppies come home with me around seven weeks old and stay until they either go to their owners’ homes or to the kennel to enter gun dog training.  I love the relationships I’ve built with my puppies’ owners. Being such a major part in their pups’ lives is amazing.”

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Chelsea has always been eager to increase her training expertise. She comments that a short term goal that she had when she first moved to Wildrose was to complete one of the future mama dogs’ training. Mike gave her a project dog, one that she could learn the process of training a gun dog with.  Chelsea says, “I’m happy to report she is doing awesome and is nearing the end of her gun dog training.” Now Chelsea hopes that Mike will give her more, because she enjoyed doing it so much. She also has a long-term goal to improve her gun dog training skills and become an “all around” trainer at Wildrose.  An ambitious and capable trainer, Chelsea concludes, “I’d love to be a kennel manager here one day, able to take on any challenge the kennel has.”

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