Wildrose Training Programs – Multiple Applications of a Common Methodology

By Dr. Ben McClelland

logo puppy and wildrose kennels

All kennels have one thing in common: dogs for sale. Wildrose Kennels, however, stands on an upper echelon of the canine breeding and training world. What makes Wildrose unique? We could list a number of things, including expert trainers, superior facilities (in multiple locations), and exceptional breeding stock.

Paramount among all factors are Mike Stewart’s guiding vision, his business model, and his development of the Wildrose Way, a unique, low-force, balanced training method that is field-proven and prepares dogs for versatility—any hunting situation or outdoor activity in any terrain and at any destination. Moreover, our Wildrose dogs are desirable companions in the home.

Wildrose companions travel with us along every pathway of human life. We have Wildrose Gundogs, Wildrose Adventure Dogs, and a variety of Wildrose Companion Dogs—Wildrose Scent Specialists, Wildrose Service Dogs, Wildrose Emotional Support Dogs, Wildrose Therapy Dogs, and, yes, a Wildrose “Facility Dog.”

Training in all of the programs relies on essential obedience and a training regimen


Sporting Dog and Retriever Training, The Wildrose Way

governed by twenty laws of training in order to establish foundational excellence in the dog’s behavior and within the trust relationship between handler and dog. One can find the full panoply of training instruction in Mike Stewart’s comprehensive text, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training The Wildrose Way (Universe Publishing, 2012).

Part of the genius of Wildrose’s operation is the manifold opportunities that clients and their dogs have to participate in structured dog-handling and hunting-and-training activities—from Starting Your Dog the Wildrose Way to Driven Wingshooting and an Adventure Dog Expedition. Between now and next April, Wildrose offers over two-dozen such activities in various locations. (See “Upcoming Wildrose Events.”)


Let’s look more closely at Wildrose’s three programs of special training.


The Gentleman’s Gundog

Wildrose Kennels specializes in breeding, training, and importing fine Labradors of British and Irish influence for the selective wingshooter. Our Labs—whether they are puppies, started, or finished retrievers—are distinctive in character, temperament, and ability as defined in the term Gentleman’s Gundog.

As our program description states, we believe that a Labrador, to be considered as a classic Gentleman’s hunting companion by English standards, must reflect certain desirable qualities. These desirables, which have undergone twenty years of continuous improvement, remain as the core values of the Wildrose Kennels breeding and training programs.

The Qualities of a Fine Gentleman’s Gundog include:

  • Intelligence and trainability
  • Keen natural hunting and game-finding ability
  • Superior compatibility; calm, quiet temperament; strong identity with their owner and family
  • Multi-purpose retriever equally proficient on dove, duck, quail, and pheasant
  • Excellent handling ability
  • Extremely steady to shot and fall; readily honors other working dogs
  • Appealing confirmation based upon the British standard; medium frame and weight
  • Superior field-proven ancestry

Nowhere can one see better exemplars of the Gentleman’s Gundog as in Wildrose’s

butch beach

Judd Beech and Kane at Double Gun and Sporting Dog Classic 2017

annual Double Gun and Retriever Classic, held in Oxford on an October weekend. Because it combines wingshooting with training, this multi-day event enables handlers to evaluate their gundogs’ skill levels before hunting season.


The Wildrose staff sets up various hunting sites in perfect field situations, including mown uplands and water venues. Split into three groups, participants begin with walk-ups, shooting clays and retrieving thrown or launched bumpers.

The simulated walk-up training clinic serves as a great workout. For one thing it is good to get the dogs socialized to group work. Also, it helps handler and dog communication, steadying the dogs under gunfire with bumpers flying, and then sending them for retrieves on command.

Evenings after the field-work offer one of Wildrose’s best features: camaraderie. As so many folks can attest, among the benefits of Wildrose are the hospitality that comes from the top down throughout the staff, the opportunity for clients to return at any time to train at the kennel locations, and the sense of togetherness everyone feels when they gather for evening social time. Gathered around a logfire, everyone warms up with a Wildrose tradition: Chris and Lani Wilke’s home made mint juleps.


Tailgating after a fun day in the field.

The value of the training, the warm camaraderie, and the unsurpassed, simulated hunting venues at Wildrose will call many back to the DG classic.


Wildrose Adventure Dog

AD logo words and color

Prepared to go anywhere, the Wildrose Adventure Dog is the perfect complement to a family’s outdoor lifestyle. For hunting, fishing, camping, and biking, the adventure dog is a companion of distinction.

A highly compatible, English Labrador retriever that is equally civil in the home or office as it is controllable in the countryside.

Our Adventure Dogs are thoroughly socialized and trained for a multitude of sporting activities, categorized under fourteen merits, including:

By demonstrating their achievement of merits, dogs can attain titles: Trail Rated (TR) with 5 skills completed; AdventureDog Certified (ADC) with 9 skills completed (including Public Access) and Master Trekker (MT) with 12-14 skills completed.

A number of Wildrose folks have engaged in AD activities, including some that were featured in previous journal articles, including WR Howie and WR Valentina. While AD dogs and their owners pursue the achievement of merits independently, many find it most desirable to participate in one of the many AD workshops, following a structured program of training.

The first such seminar convened in Buena Vista, Colorado, on August 20 and 21, 2011, where a diverse group of dog handlers came from various points of the globe to participate. BV, as the locals call the town, is located at about 8,000 feet elevation in central Colorado at the foot of the Collegiate Peaks (14,000 feet) and in the Upper Arkansas River Valley.  BV is a popular access point for world-class whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing on the Arkansas River, and biking, mountain climbing, and backpacking on local Fourteeners and the Colorado Trail.  The AD seminar participants sampled most all of these activities as Mike guided them through an action-packed two days of outdoors adventuring with dogs. Two BV sponsors loaned equipment: Trailhead (bikes) and Colorado Kayak (a kayak).

By the conclusion of the seminar the participants had been introduced to several new outdoor activities that they could enjoy with their dogs.  They also had taken measure of their dogs’ skill levels, finding activities that they could practice in their backyards.  The outdoor scene, the learning, and the fellowship all gave these dog handlers memories that will last a lifetime.  These folks experienced what all of us do who attend the Wildrose training activities: strangers who happen to enjoy working with dogs go through a challenging set of activities—learning, and laughing, and bonding together—and having developed friendships that will carry across the miles and years.

The upcoming event for AD folks this year takes place in quite a different outdoor venue: In February Wildrose Adventure Dog enthusiasts can participate in the Wildrose Adventure Dog Expedition-Bahamas, Blackfly Bonefish Lodge, Abaco Islands, Bahamas. Blackfly has been featured in Garden & Gun Magazine as an exceptional 5-star resort destination. Perfect for a Wildrose experience, the participants will enjoy individualized casting instruction, a sea-to-table culinary experience, golfing opportunities on a world-class course and biking, hiking, watercraft, fishing and other K9 adventures hosted in a fantastic location.


Wildrose Companion Dog

WSC Logo (1)

Wildrose labs are known for their amazing scenting abilities, temperament and trainability. Their instincts, intelligence, desire to please, plus their smaller size make them exceptional candidates for service, detection, alerting, and tracking as well as sporting companions.

Wildrose British Labs may be found providing a wide variety of valuable services in communities across the country. But these fine animals are not limited to just providing services and assistance, they are also personal companions of their handlers, and may pursue dual life styles, participating in therapy work and hunting during seasons. Examples include:

  • Diabetic Alert
  • Search and Rescue
  • Therapy Dogs: Schools, hospitals and nursing homes
  • Assistance
  • Detections: accelerant, cadaver, etc.

Dr. Scott Wilson serves as the Wildrose Service Companion Director. As a Pet Partners Team Evaluator, Scott has been busy enabling many Wildrose dog owners and their dogs to become qualified to conduct therapy dog visits under Pet Partners auspices.

In the Oxford area therapy dog activity abounds with visits to addiction recovery centers,Whitney.jpg nursing homes, and school classrooms. One of our therapy dog programs is an ongoing collaboration with teacher Whitney  Drewrey  of Lafayette Schools, the Mississippi Teacher of the Year.

Here’s a look at that collaboration: Twice monthly on Monday mornings Whitney’s  daughter-in-law, Wildrose Trainer Danielle  Drewrey, brought a Wildrose  Therapy Dog or two to Whitney’s reading circle. One day last fall, Foxy, a two-year-old yellow Labrador, accompanied Danielle and  Dr. Scott Wilson joined in with his dog, Sterling, also  Wildrose  Therapy Dog.

Danielle, a  Wildrose  Kennels trainer, is also the training coordinator for Wildrose Service Companions. Scott  is the  Wildrose Service Companions Director. They have been spear heading the use of service dog companions in a number of settings, including nursing homes, courtrooms, and schools.

Scott and Sterling  stop  directly behind Danielle and Foxy. Whitney began by reading a page of  The Berenstain Bears  to the class. Then, she turned to a student to continue the reading. The student read to Foxy, who listened attentively.

Whitney later explained, “Students, who lack confidence because they are behind a grade level or more in reading fluency and comprehension, feel at ease as they read to a dog that listens attentively without judgment. The dog is not going to make fun of them for reading a “baby” book as some of their peers might call it.”  This reading success, she said, builds the students’ confidence in reading out loud. If a child will find a love for reading, they will want to read more, and ultimately increase the fluency and comprehension component of their reading.

Educational research concurs with Whitney’s assessment of the  value of her students’ reading to Foxy.  A study revealed that the activity of students reading to a dog  “targeted the students’ intrinsic motivation (i.e., the students wanted to read to the dog) and their self-efficacy (i.e., belief they could perform better each time they read). . . [which] can increase pride (Shernoff, Knauth, & Makris, 2000).

After Whitney and her students had finished reading the book, the students got their reward: taking turns, each one walked Foxy  or Sterling  down the school hallway. During this part of the activity, students lined up for their turn. Their excitement bubbled over in smiles and giggles.

For Whitney  Drewrey’s  students  with multiple disabilities and areas of need, the Therapy Dog project for the reading circle produced many and varied benefits. In the  book-reading process the dog’s presence  focuses the students’ attention and motivates them to engage in the academic activity. Walking the dog  enables  students’  physical,  tactile stimulation and  motivates them  to move around, thus improving muscle development. Moreover, students practiced new social skill development and engaged differently in  learning  activities in an emotionally receptive  environment. Finally, in interacting with the therapy dog, students felt ownership and responsibility, developing their self-confidence and social skills.

Conclusion: Wildrose’s three specialty programs have served us well. Following these programs, thousands of Wildrose dog owners enjoy active lifestyles—and achieve work of distinction—with their exceptional canine companions in a multitude of ways. Each activity issues from one common methodology creatively expanded to enrich our varied outdoor lifestyles.

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