What is it about The Wildrose Way? For me, the Wildrose Way served as the foundation for my understanding. Since I did not grow up hunting, dogs were seen mostly as pets for my family members and those in my environment, but the Wildrose program provided a roadmap for what I always dreamed was possible with a dog. I always knew that I wanted a hunting, field-bred Labrador that I could make memories with in the field, and thus far, I’m pretty sure I’ve found that.
What I did not know when I began my journey was what I truly wanted FROM a hunting Lab. My Lab, Ruger is actually an American Labrador, which shows that the Wildrose program works across the board. I dissected Mike Stewart’s book and began writing a journal of notes and observations, reiterating and developing my own understanding of the technique for my young pup. I also began to learn a bit more about myself and the training choices that I prefer for my dog.
As I dug deeper into the Wildrose Way literature, it became very clear that confidence and encouragement were the most important rewards to Ruger. I undoubtedly know that handling Ruger through praise and encouragement channels prevented me from breaking him mentally. Since Ruger and I developed our rapport through such channels, Ruger desires cooperation, seeks to please, and thirsts to succeed in the field. He just sits and waits, tail wagging, for the next command or task. Through consistent training and effective correction, I was able to get my dog to communicate enthusiastically throughout the hunt.
I have learned that a quiet hunt is a good hunt. Much of my communication, due to The Wildrose Way, has been fairly silent. I was talking too much at first. It’s honestly astonishing how much man and dog understand each other WITHOUT words. Think about it! Your dog is not talking “audibly” anyway! The silence honestly allowed Ruger and I to deepen our connection. We have developed this sensational silent system of trust. He watches me and I watch him!
Walking through the woods flushing birds with a dog that willfully attends his nose and my whistle simultaneously is an experience that I cherish and attribute much to an understanding and study of Mike’s technique. What Ruger and I have is a system that continuously builds his confidence and my confidence. Take note of your pace. For I have learned that there should never be any “rush.” It really is just about you and the dog.
The Wildrose Way united my dog and me as a team. So much so that I can even predict when he will stop and ask for help and direction during the hunt. When we communicate on the same level, casting is a great deal easier. Some things are pretty much figured out in regards to the dogs, I believe. Many of our gun dog forefathers have just figured it out! And honestly, that’s why I advocate so much for Wildrose because I believe that Mike Stewart has done just that…he has figured it out. And, because I abandoned myself to Mike’s philosophy and methodologies, I can say that I not only have a good bird dog, but I have even begun to find my own rhythm and style. I can’t say that I have a fancy field trial dog with a known lineage and bloodline. However, I can say that I have, what I like to call, my “country dawg,” who truly is every bit of a fine shooting dog. And having a fine shooting dog is something that I strive towards every single day, and that daily consistency has served Ruger and me well. The Wildrose Way has contributed to the foundation of what I look for in my dog, and at 2 years of age, we’ve been enjoying the beginnings of an amazing story of a new hunter and dog handler along with a young Labrador Retriever. I record and document my journey in a notebook, The Gun Dog Notebook.