By Dr. Ben W. McClelland
Beginning at Wildrose in 2012 as a health-care specialist, Danielle Drewrey advanced to trainer apprentice. In 2014 she assumed the position of obedience trainer. Since then her numerous skills and over-the-top work ethic have propelled her into handling a myriad of positions: AKC evaluator for Canine Good Citizen, training coordinator for Wildrose Service Companions, social media manager, and director of the popular Wildrose Adventure Dog Training and Certification Program. As I observe her move through her work activities week-in and week-out, I see an enthusiastic dog handler, who has the best qualities of the girl next door and is as plain spoken as your best hunting-camp buddy.
Danielle’s Training Philosophy and Background
Danielle believes that every dog has potential. Finding the unique thing that makes each dog tick is the key to living and working effectively with it. Often, if a dog has poor behavior, a handler may have difficulty looking beyond the negative to see the dog’s potential. Danielle’s goal is to find the key to unlocking each dog’s potential. Her understanding of handler-dog issues began when she began her college education and worked as an animal caregiver at The Washington County Humane Society, where she observed canine and human behavior miscues first-hand.
In 2011 she joined the Army Military Police with the goal of being a dog handler. However, after a year in, she was injured during training and was medically discharged. Returning to civilian life, Danielle studied online at American Military University to complete an Environmental Sciences degree, with an emphasis in Fish and Wildlife.
While being processed out the Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Danielle met her husband, Kelly Drewrey, and moved to his hometown, Oxford, MS. About a month later she was introduced to Wildrose Kennels when she accompanied Kelly and his parents to picked up his parents’ Fox Red female, Rowan.
She recalls, “From the moment we pulled into the driveway I knew this was a place I could wake up to every day. Getting to play with some puppies that day was the cherry on top. Shortly after my first visit I returned for an interview with Mr. Mike and was overjoyed at being offered a position in the vet building.”
At Danielle and Kelly’s wedding in St. Francisville, Louisiana, their Springer Spaniel, Stella, joined in the couple’s the first dance. Since then the Drewrey’s family life has been
growing with the addition of Wildrose Willow (Hamish X Fawn) in 2017, their son, Thaddeus, in 2018 and now their daughter, Genevieve, due to arrive in June 2019 our lives have been full of joy.
When asked to talk about herself and her family, Danielle said, “We are a Harry Potter watching, Disney World & Universal Studios going family. My hobbies have always included the outdoors: boating, hiking, roller blading and biking have always been my go-tos for entertainment. Much of what I enjoy doing outdoors includes a dog not far behind. A big part of my life is that I love learning. Asking questions is something that I’ve been really good at since a young child and still today… Just ask Kelly!”
Moving from Wisconsin to Mississippi was a big change for Danielle, not only getting used to the climate but also the culture. She said, “Mississippi summer humidity and heat still gets to me during the summer months, but is much easier to deal with than Wisconsin winters. Oxford’s history, quaint downtown area, and inviting people captured me from the moment I arrived.” However, the Southern accent was something of an adjustment for Danielle. “In the early months much of my conversations would end with me smiling and nodding my head because I could not make out what the person was trying to tell me. I quickly learned that “you guys” wasn’t a common phrase and that I needed to adapt the typical “y’all” to not get funny looks. Up north it is not common practice to use “sir” or “ma’am.”
Danielle and Fawn, a Special Handler-Dog Bond
Danielle released the potential in Fawn, the first dog that she trained at Wildrose. As Danielle tells the story, “Our journey began back in 2012 when I took her through the
Gundog program, as well as many of the Adventure Dog skills. Fawn’s favorite AD skills are picking up trash on the side of the road, riding in the kayak, and meeting new friends—like horses. Fawn has accompanied me on tower shoots, picking up pheasant, and she is always my go to girl if we are having a simulated hunt at the kennel. Last year Fawn and I worked together to earn our Therapy Dog registration. Fawn loves to visit the local school and let the kids pet on her, walk with her, and do retrieves. One of Fawn’s special skills is she will pick up almost any item so we have her hold the books and deliver them to the student readers. We also visit other locations around Oxford like the VA, and a nursing home. The Gundog skills Fawn learned crossover into the other parts of her training and make her a well-rounded dog. A big part of Fawn’s life with me is that she makes a great “stable dog” for my younger trainees. For example, I will use Fawn with a dog that does not want to return on the retrieve. I will send Fawn out on the retrieve in hopes that it will make the other dog jealous and want to come back to where the fun is. It usually works.”
Danielle, the Communication Guru
Along with being the Obedience, Therapy, and Adventure Dog trainer at Wildrose, Danielle is a savvy communicator (read social media guru). She gathers articles from contributors and formats them for release in The Wildrose Journal. She plans and posts numerous items to Wildrose Facebook and Instagram, a mainstay of communication between her and her clientele. And who do you think is taking video on her iPhone? Danielle said, “I love to create video content for our social media outlets, such as “Mondays with Mattis” and quick tips that are run by Ducks Unlimited. During various Wildrose workshops or at Wildrose Oxford Puppy Picking I take and post photos of the activities.”
Training the Trainer
Danielle didn’t become a seasoned trainer just by instinct alone. During her health-care stint, she studied to understand The Wildrose Way. Then she worked day after day, shadowing Mike, as all apprentices do. Trainers Steven Lucius and Blake Henderson were also a part of her shadowing team. She said, “As I was finishing college, I worked part time between the vet building and learning to train. In 2014 I was ready to begin working full time as the obedience trainer. Dogs would come into training for various skills and I would start the basics such as heel, sit, eye contact, load and place.”
When a dog first comes into training with Danielle, her first step is to build a relationship with the dog. She explained, “To build this trust I will take the dog on a walk and make our first meeting fun and light. As we progress forward, I will get the dog into practice of giving eye contact, loading onto elevated platforms, and learning to load on the ramps. The key to all of this is making the beginning skills fun for the dog. Commands during this period of time are very clear and usually followed with a lot of praise.”
About Danielle’s obedience work Associate Trainer Erin Davis said, “Danielle is a huge component of assuring pups who enter training are provided a solid foundation for their overall success in training. Her commitment to shaping a well-rounded companion is top notch. I can count on her to send me a pup for training that is well balanced. Danielle provides excellent obedience skills for each pup she trains with the right balance of self control and confidence with social skills and exposure to true to life scenarios.”
On the Move Daily
Danielle carries out a busy weekly schedule with aplomb. She said, “On Mondays you will find me on the Oxford Square with dogs in training that need public access work. It is important for them to practice learned skills in several locations before considering it a habit. On Tuesdays I lead a puppy class at Wildrose Oxford for the backgrounders and other employees that have a pup between the ages of 11 weeks and 7 months. During these sessions we work on many of the basics, such as sit, stay, denials, retrieves, loading, heel, and eye contact. We also problem-solve issues handlers and their pups may be having.
Adventure Dog Program Leader
Danielle said, “For the past five years I have been the lead organizer of the Adventure Dog Program, including organizing the Adventure Dog Rendezvous Workshop. During the first four years that I headed the workshop we adventured in Jasper, Arkansas, hiking mountains and caves, biking, fishing the Little Buffalo, kayaking and exploring Cathy Stewart’s “happy place.” This year, 2019, brought us to Wildrose Oxford where we took over northern Mississippi by land, air, and water. Skills we planned for our adventurers included kayaking at Wildrose Oxford and Puskus Lake, doing a fly-over of Oxford, working with local horses, fishing and ATVing at WR Oxford. Next year we hope to take our adventures to Wildrose Texas.
One thing I did not expect when transitioning into the trainer position is the relationships I would build with clients. Finding that many of our clientele have similar goals as I do when it comes to having their dog being part of their daily family life. Many of the attendees to our Adventure Dog Rendezvous will come back every year and it becomes a much-anticipated reunion.”
About Danielle’s work with the AD Program Erin Davis said, “Danielle’s work with the Adventure Dog program has truly opened up the Wildrose Way to all active families looking to bond with their pup without exclusion. It encourages a healthy outdoor lifestyle for pups and handlers alike. The program is also seamlessly complementary for gundogs looking to cross train and advance their skill set. The format she’s fostered—self-guided modules with individualized experiences, group training experiences and workshops, a reward based system offering certifications at various levels, and advanced excursions which continue to challenge accomplished teams—has been fun to participate in personally with my own pups and in mentoring dog/handler teams in their own journey.”
I would love to grow the adventure dog program and get people out being active with their dogs. I also want to go on a duck hunt to capture some live hunting photos this year.