By Dr. Ben McClelland
With Allan Klotsche
Wildrose Midwest, the latest of Wildrose International’s four kennels, is located in Kohler, Wisconsin, with its main training grounds at River Wildlife, Kohler Corporation’s 600-acre outdoor Sport Club.
Wildrose Midwest was something that Al, Mike, and Cathy Stewart talked about for a number of years. Wildrose has a strong established base of customers in the Midwest who were anxious to have more local training support and workshop opportunities.
Never letting an opportunity slip by, Al and Mike decided to launch
Wildrose Midwest in late 2021 with some great support along the way. First, long-time Associate Trainer, Craig Korff and his son, Chris, who is also a trainer, were co-located within 5 miles of Al’s target location and anxious to see Wildrose grow in the area. Having two outstanding trainers on the team from day one was a real blessing. Second, Al had a membership and relationship with Kohler Corporation’s outdoor Sport Club, River Wildlife, which afforded him and the team 600 acres of perfect training grounds. All that is needed now is a piece of property to build the kennels and housing on. This has proven to be more of a challenge than anticipated and Wildrose Midwest is still looking for their permanent mailing address. Wildrose Midwest has run fifteen workshops since their beginning and is fortunate to have four, part-time employees besides Craig and Chris, who understand the Wildrose Way and do a great job helping out. In the summer of 2023, Wildrose Midwest will welcome Jill Koren and her partner Bob to the Midwest where they will be helping with training, boarding, whelping, and even shooting sports (Bob’s expertise). Jill is a quail guide on a plantation in Alabama and has been training the past two summers with Mike Stewart out in Colorado. Wildrose runs Starting Your Dog The Wildrose Way Workshops, Gun Dog Workshops, Handler Workshops, Duck Camp Warm Ups, Adventure Dog Workshops as well as small group workshops and private lessons.
A Personal Note on Al Klotsche and His Background
Al has been married to his wife Mary for thirty-four years and they have two adult sons, both of whom are married and each of them have one child, giving Al and Mary a grandson and granddaughter. Al is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys all of the natural beauty that Wisconsin and the Midwest have to offer. Al has enjoyed a successful career starting and running business across the world with more than fourteen years being spent working in the Asia Pacific region. After thirty years in “corporate America,” Al decided he wanted to spend more time enjoying the outdoors and working “for fun.”
On one of the fly-fishing trips that Al took over to Western Wisconsin, the guide
asked if he could bring his Labrador Retriever along. Although a bit apprehensive
about a dog screwing up the fishing waters, Al decided to give it a try. That British
Lab amazed Al at how calmly he sat on the river’s edge and then ultimately rejoined
the anglers downriver after they had fished out a section. This led Al to switch from
his prior, traditional American Labs to the Wildrose line of British Labs. Al was
passionate about learning the Wildrose Way and began working with two Associate Trainers in the Midwest to learn and refine his training skills.
Al’s Development as a dog trainer, using the Wildrose way—in his own words
My early days of dog training were all about game recovery. If we could find it, it was a good day. At times, this came at the sacrifice of manners and obedience. When I started seeing the biddability of British labs, I quickly learned there was more that
I was missing. I have been fortunate in my life to learn from some of the very best trainers who also have become personal friends. In my early 20s, I would hang out with Ray Sommers on weekends and do whatever he needed in exchange for him
working with me and my dog.
When I formally got involved with Wildrose, Ray had long retired, and I was fortunate to meet up with Craig Korff. Craig helped me with the finishing touches on my current dog, Beau, as well as teaching me the Wildrose Way. Craig is one of the most patient trainers that I have ever worked with, and his pace is evident in the steadiness of his dogs. I pride myself on a diversity of training scenarios to ensure that dogs are as ready as they can be for any environment. During the off- season, I am frequently re-creating hunting scenarios that proved to be a challenge during the year. Of course, when training a young dog, repetition is key, but when working with more advanced dogs, I am always looking for new challenges for both of us. The true test for me is driving up to a completely new location, getting the dog out of the truck and being able to run a complicated drill, like a land, water, land blind retrieve.
A Note on Al’s Personal Dogs and His Hunting Interests
I currently have four personal dogs. Eight-year-old Wildrose Lambeau, two-year old Wildrose Bella, one-year old Wildrose Duke, and ten-month-old WR River. With Duke, Bella and River, I promised my wife I would buy three and keep one, but the way they are all turning out, this is not going to be an easy decision! Bella is a Kelmarsky Crow import from the UK and will soon be a mama dog for WR Midwest. If River continues to develop as she is, she will also join the mama dog ranks. Beau is
my white muzzled hunting companion that I have taken all across the United States on hunting trips and family excursions and I hope that Duke will be Beau’s successor as my hunting dog.
If I only had one day of hunting left in my life, you would find me duck and goose hunting. While Wisconsin does have a good waterfowl population, I am drawn to the potholes of North Dakota and the saltwater flats of Southern Texas for some of the best and consistent duck hunting in the country. I also enjoy upland hunting at some of the local clubs as well as out west.
The Uniqueness of Wildrose Midwest
As the expression goes, necessity is the mother of invention. In our first year of operation, we utilized the resources that we had and got off to a good start. Our trainers were quickly filled to capacity with long-term commitments, the puppies we had were sold out, and our full slate of workshops kept us even busier.
Besides the monthly gun-dog training that we do like the other WR kennels, I really
enjoy working 1:1 with DIY clients and helping them learn and practice the Wildrose
Way. I personally spend a lot of my training time working 1:1 or in small group
sessions. While few clients are capable of developing a dog to the same level as a
professional trainer, I get great satisfaction out of seeing them accomplish their
goals. I have a general “curriculum” that I follow, but I end up customizing it for each
client. Whether we meet weekly or monthly, after each session, customers receive a homework list of things that I would like them to work on in between sessions. We have also developed a private portal on our website just for clients who send in training questions and videos that we help them in between lessons.
The Opportunities and Advantages of Belonging to a Network of Kennels
within Wildrose International
As a startup business (Licensee) the other Wildrose locations could not have been more supportive. The One-Kennel concept that Mike and Cathy have developed is very evident in the way that we all work together. In my first year, with no breeding stock on the ground in the Midwest, Guy Cameron (Wildrose Texas) helped provide me with enough puppies to fill some of my opening demand. When it came time to launch a website, Steven and Kirk, from Wildrose Carolinas, were there to support me from a web design standpoint and we continue to collaborate technologically. Tom Smith and the team at Wildrose Oxford are helping “the new guy” with a roadmap of do’s and don’ts for starting a new kennel as well as providing product support and a place where I can send new trainers to learn the Wildrose Way. I was really surprised when I attended my first Licensee meeting in March 2021. I thought we would were going to sit around Mike and Cathy’s house, have a few beers, and talk dog training. Quite the contrary, this was a formal business meeting that lasted the entire day from 8:00 – 5:00. The entire focus of the meeting was on “running the business” and serving our customers. Despite being different people, we all are very committed to providing our customers a common experience. It is quite common for clients to want to interact with multiple Wildrose locations based on their travel and training needs. For a bunch of dog trainers lead by a former police officer, this was quite the business planning and strategy session! It quickly became clear to me that our collective life experiences are a tremendous asset and collectively we are stronger than any one location could be on their own.