Wildrose Teton Valley, Idaho

by: Mike Stewart

Wildrose will open its third satellite training facility this summer in the Teton Valley, just outside the town of Tetonia, ID, in association with Blixt & Co., Driven Shooting in the West.  Wildrose will offer world-class gundog development on the superb grounds of the most authentic driven shoot in North America.  Participants will benefit from the most intensive retriever training program available for finished work outside the United Kingdom.


Photo from Blixtco.com

The Wildrose training staff, forward deployed directly from the Oxford site, will operate basic and advanced retriever courses at the estate grounds of Blixt & Co. June through November annually.  Each dog will experience a diversity of rugged terrain, massive gunfire exposure and unmatched opportunities for pheasant and partridge recovery on both driven shoots and rough-shooting walkups.  Wildrose clients with dogs in the Northwestern states will now have a regional trainer available to provide services.

Picking Up
Participation in the majesty of an authentic European/UK style driven shoot is hard to imagine for many dog handlers.  Just marking all the birds dropping from skies filled with birds in flight each taken by one of the eight guns blazing simultaneously in close proximity is extremely challenging.  In an environment where game recovery is paramount and retriever steadiness is essential, handlers are engaged at all times with six drives daily, eight guns active on each.  The action is intense for retrievers and handlers alike.
After shooting season ends in November, our onsite trainer returns to Wildrose in Oxford to continue training gundogs and making preparations for the next year’s activities in the Northwest.
Picking-up opportunities may be scheduled for handlers with dogs in training. Also, Wildrose clients may visit as guest pickers with their retrievers which are performing at the seasoned/advanced level.  We offer both long-term and short-term training programs for Wildrose dogs exclusively.  On a shooting day, picking teams and dogs in training will experience thousands of birds in flight with bags of 300-450 downed birds affording unparalleled sporting dog experiences.

Picking Teams

Used from blixtco.com

Photo from Blixtco.com

Clients may participant as pickers on shooting dates at no cost.  Wildrose will establish another Regional Pickers Syndicate in the Northwest.  This is a team of well-trained dogs and handlers that may be called upon for field support as we have established in both the Mid-South and New England areas.


Contact Ryan Alderman, Wildrose gundog trainer, for availability, ryan@uklabs.com.

  • Basic Gundog Training
  • Seasoned Retriever Development
  • Finished Retriever Refinement
  • Pick-up Opportunities
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Amazing Retriever Facts

Seven things you should know about your duck dog

fullsizerender-4I ran across this great article written by our friend, Gary Koehler, for Ducks Unlimited which points out some interesting facts about the abilities of sporting dogs.  The post was on DU’s Facebook and I found it a perfect complement to the way we train dogs at Wildrose, a balanced way, the “Wildrose Way.”  The post summarized many of the points we discovered while training scent discriminating service dogs, as well as gundogs, over the years.  The power of the developed nose.  A dog’s keen eyesight, even in the dark. The intuitiveness of dogs giving them the ability to read a person’s body posture, facial expression, and even a person’s sweat.  Dogs are very keen observers when their senses are developed appropriately.  Gary summarized many of the points we have identified while training gundogs, adventure companions and service canines, The Wildrose Way.

by Gary Koehler

Ever since Ivan Pavlov used dogs during the 1890s to explore classical conditioning, the sky has been the limit for those who want to learn more about canine biology and behavior. Because of their popularity as pets, dogs may be the most studied animals on earth.

Most of us have probably done at least some delving into what makes our retrievers tick. We can’t help it. The subject is endlessly fascinating, and the more we know about our dogs, the easier it is to train and live with them. Although many questions remain, science continues to provide new insights into the lives of our four-legged hunting partners.

Here’s a look at several interesting facts that explain how dogs perceive the world and why they behave the way they do.

  1. Sight

Contrary to popular opinion, dogs are not color blind. The old notion that they can see only black and white is incorrect. The canine color field may be limited in comparison to ours, but dogs can perceive gradations of yellow, blue, and gray. They can’t, however, distinguish red, green, and orange colors, as humans do. That’s because the human eye contains three types of cones, while the canine eye has only two. As predators, however, dogs are equipped with superior night vision and are also much more capable of tracking motion than we are.

  1. Smell

As discussed in a previous column, a dog’s scenting ability is truly remarkable. The noses of some breeds have more than 200 million scent receptors, which is about 40 times the number humans have. This isn’t surprising considering that a dog also dedicates about 40 times more of its brain to the process of smelling than we do. No wonder our retrievers continually amaze us when they locate fallen waterfowl in heavy cover.

  1. Hearing

Dogs generally have a much better hearing range than humans. A dog’s ears include at least 18 muscles, while ours have only nine. Dogs can therefore rotate and tilt their ears, which allows them to more easily locate the exact source of a sound. In addition, they perceive almost twice the frequencies we do. This explains why dogs can hear high-frequency whistles that are soundless to us. If your retriever is afraid of your lawn mower or weed whacker, it’s probably because the dog is bothered by the sound, not the motion. Thunderstorms can also be troublesome.

  1. Mood Detection

Your retriever can read your mood just by looking at your facial expressions and body language. Over time, he or she will learn to sense when you are happy, sad, and angry. The flipside of this is our tendency to attribute human emotions to dogs. For example, when you chastise your retriever for digging in the yard, he may put his head down or look away. The dog is probably reacting more to your tone and body language than out of a sense of guilt or shame.

  1. Intelligence

Mental sharpness varies greatly from breed to breed, and even from dog to dog. In fact, pups from the same litter may exhibit different learning abilities. Some dogs are inherently smarter than others. Studies have shown that intelligent dogs can learn the meaning of up to 250 words. Average dogs are capable of understanding about 150 words.

  1. Thermoregulation

The normal body temperature for a dog ranges from 100°F to 102.5°F. Fur insulates a retriever’s body in cold weather and helps slow heat absorption in warm weather. Although dogs do sweat through their paw pads and nose, they regulate body temperature primarily by panting. Always keep in mind that the risk of hypothermia and heat stroke are very real when your retriever is outdoors in extreme conditions.

  1. Dreams

The fact that dogs can dream shouldn’t come as a surprise to retriever owners who have seen their dogs whimper, twitch, and move around in their sleep. Determining what dogs actually dream about is a more complicated matter, but recent research seems to indicate that, like people, they tend to recall memories of events they experienced while awake. This means that retrievers are probably “fetching” mallards in perhaps their most lucid dreams.



Reprinted with permission from Ducks Unlimited Incorporated.  Originally published on Ducks Unlimited Facebook and their website, ducks.org.  We thank Gary and our friends at DU for the share. (see ducks.org)

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Meet the Newest Wildrose Staff

As 2016 draws to a close, we wanted to share with our subscribers a few of the exciting additions that occurred at Wildrose over the past year.  We will also allude to a few upcoming programs in this edition but complete explanations will be reserved for the January/February 2017 issue which is shaping up to be a big one.

Some of our opportunities for clients and our tribe of followers include new workshops, more opportunities for destination travel, expanded training programs and exciting technologies.  All are on the way to further enhance the Wildrose experience and we are excited!!  Be ready to get trained, get outfitted, and get out there… the “Wildrose Way.”

First, we would like to introduce new staff members that joined us in 2016:

Bryan Hargrove, Trainerbryan-hardgrove

Bryan is originally from Virginia and is a retired U.S. Army veteran with over twenty years of experience. He obtained his Associates degree in General Education from Central Texas College and earned numerous Information technology certifications during his military service. Bryan completed his military career as a Special Operations communications instructor. Previous to his arrival at Wildrose, Bryan was the head guide and dog trainer with an Orvis-endorsed wingshooting lodge.  Bryan’s leadership experiences in the military and those gained from his work through upland hunting services has enabled him to easily adapt to training gundogs, both pointers and retrievers, the Wildrose Way.  Bryan expands Wildrose training opportunities to include pointing breeds balanced to work with Wildrose retrievers.  This specialty course affords wingshooting enthusiasts the opportunity to field gundog teams trained for pointing, flushing and retrieving. Upland combination gundogs trained together, The Wildrose Way.

kelli-smKelly Hargrove, Hospitality Coordinator

Kelly is an extremely versatile and talented team member with Wildrose.  She serves as hospitality coordinator for Wildrose events and lodging and is cross-assigned as a health care specialist supporting Wildrose health care programs.  Previously, Kelly was the food and beverage manager of a major ski resort in Pennsylvania. Kelly came to us from North Carolina where she gained experience first as the estate’s kennel manager then served as a food and beverage manager for an Orvis-endorsed wingshooting lodge.  Kelly is an active participant our Fly & Deliver and Puppy Backgrounding programs.

Ryan Alderman, Trainerryan-wr

Ryan joined the Wildrose training staff in 2016.  Originally from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, he advanced his education at the University of Mississippi majoring in Sports and Recreational Administration.  As a Wildrose trainer, Ryan directs Wildrose training services in the Teton Valley for six months of the year in association with the renowned Blixt & Company driven shooting estate in Tetonia, Idaho.  Ryan is charged with onsite kennel operations, training, and directing the gundog program and staff for picking up and roughshooting on behalf of Wildrose and Blixt & Company.  Ryan extends the Wildrose Way for basic gundog, seasoned and finished retriever training to the Northwest further broadening our services to clients and their Gentleman’s Gundogs

facemyerTravis Facemyer, Associate Trainer, West Virginia

Travis is from West Columbia, West Virginia, where he owns and operates Facemyer Lumber Company.  He is an avid wingshooter, hunting all over the country and Canada every year with Wildrose Rogan, Wildrose Faolain and his Vizsla, Piros.  Travis is a member of the Appalachian Valley Chapter of North America Versatile Hunting Dog Association, a pointing dog organization that sponsors “Hero’s Tribute Hunt” for disabled veterans.  Travis bought his first Wildrose Labrador in 2011 and since he has been a constant participant and instructor at Wildrose workshops. He became a Wildrose Associate Trainer for the West Virginia region of the country in 2016.

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Wildrose Events


A quick glance at the 2017 lineup of workshops and destination events.  There is so much to see and do when one join the Wildrose Pack.  A tribe of followers with a passion for sporting dogs and the outdoor lifestyle.

Starting Your Dog the Wildrose Way – January 14 and April 1, Wildrose Kennels, Oxford, MS
This course focuses on starting your retriever (all breeds) on the proper path to becoming a well-rounded, hunting or adventure partner. Gentle, highly repetitive methods are used to show you step-by-step how to start your youngster from crate training to lining retrieves. Topics include obedience, steadiness, promoting calm behaviors, patience, introduction to birds, memories, doubles, early marks, reading your pup, k-9 demeanor and much more. Participants are invited to bring their dog to work with and will have the opportunity to handle a variety of different dogs at various levels of training if they choice, a real hands-on opportunity. (All breeds welcome).

January 28 – Wildrose Pheasant Continental Wingshoot, George Hi Plantation, Garland, NC. George Hi Plantation will host 12 Wildrose seasoned dogs and wingshooters for an exciting pheasant European-style wingshooting weekend.  George Hi Plantation has been hunting quail on the same grounds since 1855. Optional quail hunts may be booked separately before and after the event date.  Contact Penny at 910-564-5860 or hunt@georgehi.comwww.georghiplantation.com

DAMES, DOGS & DUCKS – March 3 to 5, Wildrose Kennels, Oxford, MS
Join us for a unique sporting experience for ladies only: Training for wingshooting, handling hunting dogs and skills for the field and marsh. All instruction will be presented by women who are masters at their skills. This course is based upon the popular Wildrose Waterfowl and Upland Academy previously offered. Three training blocks will cover hunting skills in practical field situations.

  • Decoying
  • Duck calling
  • Brushing blinds
  • Appropriate hunting attire
  • Upland hunting situations involving walk ups, pointing and flushing gundogs
  • Retriever training
  • Handling tips
  • Realistic gundog transitional field exercises

The event includes lunch Saturday and Sunday and a Saturday evening dinner on the grounds. Dogs can be provided by Wildrose if required. Bring along your shotguns, shells, rain gear, and water boots.

Basic Handler’s Workshop  – March 16, 17 at Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, MS and April 6, 7 at George Hi Plantation, Garland, NC
This Basic Handler’s Workshop will cover the Wildrose method of handling sporting dogs-obedience to hand signals. Emphasis is on developing the handler’s skills. Focus topics: canine behaviors, reading your dog, delivery, whistle commands, steadiness, handling, hunting cover, and lining, all based on Wildrose balanced training principles.

Advanced Handler’s Workshop – March 18, 19 at Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, MS and April 8, 9 at George Hi Plantation, Garland, NC                                                The Advanced Handler’s Workshop will focus on the Wildrose positive methods for advanced sporting dog handling, both upland and waterfowl, hand signals to blinds. Emphasis will be on developing handlers’ skills for transitional training and hunting situations based on the unique Wildrose training principles. Topics include: handling on water, advanced steadying drills, upland walk ups, lining on multiples, memories (circle) and blinds. A transitional training exercise will be conducted to add an element of realism. Participants will need a dog that is familiar with hand signals. Bring waders, duck calls, rain gear and shotgun with several box of light load shells.
Adventure Dog Training Course – April 21 to 23 Wildrose Arkansas, Jasper, Arkansas
Our unique training course for the dogs of outside adventures is the first of its kind. Dogs of the trail need specialized training just as do gundogs given the unusual activities they may encounter. Training for dogs to complement an active family’s lifestyle: hiking, climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, camping, running, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, etc. Dog training for K9 companions that will prepare them to go anywhere. (open to all dogs)

This course also addresses all the necessary skills sets for Adventure Dog Certification for Trail Rated. Topics will include: control on trail, retrieving, gunfire, fording streams, biking, kayaking, fishing, shed hunting and quite a long list of sub skills needed to create a superb outside companion for adventurers.

Register for these and other exciting courses at http://wildrosetradingcompany.com/collections/wildrose-events.

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by: Mike Stewart

fullsizerender-2As I approached the small, black lab puppy projecting volumes of pent-up energy while securely placed on tie-out, I immediately noticed his bright eyes of anticipation peering through a dusty face.  Nash Buckingham, as this 13-week old Wildrose pup has come to be fittingly called, knows the routine.  My approach means we are off for a lesson.  This time, though, things are about to change for the little guy.  The difference will not be the usually brief sessions involving sit, stay, place and a short retrieve, rather we are about to embark on the important steps of confidence building, independent thinking, decision making and de-sensitization experiences, all afileld, all in new and very different environments.

This part of puppy development is fun stuff.  As followers of The Wildrose Way understand, there are three levels of puppy early development:

0-8 weeks – Super Learner/Super Scent

2-3.5 months – Backgrounding, the Essentials

3.5 -7 months – Early Starts

The first 16 weeks of a pup’s life are developmentally crucial.  At these ages one can imprint so many valuable behaviors and exposures that will endure a lifetime.  Obviously, make them good ones because what you put into a pup will likely become entrenched and will be around for a long time.

Nash is at the perfect age for first exposures to field challenges.  Really, it’s all about “bolding” the youngster.  He can now begin to comprehend new and different experiences yet still young enough for the lessons learned to become entrenched in his memory.  Maximum care must be taken to ensure these “man-up” activities are positive with no chance of fear factors arising.


What to Avoid?

  • Extremely cold weather
  • High impact jumping or falls
  • Gunfire
  • Large dead or excessively bloody birds
  • Close-up encounters with live game birds
  • Larger, extremely aggressive/active dogs that could injure or intimidate

What we want is positive field exposures for the pup to independently (off lead) explore while still young enough to be somewhat dependent, preferring to stay close to me.   Examples:

  • Tall grass fields
  • Shallow, warm water
  • Small logs to cross
  • Ditches to negotiate
  • Leafy woodlands

fullsizerender-3Nash’s lead was attached and we made our way to the tall, sage grass fields of the Wildrose training grounds at Oxford.  No open field romps now.  Rather, I want him a bit lost in the dense cover of high grass so he remains with me rather than on an independent frolic in an open field, so our off-lead walk a begins.  Nash is free to explore.  Still young and in unfamiliar surroundings, he doesn’t range far.  Slowly, confidence is gained.  Occasionally, I squat down low and recall (come) Nash using whistle and hand clapping. Without hesitation he responds receiving much praise when he reports in.  Then he is released and the walk continues.  The first field selected was tall sage grass then we made our way into a strip of milo.  The thick foliage soon proved challenging.

Nash lost his bearing.  I walked a bit further and exited the thick milo, then knelt using the whistle recall and provided verbal encouragement.  Shortly, the milo tops began to rattle signaling Nash’s progression toward me.  When his exit was finally accomplished, of course, a big party had to occur in recognition of his courage and persistence.  We keep our little outings short to make sure his young mind stays engaged and attention focused.

Day II – Exploration was broadened to include wandering woodlands, crossing back and forth over small logs and negotiating a small ditch.  Only two recalls are conducted per outing to avoid boredom.  Future de-scent and confidence “man-up” exposures will include:

  • Rides on an ATV
  • Bounding about in thick pond mud (fun)
  • Wading in shallow water (removes the fun)
  • Exploring shallow water covered with lily pads
  • Place training is moved to realistic field locations:
    • Boat stands
    • Duck blinds
    • Tree stands
    • Water platforms

Place is place no matter the location.  No stimuli like thrown denials or honoring other working dogs at this point, just place reinforcement expecting still, quiet, patient behaviors.

Our confidence walks are accomplished alone, no other dogs to misdirect Nash’s focus and attention as we explore a strange, new world for him.  Soon the opportunity will be lost.  Nash will enter an age of independence and become less susceptible to the powers of imprinting.  For now, his eyes of enthusiasm and expression of curiosity tell it all.  He is becoming bolder every day:  confident, decisive and, of course, fun!

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Wildrose Photo Contest 2016

contest-picThis year we introduced a new contest on our Wildrose Kennels Facebook Page that showcased over 200 adventure dog photos! The contest was launched mid-summer and ended mid-September and was open to all breeds of dogs.  Followers of Wildrose Instagram and Facebook were challenged to capture their best adventure photo with their dog and use the hashtag “#wrphotocontest2016.”  Followers were also informed that the winner of the contest would win Wildrose merchandise along with a feature on our page and in the Wildrose Journal! Each week there were spectacular, one-of-a-kind pictures submitted and picking a winner was extremely difficult.


After taking votes from all of the Wildrose Kennels Oxford staff, a photo submitted by @floyd_the_vizsla was declared the winner. floyd-the-visla-ad The action shot of Floyd jumping across a stream over rocks surely deserved the title of “best adventure photo.”  Floyd was contacted and asked questions about his life as an adventure dog:

“Floyd The Vizsla – @floyd_the_vizsla

I’m a Hungarian (Magyar) Vizsla!

My birthdate is June 14th, 2014, so I’m a little over two years old. I was born in Benson, Utah and now live in the mountains near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington.

My human (lovingly) calls me the ‘Discount’ dog. I was the last male chosen from my litter, primarily because I don’t really have a good bird drive. But that’s okay, my human thinks I make a good friend anyway.

I go on so many adventures! We hike somewhere every single day, even if it is just in the mountains near my home. My first adventure with my adopted dad was when I was just eight weeks old. He picked me up in Utah, and we took a road trip to Indiana. Over the next two weeks, we hung out with family in Indiana and then visited the Badlands National Park on our drive home.

Once I got old enough, we started to hike-a lot! In 2015, I took my dad on over 1800 miles of hikes, 600 miles of snowshoeing, and we summited 64 mountains in four different states.
I even made it to the top of a 12,281 foot tall stratovolcano – Mt. Adams in the Cascades Mountains of Washington.

This year our adventures have been different. We live in the middle of the forest, and in the winter we have to snowshoe or take a snowcat to commute in and out. So, this summer I’ve had to supervise my human while he prepares for winter (snowcat rebuild, splitting wood, etc). With an average snowfall of 430 inches per year, I have to make sure he’s ready. We’re still hiking, but not as frequent. We did take our normal summer road trip. We visited Indiana, then the Badlands, Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon, the Grand Tetons, and took a five day backpacking trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. We also took trips this summer to Mt. Baker, Mt. Pilchuck, the Olympic National Park and numerous trips into the Teanaway in Central Washington. Almost all of our adventures involve mountain tops and alpine lakes.

What do we have planned?
Plenty of snowshoeing near our home this winter. Then, next summer we hope to summit Mt. St. Helens, Mt Adams (again), and then spend a week exploring in the North Cascades. For the most part, our adventures are spontaneous. I’ll convince my human to explore a new forest service road just to see where we’ll end up.  –Floyd

There will be more from Floyd the Vizsla as we will follow him on his journey to becoming an official Wildrose Adventure Dog. floyd

Keep up with all things adventure; @wildrosekennels, @wildroseroaming and @kind2dogs.

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Join Us In A Publishing Venture about Wildrose Adventure Dogs

Dear Adventure Dog Folks:

Will you join us in a publishing venture about Wildrose Adventure Dogs?

Since Wildrose Kennels founded the Adventure Dog training program in 2008 and officially launched its Adventure Dog Certification program in mid-June, 2010, participant interest and activity have been very enthusiastic, to say the least. You and your dog have contributed to the program’s development. We’d like to share the stories of some adventure dogs and their owners.

Because you and your dog are active in our Adventure Dog Program, we are writing to invite you to participate in a series of Wildrose Journal articles featuring Adventure Dogs and their owners.

We would like to begin publishing stories with the next issue. Here’s how we suggest that we proceed with this project. Those of you who are interested can draft notes about your experiences with your dog and submit them to us. We’ll work on editing them into a series of Journal articles (from about 900 to 2500 words each).

Here are some things to consider in drafting your notes:

  • First, you may introduce your dog and tell a little bit about getting your dog, training it, and any significant points you’d like to share about you and your family’s life with your dog. Familiarize us with your dog’s history with you.
  • Second, you may explain your interest in the Adventure Dog Program. How did you and your dog begin in the program? What activities do you do? What journeys or interesting outdoor travels have you taken?  What merits are you working on or have you and your dog achieved? How do you work with your dog to develop the set of sub-skills that build to success in an activity?
  • Third, you may narrate a story about you and your dog, focusing on “a day in the life” or you may want to tell about achieving one particular milestone, or tell about a favorite pastime for your dog and you.
  • Fourth, explain how the adventure dog activities have strengthened the bond between you and your dog.
  • Fifth, discuss your future goals with your dog.
  • Finally, please include high-quality photos of your dog and you including some of your dog on location as you travel or action shots as you work toward some merits.

Will you join in this venture? Please reply to this email and let us know whether you’re interested. If you are interested, please let us know when you can submit some drafted notes to us. In order to put together a story for the next issue, we would need drafts submitted in a few weeks. Those of you who need more time may send material for later issues.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Ben McClelland and Danielle Drewrey

Wildrose Kennels

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Billups Coffee

5f075124db06462dbb64b7b734da8797Wildrose Gus (Deke x Mira) joined the Billups family December of 2015. Living in Oxford, Mississippi we are fortunate enough to be right in the backyard of Wildrose’s beautiful property and talented trainers. We quickly began attending training seminars that winter and you better believe a fresh cup of coffee accompanied us to each training session. As our friendship grew with Mike, he inquired about the Billups Coffee we always seemed to have with us and pressed us on how and why we started the company. The truth is our passion and slight addiction to coffee partnered with the family history made Billups coffee come easy.

History: Billups Petroleum was founded in Mississippi in the late 1940s along with the slogan ” Fill-Up with Billups” which depicted a friendly signature handshake. In the ’50s and ’60s the business grew to include gas stations throughout the southern states and east coast allowing travelers to pull over and fill up when they saw the now well-recognized slogan and friendly handshake. All good things in life have an expiration date and around the mid ’60s Billups Petroleum was purchased by various entities including Charter Marketing, Citgo and Exxon.

Billups Coffee: We had always wanted to do something to memorialize our family history and that partnered with our coffee passion lead to Billups Coffee. From there the ideas flowed smoothly (pun intended). To play off of Billups Petroleum we decided on launching the line with three different types of coffee ‘Premium’, ‘Regular’, and ‘High Octane’. Mike enjoyed the history and of course a good cup of coffee. After sampling all 3 types, he now supports the Billups Coffee which can be found in the Wildrose shop, Wildrose Trading Company as well as online at BillupsCoffee.com

Billups Coffee Iced Cocktail Brew Billups Coffee as usual, let cool. Pour coffee into ice trays and freeze. Place frozen coffee cubes in a glass and pour your favorite……Kahlua, Bailey’s, Disaronno, etc.

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The Life-Long Adventure of Wildrose Valentina

by: Sammye Pisani

1cdd26c523094782a4938587853eb875And so our Wildrose Adventure begins! It was puppy-picking day on January 18, 2013, and my husband, Mike, and I had the choice between two black females from the litter of Deke and Yellow Molly. I kneeled on the floor as the first pup walked away from me, seemingly uninterested. The second female scurried over, crawled up on me, got on her hind legs, and gave me the sweetest puppy-breath kiss. I looked at Mike and said, “What do you think?”

He replied, “It’s up to you, but she really seems to like you.” It was fate…Wildrose Valentina (Vivi) had chosen me! As I walked by each of the Wildrose staff members with Vivi cuddled in my arms, every one of them said, “Those eyes!” I had no clue what they meant, but now I do. Vivi still has those spectacularly focused eyes, especially when I throw her training bag over my shoulder.

I had the best of intentions for training Vivi to be the model dog that every Wildrose pup has the ability to become. I soon found out that although she was more than capable, I was sadly lacking in many ways to be the formidable handler I had envisioned. Many “life things” also got in the way. Not long after attending the Starting Your Dog the Wildrose Way group workshop in Spring 2013, I gave up on my dreams of achieving success as Vivi’s handler. I even gave up on basic obedience. I felt like a miserable failure.

98451ceff7ee495583f0ce8f14c970e2Fast-forward a year and a half later to November 2014. It was a few weeks before Vivi’s second birthday, and I had renewed energy to begin training her again. I told Mike that I would like to remove Vivi and myself from the family dynamic we had created with him and Claiborne, our rescue Golden Retriever, who joined us just three months before bringing Vivi home. I thought it would be the best way to reset the relationship between Vivi and me. We could then return home and apply our new skills. Mike agreed with the idea. I would transition to handler and she to trainee, as opposed to the blurred lines I had created.

Before I fully committed, I remembered that the Wildrose staff had encouraged owners to contact them with questions. Boy, did I have questions! I reached out to them, told them about my plan, and asked if they would be an educational resource for us. Luckily, they said yes. Armed with the Wildrose training methodology and the support of Wildrose trainers, Vivi and I headed off to a remote country location for one week to begin our endeavor.

Vivi and I started with baby steps. More like infant steps. We began with the very basics: Wildrose Law #1 – Dogs are looking for a leader, Law #2 – If dogs can’t find a leader, they will attempt to become one, and Law #14 – A dog will not follow an unstable leader. I must say these three laws were the most difficult to establish because I had not instilled them from the beginning (Laws #3 and #4). Honestly, I almost gave up again – on Day 1! But with the encouragement of the trainers, my thought that Vivi deserved more from me, and sheer will and determination, I pressed on.22209f571f344d998f9d522a9881421e

Day 2 went markedly better. We were so much more successful because I stopped expecting myself to be perfect. I was more patient, and I began applying Wildrose Law #5 – Make haste slowly (what???…Said to the woman who was taught to make things happen – and fast), and Wildrose Law #6 – Solve one problem at a time. We spent hours each day working together, and I spent hours each night making notes of training “A-Has” and accomplishments. By the end of the week, Vivi and I were a completely different team with well-defined roles. We had gone from an utter joke (i.e. remote stay = not even an inch between us, much less remote!) to a solid foundation of basic commands. Two pieces of advice that I really took to heart that week were, “a dog is always in training,” and “look for training opportunities in your house and neighborhood.” With great pride, Vivi and I were heading back to our family.

737795e81ce04d54963546fcc8c81bd1As is always my first tendency, I arrived home in my black and white mode…rigid, with no room for adjustment. After all, they are LAWS, right? During that first week, Mike and Claiborne probably wished I had stayed in the country and sent Vivi back home on her own! Soon though, I gravitated toward the color and dance of our unique world, all the while reinforcing and expanding upon the skills Vivi and I had learned while we were away. Claiborne, who was an excellent training distraction and had virtually no training, began to mimic some of Vivi’s new and improved behaviors. I communicated this phenomenon to a Wildrose trainer, telling her I was actually having fun. She replied, “The pack mentality is amazing, especially if it is working in your favor!”

Vivi and I spent the next year greatly expanding our skills, eventually graduating to more advanced off-lead work in both urban and rural areas. We worked together every single day, sometimes simply reinforcing a behavior, sometimes adding a new lesson. I became so enthralled with Vivi’s drive to work and learn and astounded at my own personal growth that I decided it was time for another challenge. The time had come for Vivi and me to have another weeklong intensive. However, this time we needed a specific goal. I don’t hunt (yet) so I was at a loss for ideas. Again, I reached out to the Wildrose staff, and trainer Danielle Drewrey suggested the Wildrose Adventure Dog Certification Program. It completely fit our lifestyle, and it is a do-it-yourself training that can be completed at your leisure without having to attend a workshop to get started.654adb3f732e42d09591895cb3080575-1

With Mike’s blessing, Vivi and I headed to the country again in November 2015. Using our certification manual as a guide, we began working on our first skill sets and corresponding merits. Building on what were now ingrained habits, Vivi and I began quickly accomplishing our merits. If I were having trouble with a particular merit, a Wildrose trainer would give me a useful training tip. Soon thereafter, we would check that merit off our list. By the end of that week, Vivi and I had completed all the merits for five of the skill sets. As a result, Vivi earned her very first award – her “Trail Rated” patch. Again, I couldn’t believe what we accomplished together. I was so proud of her!
a2973cb17c5e448aad5c9a2fb6f711b3Upon arriving home, I immediately registered for the Wildrose Adventure Dog Workshop that was going to be held at Wildrose Arkansas in May 2016. After our first embarrassing experience at a group workshop so long ago, I had been reluctant to attend another one. But with a renewed confidence in our relationship and training along with my more humble and forgiving approach, I saw it as an opportunity to share this experience with other people and their dogs. Vivi and I worked over the next six months to achieve the merits in additional skill sets in hopes of earning our next patch at the workshop.

Enter May 20, 2016, Wildrose Arkansas. An exquisite piece of property situated in the middle of the Ozark Mountains, complete with the Little Buffalo River running through it. Cathy Stewart’s self-proclaimed “Happy Place.” Most of the trainers and attendees were strangers, but it didn’t take long for the dogs to break the ice! And thus, the camaraderie began.

c57b04cf3f48420b85a6fa0507bce283For the next two days, we hiked, biked, fished, kayaked, hunted, and broke bread together (check out Instagram #WildroseExpedition2016 to share in some of the adventure). We also spent a lot of time talking and getting to know one another’s stories…truly invaluable. Last, we all parted that Sunday afternoon feeling a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Every dog earned a patch that weekend, and Vivi earned her second, “Adventure Dog Certified.”I left with even more admiration and love for her, which I didn’t think was possible. I feel certain that many of the other owners, if not all, feel the same way.

Participating in the Wildrose Adventure Dog Certification Program will strengthen your bond with your dog and help you both evolve in ways you cannot even imagine. Just say yes! Start your very own Adventure Dog team today!

9e22f083998a4cc29613b78182006f6eVivi and I are now working on skill sets to earn the final coveted badge – “Master Trekker.” We have begun with Equestrian, and so our adventure continues…

Sending infinite appreciation and gratitude to Mike Stewart, Cathy Stewart, Danielle Drewrey, Blake Henderson, Steven Lucius, Chelsea Harris, Tom Smith, Erin Shay Davis, and Sarah Barnes for sharing their wisdom, enthusiasm, and patience with Vivi and me.

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Hunting Public Land? A Great Dog and Great Gear Make All The Difference

by: John Loe

“So we’re gonna to set up here tomorrow,” explains my Dad, showing my Grandfather and me the spot on the satellite photo tacked on the camp wall.

“How far is that from the dock? 30, 35 miles?” my grandfather asks, characteristically weary about how far his son and grandson are taking him.

cdfdddfc8b89419c894e81aa916c658f“Yeah, maybe a bit farther, but I scouted it yesterday afternoon, and the birds were so thick in there you couldn’t shoe horn in another pair! And after they got up they went right back down, and there’s a perfect spot to put the boat with the sun directly behind us,” my Dad replies eliminating any chance for a chance for a less aggressive strategy.

“Alright, so we need to leave at 4 to be on time,” I inform.

“Yep, 4. I’m off to bed after one more, it looks like Miles might actually have to pass the ball here,” my Dad says while grabbing the red wine and gesturing at the big screen showing LSU facing 3rd and 8.

That’s how our evenings go in the Loe family hunting trifecta.

After a great decade of hunting in the 1990s my father, grandfather, and I found ourselves without a steady place to hunt ducks.  The previous land had lost its magic, like many famed Louisiana duck leases, due to dramatic saltwater intrusion. After experimenting for a few years without consistent success, we settled on hunting public land accessible only by boat.

Hunting public land involves some major barriers that scare off a lot of hunters: many of the better areas are accessible only by boat, permanent blinds are banned, and one must deploy and retrieve decoys each day. Without question, hunting on public land dramatically increases the work involved.

That’s why we quickly learned that having a great dog and great gear make it possible to have an enjoyable experience and not exhaust oneself. Our Wildrose finished retriever, Broom, is a 4 -year old yellow male. Broom is our second excellent hunting companion from Wildrose. Our first, Maggie, is still happy and healthy at 14, but after picking up about a thousand birds and ducks, she does her retrieving in a heated swimming pool. Broom at 4 is ready to go and in the prime of his career. Like a running back at the top of his game, Broom is fast, bold, and confident; but he still knows who’s in charge and how to take direction.

Often our days start out with temperatures around freezing and crossing open water in small boats is usually a necessity to find the birds. That’s why we use Predator Gear Drysuits, a product we invented after years of hunting public land. Predator Gear Drysuits make hunting in boats and cold climates safer since unlike waders they can’t fill with water after being overtopped – in fact you can’t get wet all.  Unlike waders with ill-fitting boots that are tough to walk in and neoprene that doesn’t breathe, Predator Gear lets you wear lace up boots making walking easier. And the durable and highly breathable material keeps you from getting hot when the sun comes out, no more pooling sweat inside old waders.pred2

“Throw the anchor on that corner of the bank.”

“No not there, THERE!” my Dad corrects me over the engine noise.

“Alright it’s hooked, pull the skiff in and let’s get going.” I yell back at him, never one to take direction gladly.

After the scouting, the long dark boat ride, putting out decoys and hiding our hunting skiff in the natural vegetation, the action finally begins.

“Ok, here they come, looks like 6 pintails from the left, 10 o’clock,” I inform.

“Yep, got em” my Dad slowly turns his head to my side of the boat blind.

“Boom! Boom! Boom” My Dad and I unleash the fury from our trusty Berettas 390s.

“I got 2 over here,” I say with a smirk knowing I got 1 more than my Dad.

“1 shot 1 duck for me! But then I lost them in the Roseau, so fast when they’re going downwind and you’ve already shot at ’em!” my dad says putting a happy face on the outcome.

“Grandy you didn’t shoot? Too fast for you?” I ask, already knowing the answer.

“Nah, I’m gonna wait till the sun’s up more, I’ll let you two have the early action.” At 89 he still loves the hunt but has slowed a bit, so the later big duck activity in the bright sun is more his game these days.

“Let’s wait a few minutes before picking them up, this is prime time,” I say stuffing shells into my gun.

“Broom!” I release our star player, he leaps off the bow of the hunting skiff, rocking it slightly, then he lunges across the shallow mud flat after the farthest Pintail.

“You sure don’t have to coax him out there, even after making him wait a while,” my Dad says.

“Yeah, it’s in him, plus after pushing the boat over that mudflat on the way in here and putting out all the decoys, can you imagine us having to retrieve that bird? Whew, exhausting” I say, pointing at Broom chasing after the Pintail on the far left that is quickly being spirited away with the current.

“No way I’d be getting it, that’s for sure,” my dad acknowledges. “Especially when it’s just Grandy and me, we couldn’t pick up the birds without Broom. With him, no big deal. He picks ‘em all up every time.”

Take it from me – if you hunt on public or unimproved land a Wildrose Retriever and a Predator Gear Drysuit will make your days less work and more fun.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

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