Adventure Stories: WR Howie

by: Kennedy Garcia

WR Howie (Indian X Dixel) was whelped on March 6, 2015, and spent 4 months with Danielle Drewrey for obedience and Adventure Dog training. By the way, Howie smiles!  Even Danielle’s husband loves his smile!

Kennedy Garcia relates the adventures with Howie in three installments, several months apart:

Installment 1: My husband, Martin, and I are very active and have always had dogs. We were looking for a dog that could join us in boating, hiking, snowshoeing, water/beach activities, some bird hunting. Because we also have 3 grandchildren, ages 2 and under, we wanted a dog that would be gentle and tolerant and that grew up with them too—all being babies together!   We wanted a dog that would also be a great companion in our home as well as office too sometimes.

Howie is an exceptional dog, and while he still has progress to make in obedience, he is everything we could want and more.

A typical lab, he is a “pleaser” but also he is also very bold and determined in his activities. He absolutely loves the water—swimming and retrieving. Howie will dive completely underwater to retrieve something and can be relentless until he gets it. But he will also ride with us in the boat calmly all day long.

We also spend a lot of time in Colorado, which Howie LOVES. We snowshoe in the winter and hike in the summer. He is getting better at obeying my commands (ie., off trail, wait, here, heel).

Most important of all, he loves everybody, is sweet, gentle with our grandkids, pretty well behaved in the house. We have loved having him!!  He is truly our “Howie, the Adventure Dog”!!!


Installment 2: The adventure workshop was very helpful for us in training Howie.  For example, we regularly use three commands that we took away from the workshop. The first, is “off trail,” moving the dog out of the trail path and to the side. This is such an important command in hiking as we encounter many trail bikers that are moving quite fast and the trails are often narrow. We want your dog out of the way and not chasing the biker. It is also an important command just walking in our neighborhood when we encounter cars coming as well as other people walking their dogs.  We do not want Howie running to check out the oncoming dog and people. We loved getting to spend time with other owners/handlers and their dogs.  We could share tips, information, experiences.  We could observe others interact with their dogs.  We loved seeing other Wildrose dogs and how they mature both in looks and behavior.  That was a wonderful part of the whole weekend!!!

Second, we continue to work with Howie on staying by our side while hiking.  We do let him explore a bit within sight, but always want him to return on the “Howie, Come” command or if he is ahead of us “Howie, Wait.”

Third, another useful command we learned was “leave it.”  We often encounter miscellaneous dead critters that smell really good and typically attract Howie’s attention.  This can be a nuisance and even risky at times.  We continue to work on consistency with all of these commands, but are making great progress.


Installment 3: Howie is maturing into a wonderful companion/adventure dog. My grand babies are now 2 1/2 and he is getting better with them all the time. He listens when we tell him “enough” and doesn’t get as excited, although he finds them quite delicious. They provide great licking opportunities for him with great smells from head to toes.


We had a wonderful summer hiking with Howie in Colorado. He knows when we are getting ready and he is waiting at the door to join us on our journey for the day. Whether we are in a group or just it’s Martin and me, he listens better and better to our commands for wait, here, off trail (for the many bikers). We often let him run ahead until he is just out of sight and then command to wait or come. Either way he obeys the command. He LOVES the running.

We find lakes where we fetch with him. We have one special hike that we often do with him that leads to a lake that we hike around. He knows that we do not fetch until we get all the back around so, as we get close to that point we let him run ahead only to find him sitting by the lake waiting for us to find just the right stick to throw in the lake.

I am also in a weekly hiking group with some women. Many bring their dogs as well. It can get a little crazy with all the dogs, but Howie does pretty well. I am still working on not having to leash him as times to get him to obey my commands despite what the other dogs are doing. We often stop for lunch/snack and Howie is great about sitting next to me and not begging or trying to eat other peoples’ food.

We also have a favorite quaint beach town we frequent here in Florida on the weekends. Many times Martin will drive down in the boat with just Howie (taking about 2 1/2 hours). Martin sits in one captain seat and Howie sits in the other one for the entire time—never getting out of his seat until they dock. As you can imagine, Howie LOVES the beach. We enjoy great walks, fetching in the water all the way. We still have to be careful about his drinking the salt water sometimes when he fetches. He is getting much better about that. One of Martin’s favorite things to do with Howie is take him every AM in the golf cart to the bakery in town to get coffee. Howie stays in the cart unleashed while Martin goes in to get his coffee (Howie can see him the whole time). Then Martin sits at a table outside near the cart and reads, and catches up on email. All the while Howie stays sitting in the cart. Everyone (young and old) walking by stops to greet and pet Howie. Never does he jump out, bark, whine, or follow anyone. He just loves being there!

We are planning to take Howie back to Colorado for spring skiing. Howie will get in lots of hiking while we snow shoe. He LOVES the snow!!!

Howie really is just a great companion dog for Martin and me. Whatever we are doing, he is all in, whether active or just relaxing. We love our Howie dog!!!

Motor boating is probably one of Howie’s strongest areas.  He has great manners and respect for the boat.  He waits patiently for his command to load and unload.  He goes to his spot on the boat and for the most part stays there for the entire outing.

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Confused in the Crop

by: Tom Smith

Photo by: Chip Laughton

Many handlers and their retrievers have experienced it… A dog goes for a downed pheasant in a standing cornfield, and then, at the edge of a row, he abruptly stops, as if he hits a wall. The dog may run up and down along this perceived wall, but he will not push through the cover to make the retrieve. Simply put, the dog has encountered a barrier. As Mike Stewart explains in Chapter 5 of The Wildrose Way, barriers can be either physical or psychological. A physical barrier is a structure that stops a dog’s forward movement, but is still negotiable, such as a mesh wire fence, a wall, or a deep ravine. Tall row crop could be considered a barrier as well. A psychological barrier can be anything from a tree line, a shadow, a crop line, a road, a ditch, or a four-strand wire fence, which the dog could easily go under. In our example, a dog has encountered a psychological barrier in cover and will not push deeper to make the retrieve.

Baffled, the handler asks, “Why did this happen?” There are a couple of possible reasons: (1) Perhaps the dog is in unfamiliar terrain because the handler did not acquaint the dog with similar conditions beforehand. It’s always advisable to follow the Wildrose adage, “The first time your dog is exposed to something new should never be on opening day.” (2) The dog has not had enough training or practical experience to have learned how to negotiate psychological or physical barriers such as this cornfield.

Photo by: Katie Behnke

It is our job as handlers and trainers to expose our dogs to every conceivable situation they will experience in the field. Of course, we can’t duplicate every situation, but we need to attempt to simulate the major obstacles our dogs may encounter afield. Exposing your dog during training to actual field conditions ranging from timber, grass fields, plowed fields and standing crop is something almost every one of us can make happen. To help your dog learn to deal with this you can first read the article “Man Up” in the previous Wildrose Journal (October 3, 2016) and second, train in different types of terrain. To help your dog overcome these various influences your training must involve all types of obstacles, barriers, and weather conditions.

To begin teaching your dog to navigate across crop rows, start with simple, short trailing memories when the crop is short. As with all training activities, progress slowly and move incrementally from single trailing to doubles and then circle memories. As you and your dog move through these steps together, the crop you are using for training will continue to grow and the retrieves will become more complex.  As skills are mastered, remember to invert the scenarios. Inversions are reversing a known drill setup, as discussed in detail in The Wildrose Journal. Because dogs are extremely place oriented, they get very comfortable running from the same direction every time, but they may experience difficulty when the drill is inverted.  Another approach is from an entirely different direction.

When your aspiring gundog has this mastered, start moving to lining your dog from different directions such as angle entries. During offseason training, keep working in the crop as it grows. Remember to work on hand signals as you progress and throw in some marks. (Not too many marks!!) And if at all possible, train in different areas. Move, move, move. As I said, dogs are place oriented, so the more areas you train in the more comfortable your dog will be wherever you hunt and boredom in training is avoided.

When you do face a difficulty in training, always back up two steps in the training model to ensure you have the foundation entrenched before moving forward to rectify the problem with your training activity. The same applies when you face adversity in the field. And always remember Wildrose Law #5: “Make haste slowly.” Ensure those default behaviors are truly solid before moving ahead in your training plan.

One last thought, when sending your dog for a retrieve in any type of cover, first consider all the factors (environmental, terrain, barriers, and suction) involved for a successful retrieve. What effect will they have on the dog?  You can familiarize yourself with these factors by turning to page 165 in The Wildrose Way. Always set your dog up for success

Photo by: Katie Behnke

during training to develop a bold, confident sporting companion.


So, to sum up,1) introduce your dog to every possible barrier, be it psychological or physical, before taking him in the field to hunt, 2) incorporate inversions in your training regimen, and 3) consider various external factors that may affect your retriever before sending the dog for a recovery. As you train with your dog year round, he will be prepared and confident to hit the field… and ready to tackle any situation he may encounter.

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Wildrose Dixie Belle

by: Jack Perkins

I’m writing to let you know that I laid Dixie to rest yesterday.   She left me far too early.

I mainly write you to tell you what a wonderful dog she was and to thank you for providing her to me. I have had three previous labs (all good dogs) but Dixie was my first British and by far the grandest of all in many ways…..  She trained easy and fast.

She was quiet and steady. In fact, we only heard her bark a few times in her life. She paid no attention to other extraneous of peripheral activities, other dogs or people when she was at heel with me or in a stay position. She never took her eyes off me and would stare me to death if I was looking at her. She loved hunting, loved to retrieve. Her best hunt was two years ago South of Rolling Fork.  Dr. Brad Dickerson of New Orleans was in our group of 5. Brad trained dogs in Oxford while he was a student at Ole Miss.  That weekend, in two hunts, Dixie retrieved 41 ducks.  All agreed that we did not lose a single downed duck.  Brad commented that it was the best hunting retrieving performance he had ever seen. However, I learned that it was too much and too hard for one weekend. Dixie was so sore she could hardly get around for several days after.  I never let her make more than 5 or 6 retrieves after that. (Probably because that was all we downed).

I had trained her to retrieve my bedroom slippers.  Often when guests were at the house, I would have her leave the living room and go to the back of the house into the closet (usually dark) and retrieve my slippers, she would bring one then she would go get the other. Guests were amazed.

Attached a couple of photos, both on outings with Mike.  One was at one of the two Double Gun events we attended.  There was a light dusting of snow that morning.  The other was a couple years ago at a tower shoot where we were picking for the hunting guests. Dixie and I enjoyed all the events we attended at Wildrose.

I’ll someday be back to Wildrose to pick another pup.

Dixie was much more than just a great friend, she was like a child to me. I loved her and she loved me. I will miss her.

A fabulous British Lab. No other way to go.



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Wildrose Service Companions: Social Cognition and The Positive Loop

Turning Teal "Widgeon" in Ireland (2008)

Turning Teal “Widgeon” in Ireland (2008)

by: Scott R. Wilson

More than a decade ago in Ireland a litter was born to Intl FTCH Rozel Rocket of Tasco and FTW Meadowbrook Lass.  One of the pups in this litter was Intl FTW Turning Teal, a remarkable yellow Labrador the Wildrose family has come to know by his call name “Widgeon.”

w2He was imported to the United States in 2008 when his work in Oxford MS began.  Widgeon hunted, trained, trekked, and traveled with the Wildrose crew throughout his career as a sire.


Widgeon, the “Gentleman’s Gundog TM

Much like Widgeon, his pups have proven to be exceptional hunters, trekkers, companions and service dogs.

Widgeon, Indian, and Grand Pup ©KLBehnke Widgeon at Wildrose in Oxford MS (2015) ©KLBehnke

Widgeon, Indian, and Grand Pup ©KLBehnke
Widgeon at Wildrose in Oxford MS (2015)

We are happy to report that Widgeon is quite healthy and in the 12 short months since he officially launched his retirement career as a Pet Partners® Therapy Dog he has earned and been awarded his AKC therapy dog title.  (The April 2016 issue of the Wildrose Journal documents Widgeon’s retirement.)

Widgeon’s retirement adventure has helped inspire Wildrose Kennels to expand their Wildrose Service Companions program.  Widgeon took to his new animal-assisted activities like a duck to water.  Clearly his genetics coupled with years of experience at Wildrose helped prepare Widgeon for therapy dog work.  For decades Wildrose has bred and trained dogs that provide special services for humans in addition to companionship.  Widgeon’s remarkable performance in his new therapy role prompted the Wildrose staff to consider a specific training program for therapy dogs.  Widgeon’s performance compelled me to investigate when, where, why, and how canines developed the social cognitive skills needed for this inter-species cooperation.

The Human-Canine Bond

The earliest evidence of dog domestication suggests that dogs were held in the same high esteem as humans 8000 years ago in Siberia.  Cohabitation and cooperation with canines filled a very unique niche among mammals domesticated by humans.  Dogs have special skills in comprehending human communicative behaviors that developed as a result of domestication.  This social cognitive evolution was realized through selective breeding.  The dog breeds we see today have genetic roots that trace back only a few hundred years.  However, modern dogs share a genetic history with the dogs from Siberia.  Humans recognized the many useful characteristics of our canine companions and we have successfully bred dogs in search of some very specific behaviors.  In the last few years we have finally begun to examine this human-canine connection from the dog’s perspective.  MRI scans have demonstrated that dogs process speech much like people.  Meaningful words activate the left side of a dog’s brain and intonation stimulates the right side.  Praising words in an enthusiastic tone activate neural circuits associated with reward in the same manner as petting or eating.  Beyond motion and sound the human-canine mutual gaze has been shown to increase oxytocin concentrations in both humans and dogs.  This supports the existence of an interspecies oxytocin-modulated positive loop facilitated and modulated by just a gaze.  Apparently dogs do feel a mutual interspecies bond and that brings us full circle to the hero of this story, Widgeon.

Working with my canine companion Widgeon as an animal-assisted intervention team is truly a rewarding experience and I am pretty sure that Widgeon feels the same.  By just entering a room, a steady dog with the uncanny ability to gaze right into your soul brings a smile to nearly every face.  We work as a team to collectively interpret the cognitive cues that all humans project.  On rare occasions we meet a person who is very fearful of dogs but we are always vigilant to maintain a safe distance and keep all parties comfortable.  Remarkably, several people who admitted that they were so fearful of dogs, that they had never touched one, actually found Widgeon to be so peaceful that they eventually requested a little touch.  Our team has participated in a wide variety of events including one or more at a Crisis Nursery, Women’s Shelter, Medical School, Law School, Veterans in Higher Education, Veterans Home, Assisting Living Facility, Nursing Home, Residential and Out Patient Behavioral Health Clinics, Children’s Museum, Public Museum, Community Center, Public and Private Libraries, K-12 School, Survivor Retreat, Athletic Event, and more.  There comes a time in the life of every working retriever when their active workload must be reduced to maintain good health.  At the same time these remarkable canines are still driven to work, so their job description needs to evolve.  For Widgeon we simply adjusted the amplitude of his animal-assisted interventions.  His retrieves got shorter, some retrieves even moved indoors, but he still gets to work with his handler and his mind remains sharp.  In previous years Widgeon would light up when his handler picked up a shotgun or a “field” bag.   Now he lights up when I grab his service dog vest and “go” bag.  His tail begins to swing and his inner puppy bubbles to the surface.  He is well aware that we are off for a short drive to explore new places and meet new people.  Widgeon is a classic Wildrose gun dog so we never bring food for a reward; the rewards he anticipates before, during or after our visits always involve retrieves.  All working dogs need to adjust their activities as they gracefully age.  In light of Widgeon’s remarkable acceptance of his new responsibilities and my growing experience with working retrievers, I have become a tireless advocate for retired working dogs.

Wildrose Therapy Companions

I presented Widgeon’s successful retirement career to his home kennel in person and through a journal article (vide supra) and the response was spectacular.  The entire Wildrose Kennels staff were thrilled about Widgeon’s healthy new career.  Wildrose Kennels has traditionally developed multi-purpose canines.  Their gundogs can work enthusiastically in the field during the day and join the family as steady companions in the evening.  Their family companion dogs can simultaneously provide a 24/7, lifesaving alert service to a family member suffering from Type 1 diabetes.  Other Wildrose scent detection dogs perform remarkable services at work and yet most still live interactively with their handler’s family.  Their adventure dogs perform essential services on the trail but are entirely comfortable spending evenings with the family in front of the fire or the TV.  Last summer I began discussions with the staff at Wildrose about expanding their training programs to include an option for therapy dogs.  To my delight the staff was very supportive.  Apparently, many Wildrose clients had already expressed an interest in working their dogs in a therapy environment.  We discussed the possibility of training and employing retired sires and dams for therapy work.  We discussed the nature of a program to train retrievers for a duel life style that includes therapy work.  We discussed the need for training and evaluating animal-assisted therapy dog teams.  We discussed many options for developing and maintaining a program that could provide a lasting service to the Oxford community.  We also discussed the possibility of developing a program that could migrate to other communities.  Now we have an expanded staff and a Wildrose Service Companions Director to help develop, optimize, and support this expansion of services.  And, Widgeon is no longer the only family member with a new retirement career.

The New Year brings in new, exciting opportunities for the Wildrose community.  We are adding a therapy dog component to our long list of program options.  Similar to most of the Wildrose training programs we plan to offer multiple training levels.  Our basic obedience course will provide the foundation for our therapy dog program that will then add socialization and basic tools required for every therapy dog.  Clients will have the option to have their Wildrose dog started with a dual purpose that includes a therapy dog component in combination with gun dog training, adventure dog training, or any of the advanced dog training options.  Clients will also have an advanced option to have their Wildrose dog finished with an AKC Therapy Dog title in combination with any other Wildrose advanced training component.  The caveat for this advanced therapy dog training is that the owner must independently train to complete his or her contribution to their animal-assisted intervention team.  The really good news is that your Wildrose dog will do most of the work and he or she will love every minute.

Widgeon at Wildrose in Oxford MS (2017) ©KLBehnke

Widgeon at Wildrose in Oxford MS (2017) ©KLBehnke


Widgeon is still statuesque, he still prances when he walks, his ears still bounce in rhythm to his step, and he still pays particular attention to the dams.  He will forever be my hero and the inspiration for expanding the Wildrose Service Companions program to include therapy dog training.




For details and references about the anthropology noted above or for more information about Wildrose Service Companions, please contact


Scott R. Wilson

Wildrose Service Companions Director

(217) 848-0170 (voice, text, FaceTime, Skype)

Travelling Trainer LLC

Materials Chemistry Laboratory Director, Retired

School of Chemical Sciences

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

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Strike-Back Training: Upland Gundog Combinations

by: Mike Stewart

Wildrose returns to its roots with a previously popular upland gundog training program for pointing/retriever combination training:  Strike-Back.  This Wildrose Way process involves training the Wildrose Lab with the client’s own pointing gundog.  The training involves developing both dogs simultaneously to work together afield as a team with one’s strengths and skills actually complementing the effort without interference, without distraction.


For over a decade, Wildrose has had a Pointer on “staff” to offer each bird-dogretriever exposure to working with pointing breeds:  steady to flush, backing, recovery of birds down and especially ignoring the activities of the Pointers while remaining focused on their jobs.  These training activities continue weekly today as part of our normal developmental processes both for basic and advanced retrievers.


The Strike-Back option allows a client’s dogs that will be fielded together to be trained together in realistic hunting environments.  Bird options may include pigeon, quail, partridge, and pheasant.  Combination training will involve the valuable skills of:

  • Quartering, flushing and striking a flush
  • Steady to flush
  • Hunting for game recovery
  • Backing the point
  • Steady on flush
  • Wagon dog acclimation


bird-dog-2Naturally, obedience and civil behaviors will be emphasized for both team members, qualities necessary for any Gentleman’s Gundog.  The result:  a well-balanced team of sporting dogs gifted at bird location and recovery.

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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

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

Photo from

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,

  • 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,  We thank Gary and our friends at DU for the share. (see

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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

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

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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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