Our Canines During the Covid 19 Pandemic, Spring 2020

By Dr. Ben McClelland

The Internet carries a myriad of stories about dogs and the pandemic: Researchers are seeking to learn if dogs can detect Covid-19 in humans. “Advice” articles suggest what some sick owners should do if they need to give up or rehome pets. Walking dogs is a concern in some communities with strict stay-at-home policies. And, of course, a number of veterinarians and dog trainers discuss the relative wisdom of whether someone should get a new pet during the pandemic. Issues such as “socialization” and “stress transfer” are common topics. As one article reported,  “Companion animals can also absorb stress and negative energy from their owners. People who are overwhelmed with the overall trauma from the pandemic, from job loss to worries over getting sick, can pass on that energy to their pets,” making them more susceptible to illness (Grega, “Pets and Pandemic”).


This article recounts how some of us—and our dogs—have been affected by the social restrictions of the Covid 19 pandemic. Following are contributions, in their own words, by Tom Smith, me, Bess Bruton, and Sammye Pisani.


Wildrose Oxford, Tom Smith

Some Wildrose pack members have experienced changes in routine with their dogs, as well. At Wildrose Oxford, Tom Smith discusses changes in business operations:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all on different levels. Here at Wildrose Oxford we suspended all tours and non-essential visits and changed how puppy picking is conducted.


“Wildrose Oxford’s normal puppy picking included a tour, demonstrations and about 2.5 hours of classroom instruction. During these trying times to prevent the spread of Covid-19 the kennel staff implemented several changes: 1) Masks are required to be worn by clients and staff during the puppy picking process; 2) Each client is assigned a time to pick their puppy based on deposit order; 3) The checkout and paperwork process was moved outdoors and included the availability of plenty of hand sanitizer; 4) We enlisted a puppy delivery person for people who were concerned about traveling to get their puppy.

“While the puppy picking days were non-standard the staff tried to make sure each client felt welcome and received all the valuable information they needed to get their pup started the Wildrose Way while also implementing policies to keep the spread of Covid-19 at bay.


Tom Smith letting the Pack know that training is “as is” on the Wildrose Kennels Facebook page.

“Luckily the daily routines for trainers and dogs didn’t change with the quarantine restrictions. All staff continued with the training, puppy rearing and facilities work. Most staff members live very close to the kennel and practiced self-quarantine at the kennel, staying very focused on developing the next generation of Gentleman’s Gundogs.”


Ben McClelland and the Mac Pack

My own routine with the Mack Pac (WR Eider, WR Mac, WR Scout, WR Eve, WR Knight) was disrupted for several weeks. Typically, several days a week I train the dogs on the premises of Wildrose Oxford, including participating in Group Work Wednesdays, when several trainers and client dogs carry out training scenarios together, such as an upland walkup exercise or water retrieves while shooting clays from a levee. This spring, preparing for the Handlers Workshops, I was working Eve and Knight quite regularly. Then, participating in the four days of Handlers Workshops offered us varied training activities with numerous other pack members and their dogs.

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Part of the “Mac Pack”

And then the pandemic stopped it all.

Not only did the pandemic make the kennel premises off limits, but it also sent my family into isolation for nearly three weeks. My wife, Susan, and our twenty-five-year-old daughter, Kellie, toured New York City during Spring Break. Concern about the spread of Covid-19 ratcheted up during their visit. Theaters on Broadway went dark on their last night in the city. Upon returning from the trip on Friday, the 13thof March, Kellie felt ill and returned to her Olive Branch apartment. Susan returned home with me. When Kellie’s Covid-19 test returned a positive result, Susan went to Kellie’s apartment and cared for her while they stayed in isolation for 17 days. Susan stayed away from Kellie as much as possible, while still feeding her, giving her meds, washing dishes, doing laundry, and generally caring for her. Kellie had four very difficult days when a secondary infection set in her lungs. She felt as if a heavy weight was on her chest. Breathing was difficult. She used an oximeter to test the level of oxygenated hemoglobin in her blood. With additional medication she rallied.

ben and fam

Susan, Ben and Kellie

On Wednesday, the week after the handlers Workshops, the dogs and I traveled to Wildrose Oxford, intending to participate in Group Work. When I arrived, I parked near the EarthRoamer building and before beginning training, I made a “Happy Birthday” video for my son’s upcoming big day. As a joke, I gave my greetings through a bandana mask. The joke, however, was on me as I soon learned that quarantine policies went into effect for the trainers.  So the Mac Pack dogs trained separately on a back section of the grounds. Afterwards we loaded up and drove away from the kennel, not to return for several weeks.

About three weeks ago Kellie and Susan both tested negative and came to our Oxford home. Susan‘s mother, Shirley, is also here staying with us. We have all been here in relative seclusion for the last couple of weeks. Last week at Susan’s regular doctor’s check up she told the doctor this story. Finding it difficult believe that Susan had never felt any symptoms, the doctor had Susan tested for antibodies. The result of her test—somewhat surprisingly—came back negative.

During this period of isolation I was on the periphery of the Kellie and Susan’s stressful experience, traveling to Olive Branch only a couple of times to deliver groceries.  Nevertheless, stuck at home I had to invent a new training regimen with the dogs—limited by available time and places to work. I attempted to be versatile in using the few acres of our home place in designing varied training activities. The dogs never showed boredom. Indeed, their energy levels were high, so I had to take more time at the beginning of each period to work them down a bit. I also resorted to taking more powerwalks, two dogs at a time, at local trails and parks. Still, I fretted over the limits that bound us in.

During this time I also did an inordinate amount of landscape gardening, more than ever before, despite my old-man aches and pains. This, at least, gave plenty of opportunities to get the dogs out of the kennel to practice steadiness on place wherever I was digging and planting. I would improvise, having them “on place” in the bed of the Ranger, on the porch, in the middle of the lawn, in the landscape bed, and in pine stand.


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The “Mac Pack” and the landscaping at Ben’s home.

Finally, this past Wednesday I was invited to resume Group Work at Wildrose. How wonderful to return to training with the group! The dogs were exuberant to get into the action. As we handlers exchanged socially distant greetings, training activities seemed to return to normal.

At home, as well, we are resuming life with more vigor, even as we continue being careful to observe social guidelines.  We have put in two raised-bed gardens, looking forward to growing fresh veggies. Also, a little chicken coop just arrived from Pennsylvania Amish country. Soon we will get day-old chicks and become backyard chicken gardeners. Since neither Susan nor I have had feathered friends since childhood, this will indeed be an interesting experience.

And I am just beginning to ponder the role the dogs will play in this scene. No doubt there will be plenty of opportunities for steadiness in the face of live birds. Let’s hope there’s no fowl play!


Bess Bruton and Wildrose Irie

In Texas Bess Bruton and Wildrose Irie had to adapt to the new normal, as she explains:

“The powers at be are starting to let non-essential stores open, here in College Station, TX, though some are staying closed…because they don’t feel it is safe yet.

“Life with Wildrose Irie on lock down….first…she has gained at least 3 pounds, even though we are fortunate to live outside of town on 5 acres…mostly heavily wooded with thick yaupon.

But we go out 3 or 4 times a day for retrieves. I try to mix up the work, to stave off boredom.

“We love to hike…but the hiking trails around have been closed.

We have managed to slip away a couple weekends for fishing. Thanks to the adventure dog program…she is awesome in the boat.

“Normally we would be traveling a lot. She is the very best traveler. Though being homebound has had its advantages….a pair of roadrunners are making a nest in a post oak tree in our yard. Along with the whippoorwills, morning doves, and cardinals…watching them has been fun. And good work on steadiness.

“I think we have been more fortunate than others…the times we have seen other people, Irie has been a wonderful therapy dog…getting lots of petting…and being appreciated for her wonderful, kind, loving way. We hope everyone is healthy, safe, and finding something positive with the change. The pause may be good…to reset life, values, goals.”


Sammye Pisani, Wildrose Valentina and Wildrose Rambler,

“Wildrose Valentina and Wildrose Rambler, Mike, and I began our quarantine at our camp house in Springfield, Louisiana, on March 14, 2020, immediately upon returning from the Wildrose Handler’s Workshop. Our primary residence is in New Orleans, and we opted to stay out of the hotbed of COVID-19.

“If we had chosen to stay in the city, I don’t think life for our Wildrose girls, Valentina (Deke x Molly-yellow) and Rambler (Taz x Ivy), would have been much different. Daily walks, obedience lessons throughout the day, age-appropriate lessons in the park a few times a week (Valentina is seven years old, and Rambler will be one year old on May 29), and, for anyone who knows me, LOADS of loving.

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Rambler and Valentina

“Instead, the girls’ lives did change, as did our lives. Mike and I dove right into projects that were long overdue at the camp house, most of them outdoors. After a morning walk and lesson, Valentina and Rambler would “load up” onto either their Kuranda beds or MoMarsh stands to oversee our work and observe the nature surrounding us…dragonflies abounding, squirrels munching on goodies, and Egrets and Great Herons flying in and landing on our lawn at the water’s edge. Sometimes they would supervise (channeling Claiborne the Supervisor) a dump truck delivering a load of dirt or sand, and at other times, the crew digging holes, driving piles, and leveling our house. The girls had countless experiences that they otherwise would not have had it not been for COVID-19…they learned to be “steady” during all of them, especially important for young Miss Rambler.

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“Last, let’s not forget the many boat rides we have enjoyed with the girls. Rambler had her very first retrieves off the boat during this time, proving to be oh-so eager and fearless, jumping off the boat as if she was shot out of a cannon from the very first time. Valentina, the seasoned pro, not only showed Rambler the ropes of how to launch and retrieve but also, more importantly, how to ride and chill out while the “ducks” (Dokkens) went “do-do” (Cajun for “go to sleep”).

“The one thing I guarantee that will remain the same no matter where we are, COVID-19 or not, is the infinite love Mike and I feel for Valentina and Rambler, and the overwhelming joy they bring to us. Next adventure…Montana, here we come!

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Kelcie Grega, “Pets and pandemic: How does life in quarantine affect dogs and cats?” Las Vegas Sun


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The Cover Conundrum

Tom Smith, Wildrose Oxford

There is nothing more satisfying than sending your dog after a downed bird into thick cover and watching them methodically search and make the recovery. But, as with all things, there is always an equal and opposite reaction that can occur.

The Conundrum

Training your dog to only find bumpers or game in cover will create a cover hunting monster but will they cast out of the cover when required? Will they run past a mark short of the cover? Will they hold an area outside of cover? Do they consistently pull to cover (suction)? Now is the time to implement a balanced approach to your training. It is imperative for a dog to cast both into and out of cover to guarantee consistent game recovery. Many pattern drills work for both upland and waterfowl such as switching on doubles, pull-push and stop-diversion-back. We run all these drills in short grass, tall grass, water and the woods but never in just one type of cover. Casting drills are especially important to get the dog into, or out of, cover. So, let’s see where we start.


Early Introduction

With a young pup I will do a lot of just walking through the cover to make them bold. I’m not looking for a perfect heel as I want the pup to get a little lost and work through the cover to find me. As the training moves forward with retrieves becoming a little more complex, I will start having the pup find bumpers in the cover also. Nothing fancy, just short trailing memories. Make it a party and be animated when the pup makes the recovery. Let them know that is what you are looking for and reward them. These short retrieves in cover at a young age will pay dividends as pup progresses as it also teaches them to ignore those psychological barriers.



We start teaching casting (backs, lefts, rights) on the fence to entrench the dog taking a straight line with a cast. Once I am sure the pup understands what I am asking and is consistent with the casts I immediately move to cover. The “pods” field has several different pods with heavy cover surrounded by short grass. Start by doing simple backs and left/rights into the cover. It gives them a very visual, defined target when they turn to take the cast. The other upside is it teaches them to hold an area on the hunt. Win-win right? Not so fast.

deke in grass


Remember the adage for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? Now is the time to make sure you balance the equation. After Rover is casting consistently into cover now invert it and teach him to cast out of cover. Set it up with a trailing memory from outside the cover, sit the pup in the middle of the cover and make your cast. As always, reward the pup verbally with a confident “GOOD” when they take the cast you are looking for. Not only do this for ground cover, but into and out of the woods, into and out of the water and any other type of cover, barrier or terrain change you can find. The game does not always end up exactly where it falls so Rover needs to be confident with casting into and out of all the different types of cover. 5X5– pup must be able to do each drill 5 times, correctly, in 5 different locations and cover types. When your dog is consistent and you are confident in him, remember Train Don’t Test, you can increase the complexity with a pickup drill. Drop a memory in the cover and have a friend move it to a location of your choosing such as into the woods or another patch of cover or 10-20 yards outside the cover in short grass. Send Rover into the cover, let him hunt a bit, stop him and cast him to the bumper. Again, a solid verbal “GOOD” lets the pup know he is making the right decision. When I start teaching this drill I usually use cold game for the find to make the reward much better than a bumper. Pup’s performance on this drill will truly show if he has the understanding of what you want and that he has full confidence in you to help him find the downed game.


The Wildrose Way balanced approach to training will develop a well-rounded dog that is as comfortable either in the duck blind or the upland field, hunting open water or thick cover or relaxing on his bed in the lodge. To achieve this goal, you must start with the end in mind and make your training plan a road map to success to create your Dog of Duality.


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Barbara’s Brownies

By Sally Quong, Little Q Ranch



“This is a recipe given to me by my Aunt Barbara.  It’s simple and I always have the ingredients on hand.  These brownies have been a perfect compliment to our pheasant shoots.  There is always an empty platter when the last shooter heads home.”



2 – 1oz squares
unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour

1cup sugar
confectioner’s sugar

Preheat over to 325 degrees
Melt Chocolate in microwave
Throughly cream butter and sugar

Add eggs and beat well
Blend in melted chocolate, vanilla, and flour

Pour into greased 8 x 8 pan


Bake for 35 minutes


Pour confectioners sugar into tea strainer and sift over hot brownies

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Transitional Training

By Steven Lucius, Wildrose Carolinas

steven_previewMany people have experienced being invited on a hunt during their dog’s first season. Sometimes we have never been to this location or seen how the blind is set up. And if we have, we still have questions about how our young dog’s field training will transfer in a live fire situation. The attitude you have about your dog’s performance largely depends on how well you and your dog prepared for the task at hand.

This is exactly why we do Transitional Training; Training exercises designed to bridge the gap between field training activities and actual hunting conditions. (Pg. 225 Sporting Dog and Retriever Training). The key to this step and type of training is to practice like you play. The objective – your dog should never experience something for the first time in a true hunting situation. A common saying amongst the trainers of Wildrose is “You’re not hunting during the first season, You are training!” There will be times during your young hunting partner’s first or even second season that strengths and weaknesses are identified. Strengths need to be enhanced and weaknesses addressed. Transitional training will help you and your dog connect the dots.

There are a few things that are necessities for transitional training:

– Cold water

– Gunfire

– Staying in place, quietly in a dog hide for long durations

– Live bird experiences: flight pigeons, tower shoots, pheasant shoots

– Cold Game:  pheasant, duck, quail, dove

– Working in and through crops:  corn, millet, etc.

– Terrain changes

– Decoys, duck calls, spinners

-Layout blinds

It is impossible to go into detail regarding the types of transitional training for each person. While there are a lot of similarities, everyone’s hunting scenario varies. It is most important to consider how YOU hunt, make a plan and try to simulate the training so that it prepares your dog (and you) to have success.

Practice like you play….

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Lessons from a Wildrose Handler

By Alan Newton, owner of Wildrose Shadow alan newton

Following the end of a long and happy fourteen-year relationship with an outstanding Chesapeake Bay Retriever, I made the decision to search for reputable Labrador Retriever breeders (no offense to the Chessie, as indeed they are awesome canines).  Google immediately directed me to Wildrose Kennels.  I thoroughly read each page of the Wildrose website acquiring the knowledge needed to make an informed decision, and my search clearly pinpointed Wildrose as the breeder of choice.

That same search led me to Deke, the DU mascot dog, whom we all know.  As Area Chairman of the Davidson County NC Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, a Deke puppy quickly ascended to be my first choice.  A phone call to Cathy Stewart, followed by a discussion of the qualities I desired in a gun dog, landed me on a waiting list for a Deke x Heather black female.  In July 2014, I picked up Shadow in Oxford bringing her to my NC home for backgrounding.

Mike Stewart’s book, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training The Wildrose Way, coupled with my commitment to attendance at workshops and a deep desire to own a great gun dog, helped me to successfully complete Shadow’s backgrounding (with a hearty dose of luck tossed in).  Shadow returned to Wildrose in January 2015 for gun dog training under the leadership of Steven Lucius.  Since completing gun dog training, Shadow has made return trips to Oxford for advanced workshops, become a regular visitor to Wildrose Carolinas to train on new ground, and we’ve hunted together extensively throughout the Southeast. Today, Shadow is a Wildrose British Lab with great scenting ability, capable of finding any downed bird with little handler direction, and a true Gentleman’s Gun Dog in possession of both fine points and flaws, as indeed no perfect dog exists.  If we are so fortunate, we all own a Shadow!

During the past year, I backgrounded a group of puppies, volunteered during the summer at Wildrose Carolinas, and presently have the opportunity to train my first Wildrose gun dog during 2020, an Archer x Kate black female.  The journey from Wildrose dog owner, to dog handler, to presently trying my hand at gun dog trainer, has been thrilling considering just a short time ago I simply desired another black lab.

I’ve learned some lessons along the way I kindly want to share with you, my fellow Wildrose handlers.  In many cases, these lessons simply reinforce the material in Mike’s book, and in other instances a few lessons represent my own experience.

  1. Be able to clearly articulate the traits you desire in your Wildrose dog while having a specific end in mind.  Are you a hardcore hunter in search of a high-drive dog for the field, or seeking a much calmer dog for companionship, travel, and spending time on the town?  Share openly and honestly with the Wildrose staff the personality of the dog you choose to own, and what the dog will primarily be doing throughout its lifetime.  As you begin to train your dog, or have it professionally trained, be sure to retain a mental picture of the dog you desire to own two to three years down the road.  Frequently refresh your trainer’s memory in regards to the finished product when making visits to check on the progress of your dog (Stewart, 2012, pg. 18).
  2. Attend as many workshops as possible, listen intently to the shared knowledge and experience of both trainers and other handlers, watch your dog, and focus on becoming an excellent handler.  There is a great deal of knowledge and learning to be had at the various workshops.  Often workshop attendees are on their phones, socializing, engaging in distractions, and not paying attention to their dogs or other handlers as they work their dogs.  All this equates to missed opportunities to improve as a handler.  Engaging in behaviors at workshops other than improving as a handler is unfair to your dog – and remember your dog is always watching you!
  3. Socialize your puppy as often as possible in the right places.  Walks through the forest, fields, high grass, riversides, park trails, and town squares are appropriate places to socialize your dog.  Stay away from dog parks and places filled with folks wanting to pet your dog as this leads to instilling unwanted behaviors.  Determine where you regularly desire to travel with your dog for outings and begin to acclimate them early to these venues.
  4. Without fail, promote and insist on steadiness at EVERY opportunity! Steadiness is the key to being re-invited to that great duck blind, your friend’s house for dinner,or being allowed to bring your Wildrose companion to work.  No one enjoys or appreciates the bull in the china shop.  Tie outs, place training, remote sits, denials, sitting prior to climbing stairs or entering through doorways or being fed all reinforce steadiness.  If your dog moves when told to sit or stay, creeps or cheats, stop what you are doing and return the dog to its original place.  Doing so pays huge dividends down the road.  In the spring and fall, I make Shadow sit in her Gunner or on the truck tailgate and watch me mow the entire yard.
  5. NEVER lose your temper with your dog!  Your Wildrose dog is the result of well-planned breeding, but will still test you, and on more than one occasion I might add.  Remember to exhibit neutral responses and apply negative reinforcement only if the dog places itself in danger.  Should your dog infuriate you, have the dog remotely sit, and then walk away as you collect your emotions.  Never continue to train the dog when you are out of control.  The handler who loses his or her temper on full display for the dog is destroying previously established trust and severely damaging the dog’s confidence in their handler.  Be a great leader, one who is calm, confident, controlled, and consistent (Stewart, 2012, pg. 44).
  6. Be willing to take two steps back.  Should your dog begin to exhibit sloppy behavior say perhaps refusing whistle commands, stop and regroup.  Determine where the dog is failing (the problem) and return to more elementary training methods such as whistle stops or hunt commands in tall grass to reinforce the skills needed to successfully perform the more complex skill.
  7. Learn to become a dog whisperer. Avoid giving repetitive verbal commands or becoming whistle happy.  Give a command once, whether verbal or with a whistle, and set the expectation for compliance.  Great handlers are quiet handlers.  As your dog ages and matures, it is possible at times to work your dog with hand signals alone.
  8. Read your dog. Learn to be fully observant and keenly aware of your dog during training.  When you position your dog for a retrieve, you should know and be able to express what the dog is going to do prior to the release. While handling the dog toward a lost bird, make sure you have predetermined the correct hand signal and verbal command to be given prior to stopping the dog.  Failure to do so lessens your dog’s confidence in you the handler.  Focus on learning to read your dog and effective handling to build your dog’s trust and confidence in your handling ability.  And once more remember, if you are not observing your dog, he or she is still observing you!
  9. Have a training plan for the day.  Prior to taking the dog out of his or her kennel, have a plan for the dog you wish to accomplish in that day’s training session.  Always include obedience in every training session along with yard or field work.  Well-planned training sessions hold the dog’s attention, build trust and confidence, and accomplish a great deal in a short period of time.  Finish the training session with a win and evaluate the training session as you feed and care for your dog back at the kennel.  Make haste slowly, and do so with a plan (Stewart, 2012, pg. 57).
  10. Never hunt your dog until he or she has completed a basic gun dog training program and has been appropriately and progressively introduced to increasing levels of gunfire.  There is good reason this is the FIRST deadly error!  I suggest a minimum of four to six months of transition work (along with continued obedience and field training) following basic gun dog training prior to hunting a dog, which translates into the dog being about 18 to 20 months old.  At that point, I would determine if the dog is ready for exposure to excessive gunfire, and if not, I would hold off another four to six months until the dog is at or slightly above two years of age.  This may appear excessive to most, particularly the hardcore hunter.  As justification for my suggestion, I experienced the following scenario with Shadow in Hyde County, NC.  At 18 months of age, we duck hunted a small impoundment with four blinds, four hunters per blind, most carrying 12-gauge semi-automatics, with each hunter unleashing three rounds at every flight of ducks.  That equates to 48 rounds being fired in just a matter of a few seconds with your Wildrose gun dog in the center of the mix. Experience dictates that indeed is a recipe for disaster.  Remember, the prize is what lies down the road.  Don’t trade that end you have in mind for the first day’s hunt in the field, as the price is too high (Stewart, 2012, pg. 50)!

Shadow and I survived that experience to go on and successfully duck hunt together throughout the South, upland hunt at preserves, complete the first level of Adventure Dog Training in Arkansas, and embark on numerous individual and group adventures that involve kayaks, tents, hiking, fly rods, mountain bikes, and campfires.  All that would not have been possible without the genuine efforts of many folks to breed and train a true Wildrose Gentleman’s Gun Dog.  My sincere hope is that my experience may be in harmony with yours, and possibly offer you an idea or two that will serve to improve your training and handling ability as we live the sporting lifestyle.

Reference:Stewart, M. with Fersen, P.  (2012). Sporting Dog and Retriever Training The Wildrose Way, Raising a Gentleman’s Gundog for Home and Field.  New York: Universe Publishing. 

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Top Field First-Aid Tips for Hunting Dogs

By Scott White, DVM, MPH
Edited by Ben W. McClelland, Ph.D.

One of Tom Smith’s many effective innovations for the Advanced Handlers Retreat was including Veterinarian Scott White’s presentations on field first-aid. White’s talks were so popular with the retreat attendees that this feature article is devoted to presenting that information to our Journal readers, along with some a profile of White, in his own words.

Bucket-List Dogs

While in veterinary school, I decided that there were two bucket-list dogs that I wanted to own and train when I had the chance. The first was a male blue heeler, or Australian Cattle Dog, with the second a male yellow Labrador from hunting lines. I got my heeler, named Dallas, from a Texas breeder in 2007. Due to a fortunate but unexpected reintroduction to hunting, I took on the task of teaching Dallas to hunt waterfowl and pheasants. The whole story is beyond this article, but would be worth telling over a bottle of wine. Dallas became an accomplished hunter and we had some great times together hunting waterfowl on Nantucket, plus a single trip to South Dakota for pheasants.

Full Limit

When I lost my greatest-pal-of-ever in June 2018, I began my search for breeders of hunting Labrador retrievers, which introduced me to Wildrose Kennels and British Labradors. I purchased Mike Stewart’s book, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training, The Wildrose Way, and watched many (all?) of the online videos. Sold on his breeding programs and training philosophy, I became a member of the WR pack when I picked up WR Dune (Morgan x Gemma) from the Oxford facility in July 2019. I have trained dogs my entire life and upon reading Mike’s book, I felt comfortable jumping into training my retriever. However, I recognized that when Dune reached about 10 months of age, we would benefit from professionally based guidance and facilities to enhance his training.When I reached out to Tom Smith with questions about the Wildrose facilities and training opportunities, he immediately stated that Dune and I should attend the Basic Handlers Course at Oxford in March, and that he would like for me to present first-aid procedures as part of the following Advanced Handlers Course. I embraced this opportunity to be more deeply associated with Wildrose and I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences.


Personal/Professional Background

I was born and raised in Texas. Growing up, we had a mix of hunting breeds, primarily for hunting bobwhite quail. I am sure that considering our dogs as buddies and reading the James Harriot books influenced my interest in becoming a veterinarian. I graduated from Texas A&M Veterinary College in 1983 and entered the US Army Veterinary Corps, where I served for 10 years. My commitment stemmed from having an ROTC scholarship for undergraduate school and a Health Professions scholarship for veterinary school. In addition, I obtained a Masters of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health while on active duty. My assignments were in California, Japan, Boston (Harvard), and finally at the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center at Fort Detrick, MD. That assignment was my most rewarding, as I was Chief of the Epidemiology Section that provided worldwide military disease risk assessments to the Department of Defense. In addition, I was directly responsible for the Middle East and served as the disease analyst for Central Command during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. However, my first love was clinical medicine and I decided to leave the service in 1993 when my commitment expired. Since then I have practiced veterinary medicine in Maine, Rhode Island, and now Nantucket, Massachusetts, where I have a mobile veterinary practice on the island, called Home Veterinary Care.

My wife, Lynn, and I have lived on Nantucket for almost 20 years and have a house overlooking Madaket Harbor. Along with Dune, we have a 12-year-old Chow Chow named Dodger. I jokingly kid that CHOW is an acronym for Chinese Hunter Of Winged-ones, because although in the non-sporting group, Dodger has been a vicarious participant in many hunts.


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Experience at the Basic Handlers Retreat

Dune’s and my experiences at the retreat were awesome. Going into it, I felt that I had prepared Dune as much as possible, considering his age and my capabilities as a trainer. During the two days of training activities with guidance from the WR staff, I gained a lot of helpful knowledge and was able to see a bit of the light bulb come on for Dune. For example, being able to send him on his first water retrieves and the fly pen walks under guidance from Adam and Will were exceptional standouts. Priceless stuff.


Presentations at the Advanced Retreat


Using information from Tom on the most commonly seen hunting dog injuries or situations in the field requiring first-aid—along with my personal experiences—I developed a comprehensive handout, on which I based my presentations. That handout is available as a link below and readers are welcome to refer to it for developing their own emergency kits and for reading my recommendations for treating the listed problems. Before the retreat, I knew the list of topics was very robust and that thorough coverage of all topics was probably not possible considering the 45-minute time limit for each group. That concern was validated halfway through the first presentation to the first group. With every subsequent group, I passed out the handout and asked attendees to tell me what topics they wanted me to discuss. So, in many ways, each 45-minute presentation (12 overall) was different. Yet, there were some commonly requested topics and themes that could be considered Top Tips from the Retreat and are worth sharing. Along with those, I will weave in related veterinary information extracted from my handout and the insights I learned from the presentations.


Common First-Aid Needs in the Field

Based on actual experiences of over 50 handlers/owners, the priority field situations that they requested I cover were lacerations (especially from barbed wire) and bandaging, vomiting procedures for ingested poisons, and emergency kit recommendations. And not to leave Adventure Dogs out, these first-aid guidelines are equally applicable to them.


Barbed Wire Wounds

Demo Bandaging at Wildrose

  • These are primarily linear lacerations along the legs and/or V-shaped tears along the trunk (body). As I emphasized in the sessions, these wounds are formed by forceful athletic trauma and any wound that penetrates the skin potentially forms a deeper, but unseen, pocket under the skin. Although we did not cover puncture wounds, similar problems can be created by these injuries. Clearly, dogs with injuries that penetrate the skin should stop hunting; both the laceration/tear and the potential pocket need immediate veterinary attention. As I discussed, the proper first-aid for these wounds is cleaning out debris, flushing with sterile saline, and applying temporary, but effective, bandages before going to the emergency veterinarian. The first aid goal is to create a “healthy” wound for the veterinarian to treat, and not do something that makes the wound worse.
  • My assessment at the session was that most owners/handlers do not know proper bandaging procedures. Even though first-aid bandages can be considered temporary and will be removed at the emergency clinic, proper principles and procedures should be followed so the bandage is effective and does not cause any problems. A good example is an upper leg injury that has a bandage applied that does not include the foot to keep these bandages from moving, the bandage has to be overtight, which invariably causes the foot to swell.
  • My general recommendation for field wounds is to pick out visible bulky debris and apply a hasty bandage from your Carry Kits. Your dog will wear this bandage back to the vehicle. At the vehicle, remove the hasty bandage, pick out more debris if possible, flush the wound with sterile saline, and apply a sturdier bandage that will be worn to the veterinary clinic. Remember, these bandages are temporary and do not have to be elaborate to be effective. A good example is an upper leg injury that has a bandage applied that does not include the foot to keep these bandages from moving; that type of bandage has to be over-tight, which invariably causes the foot to swell.
  • I only had time to demonstrate 1 or 2 types of bandages per session. A novel idea that I demonstrated was using a small diaper. Left intact, it can be easily folded around the paw for a foot bandage. (And, I would like to thank Mike for letting me use Deke to demonstrate that bandage for one of the groups. Deke even licked me on the ear so it couldn’t have been all that bad.) Or, by snipping the rubber leg bands, it can be flattened to cover larger leg or trunk wounds. The material/layers in the diaper provide all elements needed for the contacting components of an effective bandage. The only other supplies needed include tape, gauze, and an outer-wrap like Coflex. Plus, the small diaper easily fits into a Carry Kit and takes up even less space if vacuum packed. I strongly… and I strongly encourage(d) owners to work with their local/home veterinarian, and particularly the technicians, to gain additional hands-on guidance for the proper application of bandages.
  • I strongly emphasized that after picking out pieces of visible debris with forceps or gauze, the only direct procedure to be applied to the wound is flushing with sterile saline (which I demonstrated) when back at the vehicle. Unfortunately there are traditional products like iodine solution (Betadyne), hydrogen peroxide, and caustic powder that are in commercially available first-aid kits that either direct or incline owners to apply to open wounds. Not only are these products ineffective as a first aid procedure, they can cause adverse damage and are counterproductive for the wound.
  • Another item in many kits is a staple gun. In my opinion, unless an owner has received proper training for using a staple gun on a cut/wound, it should not be used in the field. Even with my surgical experience, I would have difficultly properly employing that device to a wound in the field. As such, I do not have a staple gun in my field emergency kit.





  • The traditional emergency method available to owners is hydrogen peroxide. Although this works most of the time, it does not always, and has a couple of potential adverse consequences. A more effective and safer method is using an apomorphine suspension dropped into the eyes under the lower eyelids. I showed each group how to use apomorphine (substituting corn starch for the drug) and suggested how to incorporate it into an emergency kit that is carried on the person into the field. Of all the problems our hunting dogs get, on-the-spot vomiting of an ingested poison is the most immediately time-sensitive. This is a procedure that needs to be performed as soon as possible after the ingestion. As of April 2019, apomorphine was no longer listed as a controlled substance by the DEA. In my opinion, it should be available for dispensing to properly trained owners/handlers for emergency field use.
  • I stressed the importance of carrying the telephone number of the Animal Poison Control Center and using the Center for guidance in each poisoning case.
  • Just as important is that unless the APCC indicates that taking the dog to an emergency veterinarian is not necessary, all poisonings should be taken to a veterinarian for urgent ancillary treatment (like activated charcoal and IV fluids), baseline laboratory testing, and/or preemptive medication.


Emergency Kits


As I alluded to earlier, I consider the commercially available emergency kits, even those listed as for hunting dogs, to generally be inadequate for the situations our hunting dogs encounter. They contain supplies that should not be used…. There are better materials and supplies available… They are missing some supplies that may be needed. As part of my handout, I list the items that are in the Carry Kits and Vehicle Kit that I put together for my own use. Again, readers are welcome to review the lists at the provided link.


Veterinary Contacts

  • I strongly encourage you to work with your local/home veterinarian when preparing for first aid for your hunting companions. That is where I suggest you get your supplies. The materials are better quality than those generally purchased from stores or in commercial kits. I suggest using my handout as a shopping list at your veterinarian, but feel free to modify based on your particular situation. Additionally, your local veterinarians, especially the technicians, are a valuable resource for hands-on instruction for procedures in the field especially treating wounds and applying bandages. Embrace them.
  • In addition, please be sure to contact the veterinarian(s) at your hunting destinations. Be sure you have their telephone numbers and directions to the hospital. Be absolutely sure you know which hospitals provide after-hours emergency coverage.


Parting Comments and Suggestions Going Forward

  • Tom Smith and I met for the first time when I picked up Dune in July, with the concept for my presentations born around September. I appreciate his sight-unseen confidence in me and I would like to thank him for giving me the opportunity to present at the Advanced Retreat.
  • Presenting veterinary medical instructions at these types of venues is a perfect value-added combination and worthy of further exploration and development. Based on my experience giving instruction at the Wildrose retreat, time was the limiting factor for proper presentation of the information. In my opinion, the best method for teaching first aid (especially wound treatment and bandaging) would be to have a half-day of large-group didactic presentations followed by small breakout groups for demonstration and hands-on practice. So, as I slide into partial retirement, I like to think of Dune as my PhD dog-training experience and companion for destination travel hunting opportunities. For example, I met Lars and Andrea from Blixt in Idaho and I think that showing up as a Picking crew is on our bucket list. To help with our future travels, Dune is definitely doing his part to learn his jobs and he even picked out his own truck for the trips—I just had to pay for it and am the designated driver. We hope to see you on the road, at more events, and particularly in the field.

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Contact info: scottwhitedvm@comcast.net, 508-228-8448 (land line).


Link to Handout: Scott White Handout

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The Yorkshire Experience

IMG_2973By Guy Billups, Wildrose Texas

To kick off the year I took a trip to Yorkshire, England the last week of January. In contrast to my previous trips to England, the itinerary did not consist of simply watching dogs compete, but actively participating by running a dog myself. The plan was to train, pick up on a driven day, be a part of a walk-up shoot, and culminate in running in the Warter Priory Trial.

Amy and Peter Bates were my fantastic and generous hosts, guiding me through a whirlwind of a week with incredible experiences planned each day. The first thing to do upon arrival was have a cup of tea and talk dog training. This particular conversation was about the commands to be used for my canine partner that week, “Chunk.” While we use “loss” to command our dogs to go on the hunt, “loss” for Chunk meant to cast to our left, “get on” was to our right and “back” was to go further away. Obviously trying to get acclimated to dog and handler was going to be hard in a few day’s time, but with a calibrated vocabulary we went out to meet the dogs and stretch legs a little bit.

The Warter Priory shoot was an incredible experience. Standing in the gun line as hundreds of birds were pushed over head, I experienced a true testament to the steadiness and calm demeanor expected from a British gundog. After what seemed like an eternal flow of birds, the horn sounded and we went to work picking birds, no shopping allowed!


With many more days of training still ahead, Amy got a draw to run in a novice trial, so we loaded up dogs and went over to take in a day trialing. I had the great opportunity to carry game for the Judges. A fantastic experience where I got to see firsthand the obedience required of all competitors and the different types of retrieves asked of the dogs. The experience emphasized how truly well-rounded the dogs emerge from these competitions. Seven dogs were dropped for poor heel work and obedience. I watched a 3-dog eye wipe when a very nice yellow female was given an area to hunt 40 yards into the wood and 30 to 40 yards wide of where the bird was believed to have fallen. Interestingly, listening to that sequence, I couldn’t help but think how many times that exact scenario had occurred during many of my years of hunting. “Hey man, I knocked my bird down over in that direction about by that tree, can you see if your dog can find it?” It was so good to see a true hunt in a situation we have all faced, a dog finding game. Later the same dog was asked to retrieve a bird 80 yards out along a creek, where the dog would have to hold a 5-yard wide line to stay visible to the handler to make the pick. A previous attempt by another dog trying this retrieve jumped into the cover early and began flushing game, resulting in being called up. Dogs must do it all to win this event.


Our next big experience was walk up shooting on the moors. Can I just say….WOW! Peter Bates was kind enough to bring along Hannah Winship, a fantastic dog trainer, and myself to experience this day in the field. With spaniels working hard in front of us and game plentiful, I’m not sure I stopped smiling for two days.


To cap off the incredible trip, my last day I was allowed to compete in a trial run and organized by Amy Bates, by kind permission of Water Priory. The day lived up to everything a trial should be. Fantastic judges, driven game, walk up game, runners, and eye wipes, everything was there for a great day. Though Chunk and I stumbled early, the retrieves were fantastic. Game was plentiful and there were excellent picks over a fence followed by a long descent down a bank. The day was truly a shooting day where the dogs happened to be under judgment to find a winner. This is still such a beautiful concept to me, judging dogs on true shoots where hunting experience and bird sense play such a huge role.


I will conclude that I am still smiling from this trip and have enjoyed sharing the things I learned and experienced with those interested.  This will not be my last trip abroad  and I anxiously anticipate the next.

































Wednesday, Jan 22, 2020

-Arrived to rainy and cool , in Manchester and hopped on the train.

-amy bates picked me up from the York train station

-lunch at snowlandia, go over the schedule,

-take dogs out for the first time

We run 3 permanent blinds alternating, much more liberal hunt areas than I typically

Different tones on left and rights

Typically hunts back quartered

Going to be running a dog named Chunk,

Bit of reading field sports



The opportunity to carry game for judges in a Novice Field trial was incredible. Seeing first hand the level of obedience, and gamefinding ability was incredible.





Carried game for John halstead jr judging. This was a great opportunity to walk in line and observing proper judging

Heel work heel work heel work. 5 dogs actually dropped for heel work. Some that frankly surprised me the standard would be that tight

Nonetheless, next was gamefinding.

As we got down to 3 dogs the judge asked for a dog to hunt an area about 40 yards into the thicket, between two dead trees about 20 yards apart.

“There is possibly a bird between those two dead trees, we have been told one went down, it may be alive and running or dead, please send you dog in and hunt that area.”

This was so fantastic, and typical British field trial retrieve. One dog failed, but the second went in and made great work of the area and left the area a bit to find the bird.

As we narrowed to two a few more retrieves were required, after great retrieves exiting the wood and out into the field

One was dropped for running in, the others finial retrieves was out along the edge of the wood and into the stream. A challenging retrieve asking the handler to maintain control of the dog, keeping from reentering the enticing wood and holding the line to the stream. The dog would eventually fail and no winner would be awarded. A fantastic day to see a nice novice stake in action.



Walked up shooting with Paul Wright. UNBELIEVABLE!!! Spaniels flushing, heavy bracken, heavy heather! Saw heather.

Struggled a bit at first and then settled in. Pheasants, hair, woodcock, also saw grouse.

Chunk made some very nice retrieves. Older black bitch was able to pick a couple of fantastic runners. Younger dogs have to learn and experience game in cover on the chase!


Trial although we stumbled early, the retrieves were fantastic. Game was plentiful. Dogs feed off the intensity and excitement of the handler. Excellent picks over a fence and long, long ways down a bank



Lining-when a dog breaks down the line, go to it and reline! Then run through












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On the Whistle

By Mike Stewart, Wildrose International

mike stop to whistleWhistle signals are the primary control communicator for directing any sporting dog afield, whether for hunting or adventure excursions.  Simply, whistle tones can be projected further with more clarity than voice commands so the whistle signal becomes a core skill for development in training.

First, the stop whistle. The single peep of the whistle directs a prompt stop from the dog followed by gaining their full attention. As with all early behavioral development, everything begins at heel (Wildrose Law #7, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training, The Wildrose Way: 58). Later, skills are extended further into the field or water.  Initially, keep in mind that there are three forms of K-9/ handler communication:

  1. Body Language – the most influential
  2. Verbal – the least effective as dogs don’t talk
  3. Audible Tones – very meaningful in the canine world

Our training objective is to implement the whistle as a meaningful, audible tone, making it the most important of all three communicators.  Our Wildrose Way whistle assessments are designed to evaluate the understanding and importance of the whistle signal to each dog.  Consider which of the communicators is most influential from your dog’s perspective.

Take the assessments to determine if your dog is truly on the stop whistle:

Assessment I

With your dog off lead at heel, walk along at a normal pace without any change in body language, verbal command, vocal tone, a change of pace (pause) or eye contact.  Peep the whistle for stop, but you keep walking without a glance or change of gait.  Will your dog stop promptly?

If no:  Your body language is more important than the whistle. Additional training required.

If yes:  Great!  The whistle matters more than your body language.  Proceed to the next assessment.

Assessment II

Same set-up but this test uses reverse heel and recall.  Again, as above, walk with the dog at heel then begin to back away at the same pace recalling the dog as you continue to back away while facing the dog.  As you continue reverse heel, peep the stop whistle without any body language, hand signal, pause in your pace or vocal cue. Just the single peep of the whistle as you back away. Did the dog ignore your movement and stop?  Success, move to III.

Assessment III

Here we add a distraction. As in Assessment II, reverse heel, we will back away without stopping, toss a bumper to the side while peeping the whistle stop.  Even with the distraction and your movement away, the dog should obey the whistle promptly. This is the first step in teaching the upland gundog, “steady to the flush.”

These three assessments are also perfect warm up training exercises for the discipline element of the Wildrose Cyclical Training Model, (Sporting Dog and Retriever Training, The Wildrose Way: 87).

With all three assessments complete, the dog understands the importance of the stop whistle.  Time for extensions.


Mike Stewart, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training, The Wildrose Way. Universe Publishing: New York, 2012.

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Dogs and Art

By Joshua Quong, Little Q Ranch

Photo by Will Hereford

Photo by Will Hereford @Tombeckbe

A couple of month ago I was fortunate enough to meet a photographer who came out on his first quail hunt to snap a few photos.
The shutter of the big lens clacked speedily and I asked the fella, “are you getting any good pictures?”


“Everything is beautiful,” he said.

I was taken aback by his reply. Here was a fella… nay… an artist who spends his time capturing the beauty of the natural world and is now applying this term, “beautiful”, to a handful of hunters and dogs in a field looking for birds to shoot.
His observation has run through the thickets of my thoughts like a brace of bird dogs and have now locked up on point: dog folk (like photographers and painters and musicians) are artists and like traditional artists, our medium can frustrate and dishearten in our search for beauty.

The innumerable hours invested in getting a dog to “whoa” or “hold” or “trail” can be maddening. To perfect what is perfectly coded in a dog seems to be a fool’s discipline. Yet through all the cussin’ and fussin’ and beggin’ and pleadin’ the code is unlocked and our fool’s errand has become what we knew it could… beautiful.
Take for instance those who run hounds. The rabbit and coon hunter can discern and distinguish each musical note of a race or bay. And for bird dog folk it’s the visually aesthetic. Points and retrieves are where line, shape, and color meet.

The end products are works of art painted and composed on the canvas of Creation.

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Photos by Josh Quong, Dwayne Bratcher and Will Hereford



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Wildrose Kennels: A Consistent Brand in Multiple Locations

By Dr. Ben McClelland

“Wildrose Kennels is the largest breeder, trainer, and importer of British and Irish Labradors in North and South America, specializing in its own signature brands of sporting dog—the Gentleman’s Gundog and the Adventure Dog. The company has a simple mission statement: Wildrose Kennels is dedicated to breeding and training the classic British and Irish Labrador retriever to become the perfect complement to a family’s sporting lifestyle.”

 -Mike Stewart, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training: The Wildrose Way.

Leading Wildrose Kennels for more than two decades Mike Stewart developed a unique dog-training program based on positive methods. As the business has grown over the years—more UK Labs imported, more pups born and trained, new trainers brought on board, and more and more owners attending training seminars—Stewart maintained the same canine genetic traits and temperament, the same successful training methodology, and the same high performance requirements from staff members. Business success resulted from a reliably consistent brand: a Wildrose bred and trained Labrador.

In recent years the growing company has evolved further by creating licensed kennels in new locations. Wildrose International now maintains a one-kennel concept in three regional locations: Oxford, Mississippi; Dallas, Texas; and Hillsborough, North Carolina. Now these fully operational kennels are able to serve a much wider geographical area with puppy whelping, backgrounding, boarding, and training, in addition to offering a full calendar of events for handlers and their dogs. A unique computer software program houses information on all the dogs from each facility allowing each of the kennels to glean information about specific dogs.  Each location offers experiences unique to its environs, while still maintaining product consistency.

Wildrose Kennels, Mississippi—Tom Smith

Tom Smith is the top dog at Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Mississippi. After a stint as general manager, Smith now owns and operates the original kennel. Moreover, Smith also has partnered with the city of Wilson to bring guided quail hunts to the Arkansas Delta at The Bar W Shooting Preserve in Wilson, Arkansas.

A Note from Tom Smith:


Tom Smith and Teddy

“My Wildrose journey began eleven and a half years ago when I met my constant companion and favorite hunting partner Dixie (Hamish x Susie). After becoming an associate trainer and acquiring the adjoining property in 2010, I was blessed to join the staff full-time as the GM in 2014 with a budding plan to become the owner in 2019. The opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization and assist in the never ending growth of the Wildrose brand along with the constant improvement of our training methods and facilities has been a dream come true.

The onsite retail store Wildrose Trading Company, offers all the training gear we use and recommend along with Wildrose logo’d apparel, drinkware and other products. We wear the Wildrose Brand proudly and its always fun to meet people while traveling who have our dogs or recognize our signature puppy.

The Wildrose Experience is unmatched with the multitude of events we host. This year we have added the Bar W Shooting Preserve in Wilson, AR. We are offering guided quail hunts in the Arkansas delta set in an historic town that pays homage to the Old South. You can visit the Tom Beckbe flagship store, see the Hampson Museum filled with artifacts from the American Indian villages in the area, browse White’s Mercantile for quirky and cute home goods and finish it off with a great meal at the Wilson Cafe. Our partners offer a myriad of opportunities for hunting, travel and fun. I encourage our clients to take advantage of these great experiences.

The passion for our dogs and clients runs deep through every person who puts on that logo every day when they come to work. The kennel has been in Oxford for 21 years and we are looking forward to another 10 years of these amazing dogs. We all have big shoes to fill following Mike and Cathy, but I know the current team we have at our three locations and our associate trainers around the country will continue the heritage that has been built. There is nothing more exhilarating than living the “Gentleman’s Gundog’ lifestyle. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to work with these amazing dogs everyday?!”


Wildrose Texas – Guy Billups

Since 2017 Wildrose Texas has been located just 13 miles south of downtown Dallas on a beautiful campus at the historic, 850-acre Dallas Hunting and Fishing Club on the Trinity River in Dallas County, Texas. Incorporated in 1885 the club has been continuously operated ever since making it the fourth-oldest club of its kind in the US. The dynamo running Wildrose Texas is president Guy Cameron Billups, IV.

A Note from Guy Billups:


Guy Billups

“I wanted to take a second and update the followers on Wildrose Texas, what we have done, are doing and what’s next.

Since moving the family to Dallas, TX to live in a 1905-built cabin, we have been on quite the Wildrose Adventure. Andrew Golden and George Bridges were the first to entrust Wildrose Texas with their beloved dogs and high expectations of the Wildrose Way. A thousand or so birds and a few years later, things worked out pretty well. I also got to know Jordan Caviness, a man with Wildrose running in his veins. We got together every week for group training sessions the first 8 weeks after the kennel opened. Jamey Rosamond and a few others started joining in on these small groups and helped create the skeleton of future things to come. By the end of 2017, we had the capacity to house 30 dogs and could feel the exciting momentum building.

2018 continued to be a year of spreading the word. We trained more fantastic Wildrose labs and met so many awesome people. We brought back summer small group training sessions on a weekly basis. With the hires of John Murphy and Gunnar Hirkschind, what was a one-man operation became an excelling team enabling Kelsey and me to end the year at the British Championship, a dream come true, watching great dogs and handlers work.

As we moved into 2019 the trip to the Championship would prove an exciting venture with the opportunity to bring over the youngest competitor, FTW Ffynongain Celt, “Otto.” Adding Otto to the sires’ lineup has been very exciting. Holly also joined the team, a Murphy x Pinny female, trained by associate trainer, Craig Korff. Holly was a wonderful blessing to us and enabled our first litter in 2019, proving to carry on fantastic Wildrose genetics. As we rolled into summer 2019, the kennel reached capacity on a very regular basis, so the planning began for a facilities expansion. With the huge help of Jordan Caviness, we completed building phase two, enabling the boarding of up to 40 additional dogs. With another addition to the team in the form of Pennsylvania native, Ben Baker, more great opportunities were offered. We pilot programmed “Wildrose Texas Summer Camp,” a daycare program where older dogs in the Dallas area could tune up and maintain throughout the offseason without having to miss a night at home. With raving reviews and requests for an extension of this program, we are pleased to have Ben as the main contact for Wildrose Texas Day Camp 2020, starting in February.

Looking ahead into 2020, we are excited to have litters planned that will be delivered in Dallas. Crawfish boils, small groups monthly training sessions and other activities are planned. The Adventure Dog Rendezvous comes to Dallas, April 3-5, with fishing, watercrafting, hiking, shooting, a BBQ and much more. I also traveled to England at the end of January to spend a week training dogs with the Bates, culminating in actually competing in a field trial. Excited to report back from this.

The sun continues to shine on the Wildrose Texas Experience.”


Wildrose Carolinas – Kirk Parker and Steven Lucius

Wildrose Carolinas is located in Hillsborough, North Carolina, on 250 acres of wildlife habitat in Southern Caswell County. Wildrose Carolinas features a 4,000 square-foot covered building with more than 30 individual pens and a full-service healthcare center dedicated to the comfort and care of dogs in training. A recently completed guest facility includes office space, two guest rooms and an entertainment area. The site offers a wide variety of training environments including 12 ponds including a ten-acre lake, rolling topography, flooded timber, grass fields and two miles of trails and roadway. The grounds provide the abilities to train for upland, waterfowl or adventure in every type of habitat one would encounter in the field or marsh.

A Note from Kirk Parker:

kirk and gamble

Kirk Parker and Gamble

“I was first introduced to Wildrose Kennels when I read the 2009 cover-story article in Forbes magazine, “Luxe Labradors.” I liked what I read so much that I read it several times. Later, a 2012 article in Garden and Gun, “Leader of the Pack,” confirmed what I learned from the Forbes article. I was captured by what I thought was the most intuitive, thoughtful, and comprehensive approach to breeding and training dogs I had ever seen.

I grew up hunting in central Alabama and was always working with dogs, admittedly, pointing dogs at the time and it was and is today something I enjoy. I have been around dogs all my life and now I had to be a part of the Wildrose pack. I attended a workshop at a friend’s plantation in Alabama in conjunction with the Alabama Wildlife Federation — everything I had read was confirmed again. This is where I first met Mike and Cathy Stewart. Once I returned home, I exhausted the Wildrose website looking at the mating calendar and the different profiles of Sires and Dams. I wanted a fox red male and put in a deposit — the suspense began in earnest (in part because I had not yet informed my wife). A couple puppies were offered to me and due to travel and other circumstances, I could not commit to a puppy…. So, I waited some more. When I got the call from Cathy that she had a fox red male out of Red and Daisy, the time was right and I committed. I made the trip to Oxford from the Carolinas with the intent of picking a high-energy dog and as a result, his name — Gamble. And did I mention; I succeeded! I sent Gamble back for basic gundog training and then again for some more advanced and upland training. Steven Lucius trained him and did a great job. Each time, I made the drive to Oxford, I considered how nice it would be to have a Wildrose location in the Carolinas and the opportunity I believed was there from a market perspective.

I ruminated over this idea for a while and became more excited at the prospect. Early in 2017, Mike was making a trip to North Carolina for a photo shoot and I asked if I could meet him to get some help with Gamble and to ask him about the prospect of opening a Wildrose location in North Carolina, although he did not know that. And so I asked. We looked at a map and remarked at the population in the area – all he said was…”interesting.” And that was it.

Soon, I heard from Mike and he wanted to pursue this idea and so it went. Fast Forward . . . .

In August of 2017, Shawn Yates came on board and moved to Oxford where he trained and learned the Wildrose Way. In May 2018, after looking at several properties, I closed on the purchase of 260 acres of land in Southern Caswell County, north of Hillsborough, NC. Shawn and his wife, Kim, moved on site in May of 2018 and we set up a temporary location so we could train the dogs we already had entrusted to us and begin the process of building the full complement of facilities we now enjoy.

In September 2018, the kennel building was completed having 30 pens, a healthcare room, and a small equipment and feed room. In October 2018, the house in which Shawn and Kim now live was completed. Improvements were made to the property to enhance the wildlife habitat, training grounds, and access throughout the property. The Lodge was completed in November 2019. For now, our facility is complete. And we already need to expand in order to continue the legacy of great services Wildrose is known to provide. We have trained over 30 dogs, whelped 3 litters of puppies, held workshops and exhibitions in the area. Most of all, we have engaged and enjoyed developing relationships with clients, some new, some existing members of the pack who are glad to have a location in close geographic proximity.

Our property consists of 260 acres of wildlife habitat and training grounds with 12 water sources and we continue to develop it to enhance and provide even more options.

steven and archer

Steven Lucius

During the fall of 2019, Steven Lucius contacted me and said he was ready to be an owner and manifest his 12 years of learning at Wildrose Oxford. He was ready to take the next step in his Wildrose journey.  After several discussions over a couple months, we agreed for Steven to be part of Wildrose Carolinas. In January 2020, Steven became a co-owner and he and Schuyler, Steven’s wife, made the move to North Carolina. Shawn and Kim continue to provide their excellent level of service in training and caring for the dogs. I am excited to have a new partner as part of the team that will carry Wildrose Carolinas forward.

We have big plans. As you will see from the video and photos, the property is excellent and has even more potential. We plan to develop our breeding program, enhance the wildlife habitat so that we can train in authentic upland and waterfowl habitat. We will be hosting workshops oriented towards gundogs, adventure dogs and therapy dogs. In summary, we plan to develop the property and resources so that we can extend the Wildrose experience to the pack with unyielding devotion to the Wildrose Way and the excellence, which is now synonymous.”

Property Profile

260 acres located in Southern Caswell County, North of Hillsborough, NC
12 unique water sources
Waterfowl and upland habitat
3 miles of roads and trails
Abundant wildlife
40’ x 100’ kennel building with 30 pens and 8 oscillating fans
20’ x 20’ temperature controlled healthcare room and whelping area
20’ x 20’ equipment/feed room
3 bedroom home for onsite supervision at all times
2 bedroom lodge with firepit gathering area
3 RV hookups – 2 x 50 amp, 1 x 30 amp

Please come visit soon, we will be anxiously waiting…


Wildrose International, Mike and Cathy Stewart

Mike and boys

Mike and Cathy Stewart maintain oversight of the trio of kennels that make up Wildrose International. Having developed a manual for kennel operations and overseeing the training of the kennel staff, the Stewarts make periodic quality-control visits to assure that consistent standards are upheld throughout the business. In addition, Mike continues to market the brand, appearing at numerous sporting events and conventions. Moreover, he creates opportunities for others in the company to make appearances as well. Finally, Mike employs his dog-whisperer role, assisting trainers in resolving intractable issues some dogs experience.

As in the past, the Stewarts will split their time between their seasonal training locations in Jasper, Arkansas, and Granite, Colorado. In 2003, Wildrose purchased and began the development of the Wildrose river training facility in Northwest Arkansas with two-thirds of a mile of river along the Little Buffalo, complete with both narrow and wide river sections.  These training grounds, Wildrose of the Ozarks, offer a river-training dimension to the kennel’s training experiences. For nearly a decade the Colorado facility at Clear Creek Ranch has offered opportunities for summer mountain training at a 9,000-foot elevation, bordering as it does, the prestigious mountain trout stream Clear Creek, which was previously an Orvis-endorsed fly fishing destination.


Mike Stewart, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training: The Wildrose Way, 2012: 10.

Wingshooter Investments


Related Links

Annie Johnston, “Girls, Guns, and Guy.” https://wildroseblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/girls-gundogs-and-guy/

Mike Stewart, Wildrose International, “It’s River Time.” December, 1, 2019. https://wildroseblog.wordpress.com/


Ben McClelland

Mike Stewart

Kirk Parker

Steven Lucius

Guy Billups

Tom Smith

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