Raising Friends and Training Champions
“The best long-range shotgun load to have in one’s boat for mallards is a fine retriever.” — NASH BUCKINGHAM, Field and Stream, January 1947
By Hank Burdine
To a hunter, there are very few joys in life better than to have at his side, in a duck blind or a dove field, a well-trained retriever.
And there is nothing more frustrating to fellow hunters than a hunting companion who has a hunting dog that is not well trained. I have seen too many good shotgun shells tossed needlessly away in the decoys, trying to get an ill-trained dog’s attention and get him headed in the right direction to a fallen duck. I have heard far too many curses of exasperation, as an overly excited dog breaks at the sound of a gunshot, to go fruitlessly dashing off through the sunflowers searching in vain for a dove that did not fall, or, that someone else shot. On the other hand, I have watched in amazement as a well-trained retriever waits for his command to fetch, stops on a whistle and looks back at his master to see a hand signal for a blind retrieve. I have experienced firsthand the bloodline of my great Chesapeake Bay Retriever Bud come out when his instinct took over and he hunted deep into the flooded bottoms of a secluded willow brake. A well-trained dog is an asset and pleasure to anyone who hunts.
As there are many types of hunting opportunities, there are just as many types of dogs used to pursue game. From blooded English Labs to Boykin Spaniels and Golden Retrievers, Brittany Spaniels, German Shorthaired Pointers to Llewellin Setters, the list of admirable and good gun dogs goes on and on. One must first define the type of dog needed based on the game to be hunted. Then decisions are to be made defining personal wants and desires; to kennel full time or to have a house pet that is as much a family member as he is a hunting companion. Should you go through the arduous time and task of training your new pup yourself or have him trained by professionals who are keen at what they do? Or, should you reach deep into your back pocket and buy a finished and completed dog, ready for the duck blind or bird field? The decisions are many and should be taken very seriously if you are to end up with a great hunting companion and friend.
Even though there are many very good training manuals, books and videos that can help you step-by-step train your gun dog, one definite way to get precisely what you want and need in a hunting companion is to choose a good training kennel. Today’s training kennels are designed and located in areas that allow ample space and facilities for first rate development of your dog. Most are located out in the country where water courses are close by and the shotgun blasts used in training will not interfere with the neighbors. Today’s kennel facilities are modern and clean, utilizing state of the art training techniques. Decide whether you want to have the pleasure of training your own dog, or leave it up to the pros, to develop your companion. There are serious decisions to make when you decide to have a hunting dog, but with proper insight as to your wishes and needs, you can end up with a hunting companion that will give you much pleasure and love. A dog, after all, is a man’s best friend.
1593 County Road 23, Greenwood, MS 38930 • hilltopkennel.net
Hilltop Kennels provides excellent, professional training for both dog and owner. With a varied amount of services, Hilltop Kennels offers a little bit of everything. Some of their services provide basic and advanced Gundog training, AKC and UKC tests training, puppy training, and boarding if space provides.
Mike and Tammy Pierce, proprietors and trainers, believe that a dog’s owner should also participate in the training to make for a seamless transition when the dog goes back home. Taught to remain calm in the home as well as in the blind, Hilltop trained dogs are the ideal balance of family pet and hunting companion.
In addition to their training services, Mike and Tammy also breed the York Woods Retrievers which are labs that not only do well in the field, but look good and make excellent family dogs.
One thing that sets Hilltop Kennels a part is their focus on year- round training. Because of Mississippi’s hot summer climate, Tammy takes the dogs to Montana in the summer to provide a new, cooler environment to continue training. She believes this is critical to ensure your dog is fully ready before hunting season begins. During this time, Mike keeps training in Mississippi and cares for the boarded dogs. It’s completely a team effort.
“We’re dedicated to it because it’s a passion of ours,” said Tammy. “It’s a feeling you cannot imagine when you teach a dog something and you get to see the light bulb go off when he understands what you’re trying to teach him.”
BLUE RIBBON KENNELS
3030 Kickapoo Road, Jackson, MS 39209 • blueribbonkennels.com
John and Carol Kabbes, owners of Blue Ribbon Kennels, run a state-of-the-art kennel that offers boarding, retriever training, and obedience training for all breeds. Their spacious facility, which is laid out perfectly for training, sits on thirty acres just outside of Jackson and is a prime location to board or train your dog.
“Our staff is deeply committed to what we call the animal behavioral approach to learning, which is a concept that prepares the dog for living with humans by encouraging them to obey our commands upon request,” said John. “Dogs are taught how to listen for a command and not pay attention to other distractions in the environment around them. By doing this they are happier and seek out what is desired of them.”
With decades of experience under their belts and numerous champion-trained dogs to prove it, Blue Ribbon Kennels are thorough in both their training and boarding environments. All boarding areas are fully covered, and, in addition to their training, dogs are allowed indoor and outdoor access and playtime. Dogs are also housed in pens that are cleaned and disinfected daily, as well as fed a high-protein diet throughout their stay.
134 Drive 32, Shannon, MS 38868 • dalinskennel.com
Owned by Dale and Linda Garner, Dalin Kennels offers breeding and training for excellent pointing bird-dogs. Specializing in upland game, Dale and Linda raise German Shorthaired Pointers and have a great reputation all throughout the South for their well-trained dogs.
The Garners have successfully bred and trained field and show champion dogs for twenty-two years and have utilized their experience over the years to train the next generation of dogs. Although most of the dogs trained typically are pointing dogs, Dalin Kennels is a year-round training facility for all sporting breeds and they work with retriever and flushing breeds as well. A Dalin Kennel trained dog is extensively equipped for personal hunting and field competition. The average training period is about three months; however, that depends on the dog’s previous experience and maturity.
“We tailor our training methods for the individual dog. Our approach is based on the Silent Command System, developed by Hall of Fame trainer Delmar Smith, and the Perfect System developed at Perfection Kennels,” said Dale. “Long check cords, time, and patience are our main training tools. We also have a 1- month Puppy Program for young dogs. This program introduces a pup to basic commands, to the field, to gunfire, and to birds.”
At the end of the day, Dalin Kennels’ goal is to produce a well- mannered hunting companion that makes you proud day after day.
260 CR 425, Oxford, MS 38655 • uklabs.com
Wildrose Kennels specializes in breeding and training British Labrador Retrievers. From these, owner Mike Stewart strives to produce the classic Gentleman’s Gundog through positive reinforcement training. Stewart believes this method develops each of these dogs into well-disciplined and fine-tuned hunting dogs.
Many Wildrose dogs are also trained as service dogs. One of the primary service areas in which they are trained is Diabetic Alert. These dogs are trained to detect and alert their owners of fluctuations in diabetic levels. Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs are well known throughout the country. Other areas of service training include Search and Rescue, Therapy Dogs and Accelerant and Cadaver detection.
With numerous facilities throughout the South and West- including Arkansas, Mississippi, Colorado, Idaho and Texas– Wildrose offers training for dogs utilizing “The Wildrose Way.” The Oxford facility also includes a game bird program that produces flight-conditioned birds for training purposes such as chukar, pigeon, pheasant, quail and duck.
In addition to this, Wildrose hosts several seminars and workshops throughout the year. Founders of the Adventure Dog Certification Program and operators of The Wildrose Trading Company, Wildrose partners include Filson, Orvis, Ducks Unlimited, Wren & Ivy, Purina ProPlan, Westervelt Lodge, Blixt & Co., Cedar Hills Media & Marketing, Sitka, Blackfly Lodge, and Leonard Logsdail.
5195 D W North Road, Kiln, MS 39556 • acesretievers.com
Ace’s Retrievers offers a variety of services; however, they specialize in full-blooded retriever puppies, companion, started, and finished retrievers. Their training facility in South Mississippi, located just one hour from New Orleans, also offers upland bird dogs, blood trailing Labradors, and other speciality training needs.
“We stand out due to our training experience and abilities with a multitude of breeds and sizes of, not just Labradors,” said Ace Berry, owner of Ace’s Retrievers. “This accumulated knowledge allows us to conquer almost any issue we come across, whether it’s with our retrievers or with outside client training dogs. We also have a new technology system, including videos, to keep our clients up to date with training status.”
There’s no secret to Ace’s Retrievers success. Hard work, up-to-date information, timely communication, and constantly improving training methods and services have kept clients coming back year after year.
SPORTING LIFE KENNELS
119 County Road 415, Oxford, MS 38655 • sportinglifekennels.com
Sporting Life Kennels has a saying: “Every waterfowl hunter has known a great retriever and every great retriever has a story.” Marty Roberts, Sporting Life Kennels owner, has developed a first-class breeding and training facility on forty-two acres in the hills outside of Oxford, Miss. Specializing in British Labrador retrievers, he offers puppies, finished gun dogs, retriever and upland training, as well as training with shed antler dogs.
Sporting Life offers a unique program called the Care Program and their emphasis on compassionate care for the female dogs is something that truly sets Sporting Life apart. This program places female dogs with area families to give her a high-quality of life. Sporting Life breeds the dog and raises the puppies and, in exchange, the family gets a trained female dog with ongoing support and gun training. They also call this compassionate breeding.
“At Sporting Life we work hard to put the care of the dog first, over anything and everything else.” Marty said. “I don’t believe these dogs do well being trained and living their lives in a kennel in someone’s backyard, so we place the females in family environments so they can get that love that every dog thrives on. Everyone wins- the dog, the families who receive the dog, and us- with this program.”
Another unique feature of Sporting Life is their TV show: Sporting Life Retriever TV. With episodes available on The Pursuit Channel and Amazon Prime, Sporting Life Retriever TV focuses on the stories of the men and women who train and hunt with waterfowl retrievers and the powerful bond between man and man’s best friend.
Minter City, MS • dogosdogs.com
While the Dogos, more formerly know as Dogo Argentino, may not be the first dog that comes to mind when you think of a hunting dog, it is an impressive breed that can hold it’s own with hunting dangerous game or handling dangerous situations.
Michael Mims, owner of Delta Dogos, is passionate about his Dogos and makes sure they are not just fearless hunters, but also loyal companions for their family. Naturally bred to hunt wild boar and puma, Dogos are athletic, fearless, and make extremely protective watchdogs. As a family owned and operated venture, Delta Dogos is as passionate about their family as they are about protecting yours and they strive to produce trained protection dogs, as well as hunting champions.
With the growing number of destructive boars infiltrating states and agricultural land, Dogos play a valuable role in land management. Delta Dogos seeks to equip their dogs to excel in any situation by routinely providing new environments for their Dogos to hunt and stay on their toes.
MITCHELL’S LLEWELLIN SETTERS
2023 Strider Road, Scobey, MS 38953 • mitchellsllewellinsetters.com
The Llewellin Setter is often referred to as “The Sportman’s Choice.” Dating back to the 1800s, the Llewellin is a foot-hunting gun dog, which means they hunt close-range to mid-range all day long. These dogs are outstanding upland game hunters for pheasant, ruffed grouse, woodcock, quail, and chukar.
Ronnie and Ginger Mitchell, owners of Mitchell’s Llewellin Setters raise their Setters to be great hunters and gentle family companions. The Mitchell’s breed some of the finest imported lines and spend a great deal of research when looking into their breeding program.
“We are very proud of our bloodlines and the exceptional care we take in breeding to continue these bloodlines,” said Ginger. “Ronnie does a lot of research and looks two years out when making decisions regarding our breeding program.”
According to Ginger, the ideal Mitchell Llewellin Setter is a great hunting dog that is gentle-natured and does well with small children in a family environment.
“One of our bigger demographics is younger families where there might be some hunting done as a hobby, but the rest of the time they need a good family dog they can trust around their small children,” said Ginger. “Our dogs excel in hunting and in the home and that’s paramount to us.”