tips for early puppy development
10-13-164 mins read
Gunner Kennels caught up with Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels to pick up puppy training techniques via “the Wildrose Way" – Mike's renowned cyclical training model that employs positive reinforcement and has produced some of the world's top "gentlemen’s gun dogs." Keep reading to learn how you can shape your puppy's behavior in the critical development stages.
Dog Stories
Training Tips

Written by Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels • Photo via Wildrose Facebook, taken by Days Afield Photography

Gunner Kennels caught up with Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels to pick up puppy training techniques via “the Wildrose Way” – Mike’s renowned cyclical training model that employs positive reinforcement and has produced some of the world’s top “gentlemen’s gun dogs.” Keep reading to learn how you can shape your puppy’s behavior in the critical development stages.

puppies

As 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.

Puppy’s Early Development 

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

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

Positive Field Exposures 

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

Day 1 With Nash

Nash’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 2 With Nash

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!

For more tips and info about gundog or adventure dog training, check out the Wildrose Journal blog and newsletter here.

About Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels

Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels

With forty years of association with dogs, pointers, flushers, retrievers, as well as hounds and obedience companion dogs Mike Stewart developed the Wildrose facilities creating a comprehensive gundog-training program focused exclusively on the English Labrador, specifically for the wingshooter and outdoor enthusiasts. He developed the unique, positive, training methodology, “The Wildrose Way,” which is being recognized across the country. Over the past nine years, he has appeared in a variety of television programming featuring retriever training including “The World of Ducks,” with Drake and Deke, the Ducks Unlimited mascots, ” Benelli’s American Bird Hunter,” The American Sportsman,” and other sporting programs. He has produced a series of best-selling DVDs, for hunting dog training, “The Gentleman’s Gundog” series. Mike retired as Chief of Police, University of Mississippi in 2000 after a 25-year career in law enforcement, a graduate of the University of Mississippi with a BPA and MCJ, as well as the FBI National Academy in 1989. He retired from the US Navy Reserves as a Commander in 2005 with nine years as a NCIS credentialed agent.

share this story
MORE LIKE THIS
A Car Pulled in Front of Me on the Highway, I Couldn't Stop
It was nighttime in Moultrie, Georgia, but still daylight when I was hit in a 2020 Toyota Tundra ...
Summer's Story | Stories from the Pack
Storm and his dog, Summer, were finalists in our 2021 Gunner Effect competition. Along with their...
The K-9 Heroes of 9/11
Twenty years ago, the World Trade Center collapsed. More than 300 K-9s responded to the call at G...

GET IN TOUCH

Our support team are on hand
Monday - Friday
8am - 6pm CDT

SMS
 Offline
CHAT
 Offline
EMAIL
 Offline
CALL
 Offline

GET A FREE PERSONALIZED NAME PLATE

WHEN YOU BUY ONE OR MORE ACCESSORIES

TIE-DOWN STRAP KIT
SELECT
PERFORMANCE PAD
SELECT
ORTHOPEDIC DOG BED
SELECT
I've reviewed and approve the design shown in the preview

ADDED. COMPLETE YOUR SETUP

FOOD CRATE NAME PLATE

Regular price
19
Sale price
19.00
I've reviewed and approve the design shown in the preview

UNLOCK

FREE SHIPPING

ON YOUR NEXT ORDER

Valued up to $60 per kennel

By submitting this form, you agree to receive recurring automated promotional and personalized marketing text messages (e.g. cart reminders) from GUNNER at the cell number used when signing up. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel. Msg frequency varies. Msg and data rates may apply. View Terms & Privacy.

THE PACK OPINION

Customer Reviews
4.9 Based on 2,864 Reviews
5 ?
92% 
2624
4 ?
6% 
166
3 ?
1% 
42
2 ?
1% 
16
1 ?
0% 
16
Customer Photos
Write a Review Ask a Question

Thank you for submitting a review!

Your input is very much appreciated. Share it with your friends so they can enjoy it too!

Filter Reviews:
BM
07/05/2021
Brandon M.
United States United States
  • How would you describe your dog? Gun or Bird Dog
  • What's your primary use of the product? Travel
It’s like an insurance plan….

This is by far the best kennel made. I use mine daily and they take lots of abuse. They never even seem to wear at all. Hose them off with soap and water and they look brand new. I encourage all of my puppy buyers to get them as well. It’s like an insurance plan for your best friend!

GUNNER G1™ KENNEL Review
KT
06/14/2021
Kris T.
United States United States
  • What's your primary use of the product? TravelHomeHome & Travel Equally
  • How would you describe your dog? Family or Companion Dog
Wow, Just Wow

Wow, this kennel is the Yeti of dog kennels! everything about this kennel is first rate. Yes, there are cheaper, but none can compare to a Gunner kennel.

AL
05/31/2021
Alec L.
United States United States
  • What's your primary use of the product? Travel
  • How would you describe your dog? Family or Companion Dog
Amazing travel kennel

This thing is built like a tank. I have no doubt this will protect our little guy if we are ever involved in an accident. We recently completed an 800 mile road trip with him in the crate. It was well worth the money. This was the first time he was calm in the car and not whining. He slept easily during the drive. We felt calm know he was secure and comfortable. Cannot recommend this crate enough!!

AO
05/08/2021
Angus O.
United States United States
  • How would you describe your dog? Family or Companion Dog
  • What's your primary use of the product? Travel
Unlike any other crate I have seen

I purchased two Gunner kennels, a medium and a small, for my pups. Immediately, you understand this is a different level of product compared to what you’ve used before. The construction is fantastic and legitimately heavy duty. I feel so much better knowing I’ve done everything I can to keep my dogs safe in case of a worst case scenario.

PK
03/18/2021
Patrick K.
United States United States
  • What's your primary use of the product? Travel
  • How would you describe your dog? Gun or Bird Dog
Best purchase for my best friends

I’ve been buying cheap kennels for the four years I’ve owned my dogs, none of them seemed to hold up. I’ve wanted a Gunner for a year now, and the more I read stories of how they have saved dogs lives, it made me think of how losing my best friends would damn near **** me. So I made the purchase and will never look back. It is one solid kennel and I will not let the kennel hold me back from traveling farther to hunt anymore. It’s well worth the investment. I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for, and this will not let anyone down.