November December 96

Bird Dog & Retriever News

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Meet the Breeder

Mike Lardy

National Ranked Trainer

By Dennis Guldan

In this issue instead of a "Meet the Breeder Column" I thought we would look at the trainer of one of the finest Lab breeders in the world.

Last year over the fourth of July weekend Ron, Ellen and I visited Mary Howley's Candlewood Kennel in Madison, Wisconsin. The Candlewood kennel has dominated the Retriever Field Trial Circuit. For the years 1990 to 1994 a Candlewood dog won the nationals each year.

When we arrived at Mary's place we had just missed Mike Lardy, Mary's trainer, and Lottie. Lottie, also called Candlewoods Tanks a Lot was Mary's two time national champion bitch, and daughter of "Candlewoods Supertanker", also the National Field Trial Champion. Mike has a place in Montello just 45 minutes from the Wisconsin Dells where we were staying. I had always wanted to meet Mike and wanted to "touch" Lottie, a piece of history. So this year we decided to visit Mike and his training facility.

I called up Mike in mid-June and asked if he had time to sit down and tell us about creating national champions. Mike was more than happy to sit down with us. So over the fourth of July this year we talked with Mike and looked at his dogs.

Mike's place, just outside of Montello, is in the middle of the great wildlife habitat found in the area around the great Horicon Marsh. Not since Daryl Frisbee's Golden Retriever Kennel of Montrose, Minnesota had a I seen such as impressive retriever training facility as Mike's. Mike has 240 acres of training area. There are 40 acres of water facility training grounds with a series of points and water obstacles surrounded by a large track of trees separating the facility from the outside world.

When we arrived Mike was just returning from the National Amateur Field Trial. As we pulled in my four year old son Ron spied a beautiful Black Lab. Ron jumped out and the lab brought a dummy for Ron to throw. Ron played fetch for a few minutes with this lab while Mike, Ellen and I were doing introductions.

Mike looked at Ron playing with the lab and said "Lottie loves to play." I took a deep breath, my kid was playing fetch with "Lottie", Tanks A Lot, the three time national champion bitch. I held back from saying, "Ron, don't break that dog." But Mike seemed undisturbed. So we walked around and talked about labs.

Mike introduced us to Dave Smith who together with Mike runs the Montello facility. Dave has been training for six years and he recently trained the number eight dog in all of Canada.

Mike and Dave board and train 24 dogs at a time. They charge $700 per month, plus birds to train retrievers mostly for the field trial circuit. Most of the dogs stay four to six months out of the year and many return every year for ten years. That being said there is typically a two year waiting period to get a dog into the training program.

Most of the dogs that Mike and Dave take have made the cut with a puppy trainer and are referred to Mike and Dave. Some of the dogs have been with Gates Kirkhem, a puppy trainer from Georgia or Jim Van Eagan from Wisconsin. Only after they make the cut do Mike and Dave get to see the pups.

So basically it is Mike and Dave's job to take a great lab to the national champion level. Their job is kinda like looking at all of the great ball players in the 64 team NCAA national college basketball tournament and determining which five players will play pro ball.

Mike runs in about 13 trials a year, Dave attends about 8 trials a year. On an average year, Mike and Dave will qualify six to ten of the ninety dogs that will qualify for the nationals. This year they took ten dogs to the National Amateur. The average age of dogs that Mike and Dave take in are two to three year olds. They find that a six year old dog is about prime for national competition.

Mike looks for many things in dogs. First he looks for the genetics of a champion. Second he looks for a dog with a strong desire to please. He looks for a dog which desires to be with people. There is one thing that makes the difference between a good and a great dog, and that is intelligence. And all the dogs in the kennel are smart.

One thing that most people do not look for is eyes. A great dog can keep track of three and four marks without losing the first. Eyes are definitely an essential part of a great trial dog.

Mike said it easy to teach a dog to handle. What is not easy to teach is for a dog to be relaxed, confident and responsible. Mike is known to have stylish and controlled dogs.

Mike has one major rule: he will not train a bad dog, who is either uncooperative or lacks desire.

Mike and Dave train dogs eight hours a day when they are running full tilt. Each dog in the kennel gets worked 20 minutes a day. They are worked in two five minutes sessions and one ten minute session every day.

Mike and Dave train in Montello from April to October each year. The Nationals are in November so the Montello facility is closed. Then in January they start up training again in Florida until March when they again move back north.

All the dogs Mike and Dave work are field trial dogs. Most of the dogs are returned to their owners and are hunted in the fall. Many of the dogs that Mike and Dave work take turns being rotated to stay in the house. They all feel that a superior dog should have kids to play with. Ellen and I both noted all of the Candlewood line appeared to be very social animals. And it appears if they are not very social animals they don't last long with Mike or Dave.

Mike grew up with Golden Retrievers and Brittanys in the Madison area. When he was eight years old Mary Howley beat him in his first stake, Mike took second, they have been friends ever since. In 1980 Mike moved to Montello. At 24 years old in 1981 Mike started to train professionally.

Mike has won four National Titles, three of them with Lottie and one from Lottie's father Super Tanker. Mikes clients have won three National Amateurs. Mike and Dave have put 48 Field Champions on dogs.

Mike and Dave train for ten to fiftee clients a few with three or four dogs. That leaves a few spaces in the kennel left for Mike and Daves dogs and for a few singles.

Mike and Dave have produced a five hour video for training your retriever since they are limited to 24 dogs at a time. The video takes a dog from the puppy stage through the training regimen to be ready for the hunt test circuit. The video and manual is available from Whistle Lake Productions for $139.95 by calling 1-800-848-5963.

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Copyrights Bird Dog & Retriever News March 1998
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