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
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
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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