Photos courtesy of Ridgemark Retrievers.
“Cowboys … 49ers … Patriots … Jet!”
That’s the string of randomly assorted NFL teams that rings through my household every morning and evening as my black labrador retriever, Jet, sits before his food bowl and patiently waits to hear me call out his New York football team-themed name. This ending ritual, which I’ve performed with Jet for as long as I can remember, is what signals to the 9-year-old pup that he can finally rise and is free to feed.
Jet, the epitome of a composed canine, was not always the even-tempered, four-legged family member I know today. As a young dog, Jet encompassed all the behaviors that make up a pesky pup: sweet but undeniably chewing, teething and potty “accident” prone. But as a dog born and bred to be my father’s duck-hunting sidekick, the puppy tendencies were replaced with refined retrieving-dog techniques.
Although many duck-dog owners choose the DIY training method as their canine’s primary form of instruction, busy families like mine often decide to forgo the time-consuming task and hire professional dog whisperers like Northeast Arkansas-based trainer Bo Brewer. Brewer, the man behind my dog’s disciplined demeanor, is the owner and lead trainer of Ridgemark Retrievers, a full-time obedience and retrieving-training hub located right outside of Jonesboro.
Brewer, an Arkansas-native and avid huntsman, began his training pursuit as a high school student in the 90s. Since then, he has evolved his love for dog training into a company that comfortably houses almost 30 dogs year-round in a climate-controlled, enclosed facility.
For $25 a day, Brewer and his professional training staff board, train and nourish competition-grade hunting dogs and obedience-bound canines for multiple, short-term sessions each day. Brewer has raised star-studded retrievers throughout his decades-long career in training, including Tripp, the golden retriever featured in the 2017 film, A Dog’s Purpose.
Along with his staff of three trainers, Brewer trains every dog on regular business days. On his off days, Brewer can be found road-tripping with his seasoned pups to various American Kennel Club, Hunting Retriever Club and Super Retriever Club events around the country.
Despite Ridgemark Retrievers offering a variety of training that ranges from basic obedience for all breeds to competition-level retriever training, his objectives for each eager pup are personalized to the owner’s expectations. “Everyone has different goals when they call me,” Brewer says. “It’s up to the client to choose what desired level they’d like to get their dog to.”
Brewer mentions that the majority of his clients come to him with the hopes of taking their young dog and turning him into a ready-to-run, basic gun-dog.
In the Ridgemark Retrievers’ gun-dog training program, each dog typically completes a four-month stay at Brewer’s facility. What starts with basic obedience training for a 6-month-old pup ends with full-fledged hunting simulations in blinds, boats and stands.
Once a dog completes a four-month term of basic training, owners can choose to send their dog back for additional, extended-increments of advanced retrieving training sessions.
Although prospective clientele can be weary of long periods without their young pup, Brewer knows the lodging and training fusion is the key to the process.
Brewer explains that the most significant benefit of sending your dog off to training rather than trying at home is the time-saving aspect.
“Everyone has a full-time job, and they start training strong, but the job and the kids take over,” Brewer says. “With day-to-day life, before you know it, the dog isn’t having the time it needs put into it.”
Brewer also stresses the benefit of having a full-time trainer who obtains the knowledge necessary to train a dog efficiently. “A full-time trainer can provide the knowledge you wouldn’t otherwise have had when encountering problems,” Brewer says. “Our trainers have seen everything in the industry.”
Having omniscient, seasoned trainers on staff goes beyond just Ridgemark Retrievers and into many Arkansas-based training facilities’ list of must-haves. For Joint Forces K9 Training Owner Rob Shewmake, his training team’s quality and knowledgeability are crucial in a dog’s obedience journey.
“The fact that we have a multitude of trainers that work together as a team and fall back on each other to help reinforce things is what turns out a better quality dog,” Shewmake says.
Shewmake, a U.S. Army veteran and Northwest Arkansas K9 handler, owes his clients’ dog’s successes to the excellence and education of his five-person training staff.
“We have five trainers on staff, two of which are canine behaviorists and master-level trainers that graduated from top professional dog training schools,” he says.
In addition to his training staff, Shewmake employs technicians who care for up to 30 dogs at a time, 24 hours a day in Joint Force’s 4,000-square-foot, air-conditioned facility.
The facility is located in Siloam Springs and is a training center that offers protection, service, dog-aggression and basic obedience training and boarding services.
Although Joint Forces trains for a plethora of specialty services, Shewmake says 80 percent of his clientele come to his business for pet and obedience training.
Clients who want their dogs to learn the obedience basics can do so through board and train programs, drop-off training programs, private lessons and offsite training.
For a basic obedience board and training program, dogs spend two to four weeks with Joint Forces and learn basic commands such as sit, down, heel, climb and more. This program, priced at $800 a week, also focuses on door and leash manners.
“For obedience and board training, all dogs go for about four to five sessions per day,” Shewmake says, “with each lesson lasting anywhere from five to 20 minutes.”
Both Shewmake and Brewer emphasize that although they both provide owner lessons and demonstrations when pick-up time rolls around, the owners must be consciously aware that their out-of-facility training is vital for the dog’s continuous success.
“It’s all about teamwork,” Brewer says. “Many people think they pay to get their dog trained and the job is done, but you really get out of it what you put into it.”
Shewmake compares dealing with a dog like dealing with a young child. “You must maintain discipline and structure with the dog so that it doesn’t regress,” he says.
You heard the professionals: When it comes to dog training, teamwork makes the dream work.
Sponsored by Arkansas Pet Resort and Chenal Pet Palace