Kennels provide man's best friend
Original article: Worthington Daily Globe - Publish date unknown (approximately 2004)
By Justine Wettschreck - Daily Globe
ROUND LAKE — As she quivers with eager anticipation, BeeBee sits by Thad Lambert as the crack of a shotgun echoes through the late afternoon air.
At the signal from Lambert, BeeBee takes off as though she were shot out of that gun, never wavering from the sight of a pheasant falling out of the sky. She zeroes in on the bird as it lands, picks up the bird and heads back to her master; a silly doggy smile visible around a mouthful of feathers.
To BeeBee, a 4-year-old black Labrador; this bit of exercise is the most fun a dog can have, and she eagerly awaits the next order from her master.
Scott Rall stands off to the side, a running narrative coming from his mouth as he explains the complexity of what BeeBee is about to do next.
"See the way she watches Thad? He's going to have her do a blind retrieve."
For the uninitiated, a blind retrieve is when the hunting dog does not see where the bird lands, usually because it is retrieving another bird. Only about one in 100 dogs are proficient at blind retrieving.
Lambert sends her from his side with a signal, and BeeBee streaks across the field. At the toot of a whistle, she whips around in her tracks and skids to a stop, her attention focused on Lambert on the other side of the field. He signals directions to the dog with his hands, and she heads in the appropriate direction with another blast of speed.
"She just needs to get close enough to pick up the scent, so Thad directs her until her nose takes over," continued Rall. "There! She's go it now."
Indeed, BeeBee runs back across the field to her master; and drops the dummy politely at his feet.
Lambert is the driving force behind Round Lake Kennels, which is located in rural Round Lake and rapidly gaining a nationwide reputation for its hunting dogs.
"He's the professional, I'm just the passionate amateur," Rall explained. "He's the brains of the operation."
Round Lake Kennels is a full-service kennel, meaning it sells, trains and boards puppies and dogs. Established in 1998, Round Lake Kennels breeds six to seven litters of pups a year; about half of which are sold before they are born.
"We feel that raising puppies out of titled dogs is important," said Lambert. "A puppy with parents that hunt, show trainability; have titles and good pedigrees increases the chance of successful training."
Lambert, who used to spend eight to nine weeks a summer competing in field test trials with his dogs, now prefers to spend more time in the summer catering to his customers.
Round Lake Kennels doesn't just sell a puppy and walk away. It sends an information packet home with each puppy, makes follow-up calls to the customers and maintains contact to ensure that both puppy and owner are happy with their new life together.
The puppies from Round Lake Kennels are raised in the home of Lambert and Jodi Schuur. With the help of their three children, Rall and other part-time employees, each puppy receives personal attention from the time is is born.
"If you raise a litter of pups in isolation, they don't experience sounds and sights," said Rall. "They get out into the world and are like, 'Wow, what's all this?' They need time and attention to build self-esteem and social skills."
Schuur spends a lot of time with the puppies. She makes sure each pup is fed, socialized, and assessed for their individual personality traits.
"We ask each customer what they are looking for and match the purchaser's desires with the right puppy," said Lambert.
"I wanted to be able to learn more about training them so I can answer questions. I wanted to be more knowledgeable," said Schuur. "And it's fun to watch the dogs learn."
Many of the customers have maintained contact with Round Lake Kennels long after their dogs are competent hunting dogs.
"We've met a lot of really great people in this business," said Rall. "We have dogs in Oregon, Texas...Round Lake Kennels has become a widely known entity."
They attribute much of their success to the high level of trainability in their dogs.
"We even have two of our dogs that were placed as assistance dogs," Lambert said.
In the hunting dog community, there are several subjects which trainers can disagree about. One such subject is that hunting dogs are not good pets.
"I disagree completely," said Lambert. "Our dogs are companions; a hunting dog is a partner. We have a master hunt test-titled dog that lives with us."
Rall, who owns Rall Financial Services in Worthington, agrees with Lambert. He was one of Lamberts first customers, buying a dog named Round Lake's First Chance.
"I usually have a dog with me in the office every day," he said. "The people that come in love to see them. And I'll tell you something, a dog that is obedient is welcome anywhere. One that isn't is welcome nowhere."
Another point trainers may disagree on is the use of electronic collars. Some lay people even see them as cruel or mean.
"Electronic collars are the best training tool there is," said Lambert. "A dog that is ready to hunt in one to one and a half years with a collar will take three to four years without the collar."
Round Lake Kennels prefers a brand called Dogra, which they sell. The colars have different levels of intensity, and on some settings the shock is so low the human hand cannot feel it. Some collars have vibrations and tones and are used to signal the dog.
"Collars are used to keep a dog safe," explained Lambert. "To keep a dog out of hazards."
They recommend an electronic collar not be used on a dog until it understand the "here," "sit" and "heel" commands and can be led on a choke chain.
"No one has ever taught a dog anything with a training collar," said Rall. "You use the collar to reinforce known commands."
Another point of contention among trainers is how old a dog should be before it starts its training.
"Trying to make a puppy act like a dog is probably the most common training mistake people make," said Lambert. "You can't ask a kindergartener to act like a college student."
Dogs can be brought to Round Lake Kennels for training. The business encourages people to stop in and visit as often as they can.
"We train the handlers, too," said Lambert. "Not all trainers do that. Some don't want you to stay. We want to owners to learn along with their dogs."
If they are working with a dog that comes from farther away—making visits with the owner more difficult—the training can still be done, but the adjustment period when the dog goes home is longer and can be frustrating for the owner if they aren't prepared.
"When people see a dog that performs at a high level, that's what they want their dog to do," said Rall. "It amazes most people what a dog can do."
The cost of a Round Lake Kennels dog depends on many factors—the age and trained level of the dog, the pedigree and the sex of the animal. A puppy can be $300 to $1,200. A basic gun dog is around $1,500. A finished dog, one that is old enough and ready to hunt or field test, can be anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000.
While that may seem expensive, Rall points out the number of years of service a hunter will get from the dog justifies the cost.
"If someone pays $2,000 for a dog, and hunts with it for 10 years, that's $200 a year for a well trained hunting companion," he said. "Hunters pay a lot of money to pursue their sport. That $200 a year for a well-trained dog isn't much.
"And the number one objective of a hunting dog is to bring as much game to hand as possible."
All puppies from Round Lake Kennels are vet checked, come with a 100 percent money-back guarantee, along with a guarantee on their hips and their eyes. The Labradors come in black, yellow and chocolate.
They also currently have a dog available for stud serice. Decoy—a 4-year old with an AKC senior hunt test title, passed eight of eight consecutive hunt tests, and has exceptional breeding.
"This is not a one- or two-person operation," Lambert said. "It's 24/7 with lots of time committed to each animal. We have a high level of customer service and a genuine interest in the outcome of your dog. We're committed today and to future generations."