Last week I attended the Purina Sporting Dog Summit in Gray Summit, Mo., at the Purina Event Center, which is part of the larger Purina Farms that is open to the public year-round and provides free family entertainment and education. The theme of the summit was “achieving a performance edge” and it featured some of the best trainers and handlers of high-performance sporting dogs from across the country, as well as media representatives.
Just to be in the same room with these trainers and handlers was an honor. The sheer amount of dog knowledge in that room, across all venues, was astounding. As a hunter and hunt-test fan, to meet and talk with the biggest names in the retriever and pointing-dog worlds was overwhelming – trying not to sound like a star-struck idiot was even more of a challenge. Here’s just a glimpse of the people in attendance:
Tom Dokken: Owner of Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels, the largest gun dog training kennel in the upper half of the US, and Dokken Dog Supply, Tom invented the popular Dokken Deadfowl Trainer and has been training gundogs for more than 30 years.
Danny Farmer: Elected to the Retriever Hall of Fame in 2011, Farmer owns Vinwood Kennels and holds the record for winning the most Open stakes. He has competed in nevery National Open since 1981 and qualifies, on average, five dogs per year for the big event.
Robin Gates: A five-time winner of the Handler of the Year award, as well as the Purina Top Field Trial Bird Dog Award, Gates handled Shadow Oak Bo, an English setter, to back-to-back wins at the American Field National Championship in 2013 and 2014 – ending a 43-year-winning streak by pointers.
George Hickox: With more than two decades of experience in pointing and flushing breeds, Hickox also works with military and police dogs. He conducts seminars and private clinics where he explains his “Great Beginnings” concepts, which dovetails clicker training into the e-collar world of gundog training.
Mike Lardy: Owner and head trainer at Handjem Retrievers since 1981, Lardy has trained 101 Field Champions. His dogs have earned 22 National titles, and he holds the record for winning seven National Retriever Championships. He was elected to the Retriever Hall of Fame in 2004.
Delmar Smith: A living legend who celebrated his 88th birthday at the summit, Delmar has taught the people how to train their bird dogs for more than 55 years. Obviously a member of the Field Trial Hall of Fame … hell of a rodeo and horse man, too! His son, Rick, who is in the Brittany Hall of Fame, and nephew, Ronnie, were at the event, too, and continue Delmar's teaching in seminars and training services.
Jody Jessup: A coonhound man involved in night hunts for more than 25 years, Jessup has won the Purina Award for the Outstanding Nite Hunt Coonhound five of the past six years – he came in second the year he didn’t win.
Lance Spivey: A recent National Kennel Club (NKC) Hall of Fame inductee, Spivey has owned and handled many champion beagles since he began in the sport at age five. He’s the Beagle Division director for the Professional Kennel Club, owned and handled the 2011 NKC World Champion and Hound of the Year, the 2011 PKC World Champion, the 2013 NKC World Champion and the 2014 PKC World Champion and High Money Hound of the Year.
Mike Stewart: Owner of Wildrose Kennels in Mississippi, Stewart has trained retrievers for more than 30 years and specializes in importing, breeding and training English Labradors using his “Wildrose Way” methodology, which blends UK, US and other training methods.
John Wick: With 46 years of breeding, training and handling coonhounds, Wick has become known as “Uncle John” in the coonhound world and is recognized as an authority both for his achievements with dogs, as well as his prolific writing that helps other trainers get the most from their hound.
Quite an accomplished and influential group – and that’s just part of the attendees. Almost as impressive as the attendees was the information given by some of the country’s top researchers, vets, nutritionists and specialists during the jam-packed days of seminars.
Purina’s Arleigh Reynolds, DVM, PhD, DACVN, and world-champion sled-dog competitor, presented on: Periodizing Nutrition and Conditioning for Optimal Performance; Exercise and Immune Function; and Recovery Strategies for Optimizing performance.
Jennell Appel, DVM, CCRT, gave an interesting seminar on Recognition and Treatment of Soft-Tissue Injuries in the Field; as well as tour of her mobile vet van that treats dogs in the field – complete with water-therapy options.
James L. Cook, DVM, PhD, DACVS, DACVSMR drove home points on: Musculoskeletal Development, Early Training and Injury Prevention in the Canine Athlete; Treatment and Rehabilitation for Orthopedic Injuries in the Canine Athlete; as well as some case-study examples.
Purina’s Brian Zanghi, PhD, provided research explanation on: Metabolic and Nutritional Priming for Canine Performance and how/why Purina’s new pre-exercise Prime bars and reintroduced post-exercise Refuel bars.
It was a lot of information to take in, some very interesting research that was explained and then during breaks, dinner and after activities, to listen to the best trainers in the country talk dogs nearly overloaded my brain. I feel fortunate to have been included in the list of invitees, and learned a ton from the presenters and trainers on hand.