Muddy Bay Retrievers teaches man’s best friend to hunt and obey
“He got it quick, that time,” Hager said, watching the Labrador retriever swim back to the shore, where, unlike most dogs, he did not stop to shake off the water. Instead, Storm ran to Hager and deposited the tube into his trainer’s hand.
“Heel!” Hager said, and the dog did so.
A former resident of Port Clinton, Ohio, Hager moved to Chaffee two years ago. Nine years ago, he was working at a factory and said he wanted a better life for himself, but was unsure of which direction to go.
In 2003, he met a Labrador retriever field trainer and said he was hooked. Hager said that, while he watched those dogs heed commands and accomplish feats, he “fell in love” with the process. He learned the ropes for those first few years and is now a field trainer himself, at Muddy Bay Retrievers.
“I just did everything I could in the beginning to learn it,” he said. “There’s nothing like doing a job you love and I love this more than anything.”
During the nine years that he has been a trainer, Hager has trained 70 dogs, 12 of who reached master hunter status, 26 senior hunters and 30 junior hunters. He has trained client dogs from as far away as Florida and as close as Western New York. He said that his customers are all looking for the same thing: retriever dogs that can sniff out water fowl and other animals.
Hager also provides other services beyond retriever hunting skills; he offers basic obedience training and other canine skills and behaviors. He trains in conjunction with Tammy and Renee Adsitt of Peak Performance Training in Holland.
“It can take three months to three years, depending on the dog,” he said, adding that training dogs can be a relatively quick or a long process. “Some pick it up quickly and others take a little longer.”
Hager has had his dog Storm since the animal was 6 months old. Storm’s owner is from Kentucky and said he wants his pet to be a good gun dog. Hager said Storm will compete with other dogs at the Master National Competition this weekend in Alabama.
Although training and boarding retrievers is his vocation, Hager said he can get very attached to the dogs. “It’s like teachers and how they get attached to students, but it’s a business so you have to remain professional,” he said. “But there’s nothing better than getting a call from a client telling you that their dog is the best-trained dog in their group. That’s a fantastic feeling.”
Hager has 10 kennels, for 15 dogs, at his home. Those kennels were recently approved as part of a special use permit issued by the Sardinia Town Board.
Once Storm finished his session, along came Sarge. When the tube landed in the water, Sarge waited until his master called his name and then he ran toward the pond.
Once in the water, he passed the tube, swam to shore, leaped into neighboring weeds and disappeared.
“You gotta let them figure it out on their own,” Hager said, watching the dog reappear. “That’s part of the whole process.”
Sarge saw the tube in the water, near a decoy, and jumped in, paddling over to the tube, and retrieved the item. He paddled to shore and ran to Hager.
For more information about Muddy Bay Retrievers, visit www.muddybayretrievers.net or call 419-341-9558.