By: Dennis Dorr
For most dog people, cleaning the loose hairs off of your clothing and furniture is a nonstop battle. For Mike Botts, it’s a badge of honor.
It comes with the territory of owning a training kennel for upland bird retrievers. As an experienced trainer and Garmin field product speciallist, Mike uses Garmin PRO 550, Sport PRO and Alpha 100 to train dogs not only for waterfowl and upland bird hunting, but also in obedience. He does this all on top of his job at a financial planning firm. To juggle a dog training and kennel business on top of a full-time career might seem like a burden to some, but it’s a privilege for Mike.
“Dogs have always played a big part in my life,” says Mike.
The family-owned and operated Ringneck Kennel sits just north of McCausland, Iowa, on 500 acres of wetlands and upland habitat. The kennel houses anywhere from 10 to 14 dogs at a time in the heated, enclosed kennel. Mike’s grown children have played significant roles in his kennel. His daughter Amy has raised every puppy they’ve ever housed. His son Cory has been his right-hand man since he could work.
“Cory knows more about Garmin products than some of the guys who work at Garmin.”
For more than 10 years, Mike has kept the same intensive schedule. Each day of the week, he’ll tend to the kennel and dogs hours before going to work and hours afterwards.
By 5 a.m., Mike is rolling up to his kennel in his truck with the 14-hole dog trailer in tow. He lets the dogs loose and begins their daily training regimen. The younger dogs work on obedience, force fetching and collar conditioning. The veteran dogs get to enjoy a morning walk before their well-established training is reaffirmed.
“After they train, I like to let them be dogs for 15 minutes or so, letting them wrestle, chase and play pick up stick. That’s important,” says Mike.
Mike returns to the kennel in the afternoon for more of the same, along with setting blinds and throwing birds out for wingers. Sometimes, if a younger dog had a bad training session in the morning, Mike will set aside some extra time to focus on that dog. According to Mike, however, an inability to adapt to training does not constitute a bad dog.
“I don’t like the phrase ‘bad dog.’ Maybe a dog just isn’t cut out for [hunting]. You and I can’t compete in the NFL. That doesn’t mean we’re bad people.”
Mike’s expertise is highly sought after across the Midwest. He has trained hundreds of dogs at his kennel. His experience with man’s best friend stems from when he started hunting at age 12. He soon found his passion in training black and tan coonhounds.
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. I used coonhounds to hunt.”
Mike finds working with man’s best friend to be rewarding in many ways. His work has taught him the importance of patience and has given him a much better understanding of dogs. He’s also developed lasting friendships with other trainers, hunters and dog lovers in general. Mike regularly visits cattle driving derbies, field trials and dog shows. Because of the work he’s accomplished and the people he’s met, Mike deems himself the luckiest man in the world.