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Questions answered below:
– Ace, what is your background, and the kennel’s history?
– Ace, should I purchase an American or British Retriever?
– Ace, what do you call an “ELITE” Retriever?
– Ace, should I choose a male or a female?
– Ace, how large does these dogs normally get?
– Ace, how do you imprint and train your dogs?
– Ace, which level of dog do I need?
– Ace, will you import me a specific dog from overseas?
– Ace, do you go/have you been overseas to look for dogs?
– Ace, do you support any charities, or non-profit organizations?

 – Ace, what is your background, and the kennel’s history?
Hi, I’m Ace Berry, and I own and operate Ace’s Gun Dog Kennels LLC. As a young kid I hunted rabbits, squirrels, and other game with the aid of dogs. As the years progressed, I became obsessed with duck hunting, and after falling out of a pirougue in the winter of ’98, I decided to buy my first Labrador Retriever. That’s when it all started.
With the help of local trainer, and now great friend, Tom Hamilton of Brackenfen Gun Dogs, I started to train my first retriever to work when and where I asked her to. From the beginning, I seemed to have somewhat of a natural ability to communicate with her. After her first trip to a dove field at around 6 months old, many local wing shooters started to know who she was. By the time she was a year old, her performances in front of many other people had me a kennel full of dogs to train. At that time, a kennel full was 3 or 4 dogs…..those were the good ole days…..
Over the next 5 or 6 years, we started to do a lot of obedience training and retriever training for the hunting world. Word spread over the next few years, and before long our full kennel number had grown by 4 or 5 times. After years of training and watching dogs, I started to notice certain patterns, and started to figure out many things that still help me with training today. Experience can be the best teacher when it comes to most things, and training dogs is no exception.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, it caused us to relocate and rebuild a few miles from our first location, as many other people in the area did. After we were settled and rebuilt, we started building our new kennel facilities. Hopefully one day this building process will stop, but as for now, we catch ourselves adding a few more kennels every year.
We are now a full-time breeding and training facility that has sold and imported dogs to and from numerous countries. In recent years, we have made great contacts in the UK, and continually import very nice dogs to fulfill customer needs. Traveling this country and others numerous times, gives me plenty experience watching other dogs and trainers interact. Being open minded has helped me constantly introduce new things into our training program, because as any good dog trainer knows, not every dog responds to every thing or situation the same.
The evolution of our breeding program has also brought us into a unique situation. We are creating an Elite Retriever. Not only does an elite retriever need to have all normal health clearances, with a super strong Irish/British field trial pedigree, but they also need to be genetically clear for the three major diseases affecting retrievers. These three diseases are PRA, CNM, and EIC. It has become my dream and goal to create an Elite Retriever program. It has been a constant struggle, and uphill battle to find retrievers that I consider to be good enough to join our elite team. My goal is to have a fully elite breeding team by the year 2015, and so far we are well on our way. My overall goal is to be the primary source for anyone looking to find a dog with all of these clearances. This will ensure their once in a lifetime dream dog does not come up lame from one of these nasty diseases.
Over the last couple of years, I have assisted with the startup of The British Field Trial Society of America. This new organization has taken the retriever field trial world to a new level. Using the International GunDog League’s rule book (this is the organization that numerous countries in the UK run their retriever trials under), we have been conducting trials based on an average day’s hunt, which really tests the dogs in true live hunting scenarios.
Realizing that most of our dog’s work was similar to odor detection, and search and rescue dogs, we soon ventured into both of these dog worlds, and have witnessed our dogs excel in these areas at an alarming rate. Due to the fact that we work fully off the dog’s natural abilities and desires to work, our dogs are a natural fit for these tasks. Our dogs are also naturals at shed hunting, blood trailing, therapy dogs, and companions.
On a daily basis, we train and work with retrievers and other breeds to try and help our clients enjoy their dogs more. We use a little dog psychology, combined with their desire to work for a reward to do 99% of our training. Having an open mind has taught me more about this business than anything else, and I am always up for a great conversation, great dog event, or challenging dog to train. If there is anything that we can do here at our facility to help or assist you in any way, please feel free to contact us.

 – Ace, should I purchase an American or British Retriever?

I am asked all of the time, “which breed of retriever is right for me?” In order to ask this question, you need to determine what you expect from your retriever when they are a mature, trained dog. Once this question is answered, then you can start researching when and where your retriever will come from. You will also start to figure out what his background and bloodlines consist of. Years of breeding for certain traits in a dog’s background/behavior is the best way to get what you are looking for in your dog. The following write-up is based on my personal experience of raising and training Labrador retrievers from multiple backgrounds.

The American Labrador Retriever:

When American Field Trials started, and competition started to increase, competitors and breeders started to breed bigger and faster dogs that can perform better in their field trials and hunt test world. These trials and tests are judged on precise handling ability, and ability of the dogs to make very straight-line retrieves at longer distances, regardless of terrain. In order to train for this, most trainers in the US that compete in these events use the aid of an electric collar. As the years passed, the tests became more difficult, and the training became more challenging. This called for dogs with the ability to handle more pressure so they could be trained to higher and higher levels, allowing them to pass the ever increasing test levels. The direct result of this is the american labrador retriever we see today. The normal american retriever is very energetic, with tons of drive and desire to GO….which is great, and what most people and trainers want if they are competing in the hunt tests and field trial worlds of the US. If you plan on competing in the american field trial or hunt tests worlds, you will probably be better off buying a dog that has been selectively bred for multiple generations to do this. After all, when the lineage has been bred consistently for generations to create a high power, high charged retriever to compete in the American Field Trial world how can you go wrong. If I was buying a dog to run the most extreme levels of the American Field Trial and Hunt Tests, I would probably buy the strongest American Field Trial bred pup I could find. History repeats itself, and this would be the best way to stack the deck in your favor for your desired end result. It’s not that the Irish/British dog cannot perform in these tests, but if I was buying a dog to run in these events, I would buy one that has been selectively bred to run them for numerous generations.

The Irish / British Retriever :

The Irish/ British field trials are very different from American trials. They are very quiet and calm events that require a super well behaved retriever to compete. The dogs are judged on things such as quietness, steadiness with extreme honoring, delivery to hand, soft mouth, smooth handling, and game finding ability. These trials have one winner per event, and this will be a steady dog that honored multiple retrieves, never made a peep, did not hard mouth, and did what he was asked by his handler, regardless of the retrieve. Their trials are set up to mock an actual day of hunting in their country. Their may be as many as 10 retrievers in the line at one time. They have multiple levels of achievement in their trial world just as ours do. When dogs win major events and receive titles, they are usually bred more to pass on their traits and genes, just as the breeders do here in America. This breeding practice has been going on for generations, and has produced the Irish/ British retriever that we see today. Generally a calm natured dog with loads of retrieve desire, but much easier to handle because the energy switch turns off when it isn’t their turn to retrieve. This is what comes in handy when it is time to bring them indoors.

In keeping things short and simple: if you wish to compete in the American Field Trials, you may want to stick with an American Field Trial bred retriever. If you are looking for a companion you can live with while hunting season is closed for the majority of the year, you may want to stick with an Irish / British retriever. Because of the breeding practices in the UK field trial world, they have produced a loyal dog that loves working with people to do numerous things. The natural abilities that these dogs possess can be used to teach them to do lots of things, depending on the training program they go through. Plus, when the work is over, the switch turns off, and you and your retriever can relax together. They are truly a great addition to the family. All of our retrievers, whether they are “American bred or British bred”, date back to the same lines many many moons ago. Since then, the lines have been bred differently to encourage and increase certain traits and characteristics along the way. First, decide which traits and characteristics you would like to see in your next retriever. Then decide when and where your next retriever is going to come from.

– Ace, what do you call an “Elite Retriever”?

They are ELITE because they do not carry PRA, EIC, or CNM, come from generations of excellence, sound hips/elbows/eyes, and make wonderful companions and retrievers! No other kennel can say that!
A new idea and vision is in the making at Ace’s Retrievers. With new technology and applied research, DNA mutations have been identified for numerous Labrador diseases, meaning brood stock can be DNA tested to ensure they will not pass on affected genes to pups. Thus guaranteeing your new dog will not be affected by tested for mutations. In order to ensure our dogs are the best available in the USA, we search the globe for stock we consider to be ELITE. To be considered ELITE, a dog must meet certain guidelines. Guideline 1 is a well-rounded retriever with a VERY strong pedigree. Some of our dogs have titles when purchased, and others are acquired before they earn titles. Guideline 2 is health clearances. Hip scores are the most common health clearance breeders and clients research. We take it MUCH further. Our dogs are pretested for PRA, CNM, and EIC, or their status is known from lineage. With results known for these major diseases, we are able to plan our breedings accordingly. Guaranteeing we are not producing, and you are not buying affected pups. Finding brood stock to meet these criteria has been very long, expensive, and challenging process, but we are bound to bring the best available to you. We now have a stable full of ELITE brood stock. With pedigrees, retrieving desire, DNA clearances, and clear health records, the quality of our pups will stand against anything available. We will continue to search the globe for additions to our program, and have made it a personal goal to have the best lines of imported retrievers available in the United States.

What is PRA?     PRA
What is CNM?    CNM
What is EIC?       EIC

 – Ace, should I choose a male or female?
We are often asked the question “what are the differences between males and females?”
From past experiences I can tell you they both can be very nice, hardworking retrievers, which can be shaped into well rounded pets as well. Males generally handle pressure easier than females, and can take a firmer correction most of the time. Despite this firmer correction they keep on ticking. Females, on the other hand, if handled too firmly, may tell you “to go get it yourself”. If you are a very demanding and firm handler, you may want to go the route of a male. If you are easy going, and have a smooth, calm, collective attitude handling your dog, a female will probably suit you just fine. Dogs learn daily, and I have witnessed very passive, mature males become dominate when placed with a very calm natured handler. The opposite may hold true as well. There are always exceptions to the norm.
If you do not intend on spaying or neutering your dog, you must think about the future changes which will occur. Females will generally do very well, and follow all commands until their heat cycle comes along. At this time, the hormonal change says “reproducing is the most important thing going on”……..and she will be very stubborn and hard headed. It’s usually about a 28 day cycle that comes around every 6 months or so. With the maturing of the male, you have to consider the urge to reproduce as well. If he is allowed to explore and mark territory as a young dog, this behavior will usually spread and progress. If this is only allowed in your back yard setting and not throughout the neighborhood, it is usually easily maintained.
At this point in time, I have raised, trained, handled, and watched quite a few retrievers work and socialize. I couldn’t say that one would outperform the other based solely on the sex of the dog. I can say that some home atmospheres and environments, combined with daily family routines, would suit males better than females, and vice versa, depending on the individual situation.

 – Ace, how large does these dogs normally get?
British/Irish Retrievers are somewhat smaller in size than the typical American Retriever. Full grown males normally range from 50 – 70 pounds, while their female counterparts normally range from 40 – 60 pounds. That’s soaking wet with a bird in their mouths!!! Of course this is if they are in working shape, and not overfed as well.

 – Ace, how do you imprint and train your dogs?

Each year, we keep and train the majority of our puppies at Ace’s Retrievers. Below is a brief description on how we accomplish our superior success:

We believe dogs will work best if they are as happy at the end of a task as they can possibly be. This is the first point of our program. What makes your dog happy? What satisfies your dog? Does he/ she like to eat? A good rub on the head? A retrieve? Tug of war with you? A nap in the shade? Peace and quiet?

We raise our dogs to love one of two things as their primary reward……later we will discuss secondary reward… these two primary things are simple ……retrieve, or tug of war!

By starting our pups as soon as they leave their dam, we turn on certain drives and desires from day one. This is before many other things even come into play. By 8 weeks of age, we have them chasing, grabbing, and carrying things around proudly. Pups that show certain signs during the tug of war game will be separated out at this time for SAR and odor detection work.

At this time they are also introduced to our outside hallway which imprints the next step…….chase it, grab it, and then bring it back to my friend. Pups that are into tug of war will get to play tug upon the return, and pups that love to retrieve and deliver will get another retrieve. After this is well established, the pups go outside to our puppy training grounds. Here, they learn quite a bit.

The first thing is that the more often that I walk close to my friend the quicker he will throw me something to retrieve. The pups in our odor detection course have just the opposite thoughts going through their heads…..the quicker I get away and hunt on my own, the quicker I find something to bring to him…..just to jerk it away from him again because I am the TUG OF WAR KING!

From there, the pups slowly go to the pond, where the water is shallow at first, then gets deeper. Here, they learn to do water work. Afterwards, they will be going into high grass when a ball disappears into it. Using certain techniques, we will teach a puppy to be confident in their nose, and hunt until they find what they are looking for. This is a tricky time for a wing shooter’s retriever because too much confidence here can cause issues later when whistle training starts. As far as detection dogs are concerned, they are brought indoors and taught the more they hunt, the more they find. At this time, they begin environmental soundness training once their confidence level is elevated.

Once a puppy has worked in our puppy training area for some time on its own, they will go to competition mode with their siblings. This is a great time for us to help overcome any issues that may be present. This process will usually take two weeks or so. Competition mode helps with shotgun introduction, and getting a nice entry off the platform. If one of the pups’ siblings did not stop when the gun went off, or jumped farther in the water, or got to the bumper first, competition mode will help encourage the other pup. Competition mode is also used to get our detection dogs to overcome any fears they may have in the environmental stages of their training.

Once retrieving desires and drive are built and maintained at a certain level, we go into obedience training. Once leash introduction is established, a retrieve becomes the reward for all correct actions. There will be many mistakes made along a young retriever’s journey to making it to a well trained working retriever. The corrections of these mistakes and obstacles lies both with the dog, and with the trainer. When a young retriever starts to put things together, and receives praise after the task at hand is complete, he will start to work for his secondary reward…….praise from his human companion.

The sky is truly the limit for a young retriever with a burning desire to hunt and retrieve back to his master. All with the expectation that he may do it again and again.

– Ace, which level of dog do I need?
Puppy: 7 to 8 week old puppy with no retrieving or obedience work

Started puppy: Pups usually between 18 to 22 weeks old that are comfortable with walking on a leash, birds, guns, water, decoys, and using their nose in tall grass. No obedience work.

Started dog: A started dog from our facility will usually range from 7 to 12 months. Our basic started dogs were started puppies that now have obedience training, and are steady to a single retrieve under a 12 gauge. Our advanced started dogs run doubles out to 40 yards, singles out to 60 yards, and will go out on the “back” command to 40 or 50 yards. These distances may decrease or increase depending on the terrain. On open cut fields they may run their retrieves at distances much greater than this and in fields with lots of cover it may be distances shorter than this.

Finished dogs: Our finished dogs were advanced started dogs which have been trained with two whistle commands. They will “sit” and “come” to the whistle. They will also take directional casts to marked and unmarked falls. They will be able to be pushed off of marked falls to unmarked falls. The distances will also vary depending on terrain and visibility of the dog. On open terrain we routinely handle a finished dog out to 150 yards. This can be increased if need be. A finished dog may or may not have been hunted a season.

Seasoned dog: Our seasoned dogs have been hunted for one season or more. They may, or may not have had complete finishing(casting) training. These dogs can range from 1 year to many years old.

Finished and seasoned dog: Our finished and seasoned dogs have been hunted at least one season, and do their finished(casting) work too. They are a pleasure to hunt with. If they are hunted one year, their finishing work is completed during the following off season. Teaching whistle work while hunting is usually very tricky. You will see where they need extra help during the season when you put them in numerous different terrains and hunting situations. The second off season is when these issues are usually addressed. From this point on, you will be hunting with a very nice retriever, which anyone would be glad to hunt with.

Remember that terrain changes can throw dogs off their game. This is why hunt tests are set up along different fields and ponds to test the dog’s ability to overcome certain obstacles in the terrain and drastic terrain changes. For really sharp hunting retrievers, you should expose them to the terrain and places they will hunt as much as possible. This will guarantee confidence and familiarity with their surroundings. Boats, platforms, hides, swamps, marshes, stubble fields, pit blinds, fast flowing rivers, ocean waves, and large bodies of water are just a few things that can throw even a well trained dog off if they have never been in that environment. Some dogs never meet a strange place. They will walk up to any scenario and do well on their first attempt. However, most dogs will need a little help when being introduced to a huge environmental change. Simply put, don’t wait until opening day of the season, when 25 minutes late, to introduce your dog to a strange situation that they don’t like. Pressuring them through it could generate bad long-term results. Instead, make it a point to bring them out and train where you are going to hunt. This always produces a better end result. It is also very advisable to note where your dog needs help while you are hunting, and try to spend time addressing these issues when you are home, away from the hunting environment.

– Ace, will you import me a specific dog from overseas?

Yes we will. If you are looking for an imported finished or seasoned retriever, we may have the dog for you. We routinely import dogs of various ages and different levels from the UK/Ireland for a variety of clients. We generally have numerous to choose from at our facility. Scouting trips are made to watch dogs that our contacts recommend, and they usually know dogs from the field trial and hunting world. These dogs are super steady to the shot, and will routinely honor the work of multiple dogs. These dogs are also generally easy to handle, and can easily be pushed off of marks to unmarked birds. Most of them have retrieved hundreds of birds. If a calm-natured, smooth handling retriever, that isn’t a hassle to own as a pet or hunting companion is what you have your mind set on, feel free to give us a call so we can let you know what is available. Call us for prices and details (228) 493 – 7474 or email

– Ace, do you go/have you been overseas to look for dogs? (Click Here for Link to Pictures)

Yes we have, and will continue to go overseas when time permits to the originating homelands of our dogs. We have made several visits to Ireland and England in the past, including a trip to the 2010 International Gundog League Championship, termed the IGL. We use our time in UK to import new dogs, keep abreast of the best available import possibilities, and learn any new British training techniques. Not to mention the contacts we make, and the friendships we rekindle. Below are some of the memories we have made.

– Ace, do you support any charities, or non-profit organizations?

Yes. We do. Here are some links to their sites:

Avery’s Hope Fund
Special Olympics
Angel’s Wings
Make A Wish Foundation
Support Our Troops