By Linda Lane
A state-of-the-art boarding kennel and training center for dogs has opened its doors on East S Avenue in Vicksburg. Owned and operated by Ken and Kristin Youngs, the 45-acre facility with four acres of training ponds boasts 25 individual large-dog runs, five small-dog runs, and three separate exercise/airing yards as ranges for dogs’ socialization. Youngs will offer all-breed obedience classes in the spring, specialized training of water-fowl hunting retrievers, UKC and AKC-registered stud services for Labradors, and pedigree puppies from his award-winning black labs.
Every detail of the facility has been carefully designed for the needs of the dogs. The energy-efficient radiant in-floor heating system ensures the concrete flooring isn’t too cold for dogs’ paws, a comfortable temperature in the facility and easy to keep clean. Mason-brand kennels are a roomy 4’ x 8’ with privacy panels to screen the dogs in the adjoining runs. The three exercise and airing yards are pea-stone-based with children’s plastic climbing structures that the dogs can play on and climb.
The on-site four acres of ponds, to be completed by this fall, will provide ready access for training hunting and birding dogs. The indoor dog runs, with sprayed-in insulation to minimize noise and maintain a healthy temperature for the dogs, also reduces the possibility of disturbing nearby neighbors. And the rustic interior office area, with a dog bathing station, is constructed from two barns from the Athens area that Youngs helped tear down and repurpose the metal roofing and barn wood into walls. He and his parents, Ken and Debra Youngs, built the majority of the new facility.
Youngs’ six black labs hold some impressive titles and accomplishments. The wall of the front door holds a rainbow of ribbons his dogs have earned.
Ivy, the matriarch of the kennel, began Youngs’ journey with dog training in 2009. He quit his full-time job in 2014 to focus on his business. Blake, the “at stud” dog, passed AKC’s Master National Level in St. Louis, Mo. in October of this year. In addition to Ivy, Youngs has three other females: Margo (Ivy’s puppy), Laila and Ronda. The adorable puppy, Sharpie, is Youngs’ third-generation female from Margo. The purebred labs are registered with the AKC and UKC with clever formal names such as Sharpie’s, Michiganders Black Magic Marker.
“I wanted a well-bred, well-trained birding dog,” Youngs said, “the dog that everyone ‘oh-ed’ and ‘ah-ed’ over. One that could not only mark birds, run a blind, be a quiet hunting dog, but also be a great pet for my family.”
Youngs, a 1997 VHS graduate, researched the gun-dog industry, learned about “hunt tests” which test dogs’ abilities to work with game in a simulated hunting setting and read everything he could find on the subject. He’s traveled with Ivy to compete in weekend-long tests in five mid-west states. She scored very well, earning honors in the hunt tests. Youngs goes to two different venues for testing the dogs’ skills: the United Kennel Club’s Hunting Retriever Club; and the American Kennel Club’s Retriever Field Events and Retriever Hunting Tests. With a trailer large enough to accommodate up to 22 dogs, Youngs also takes a “spring training” trip down to Baton Rouge, La. He is typically training from 12-14 dogs at any given time, with formal training taking from three months to over a year.
Boarding fees in the kennel will run $19 a day for one dog, an additional $14 a day for a second dog if they share a kennel. The range for purchasing a puppy is $1,000-1,500 depending on the generational pedigree and whether the puppy is best suited going to a pet or hunting home. “Started dogs”, or a dog with three months to over a year of bird-training, can run from $3-7,000. More information on services and pricing is available on their website: http://www.miretrievers.com. Phone 269-823-8717.