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Pat Burns

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If Pat Burns were one of the dogs he trains, he would have put in 261 years on the job by now. If you’re doing the math that equates to more than three decades of coaxing canines into champions and helping handlers handle those canine champions. Pat Burns Elite Retriever Training, serving clients both nationally and abroad, was inspired by Burns’ love of dogs and hunting from an early age.

“I grew up in northwest Indiana where my love for hunting and the outdoors developed,” said Burns. “My love for hunting led me to training my own hunting dogs. I joined a training group and became involved with the Michiana Retriever Club. I was immediately hooked,” he added.

Burns’ love and passion for the sport and training continued to grow. In the early 1980s, he was eager to learn the newest training methods, as well as absorb as much information as he could from established masters of the retriever training industry. It was at this time he apprenticed with Rex Carr, who pioneered modern e-collar training methods.

“Known as the father of modern retriever training, Carr was also legendary for his “no non-sense” style and for creating a superior relationship between dog and handler,” Burns said. “I spent several summers in California with Carr and Carr-lab kennels learning the implementation of these new training methods,” he added.

In 1984, Burns continued his journey in the retriever-training world, and accepted an associate training position with Mike Lardy, owner of Handjem Retrievers. Lardy is renowned in field trial circles for a compassionate training style that fosters a healthy respect between dog and handler to create a winning combination.

“Through working with Lardy, my own training style became more balanced,” he said.

With a genuine excitement for field trial competition, in 1986 Burns started his own training endeavor, Esprit Kennels, in Michigan.

“It was there I honed my style of training, which melded Carr’s fundamentals with Lardy’s sense of balance and respect,” he said. “I began to research the positive impact that conditioning has on canine attitude and in injury reduction. I also developed premier retriever training grounds that have been used several times for Pre-National Training and are still in use, today,” he added.  

Over the next 18 years, Burns trained and titled 58 Field Trial Champions and Amateur Field Champions, including 30 National Championship finalists and the 2003 National Amateur Champion, “Cherokee Rose.”

In 2006, Burns was given the opportunity to further pursue his research about the benefits of physical conditioning and nutrition, as it relates to the performance of the canine athlete. He joined the Nestle Purina nutritional research lab in Salcha, Alaska. Dr. Arleigh Reynolds, world-renowned scientist and dog musher, led the Purina research lab.

“Dr. Reynolds and I collaborated on developing a basic training program for the modern sled dog. The research, entitled, Merits of an E-collar Program for Sled Dogs, was delivered at the 2007 International Sled Dog Symposium in Fairbanks, Alaska, and remains an accomplishment I take great pride in,” Burns explained.


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