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Pat Burns

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In 2007, Pat returned to Handjem Retrievers, where, over the next five years, he and the Handjem team incorporated aspects of physical conditioning into the retriever program. Pat trained many talented dogs, with notable successes such as  "Grady," the 2011 National Amateur Champion,"Traveler," the 2012 National Amateur Champion, “Roxie”, the 2015 National Amateur Champion, and “Mickey”, the 2016 National Champion. Throughout this time, Pat's unwavering commitment to sharing his passion for retriever training with others remained steadfast.

Since 2012, Pat has been dedicated to sharing his expertise through Elite Retriever Training, offering in-person and online courses. His innovative methods continue to shape the world of retriever training, creating champions and enhancing the well-being of canine athletes worldwide He takes great pride in developing handlers and collaborating with many of the sport’s top professionals.


Through decades of training and working with dogs and handlers of all abilities, Pat has developed a keen eye for corrections, paired with a unique ability to relate to handlers. Developing a strong bond between the dog and handler is one of the primary goals of his methods, with an emphasis placed on building respect.

As an advocate for the dog, Pat strives to train handlers to work with their dogs in an understandable manner that uses effective communication. Once a strong relationship between the training methods, handler, and dog is developed, you can achieve greatness.

With over 40 years of experience as a renowned competition retriever trainer, Pat Burns has dedicated his life to the world of retriever training. If Pat were one of the dogs he trains, he would have put in 280 years on the job by now, translating to more than four decades of coaxing canines into champions and helping handlers navigate the world of canine champions.


In his quest for knowledge, Pat apprenticed under Rex Carr, known as the father of modern retriever training. Carr's no-nonsense approach and exceptional bond between dogs and handlers left an indelible mark on Pat's career. Later, he refined his skills with Mike Lardy, a renowned figure in field trials, emphasizing a balanced approach to training.

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


In 1986, Pat founded Esprit Kennels in Michigan, blending Carr's fundamentals with Lardy's balance and respect. Over 18 years, he trained 58 Field Trial Champions and Amateur Field Champions, including the 2003 National Amateur Champion, "Cherokee Rose."  At home, Pat focuses on the positive impact that conditioning has on canine attitude, as well as injury reduction. 

In 2006, Pat's pursuit of excellence led him to Nestle Purina's nutritional research lab in Alaska, where he collaborated on groundbreaking research for sled dogs. Furthering his research about conditioning & nutrition, Pat helped to develop a basic training program for the modern sled dog, titled Merits of an E-collar Program for Sled Dogs, that was delivered at the 2007 International Sled Dog Symposium in Fairbanks, Alaska.


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