Last Summer I had the pleasure of training quite a bit with Deb West of Brownwaterdogs.  Work has not allowed me to train with much of anyone this summer and I do miss it!  Deb has several beautiful, hardworking, talented and very smart Chocolate Labrador Retrievers.  Deb has owned, loved, trained, competed and has hunted with Chocolate Labrador Retrievers for 25 years.

I asked Deb, “In your eyes is there any other color than a Chocolate Labrador Retriever?”  Not for Deb!  Deb believes that any color lab is great but she  just prefers the chocolates.  Her love for Chocolate Labradors started in 1989 with her first chocolate dog, Snickers.  Deb was one of VERY few chocolate owners at the time to run hunt tests.  She took a lot of ridicule for owning a Chocolate.  When she would walk to the line at a hunt test, she could hear snide remarks such as, “What is that?  Would ya look at that dog, what is it?”  Deb said, ” They have no brains.”  The one that got to Deb the most  was the comment, “Here comes that short woman with that ugly brown dog.”  At that moment Deb decided it would always be brown dogs for her and that eventually she would have some of the best around.

Deb’s dogs do not have dual titles but their breeding and health certs speak for themselves.  Deb has Brownwaterdogs in IL, MO, AR, MS, TN, NY, AL, and Canada.  Many are HRCH’s, MH’s and GRHRCH’s.

Brownwaterdogs Brave of Heart Tic

Brownwaterdogs Brave of Heart Tic

The man who made the statement to her about being short and owning an ugly brown dog is a judge and judges her often.  Deb said, “He has probably forgotten he ever said that to me.  Maybe one day I will tell him how he inspired me and gave me a goal in dog  life.  What is funny is…I have one male dog who every time this man judges us, as we are leaving the line, my dog runs over and pee’s on his chair!  Hilarious.”

Deb now owns 6 Chocolates and she co-owns one.  She has 2 males, the rest are females and the co-owned Labrador is a male also.

I asked Deb why she likes Labradors so much.  She replied,  “Hunting waterfowl and upland was the main reason.  I also like larger dogs.”

Deb trains her Labradors mostly by herself up through the HRCH title.  At the Grand Level she hires and works with Scot Barnette in Eldorado Arkansas. Deb still works to afford her dogs so when it gets to the level that they need a lot more time afield than she can give them, they go to Scot.  Deb did say, “Although next year I am going to run the Grand myself with one of my girls that is not going for outside training.  Going to try it at home!”

Tic’s full registered name is GRHRCH Brownwaterdogs Brave of Heart.  She is 6 years young and still a beautiful hardworking Retriever.

As each of you well know, most dogs have a story behind their names.  I asked Deb if Tic had a story.  Tic’s story is amazing and I knew the story before I asked her but I love hearing and reading it over and over again.

Deb had a litter due out of GRHRCH Ouchita River Squeler at the same time her husband was to have his 4th open heart surgery.  Four open heart surgeries are almost unheard of.  Tic was born 2 days before Tom’s surgery.  While Tom was recuperating, Tic gravitated to Tom and they became great friends.  They named her “Brave of Heart” for her husband Tom and Tic for ” heart.”  Brave of Heart was coined by Deb’s friend, and cheap kennel help, Barb Wedemeyer.

Tom and Squeler Fall 2009

Tom and Squeler Fall 2009

Tic has a Grand Hunting Retriever Champion.  The highest you can go in HRC.  Deb’s dogs only run in HRC Hunt Tests.  Deb had run dogs in field trials but that was many moons ago and very unappealing for Deb.  Deb loves the HRC organizations and although she believes there are many great organizations out there, HRC is her family and dear to her heart.  The fact that HRC handles the gun and the realism of the tests is also another reason that Deb only runs her dogs in the HRC Hunt Tests.  Deb stated, “We train to hunt, hunt testing just means our season never ends.  The ribbons and the titles are just a plus!”

Deb does handle her own dogs at the hunt tests and says, “That’s the fun of it. And I encourage all women to do so.”

Tick  is the daughter of GRHRCH Ouchita River Squeler, also Deb’s dog,  and her sire is GRHRCH Gator Pts Magnum Gentle Ben.

When she was a puppy Deb realized that she had what it takes to go all the way to the Grand.  She had great desire to hunt and to please as well as trainability.  Deb told me that the three are the basic ingredients to start.

I asked Deb what kind of preparation did it take for Ticker to train for the Grand.  Her reply, “First you must have at least 100 points on your dog to enter a Grand Hunt. Normally that is a Hunting Retriever Championship title.   You have to pass the Grand test at least 2 different times.  Each Grand hunt test is 5 days long. It consists of 2 water series, 2 land series and an upland test.  You have to then have at least 300 points on the dog to be actually awarded the title.

Preparation actually starts when they are puppies, making sure that they are allowed to be pups while young, and not pushing them to hard while at the same time training them for good manners, good marking, and good lining drills.  Then once a HRCH is achieved, you start fine tuning even further.  Longer marks, blinds, then even shorter marks and blinds, obsticals, in all-weather conditions and terrains.  You never know what you will find at the Grand in a hunt scenario.  A lot of people think it is the longest marks and longest blinds…not necessarily so….they can be short, and they can get very technical.”

Tic has passed the Grand twice now and has earned her GRHRCH Title with UKC/HRC.  Scot Barnette in Arkansas trained and handled Tic for her Grand Title.  “Scot isn’t a big name trainer but he is very good.  He has taken several dogs through to the Grand to earn their titles,” said Deb.



I asked Deb to tell me a little bit about Tic’s temperament.  Deb stated that Tic is very mild-mannered.  She does get a long with most dogs.  At home, Tic is very protective.  Tic, like her mother is a people dog.  Tic would rather be with other humans than other dogs.  Deb said, “That’s funny cause I would rather be with dogs than a lot of people I know!”

Deb is planning on breeding Ticker in the future,  in fact this fall.  A southern gentleman named Cash has been courting Tic!  Tic very well may become a “Southern Belle” soon!  Cash has passed the Grand once and is running this October for his title.

If anyone is interested in a puppy, they can contact Deb via email at

Deb does have an application process that potential owners must complete before they can purchase a puppy.  Deb likes to screen the folks who her pups go to.  Her pups are bred for hunting so she wants to make sure that hunting will be a part of their lifestyle.  A deposit will be required to hold one’s spot on the list for male or female.  Deb did tell me that the first 2 females are already spoken for from her next litter.  The price is not set yet, but there is a break to HRC homes!!

Now that Tic is a GRHRC, she will be working towards earning her 500 points with UKC/HRC.  If any of you have a chance to watch this dog work, she is a must see.

I asked Deb how owning Tic has changed and/or added to her life.  In Deb’s own words, “Tic is one of my favorite girls.  She is very much like her mom, Squeler and one day I will probably get her licensed as a therapy dog as well when Squeler retires.  She is great to run in tests.  You have to have confidence in one another and we certainly have that.  She is also a very beautiful chocolate, very dark, in fact some people ask if she isn’t black! She is a pleasure to have.  I cherish everyday with all my children!!”

Deb and I hope to see you at the line!

Wendy Porch
Shadowhill Retrievers
Total Retriever Photography and Supply Store