Fees and Conditions
Life at Oak Hill
About John and Amy Dahl|
John Dahl is originally from Minnesota, where pheasants and ducks were plentiful. John received his BA and MFA degrees from the University of Minnesota, and taught college art for several years in North Dakota, and later in North Carolina and Maine. On weekends, during the appropriate seasons, John would duck hunt Friday afternoon until sunset, coon hunt all night, be out at dawn to duck hunt all day Saturday, coon hunt all Saturday night, and duck hunt again on Sunday until close of shooting hours. During this time he developed and refined his own decoy designs.
History with Dogs
John's first dog was an Irish Setter named Ricky, a skilled pheasant dog. Ricky was at heart a working dog--he would hunt and pull a sled, but refused to allow himself to be petted or fussed over. John's father took him to a retriever field trial when he was about fifteen, and John felt then that to make a Field Champion would be the supreme accomplishment. After Ricky died John got his first retriever--a yellow Lab from the Minneapolis dog pound. He trained it with the help of James Lamb Free's Training Your Retriever. Later John had a couple of Chesapeakes from Fred Woodall's Alpine line, and trained with Bob Johnson, from whom he learned all of the old-time training techniques and the art of developing a dog. John also trained with Roger Reopelle and Earl Kimball. He attended field trials to learn all he could about handling and dog work from his models, Tony Berger, Billy Wunderlich, Cotton Pershall, D.L. Walters, and Lawrence Martens. Later John trained with D.L. Walters.
In 1971 John built Oak Hill Kennel, becoming a full-time professional trainer in 1977, the year he won his first Open with Tarheel Jade, against a field of 105. He always trained his dogs to run hard on blinds as well as marks, and during the "dark days" of collar training, when the collar dogs tended to be slow and careful, John avoided use of the electric collar, training his dogs conventionally. Customers included August and Louise Belmont and Ed Forry, who later was John's assistant before striking out on his own as a pro.
John developed several of his own techniques, including a method of teaching dogs to select short falls before long ones, but has also been alert to advances made by others. Since the advent of modern, variable-strength electric collars and better techniques of using them, we incorporate the electric collar in our training, and find that we can achieve our goals with less stress to the dog using the collar.
John continues to hunt ducks and doves, always with an outstanding retriever, of course (past gun dogs include Tarheel Jade, FC Penney's Nifty Bouncer, Dual/AFC Capital City Jake, and FC Oakhill Exponent). He takes particular pride in training hunting dogs, especially when the owners return from a trip and report the dogs have exceeded their expectations.
Amy Dahl grew up in Michigan and New York State and was educated at Williams College, Cambridge University, and Stanford University. She worked in physics research in Washington D.C. and taught college chemistry in Georgia for a few years before quitting to train retrievers full-time.
Amy got her first dog, a chocolate Lab named Shasta, as a pet while in graduate school in California. She attended an obedience class and was quickly hooked on dog training. Shasta quickly earned his CD (AKC Companion Dog) degree. Amy began training Shasta to retrieve and ran him in AKC and NAHRA hunting tests. She bought a second Labrador, this one black and from field-trial breeding. The youngster's talent led Amy to have it professionally trained as a field-trial prospect, and she chose John as a trainer.
Now married to John, Amy has become an enthusiastic duck and dove hunter. She has started a number of dogs that have become successful gun dogs as well as dogs who have placed in the Derby, Qualifying, and All-Age stakes. Currently Amy starts most of the young retrievers that come to the kennel, works with the puppies, and handles in the junior stakes at field trials.
John and Amy are members of the Professional Retriever Trainers Association, the American Chesapeake Club, and Ducks Unlimited. Articles authored by John and Amy appear in each (bimonthly) issue of The Retriever Journal and the new Just Labs Magazine. Some of these articles are available in the Library section of this site.