Meet the Pros: Guy Billups, Wildrose Kennels, Dallas, Texas.

Guy Billups, Wildrose Kennels, Dallas, Texas.

State your name, your kennel, what you do in the sporting world. 

My name's Guy Billups. I own Wildrose Texas. We breed and train British labs for gun dogs and families and adventure dogs. 

Give us a little back story. How long have you been doing this and what got you started? 

We opened the kennel in June of 2017. Had a really unique opportunity to bring Wildrose to Texas. It had been founded in Mississippi, and a long-time Wildrose client bought the Dallas Hunting and Fishing Club, so we had the chance to bring the kennel onto those grounds and work together. And so I left the corporate world, jumped off and opened a kennel.  

I understand that you have kind of an interesting background. Tell me about your background in finance and why you chose to leave that. 

Yeah, so got my economics degree from Rice University and went to work at Merrill Lynch and was doing that whole deal. And yeah, had the first kid and was at the hospital with the wife and a phone call came in with an offer to do this. I'd grown up around dogs, grown up around horses and love the outdoors. All through college, every chance I could get to go down to the coast with my dog Missy and take my girlfriend, now wife, fishing and duck hunting and all that kind of stuff, we’d be going. So when this opportunity came up, it was kind of a dream. And we kind of looked at each other and went, "Why not? Why not just do it now?" And so we jumped ship and jumped into it, but it was definitely a little different. I'm the only one that I know that graduated from Rice that's running the dog kennel right now. 

Can you talk about the size of your kennel over the years? How many dogs have come out of your place? 

Yeah, so when the kennels opened, we built 30 runs. This was the first time Wildrose had been outside of Oxford, Mississippi. First time it wasn't Mike Stewart. Mike believed in me and trusted me to train a dog, but didn't know how that was going to translate. And so when you're planning, maybe it takes six months to get to 30 dogs, something like that. It took us all of I think 60 days and we'd filled up the kennel the first time. And so we started hiring people and bringing on team members and training up and we finished our kennel expansion where we added another 35 runs in February of 2020. Now we can board and train up to about 65 dogs. We've got eight full-time employees and a bunch of part-time as well. And it's really been cool to ride it along and see it grow and see the clients keep coming back. 

And I think the biggest testament for us is we've got clients from San Antonio to Houston that fly out of Dallas when they travel so that they can drop their dog off with us for boarding while they are traveling because they trust what's happening with their dog while they're gone. 

Why have you chosen a career path working with dogs? 

I grew up around them. And as much as I can remember, there's pictures of me two years old in the duck blind holding the duck. I was always training with my dad and it's so much fun to see the dogs put things together.  

I'm also a math guy and I never liked English. I didn't like subjective stuff. I liked honest answers that you knew. And now as you train a bunch of dogs, it's more muddy than that, but it still boils down to what you put into the dog is what's going to come out of it. And that's just what makes them honest and it's nice to deal with that every day. My main time is spent with dogs and so I get to spend most of my time with somebody that's being honest with me and that's pretty special. 

How important do you think nutrition is?  

I think nutrition is hugely important. I mean, you see it in humans and you see it then in dogs. I was undersized for football, so it was of huge importance for me to get as far as I could get. And then to think that it would be any different for the dogs, it would be silly. I mean, it's the exact same. Everything they put into their body is going to be a good thing or a bad thing. And it's nice because I guess we have a little bit more control of them.  

How does nutrition affect your dog’s performance? 

So we're going to see that show up in the dogs, whether it be in training and we're trying to train multiple times a day and get them all the way up to a level where they can go hunting. Or then when you take them hunting, are they a dog that can hunt all day with you? And it doesn't all go back to what the dog wants to do. Some of it's the fuel that's fueling the dog. 

You see that in people all the time. You want to do it, but if you don't have the physical energy, you don't have the nutrients to pull on, your dog's not going to be able to keep up and keep doing what it wants to do. 

Can you talk a little bit about what you feed? 

We feed Purina Pro Plan Sport 30/20. We've fed it since day one. I grew up with Purina products and so when I was going to open a kennel we were going to do the exact same thing and feed the best food we could feed. 

Can you talk about some of the other differences and benefits you see in your dogs by feeding Pro Plan? 

So we have the opportunity to import a lot of dogs from overseas. And when we bring them in and we bring in boarding dogs as well, they come in with all kinds of different things going on. I'll get, "Hey, this dog, you need to feed this dog 10 cups of food a day or this dog you need to really brush him out a bunch," or this or that. And we routinely, whether we convince a client to try Purina Pro Plan or we switch a dog that we've bought to Purina Pro Plan, in 30-60 days the coat's full, the coat's bright. It's not dry and brittle. The nails, we've got to clip them more, but that means they're growing. It means they're doing healthy. We're feeding them less food. I mean, it doesn't take very long before we're dropping food amounts. It's a high calorie dense food and so they put it on. They don't take as much. The poop's firm up and are right and are what you want out of the dog. You're not constantly battling unhealthy digestive tract issues. 

Talk about your clients and how you talk to them about nutrition and what you recommend. 

So when we're talking to clients, we're pretty quick to tell them that Purina Pro Plan's the way to go. If they have a lot of questions, we've been able to pull on Purina Pro Plan for a lot of their resources and a lot of peer reviewed data as well. It's not just Purina's advertisement. We're actually able to pull on true research.  

What motivates you to do what you do?  

So what got me into this and what still motivates me today is that opportunity, whether it's in the duck marsh, or it's in the upland fields, or even just in the house hanging out with your dog, is that moment when you see all the culmination of hard work come together.  If you've been around hunting dogs a lot, you can put a lot of training into them, but then you got to put hunting into them for them to learn hunting. And that moment when they find the bird that nobody thought they were going to find and they come back out with it, that's a really cool feeling. You can't beat it. 

So many hunters have spoken of mentors or guides that helped them get involved with this lifestyle. Do you have a mentor?  

Mike Stewart was my first and main mentor in the dog industry for sure. Got the chance to see him teaching clients and his passion for attaching the training of that dog to that client's specific interests – I mean, the strangest request from climbing up and down glaciers with the dog attached to him, to the typical duck marsh, duck hunting dog. That's been so cool to see because it goes to show that the end of the day we're training these dogs for somebody else, they're not for us. It's not for our ego. It's for the client and what they're going to do with the dog. 

Why are you so passionate about retrievers?  

When I think of a dog, a black female lab is truthfully just what I think of. Tisca, which is a little black female. She was a good little derby dog and then had washed out into the opens. And so that's when my dad got her. And I mean, she hunted for years with us, was phenomenal. 45 pounds dripping wet, gave you everything she got. And so that's just probably what I grew up with and I've spent a lot of time around a lot of different breeds now. And I don't know there's any I just genuinely don't like, but certainly it's always going to be black labs. I don't know. It feels right. 

You mentioned a lot about growing up around hunting dogs and hunting. Can you talk a little bit about how hunting has been a part of your family when you were growing up and then how you're passing it to your boys? 

So we grew up hunting and fishing. My granddad was very involved in the Big Game Fishing Club out of New Orleans and was one of the board members of the IGFA and really big into fish conservation, blue marlin tagging system, quitting with the kill tournaments and a lot of that kind of stuff. And so that would've passed down to my dad and then we were blessed with the opportunity to hunt places and it was about going out in the woods and interacting with wildlife. And I think that's the part of duck hunting that is a lot of fun, is you're interacting with the animal, but you're also doing a ton of scouting and looking. 

And when it comes to hunting, whether it's ducks or deer or turkeys or fishing, I think everybody has a different piece of it they really enjoy. Obviously duck hunting, it's all about the dog for me. I think that's kind of a given, but then after that it's really about finding it. I would rather just get out there and find where they're at, find where they're going, set up a plan.  

What is your hope for all the dogs who train and leave your kennel? 

My hope for all the dogs that leave the kennel is that they're that person's best dog they ever had for that moment.  There's so many different ways that people use their dogs and I think that's what is great about the breed we've chosen and what we do with our dogs is we really try to be a Swiss army knife and do so many different things. And so it's nothing for our dogs to duck hunt, goose hunt and then go wading in the flats fishing for red fish and trout. Truthfully, as many birds as Missy's picked up, as many hunts as she's been on, I guarantee you she's doubled that in fish that we've caught and hanging out in the bay. And so it's about putting together skills that translate into any scenario and it's about back to teaching the clients. 

And so rather than give the dog these specific things that it knows how to do and forget the rest, if we can show the client how this works and how to continuously change or tweak their dog, it's going to go really well. And at the end of the day, you want to get that phone call. This was the best dog I ever had and now you got to make me another one.