Interview with Leonard Hauser of Thunder Ridge Kennel
“Road Killed Skunk” were the words Leonard had for his favorite French Brittany Spaniel who was one the best bird dogs he had ever hunted behind.
Those were his first comments when we met my handsome dogs, Tex and Chaco. They were only mildly offended to have one of their breed compared to skunk but we soon discovered Leonard’s outspoken, old school character and generosity about dogs. “She could not have weighed more than 25 pounds but that little bugger could handle anything from ‘geese to grizzlies,’ steady as a rock on point, she would retrieve a goose or grouse. She was a dandy little dog.”
That was my introduction to Leonard Hauser as I stopped by to chat with him about dog training, bird dogs and visit his kennel and 600-acre training property. The kennel, Thunder Ridge Kennels, was a strong name and wonderful location just north a few miles outside of Billings Montana. Cordial and full of stories, all I had to do was ask a question and he was off regaling me with accounts of great dogs, bad dogs and crazy people.
Why do you do this?
“Well my dad was a wild-eyed bird hunter and I fell into it after Vietnam. For a while after the war I was an iron worker and cowboy, but I always had time to hunt birds. There was no such thing as PTSD, so I guess my way of dealing with seeing 200 American soldiers, many some of my best friends, and thousands of Vietnam soldiers die violent deaths was to go outdoors.”
“I discovered I was good with dogs and when I found that people would pay me to hunt and work with their animals, I knew I had found brilliant fun.”
Leonard has trained over 1000 retrievers and 500 pointers in his 30 years of full-time dog training. “Many became National Champions, but most are just great partners in the field.”
Tell me about dog psychology
“I learned I could read animals and know what they are thinking. There is no single way to treat animals. You have to figure each one out and help them from there. I believe in positive and negative reinforcement. You start positive and then as they trust you, you can push them a bit more and require directed work from them.”
The Training Business
With a twinkle in his eye he quipped, “I figure it is like the sheep business, you can shear them once or shear them for life. Not every dog is a hunter, many have not been exposed to birds soon enough, other dogs don’t have the temperament. I am clear and honest with my customers—once I have worked with their dogs, I tell them the truth about their dog’s future as bird dogs.”
As Leonard walked through his kennel he commented in his direct and clear way on different dogs and breeds. “For pointers, I love Shorthairs and many of the Pointing labs are great. In fact, I have crossed them, and I call them Shorty Labs. The have great stamina, are good with heat and cold and run forever. Several guides in North Dakota use them exclusively because they are so tough. I am not a fan of Wirehairs or Griffons because they have too much Airedale in them and they are not always birdy enough. Vizlas and Weimaraner’s can be great dogs too but aren’t has strong as Pointer or GSP’s.”
I was only able to spend a couple of hours with Leonard but my summary thoughts were that this was a man who knew dogs, had a first-class training property with trees, grassland, ponds, and thick cover. He told story after story of his hunting buddies, many of whom began as clients, and now were best hunting pals. He has built a strong business training dogs and kenneling mostly local hunting dogs. I loved that he spoke his mind and told the truth from his experience. I would absolutely trust him with my dogs. I actually encouraged my son, Lindsey III, who lives in Billings, and has a slightly untrained French Brittany, Monte, to have Leonard work with him to finish his training.