Dog Trainer Martin Bell
One of the best dog trainers in Houston, a dog behavior specialist, is Martin Bell. Martin and Shelly Bell, owners and operators of Shelmar Kennels, are the people to call when you need dog trainers in Houston. Learn more about Bell and Shelmar Kennels through the following personal story:
My love of great dogs started early. I learned to expect the finer things from a dog and that is the tradition we continue here today. Our dogs at Shelmar Kennels follow that philosophy; we develop in dogs a willingness to please and a desire to be trained.
Shelmar Kennels was founded by Shelly and me 12 years ago. Our lives have gone through changes as has our business. I no longer train field trial dogs for clients, preferring to spend quality time with the 3 dogs that belong to me and stay close to home obedience training dogs for Katy and Houston residents. I still fly to field trials to compete 3 or 4 times a year but mainly to spend time with old friends. I have found myself more successful with just a couple of my own dogs. This year I have the current high point dog in the US. Her record of 6 starts earning 4 wins and a second, being beaten only by her kennelmate, will be difficult to duplicate.
I have been having fun training different breeds and interacting with so many different owners and owner’s personalities. Dog behavior problem solving, and helping people genuinely in need with errant dogs, has given me a new found satisfaction in dog training. Teaching dog owners has become as interesting as teaching dogs. I have always been a firm believer in education and I surround myself with the best people (and dogs!) in the business.
Here at Shelmar kennels we will take the Pepsi challenge against anyone. Shelly and I do all the training ourselves – we don’t rely on hired trainers to handle and train your dog. You get us, we work hard on all the dogs that come through Shelmar Kennels and, until publishing this new website with our obedience programs in detail, we have always been 100% referral from satisfied customers and veterinarians who have seen first hand the difference we can make in your life between you and your dog. Below is my story, how I got from Rural England to Texas, riding on my ability to train dogs and some of the people and dogs that helped me along the way. Read on if it interests you. It’s mostly a collection of dog stories that have molded me into the dog trainer I am.
June 18th, 2007
I started my hunting and dog life early, chasing Woodcock in the swamps and wet spots around Cornwall, England with my Dad. The perfect dog for this job was a spaniel. As a youngster my Dad and Granddad had various sorts of poorly backyard-bred Springer’s. They were huge dogs with tight wavy coats, poor in temperament but hard hunters, best suited to a kennel life. My uncle was a fisherman/poacher in the fishing village of Flushing. A famous trialer vacationing in a local cottage promised him a puppy in exchange for oysters, which he picked fresh everyday from the oyster beds. The following year the trainer appeared with a Springer pup named Tally. She was the first dog I had seen that could do it all.
Tally was completely natural she had no formal training at all but could handle on a dime and she had an unbelievable nose, a desire to please and a willingness to just be with you. My dad took a pup from her first litter that we named Dell. When Dell was of age Dad started training her. The only hurdle was retrieving to hand. She loved to retrieve but she would circle on delivery. Dad corrected her problem by throwing retrieves into a tidal creek. Dell was a strong swimmer and would glide out and back, the slow current forcing her to come into hand and then onto the bank.
That turned out to be my first lesson in outsmarting, not forcing, when training a dog. Once Dell had that sorted out she was an absolute dream to train. Her first flush on live game was a Sunday morning walk/hunt/training session in the early summer.
Late for breakfast as usual, Dad and I were crossing a Cornish granite hedge, maybe 100 years old and as knurly and overgrown as a hedge can get. All that raw natural ability in Dell told her to tear through that bramble and blackthorn. A Cock Pheasant hid in the bottom of the bramble. 20 walkers a day would walk past him without knowing. Not anymore! He exploded out and glided off 400 yards before settling, then proceeded to run half a mile across a ploughed field. That hedge would not be a safe place any longer! Through the summer, the rabbit population also found out that they had better stay sharp. Her hunting was always classy and stylish and she always had a natural pattern in any wind. But my father had always had a hard hunting dog; he gave them lots of practice shooting most weekends. All of his dogs had been poor retrievers. Bingo you had to beat to the bird if you wanted anything left to eat. Curly and Ben had little interest in retrieving anything; they simply wanted to carry on hunting.
They were not stylish but very efficient at finding game. Dell changed all that. She had a superior nose but hunted with you, not away from you, and she could retrieve. Not only could she retrieve but, wow, what a retriever she was. Dad had taught her to handle, and she would go anywhere. I once shot 26 teal at morning flight with a single barrel 20 gauge on Devoran Banks, a tidal wash marsh that rose and fell with the tide 8 feet a day. I stood in a stand of cattails and shot them coming up the river crossing left to right. They were flying in the middle of the now flooding river and Dell made every retrieve one after the other in cold water. When I got home I thought Dad was going to kill me for tiring out his dog. After retrieving 26 teal, while I peddled my bike, she jogged alongside me the 4 miles home. She was talented and tough. She gave me the love of a great one.
The next dog I purchased was Dan, another well bred trialing type dog out of a Field Trial Champion dog. I was 17 years old and head keeper of a partridge shoot with abundant game. Dan was my only workhorse and he excelled at Partridge. I picked up thousands of Ducks and Pheasants with him at formal driven shoots, but a running partridge is where he excelled. He would disappear on the line and then show up 3 fields away with a crippled bird.
I was fortunate to grow up 3 miles down the road from the famous field trialer Hedley Millington of Nancarrow Gundogs. Never having been a bashful kid I knocked on his door one Saturday afternoon and asked if I could borrow his rabbit pen. “No’ Hedley replied bluntly, I asked “what if I pay you?”. Upon Hedley’s reply of “no I don’t need it”, I asked if I could cut his grass in exchange for using the rabbit pen. Hedley pointed toward an old wooden shed, “mowers in there, lad!”
I became a permanent fixture at Nancarrow until moving on to further my career.
Hedley became my mentor as he taught me all about dogs, breeding and trialing. I furthered my education with a solid black cocker dog called FTCH Heathill Lad or Ben to his friends. Hedley had retired Ben from competition to stud. Ben had been awarded a Certificate of Merit in the Championships. He also sired a British Championship Winner FTCH Nancarrow Carousel. Hedley let me borrow Ben, to return him for stud when needed, but basically to learn from him and enjoy him. He was not an easy dog to handle but he had the most natural perfect wind pattern. He educated me on the proper use of the wind and thorough ground coverage.
Hedley had shot hundreds of rabbits over him as well as picking up on big pheasant shoots. He had schooled Ben to run downwind and cheek winds with efficiency, and he was a deadly rabbit dog. He was a powerful dog. If he didn’t think you were in control of a situation he could take advantage, and Ben saw in a young handler a situation he could take advantage of. Under Hedley’s guidance after 2 days in Scotland, I had properly learned how to run Ben effectively. If Ben took a hop or two after a shot rabbit, Hedley would yell over, “I’ll take that”, and his dog would pick the rabbit from under Ben’s nose! Ben taught me some tricks but more importantly he taught me to stay sharp on a dog, not to give in an inch or in 2 days he would be moving 10 feet!
I had the opportunity before reaching the age of 17 to brace with and shoot over some of the all time great spaniels, all Field Trial Champions – Swallowlaw Snipe, Wernffrwd Enfys, Bournpark Blaze of Nancarrow, Lough Carra Brownie and Maesydderwen Kestrel.
To all the great dogs I have had – I still see you all at heel every time I’m out. Thanks for the help and your dedication to me, thanks for showing me the right and the wrong and making me who I am.