“Whatever you think makes a dog good is entirely up to you,” said Jason Helgeson of Sheyenne River Retrievers. “We make sure our pups will be the best fit for anyone’s definition of a good dog, whether that means they’ll be working, hunting, or just part of the family.

“Sheyenne River Retrievers has been in business for 30 years. My wife Lynette and I had bought all our dogs from Sheyenne River for more than two decades, so when its founders Russ and Beryl Baker were ready to slow down, we were happy to take over. We definitely had a learning curve, but the nice part about working with Russ and Beryl is that we can always rely on their help. We were fortunate to be able continue the tradition of raising great Labrador Retrievers, and to inherit the Bakers’ repeat customers too.

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“We breed a pup with great disposition, trainability, and intelligence. Disposition is the most important, because that’s what’s going to make a dog a good member of the family. Our pups’ learning abilities are sharp, and they’re retrieving pheasant wings before they hit two months old. Even the busiest hunting dog will spend most of his time at home, though, which is why he needs to be able to relax and be good there.

“If you look at the Sheyenne River pedigrees, you’ll see a lot of Master Hunters, Hunting Retriever Champions, National Field Champs. These dogs have proven themselves trainable and intelligent because they have competed at the highest levels in the retriever world, which are exactly the ones you want to breed for puppies. I compare it to me and my wife. I’m 5’11”, and she’s 5’7” — what chances do we have of making an NBA star? Before we pair them, we test our sires and dams to make sure they can’t pass down the genes that cause retinal atrophy, exercise-induced collapse, and a wide range of other health problems the breed can be known to suffer from. We also test our dogs’ hips, elbows, and eyes. That’s what makes our pups healthy for life.”

“We’re a little bit cautious when it comes to our pups,” said Lynette Helgeson. “We ween them at five weeks old, and don’t allow any outside visitors before then. We want mom to help build up her pups’ immunity before they could be exposed to parvo or distemper. Still, socialization starts as soon as our pups are born. I handle each of them from birth until about the third week, just to accustom them to being touched. After that my sons and daughter come in to start rubbing bellies and handling paws. My sixth grader plays with them constantly, so I find him buried in puppies all the time. It’s a family business, and our kids help out a lot. Even the pups do some work around the house — if you’ve never had a Lab pre-scrub while you’re doing the dishes, then you’re just not doing the dishes right!”

“A lot of our pups go on to work in therapy, drug sniffing, and search and rescue,” added Jason. “Two from our next batch are going to Switzerland where their new owner will train them to find disaster survivors. Most of them will have duck, goose, and pheasant in their futures, but no matter what you’d have them do they’ll be the best family dogs in the world. Our own pet Labs are sociable, lovable, and always present. They make a circuit through each of our kids’ rooms every night, spending an hour or so just to be there with them. One time one of our nieces took a rubber raft out on the lake, and the wind took her farther out than she should have been. Our dog Cedar sensed her distress and launched right out there to tow her back to shore.

“That kind of intuition, it’s a great example of just how capable our dogs grow up to be. If a Lab can do it, our Lab will do it. It’s the superlative dog.”

Sheyenne River Retrievers is located in Mandan, ND. You can learn more about them and their upcoming litters of fine pups for sale at sheyenneriverretrievers.com.

 

By David Scheller