Oxford dogs are sold all over the country and in parts of Canada. Memphis native Marty Roberts is the owner and overseer of Sporting Life Kennels.
Roberts’ love of dogs began at age 16.
“My parents got me a yellow lab named Jimbob,” he said. “It changed my life. I just fell in love with training at that point.”
Roberts began his professional career as a home builder in Memphis. He came to Oxford in 2005 because of the increasing need for contractors. Once the housing market crashed, Roberts pursued his lifelong passion of dog training.
“I chose Oxford because I was already here for condominiums, and we loved it, so there was no need to move,” he said. “It’s a much better place to raise a family.”
Roberts started his kennel in Oxford in 2008 after purchasing five female dogs from Scotland and Ireland.
“I was in business for two or three years before i purchased my first stud dog, Harvey,” he said. “Soon after, he purchased Brooke, his second stud dog, who is now 11 and recently retired from hunting.
“The first year, I was training by myself,” he said “I didn’t pay myself for the first year. There were days I would be training dogs, standing in the rain, thinking, ‘What have I done?’ But we were blessed in the fact that reputations spread quick around Oxford. Locally, we began getting dogs to train pretty quickly, and it just went from there.”
Roberts said they train around 150 dogs a year. The number has risen “with about 40-50 percent being dogs brought to us to train.”
They sell dogs all over the country, including Hawaii and parts of Canada.
Roberts said Oxford area support has helped his kennel grow.
“Having the university so close is a blessing,” he said “It provides a huge source of intelligent, ready-to-work labor, that have really helped me and this kennel,” he said.
Roberts said he is shorthanded with only 11 staff members to help around the facilities most of the year. About half are UM students.
Roberts said his favorite breed of dog is the British lab, with the American Lab a close second
“They have the hunt, but they also have an off switch,” he said. “They each have their advantages and disadvantages.”
Sporting Life’s moto is “Calm but Ready,” so dogs fit the profile. He enjoys working with the not-so-well-known English Springer Spaniel.
“We want happy dogs,” said Roberts. “We don’t want to be overly forceful with them. We don’t want to break their spirit. Every dog is different, and we recognize that. We want to try and reach that dog and try and unlock his potential.”
David Spaulding a native of Franklin, Tennessee, who is the kennel manager, has worked for and with Roberts the past six years.
“I am blessed to work for Marty,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better person to work with. “
Spaulding originally came to Oxford to go to school and be a forester, but stumbled upon Roberts and Sporting Life.
“One of my favorite aspects of the job is when a client comes to see their dog, and I get to show them what we have been able to do with their dog,” Spaulding said. “The smile on their face really makes it worthwhile.”
Spaulding said he enjoys the people I work with and the job.
“They say if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” he said. “That’s what I am doing.”