ANIMALS

UM student turns labs into hunting dogs

Kevin With Ryder 3.jpg

Thomas Miller
Oxford Stories

Anyone lucky enough to have a college education knows that juggling your time between attending classes, studying, working, and having fun is difficult. However, Kevin Irwan, of Sporting Life Kennels in Oxford, may have figured out how to achieve the perfect balance.

His job is his hobby. Irwan trains world class Labrador Retrievers to be hunting dogs.

This is Irwan fourth year of splitting his time between a working towards degrees in finance and real estate as a double major and working at Sporting Life Kennels. Kevin was brought up in Orlando, where hunting culture exists, but is not nearly as prominent as Mississippi hunting culture.

An average day for Irwan begins with early mornings at the kennel. Work starts at 7 a.m. when all the dogs have to be taken outside. Then they are taken to the feeding house. After the dogs have had gone through their morning routine and relaxed, it is time for training.

Irwan, along with a few other trainers, spend the rest of the day working with the dogs. Trainers meet with dogs individually, tailoring each dog’s training to meet the desired needs of the dog’s owner.

When asked about his experience and time commitment at work, Irwan said: “Juggling my academics and my work is difficult, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Working at Sporting Life Kennels is something that I love and that I am passionate about. These dogs have changed my life in such a good way.”

Irwan said training ideally starts when dogs are puppies. “We start the young pups out with some basic obedience training and socialization with people,” he said. “As they grow older and more advanced, we start to train the dog into whatever the owner desires.

“When the dogs get to the point where they are mature enough to graduate the obedience phase, then we move on to hand signals and commands. This is the part that I really enjoy because you can really see the dog learning and developing skills. That is the part that really attracted me to working with dogs in the first place. The ability to teach these dogs and train them into incredible hunting dogs is a really rewarding process.”

Irwan has his own dog, Ryder, that he got from Sporting Life Kennels. “It has been an unbelievable experience to take what I have learned through working at the kennel to train my own dog,” he said.

One of his coworkers, Oxford native John McCay, praised Irwan’s ability and skill to train these dogs. “I really wouldn’t think that an Orlando boy like Kevin would have this much passion for working with these hunting dogs,” he said. “But he has really showed all of us his passion for this work.

“In my experiences with Kevin, he seems to have a natural ability to do this type of work. He picked up the skills needed to train these dogs incredibly quickly and has turned into a great trainer. That is important in this line of work, because the dogs have to have respect for you before you can train them to do anything.”

McCay said Irwan’s dog, Ryder, is one of the best dogs he has seen come through the kennel. “That pup is in good hands with Kevin,” he said. “I can only imagine they will do big things as a duo.”

Irwan holds an impressive 3.7 grade point average while completing a double major. He hopes to maintain this GPA as he finishes college career.

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