May 6

The Legacy of Bird Dog Training Continues

Guy Mollicone II on Training Sporting Dogs – Interview by Ryan Rice, written by Margie Anderson

AZ Quail Today caught up with Guy Mollicone II at a Pointing Dog Trial and we were fortunate enough to get to chat with him and his girlfriend Hayley and their dog Xena. Guy says he’s been a dog trainer since he was a kid. His dad started as an amateur about fifteen years ago, and Guy grew up with Weimaraner’s. His grandpa did field trials with them, and his dad got a Weimaraner when Guy was five years old – the dog’s name was Harley. 

“Dad built everything off Harley,” Guy says, “he did a lot of field trials with him, and he worked with trainers like Terry Chandler (Rugerheim Kennels) and Gordon Hansen.” Those were his dad’s two main mentors, along with Bill Gibbons. They are also great friends with Josh McPherson, a trainer in Utah (McPherson Bird Dogs and Hillbillie Kennels). Guy’s dad did mostly the Field Trial circuit in Arizona and sometimes in California. Harley made him want to do it more than just for fun, so dad went to a school for dog training. This school, Guy says, is more of a behavioral training school rather than a hunting dog training school. It’s called ABC: Animal Behavior College. It’s like dog psychology and you do six months online, then six more months working with a trainer. His dad did a lot of work with shelter dogs during those last six months.

Guy himself recently enrolled in the same school. Since the shelters closed because of Covid, he did a lot of his hands-on work via house calls. He says he and his dad take a lot of what they learned from the school and apply it to field dog training. “Dad took a little bit from everyone he worked with and put his own spin on it,” says Guy. “A lot of field dog training is about forcing the dog to do something that they may not understand fully,”

Guy says, “but dad and I do things a little different. We don’t even typically use check cords. Instead, we use handling and marking, letting the dog learn from its own mistakes. Rather than telling a dog what to do, we show him what to do.” The dogs learn by themselves and the finished product – you get a dog that is a lot steadier to wing and shot out of it, that’s what they’ve seen. They’ve had a lot of success. He dad went pro over nine years ago after spending five years mentoring under other trainers. Doing this, he says, maybe you see things your own way and fit things to your own capabilities. “Not that there is anything wrong with the way another trainer does things,” he says, “but maybe some things just fit you better.” 

At Mollicone Kennels, the way they do things is constantly evolving. If they see something they can change to make the program better, they don’t hesitate to try it. If it works, it’s great, and they’ll add it. If not, they’ll put it in their back pocket and maybe there will be a dog they can use it for. Ultimately, he says, dogs are not all the same and you can’t train them all the same way. 

Guy II was involved as a young kid. His dad would go work with Terry for three months in New Mexico, and during his summer breaks Guy Jr would go too. In high school, he says, things changed. He got a job and getting away wasn’t really an option, then he got a job at a dealership, but that wasn’t really working for him. He ended up getting two dogs of his own: Gator, his Weimaraner, and Penny, a Brittany. He says he saw a lot of potential in them and didn’t want to waste it, so that gave him the push to start training with his dad. So, a little over a year ago he left the dealership and joined his dad to go training full time. “Actually, I had signed up for the training school in December,” he says, “and in March everything started shutting down for Covid. I figured if I was going to do anything, this was probably the time to do it. I’d hate to look back and regret not taking the leap.” 

He started school in April. He said he always knew, maybe subconsciously, that he was going to end up in training, but Covid and his two dogs kind of gave him a push. “But I had no idea it would turn out the way it did,” he says. “If you have special dogs, they kind of change the way that you want to do things,” he explains. Guy says he knew that with all the support he would have and knowing so many training and dog people, he couldn’t fail unless he didn’t put the work in. Once he teamed up with his dad, they were able to get a lot more work done, and business picked up. He says they’re like Yoda and Luke: his dad’s been full time for ten years, and Guy had been out of it for a while, so he was rusty. He started out with just one dog, but once he got back in the swing, they started to pick up the pace and increase volume.

“Training is my passion”, he says, “and it’s gratifying to see the results and watch dogs develop, especially dogs who may have come to us as a dog who was unsuccessful in training, or a dog with an issue, or maybe hasn’t had enough guidance.” It seems that a lot of the time they can pull the best out of the dogs with the methods they use. Dogs are a lot more in tune with their program. By this, he means the way they have changed their training methods. His dad has been building up to this point for fifteen years.

Mollicone Kennel is his dad’s business, but for the time being Guy II is staying there, tag-teaming with dad, working together, training, doing field trials, breeding, and doing hunt tests. He says even if he went off on his own, his aim would be to spread their methods – the old ways, he says, of restraint, check cords, restraint on birds – it works sometimes, but their way works best for them. But using an e-collar on point, they never do that, he says. 

The first couple of weeks they evaluate the dog and make a blueprint of how they are going to train the dog, based on what the dog tells them. A lot of trainers have only one method and it works great on a lot of dogs, but at Mollicone they don’t think one size fits all. “A lot of times when you’re shocking dogs on point, for example, you’re pulling a lot of that style away from them, and sometimes for some dogs you’re pulling all the fun out of it for them,” says Guy. “They don’t want to get shocked when they’re on point – it’s supposed to be fun. It’s more of a partnership between you and the dog rather than making them do something.”

He says they have all kinds of people come through. Most clients seem to be a bit newer to things. Mollicone will let you come watch your dog get trained if you want, and at the end they don’t just hand over the keys, so to speak – they show you how to handle your dog. It’s a little different, says Guy — they’re showing you what they do and how to maintain it. He says some people come out every weekend and watch and some never show up, but the option is always open. Typically, they don’t have over ten dogs at a time, but they don’t have them that long – maybe two months, and after that it’s just repetition. The more reps, the more “broke” your dog gets. 

Mollicone Kennels trains upland game dogs for the most part, predominantly Arizona dogs used mainly for quail. He says a guy brought them a Weimaraner that he’d been trying to train himself without much success, and it turned out the dog was descended from his dad’s first dog, Harley. The guy was really happy with the dog when they were done. 

Guy II says his future is still fluid, but he knows he wants to stay in the hunting side of things. There’s lots you can do: you can specialize in field trials, hunt tests, just breaking dogs out, K-9 Police Units, etc. Eventually he wants to breed some dogs. He’s not sure what breed, but probably Brittany’s, Weimaraner’s, or GSP’s. “I didn’t have a lot of experience with Brits until I owned one, but she is a really incredible dog, and it would be great to give people the same experience through breeding and training Brits.” 

Guy says he loves to hunt, but he wouldn’t do it without his dogs. “They live for it,” he says, “they enjoy it more than I do!” He says if you need to get some help with dog training, get hold of them on Instagram @mkmollicone_kennels or find them on Facebook: Mollicone Kennels. You can come out and watch them, he says, and you don’t even have to bring your dog. Come watch them train. Usually, other clients will be out there, and you can talk to them and find out how things are going for them and make your own decision. 

Guy Jr wants to be clear that when he says they do things differently, he doesn’t mean that in a condescending way at all. As a community, bird dogs in general, if people can learn to accept that there are a million different ways to train dogs, they’ll be better off. You shouldn’t ignore anyone’s training methods whether you think they are good or bad. There are things to take away from every method, and once you stop wanting to learn or you think that your way is the only way, that’s when you stop progressing as a trainer. There is always room for improvement, he says. Trainers who have been doing it for a long time, they have a recipe that works for them, but up and comers, or maybe people who have worked with one trainer and it didn’t work out for them, they should go see how another guy trains. 

Guy says his dad learned a lot from his mentors, and even from people he didn’t want to follow – what not to do in that case. He has a willingness to expand his mind and so does Guy II. “I’m 22, and for young people who are just getting into hunting dogs, things are a lot different than they were in the old days. Dogs aren’t just a tool – they are a big part of our families now. Instead of being relegated to a kennel out back, our dogs sleep in our beds with us now, and that was pretty much unheard of ten or fifteen years ago.” 

He says that even if you don’t hunt, once you start doing some things with your dog, you’ll see how it affects your relationship with your dog, it’s like opening a door. You might find out that you like hunting, or you like field trials, or you like hunt tests. Maybe you just like to let your dog run around in the mountains and chase things. There are a lot of ways to get involved that people don’t realize. Shorthairs, Pointers, Brits – they are good-looking dogs and people want a piece of that, but they don’t realize how much work it is. They’re not a chihuahua or a pug. You can’t leave them at home for 12 hours while you’re at work and not exercise them. Training is a good outlet for you AND your dog. You’ve got to keep the dog to man relationship alive, Guy says, that’s what dogs live for. They need a leader. Don’t let the dog become your leader.