Keith, Just a little note to let you know how pleased I am with your training of Charlie and Chief. Charlie has placed in all but one of the trials thus far and Chief placed second in the trial this past Saturday.
Thanks to you I expect to have an excellent year.
Keith is a hard working, honest guy and a heck of a trainer. He does what he says he'll do and a lot more.
Keith, I would like to thank you for working and training Shelby at your summer camp this past summer. Even though the weather was hot and the conditions were not the best you managed to get the job done. Shelby got off to a slow start but you showed patience and did not push her and she came along nicely. Shelby's handler and I were both very happy with her when we got her back.
She was running real nice showed a lot of style and was well started on her bird work. She was real easy to break on birds thanks to your laying all the ground work. You are a very talented dog trainer and I look forward to sending more dogs out to you in the future.
Good luck to you and your family with your new home in Texas and if you ever get back east look me up.
Keith is exactly what a hunter would want in a pro trainer. He knows wild birds and he knows dogs. Keith approaches every dog as an individual and tailors his program to the needs of the dog. Keith knows very well that birds make a bird dog and your dog is going to see no shortage of them in his care.
Keith's easy demeanor and deliberate style mean steady solid progress in training. Keith forms a solid base of training that will stay with the dog for life and that can be built upon to make a finished gun dog that truly is at the pinnacle of the gun dog world.
Keith trained both my pointing dogs and they are dogs anyone would be happy to hunt over. With that said I wouldn't hesitate to send him a retriever or spaniel for training, Keith has experience with all breeds.
I first "met" Keith Hickam over the internet, while corresponding with him on a bird hunting web site. I had just purchased my first real bird dog, a Llewellin setter, and Keith wanted to meet the pup. Keith was an English setter guy, but he had never seen a Llewellin. We agreed to meet at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area in central Washington. The Oak Creek Wildlife Area is home to one of the state's largest elk herds, and it includes an elk feeding station. It also has a decent population of chukar, as well as a few huns, mixed with valley quail at lower elevations.
When I actually met Keith I discovered that he hunted with a black Lab named Shadow, who assisted Keith's incredible English setter, Dancer, in finding dead birds and retrieves. Dancer was the very first English setter I had ever hunted over and I was hooked from the moment we stepped into the field. Dancer was one of the most incredible chukar dogs I've ever seen.
My Llewellin was six months old at the time and simply enjoyed running around, but he wasn't hunting in the same sense that Dancer was. From this initial meeting and hunt I knew Keith was a good guy and I was glad I had met him. Keith was the quintessential quiet, thoughtful country boy, thinking things over before speaking, and I was the overly talkative, hyper city boy. Luckily for me, Keith didn't hold that against me.
About nine months later I discovered that Keith was working as a professional trainer in the Puget Sound region, so I sought him out for some training for my young setter. I left my pup with Keith for a one month period, during which time Keith built a "bird base" around the pup. My pup had more of what Keith called "prey drive" than any other dog I ever saw, or have seen since that time. I had been having a very difficult time with my pup being dominant and head strong. I just could not get a handle on him, no matter whom I talked to, no matter which book I read, or video I saw. And he was a runner. He'd disobey me on almost every occasion in the field and hunt for himself, blowing off my commands and running off for an hour or more with complete disregard for my commands. I tried everything I could think of and I was really at a loss at one point and I figured if a pro couldn't get a handle on this I would send him back to the breeder. My wife and I were both that desperate.
I then asked Keith to step in and help, and I left my dog with him for another round of training. This time Keith spent a great deal of time trying to gain some sort of control over the dog, using every trick in his book for whoa training as well as other training tasks. There followed many great stories of Keith almost being drowned by my pup after the pup broke and chased ducks into a large training pond, and another great story where the dog chased departing birds into the raging, rain-swollen Snoqualmie River, swimming the main channel downstream like a Labrador, eventually ending up some miles down, on the opposite side of the large river, chasing tweety-birds in a farm field.
This event mobilized the entire staff, including the use of various vehicles, aluminum boats, etc. And it happened again with yours truly, on a pond at the same location. My Llewellin earned a reputation as one of the most head strong dogs any of them had ever seen. He was now referred to as a "renegade" by most of the staff.
I mention this story because it is a key to Keith's training abilities and showcases his dedication to his clients and their dogs. To put it simply, he never gave up on my dog. Even more importantly, he convinced me that I shouldn't give up on my dog, which was just about where I was at this point. My Llewellin presented Keith with a huge problem to solve and he never gave up hope, which is more than I can say for myself.
Through his incredible patience, his doggedness in pursuing patient repetition in his training, and his willingness to try new and different training methods when others failed, he eventually got a "handle" on my dog and made him into a dog I could hunt with. I will be forever grateful to Keith for this.
One more thing that should be mentioned about Keith is his incredible generosity. After my pup's initial training, for which we paid for, I found myself in somewhat of a financial bind while putting my two daughters through college. Both my wife and I are middle income folks - working stiffs, and we could not afford any further training bills for my dog. In spite of this, Keith worked out a deal with me in which I would join him and work as his assistant two or three times a month, and for my efforts in helping him he would give my dog a free training lesson on live birds at the end of the day. I did manage to help him a bit, I hope, but what I received was much more than I gave.
My dog not only benefited from this, but so did I, in learning many training tips and tricks. I consider these to be some of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned. But what really speaks of Keith's generosity is that he was struggling to begin a career as a professional trainer and was having as challenging, or worse, financial problems as I was, and yet here he was giving away free training to me just because he wanted to help me and my dog.
This speaks volumes about Keith's character and I will never forget it. I consider myself very lucky to have met Keith Hickam.
We took our young Red Setter, Ruby, to Keith Hickam about two years ago for evaluation. We were thinking she may have what it takes to be a field trial competitor. We already knew she would be a good hunting dog as she had shown us her "stuff" already. Before we met with Keith, he let us know he would be honest in his evaluation. In other words, if he didn't think she was a candidate for field trial competition, he wouldn't waste our time and money in training for that level. As Keith already had a good reputation for training both hunting companions and field trial dogs, we felt sure we could trust him. To make a long story short, Keith did think Ruby was a good candidate for field competition.
My husband started off attending some training sessions Keith set up that included about 6 to 8 dogs and their handlers. Both hunting dogs and competition dogs participated. Keith worked with the dogs and the handlers individually. He was very good at showing how to do something, then explaining it. Keith was always available for "after class" discussion and was very good at returning calls with questions we had; and we had a lot of questions!
When Keith went to "the prairies" for training and field trials later that year, we sent our Red Setter with him. Keith was always upfront regarding the costs of training and entering trials and there was never any surprises regarding money. He was honest and extremely reasonably priced. We could not be happier with the training our Setter (and we) received under Keith's tutelage. Our only regret is that he moved his operation to Texas and we are here in the northwest!
Keith's observations regarding our Setter have been very accurate. Her good traits as well as her faults were discussed. This has been a great help as we continued with her training without Keith. He is a natural "dog man."
We highly recommend Keith as a trainer for hunting companions and field trial competitors. If anyone wants to contact either of us for any follow on questions, or concerns, we would be happy to discuss our experiences with Keith Hickam as trainer to our dog.
Fran and Scott Seagren,