About Shelmar Kennels
Dog Trainer Martin Bell
One of the best, Martin Bell is a dog trainer Houston, and a dog behavior specialist.
Martin and Shelly Bell, owners and operators of Shelmar Kennels, are the people to call when you need dog trainers in Houston. Learn more about Martin and Shelmar Kennels through the following personal story:
Martin Bell – Katy TX – July – 2019
My love of great dogs started early. I learned to expect the finer things from a dog and that is the tradition we continue here today. Our dogs at Shelmar Kennels follow that philosophy; we develop in dogs a willingness to please and a desire to be trained.
Shelly and I founded Shelmar Kennels 18 years ago. Our lives have gone through changes, as has our business. I no longer train field trial dogs for clients, preferring to spend quality time with the 3 dogs that belong to me and stay close to home obedience training dogs for Katy and Houston residents. I still fly to field trials to compete 3 or 4 times a year but mainly to spend time with old friends.
I have found myself more successful with just a couple of my own dogs. In 2007 I trained and ran the high point dog in the US. Her record of 10 starts earning 8 wins and a second, being beaten only by her kennel mate, will be difficult to duplicate.
‘Lucy’ also won the National Championships in 2008 in Montana – the only trial she ran that year. After such a great career – I decided to retire her at only 2 ½ years old, and gave her to my mum…(she now lives on the couch in the lap of luxury!!)
That’s when I really turned to Obedience training for all breeds and I have been having fun training all these different breeds and interacting with so many owners and different owner personalities.
Dog behavior problem solving, and helping people genuinely in need with errant dogs, has given me a newfound satisfaction in dog training. Teaching dog owners has become as interesting as teaching dogs. I have always been a firm believer in education and I surround myself with the best people (and dogs!) in the business.
Here at Shelmar kennels we will take the Pepsi challenge against anyone. Shelly and I do all the training ourselves we don’t rely on hired trainers to handle and train your dog. You get us, we work hard on all the dogs that come through Shelmar Kennels and, until publishing this new website with our obedience programs in detail, we have always been 100% referral from satisfied customers and veterinarians who have seen first hand the difference we can make in your life between you and your dog.
Below is my story, how I got from Rural England to Texas, riding on my ability to train dogs and some of the people and dogs that helped me along the way. Read on if it interests you. It’s mostly a collection of dog stories that have molded me into the dog trainer I am today.
I started my hunting and dog life early, chasing Woodcock in the swamps and wet spots around Cornwall, England with my Dad. The perfect dog for this job was a spaniel. As a youngster my Dad and Granddad had various sorts of poorly backyard-bred Springer’s. They were huge dogs with tight wavy coats, poor in temperament but hard hunters, best suited to a kennel life.
My uncle was a fisherman/poacher in the fishing village of Flushing. A famous trialer vacationing in a local cottage promised him a puppy in exchange for oysters, which he picked fresh everyday from the oyster beds. The following year the trainer appeared with a Springer pup named Tally. She was the first dog I had seen that could do it all.
Tally was completely natural she had no formal training at all but could handle on a dime and she had an unbelievable nose, a desire to please and a willingness to just ‘be’ with you. My dad took a pup from her first litter that we named Dell.
When Dell was of age my Dad started training her. The only hurdle was retrieving to hand. She loved to retrieve but she would circle on delivery. Dad corrected her problem by throwing retrieves into a tidal creek. Dell was a strong swimmer and would glide out and back, the slow current forcing her to come into hand and then onto the bank.
That turned out to be my first lesson in outsmarting, not forcing, when training a dog.
Once Dell had that sorted out she was an absolute dream to train. Her first flush on live game was a Sunday morning walk/hunt/training session in the early summer.
Late for breakfast as usual, Dad and I were crossing a Cornish granite hedge, maybe 100 years old and as knurly and overgrown as a hedge can get. All that raw natural ability in Dell told her to tear through that bramble and blackthorn. A Cock Pheasant hid in the bottom of the bramble.
20 walkers a day would walk past him without knowing. Not anymore! He exploded out and glided off 400 yards before settling, then preceded to run half a mile across a ploughed field. That hedge would not be a safe place any longer!
Through the summer, the rabbit population also found out that they had better stay sharp. Her hunting was always classy and stylish and she always had a natural pattern in any wind. But my father had always had a hard hunting dog; he gave them lots of practice shooting most weekends. All of his dogs had been poor retrievers. Bingo ( a Jack Russell terrorist!) you had to beat to the bird if you wanted anything left to eat. Curly and Ben had little interest in retrieving anything; they simply wanted to carry on hunting.They were not stylish but very efficient at finding game.
Dell changed all that. She had a superior nose but hunted with you, not away from you, and she could retrieve. Not only could she retrieve but, wow, what a retriever she was. Dad had taught her to handle, and she would go anywhere.
I once shot 26 teal at morning flight with a single barrel 20 gauge on Devoran Banks, a tidal wash marsh that rose and fell with the tide 8 feet a day. I stood in a stand of cattails and shot them coming up the river crossing left to right. They were flying in the middle of the now flooding river and Dell made every retrieve one after the other in cold water. When I got home I thought Dad was going to kill me for tiring out his dog. After retrieving 26 teal, while I peddled my bike, she jogged alongside me the 4 miles home. She was talented and tough. She gave me the love of a great one.
The next dog I purchased was Dan, another well bred trialing type dog out of a Field Trial Champion dog. I was 17 years old and head keeper of a partridge shoot with abundant game. Dan was my only workhorse and he excelled at Partridge. I picked up thousands of Ducks and Pheasants with him at formal driven shoots, but a running partridge is where he excelled. He would disappear on the line and then show up 3 fields away with a crippled bird.
I got my first real education in dog training because I was fortunate to grow up 3 miles down the road from the famous field trialer Hedley Millington of Nancarrow Gundogs.
Never having been a bashful kid I knocked on his door one Saturday afternoon and asked if I could borrow his rabbit pen. ‘NO’ – Hedley replied bluntly, I asked what if I pay you? Upon Hedley’s reply of I don’t need the money…I asked if I could cut his grass in exchange for using the rabbit pen. Hedley pointed toward an old wooden shed, “mowers in there, lad!”
I became a permanent fixture at Nancarrow every morning at 6am sharp before school, then again straight after school until 9pm. Feeding, excercising and training every day – 7 days a week…it was truly the best education a kid could have…
Hedley became my mentor as he taught me all about dogs, breeding and trialing.
He took me everywhere with him (at 15 years old I drove Hedley to Scotland from Cornwall – approx. 700 miles – in his brand new Range Rover – it was a different time (damn I feel old!) than now. Hedley introduced me to everyone – called me out on my BS and made me WORK for what I wanted…
Hedley passed away a few years ago, but he did have the opportunity to visit me in the US and judge some field trials. He even wrote a book on ‘the American lads’ that he adored because of their love for dogs and the camaraderie of training. I even have my own chapter…he tells some pretty embarrassing stories about me (I was a bit of a Heller as a kid!) I miss you buddy. Thank you…
As a kid – Hedley furthered my education with a solid black cocker dog called FTCH Heathill Lad or Ben to his friends. Hedley had retired Ben from competition to stud. Ben had been awarded a Certificate of Merit in the Championships. He also sired a British Championship Winner FTCH Nancarrow Carousel. Hedley let me borrow Ben, to return him for stud when needed, but basically to learn from him and enjoy him. He was not an easy dog to handle but he had the most natural perfect wind pattern. He educated me on the proper use of the wind and thorough ground coverage.
Hedley had shot a lot of rabbits over him as well as picking up on big pheasant shoots. He had schooled Ben to run downwind and cheek winds with efficiency, and he was a deadly rabbit dog. He was a powerful dog. If he didn’t think you were in control of a situation he could take advantage, and Ben saw in a young handler a situation he could take advantage of. Under Hedley’s guidance after 2 days in Scotland, I had properly learned how to run Ben effectively. If Ben took a hop or two after a shot rabbit, Hedley would yell over, I’ll take that, and his dog would pick the rabbit from under Bens nose! Ben taught me some tricks but more importantly he taught me to stay sharp on a dog, not to give in an inch or in 2 days he would be moving 10 feet!
I had the opportunity before reaching the age of 17 to brace with and shoot over some of the all time great spaniels, all Field Trial Champions – Swallowlaw Snipe, Wernffrwd Enfys, Bournpark Blaze of Nancarrow, Lough Carra Brownie and Maesydderwen Kestrel.
To all the great dogs I have had I still see you all at heel every time I’m out. Thanks for the help and your dedication to me, thanks for showing me the right and the wrong and making me who I am.
It’s been a cool ride – this life with dogs…and the ride isn’t done yet!
Martin Bell – dog trainer – loving it everyday!
Considered by top professional dog trainers across the US as ‘the best of the best’ when training puppies of any breed.
Shelly has a real knack with puppy issues such as housebreaking and puppy problem solving. A patient and kind trainer – Shelly never uses any force methods ever, relying only on patience, repetition and consistency when training dogs.
Shelly’s big passion and what drew her to dog training professionally is the rehabilitation of Rescue dogs. Having has a number of rescue dogs growing up, Shelly has devoted her life to training and saving the lives of dogs deemed to have ‘no hope’ by other trainers and rescue facilities. She is the go-to dog trainer for a number of Houston dog rescue charities and organizations when no one else can – or will – help with a problem dog.
Shelmar Kennels annually hosts a number of the top US professional dog trainers in the winter months – snowbirds looking for a kinder winter in Texas. When Shelly trains dogs she always draws a crowd of professionals all trying to learn her techniques and methods. When Shelly talks dog training – they listen…
Her advice to them is always the same. “Get away from ‘your breed’ and train some small dogs, rescue dogs and problem dogs. Don’t just work on what you know, get out of your comfort zone and become adept at learning to read any dogs behavior. Getting experience from varied dogs, and breeds, is truly the only way to increase your dog training skills”…
On many occasions professional dog trainers have approached Martin after training with Shelly and commented to him that they “learned more in an hour training with Shelly – than I have in the past 10 years of being a pro dog trainer. She has such a unique way of explaining why dogs behave the way they do, and how to communicate more effectively with them. I’ve never seen any dog trainer as good at seeing issues from the dogs point of view and being able to fix problems as fast, with no force, only kindness and understanding”
What she knows and understands about dogs is always given freely to friends, trainers and clients alike. Her methods have been learned from training 1000’s of dogs in all breeds – fixing problem dogs displaying aggression to puppy potty training issues.
For fun – Shelly decided to compete in a few trials of her own and titled 2 Junior Hunters, 2 Senior Hunters and 1 Master Hunter during the winter of 2003 and spring of 2004.
Now Martin and Shelly are all about obedience training your dog… it’s our greatest accomplishment yet!
Our only focus – now having retired from field trialing – is obedience training for dogs in the Houston Texas area. We love what we do, we are here to help you and have the necessary experience to achieve your Houston dog training goals.
We have trained and instructed nationally competitive Handlers to win with their own dogs at amateur and professional status level. This experience gives us the ability to teach YOU how to correct your wayward pup quickly and easily.
- Winner Cocker National Championships 2008
- High point dog US 2007
- Certificate of Merit 2000 Cocker National
- 2nd & 4th Placements 2003 Cocker National
- 3rd Place 2004 Cocker National
- Top Professional Handler Accomplishments
- 1999, 2002 & 2004 Top Professional Handler in the U.S. for English Cocker Spaniels
- 1998, 2003 High Point Cocker Puppy
- Major Field Trial Accomplishments
- Over 100 open all-age and 50 puppy stake points accumulated for two consecutive years 2003 & 2004
- Field Trial Champion Accomplishments
- 15 English Cocker Field Trial Champions in 6 years
- 5 English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Champions in 2 years
- Retired Heart of Michigan English Cocker Spaniel Club Top Field Trial Handler Challenge Trophy September 26, 2004 (3 wins needed by the same handler to retire trophy)
- I have trained another 11 dogs (both Springer’s and Cockers) that their respective owners/handlers have handled to Field Champion status including 2 High Point Amateur dogs.
- We have won over 60 Field trials in the last 8 years. We have well over 200 placements.