Terry Wilson and his wife, Nancy Anisfield, have always enjoyed bird hunting. Seventeen years ago, they got a German Wirehaired Pointer named Scrub for his bristly facial hair.
“They’re called ugly dogs,” Wilson said of the breed, not without affection. “I had just sold a manufacturing business and I decided to start a mail order business for upland hunting. It started as a hobby but it grew.”
Ugly Dog Hunting sells dog training supplies and hunting equipment from Wilson’s barn in Hinesburg. The native Vermonter moved to town almost 30 years ago, enjoying the fact that the area is fairly rural but close to Burlington. He has since moved to a property that gives him enough room to hunt.
The company sells products across the United States and Canada and as far as England, Australia, and New Zealand. Most products are sold online but customers can request a printed catalogue from the website. Modeling the products is a family affair with Wilson, Anisfield, and their assorted canines posing with Ugly Dog Hunting gear and clothing.
Most of the business consists of canine accessories, leads, and training supplies like collars, which are controlled remotely to prevent dogs from getting distracted, chasing deer, getting quilled by porcupines, or running into a road. Other products include dog bells, whistles, lanyards, transportation kennels, and retrieving dummies in the shape of ducks or pheasants. Wilson attends a few trade shows each year to find new products.
Scrub has passed on, but Wilson has two other German Wirehaired Pointers, Tank and Rudder, who join him on the hunt. He describes the breed as one that was raised in Europe in the 1800s to serve as an all-around hunting dog that can track, retrieve, and point for prey with either feathers or fur.
“They are very versatile,” he said. “They were developed for the average hunting person who doesn’t have a stable of dogs.” Wilson noted that in addition to being great hunting companions, German Wirehaired Pointers are also wonderful family dogs.
Ugly Dog Hunting may look like a one-man show, but Wilson has other names on the masthead. Eleven-year-old Tank is the CEO and Radical Attitude Adjustment Officer while Tank’s daughter, Rudder, who Wilson concedes really isn’t ugly, is Vice President and Director of Corn Snake Elimination Services.
Anisfield has two German Shorthaired Pointers named Prairie and Scratch. Prairie is just a puppy and therefore not gainfully employed, but Scratch is the Chief of Foodstuffs Hoovering and Comprehensive Counter Surfing. It is not clear which member of the organizational chart is in charge of the annual Ugly Dog Contest, where Wilson asks customers to send in photos of their canine companions.
Ugly Dog products can help a pet become what Wilson calls a “fully finished dog.” He starts training his canine companions at three months with the goal of having a dog who points out a bird and then stays perfectly still while it is flushed, shot and falls, not moving until he or she is told to go. Tank and Rudder fit the bill. “I still go out grouse hunting and woodcock hunting, which are native to Vermont,” Wilson said. “I like to get out as much as I can.”