Student trains dogs, wins awards


Photo by: Lauren Owens

Aaron Bunch spends his time outside of classes at FMU and work training Boykin spaniels for shows. Bunch has three dogs and has been training Boykin spaniels for most of his life.

Lauren Owens, Content Editor

During a normal day for junior finance major Aaron Bunch, the sound of duck calls and dog commands can be heard over the still waters of a neighborhood pond.

Apart from being a full time student at FMU, an active church member and working two jobs, Bunch trains Boykin spaniels for competitions in his spare time. He owns three Boykin spaniels, one being his award-winning dog, SHR Catfish Creek’s Palmetto Cypress NR. Bunch said that when dogs earn titles and awards, they are added to the dog’s name, similar to how somebody earns a Ph.D. and is called “doctor.”

Bunch became interested in training dogs when his stepdad got a Boykin spaniel named Scarlett.

After Scarlett died, Bunch and his stepdad got a young dog named Gator during 2011 that he trained himself.

“I didn’t know how to train a dog, and he was tough to train,” Bunch said. “He taught me more than I taught him.”

Bunch got two other Boykin spaniels, the most recent being Cypress.

Bunch said when he got Cypress, he knew more about dog training. Since he had two other Boykin spaniels before her, he was able to train her more successfully.

Bunch and Cypress competed in the Boykin Spaniel Society National Field Trial last April.

Cypress ranked within the top eight of the novice class in the country.

The novice class consists of Boykin spaniels ranging in age from 2 to 3 years old. Class categories are puppy, novice, intermediate and open class, open class being the most advanced class.

Throughout Bunch’s training career, other trainers have helped him continue to grow in the field.

“Brent Poston has taught me just about everything I know,” Bunch said. “At my first trial, he saw we didn’t do good at all. We bombed the test, and he took us under his wing. He goes to various trials with us and calls me about once a week.”

Bunch’s stepdad, Frankie Melton, has financially supported him in dog training.

While competing in various dog trials, Bunch has travelled to North Carolina, Georgia and to other parts of South Carolina.

“Most of the time, landowners donate land for the day for us to compete on,” Bunch said.

Bunch has been offered in-state and out-of-state jobs to work at different kennels training dogs, one being at Poston’s kennel in Lexington, SC.

However, Bunch said he wants to finish his college degree and focus on a family life with his future wife.

“The dog training life isn’t really a family life,” Bunch said. “I really want a family life. I hope to one day work until I am 50 then slack off a little bit early and start a kennel.”

Bunch said he hopes to have his own kennel throughout his life, but after retirement, he wants to start a full-time kennel. In the meantime, Bunch trains his Boykin spaniels as a hobby.

Bunch said the most rewarding part of training dogs is when you take an untrained dog and see them grow.

“You work really hard with a lot of late evenings and early mornings to watch her to come out and grow and me grow as a person,” Bunch said. “You know the awards are cool. It’s fun to get up there and shake somebody’s hand and have people pat you on the back, but just to be out there with me and her and watch her grow that is my favorite part.”

Cypress is more than just a dog. According to Bunch, Cypress is just like a family member.

“She’s a lap dog,” Bunch said. “She sleeps in the house. She comes in and lies on the couch with me and plays in the house. She will sit around and lay in your lap.”

Currently, Bunch is training with Cypress for the intermediate division trials that will take place this Saturday, Feb. 6.