Grass­roots gun­dog train­ing

Fran Ard­ley, one of the small num­ber of pro­fes­sional fe­male train­ers, is gain­ing a coun­try­wide rep­u­ta­tion for pro­duc­ing high-level dogs


few months ago, I wrote an ar­ti­cle about the up­surge of lady gun­dog han­dlers and how they had brought a fresh out­look to some of the train­ing meth­ods used for gun­dogs. Nowa­days, you would be hard pushed to visit any shoot in the coun­try and not see a woman with ei­ther a spaniel or a re­triever by her side – even the world of com­pet­i­tive gun­dog tri­als and tests reg­u­larly has a good num­ber of lady com­peti­tors. How­ever, there is still a rel­a­tively small num­ber of “pro­fes­sional” fe­male gun­dog train­ers, women who make their sole liv­ing from train­ing clients’ dogs.

AFran Ard­ley

Twenty-seven-year-old Fran Ard­ley, of Tarn­crag Gun­dogs, in Pen­rith, Cum­bria, has re­cently re­alised a life­long dream to train gun­dogs as a pro­fes­sion. She is al­ready get­ting a coun­try­wide rep­u­ta­tion for pro­duc­ing a high level of trained gun­dogs for her clients. Fran has un­der­gone a long ap­pren­tice­ship in the shoot­ing field and this has given her a prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive on what is needed in a beat­ing, pick­ing-up or shoot­ing dog. At 13 years old she was help­ing the game­keeper on the Lowther Es­tate and it was dur­ing this time that she first be­came in­ter­ested in gun­dogs. How­ever, it was the fol­low­ing sea­son, while beat­ing on a grouse moor and notic­ing one of the pick­ers-up with six golden cock­ers walk­ing to heel, that she de­cided she wanted that breed and colour.


In the in­ter­ven­ing years she read and watched ev­ery­thing she could about gun­dogs and their train­ing. She got in­volved with help­ing on train­ing days and watched not only the com­peti­tors and their dogs but how the judges worked and marked. You could say she be­came ob­sessed with the dogs and also their breed­ing and could reg­u­larly be found pour­ing over pedi­grees and bloodlines. She even­tu­ally set­tled on the line and type of cocker she wanted and was for­tu­nate enough to get a golden bitch puppy called Golden Nec­tar, “Mad­die”, through well-known cocker spaniel train­ers and breed­ers Whau­p­ley Gun­dogs. Fran set about train­ing Mad­die to be an all-round gun­dog. She needed a dog to beat on

Evie Fran is hop­ing Evie will make her trialling de­but this sea­son

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