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.
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