What’s their secret to mixing training and pleasure without falling out?
What started you off in the world of gundogs?
Katy: We got our Springer Spaniel, Meg, seven years ago. I tried to train her but it didn’t work out so Del took over. I got my first pup six years ago which is Ruby. We joined various local gun dog clubs and trained for fun and general obedience. It wasn’t until much later we were invited onto a shoot which was my first experience of beating. I didn’t take the dog as I wanted to find out what went on and learn more about the beating role.
Del: I first started beating 40 years ago when I lived in Alton and I’ve never looked back. Owning a working gundog came much later.
Why do you enjoy it so much?
Katy: It’s great being out in the countryside. You get to meet some amazing people and we’ve built up some good friendships through the dogs. I love working Ruby, especially when it all comes together and goes well for both of us. As a Senior Professional Tutor at a local secondary comprehensive school I look after trainee teachers and newly qualified teachers which doesn’t give me much time for the dogs in the week so I live, breath and sleep dog training at the weekends! Working Ruby enables me to completely switch off and enjoy life.
Del: We enjoy it so much that the house we recently bought had to suit our dogs and training requirements!
Katy: My ongoing challenge is getting my spaniel to walk to heel! You need a sense of humour and perseverance if you're a spaniel owner!
Del: My biggest challenge is to not race ahead and to make sure you have the basics in place before moving on. Katy is right, you need to preserver when things don’t go as planned.
Katy: You’ve just got to watch them work…they are far from boring!
Del: I got the buzz from watching some quality dogs work to a high standard on the beating line.
Biggest lesson learnt so far?
Katy: Being patient which is something I constantly remind Del to be! Especially if we get another dog!
Can you reveal each other’s worst gundog training habits…if any?
Katy: I’ve just hit the nail on the head…a lack of patience as Del is always keen to move on.
Del: Katy tends to get frustrated when things don’t go to plan. It’s normally down to handler error!
Katy: The first time she stopped on the stop whistle at a distance…eureka! Also, the first time she brought a pheasant back to me was a WOW highlight.
Del: Ooooh..I have so many! Just seeing Bramble work the line in a way I like her to work is a highlight for me. It’s a eureka moment when your dog works the beat with minimal handling and you receive praise from other beaters or the guns.
Do you finish each other’s sentences?
Del: No, I’m not allowed to!!
Katy: No, we seem to have the same thoughts about methods and techniques. We learn from each other especially if we are watching each other in a training session.
Del: We owe a lot to the patience, encouragement and generosity of our trainers. Their time has been invaluable to us within our gundog journey.
Are you competitive with each other?
Del: We do like to have a good banter! When things go right with our dogs we are genuinely pleased for each other.
What’s the secret in making it work?
Del: We try not to focus on the negatives and when things don’t go right in training we talk it through and try to come up with alternative solutions.
Katy: I agree with Del, talking it through works. Although depending on how the training session has gone the car journey home can sometimes be very long and quiet!
What can’t you get through the weekend without?
Katy: Apart from wine? I can’t think of any weekend which hasn’t been about the dogs. Whether it’s informal training in the paddock at home or going to a gun dog event our weekends are all about the dogs! We even have a car which is a mobile dog hotel!
What are the qualities you admire about each other?
Del: We both keep going. Even when we hit a brick wall with a training challenge we both pick ourselves up and carry on. I had a major challenge with Bramble as she used to whine a lot. I’ve had to work through it and now changed my approach which has worked and she’s so much better.
Lie in or up with the lark?
Del: Bramble gets me up at 5.30am for breakfast so I guess you could call us early birds!
Pub roast or lunch at home?
Katy: Pub followed by lunch at home…especially if Del is cooking!