Gundog Trainer David Latham talks about his dogs and his role as England’s Team Captain, conveying attributes about his competing and character which reflects his passion for the sport...
The summer of 2018 has brought success for England in the working test arena taking the winning trophies for the Four Nations Challenge held at Scone Palace, and the prestigious Home International at the Game Fair. The team were also awarded a credible third place in the Skinners World Cup held at Hampstead Park. England have had an exciting and triumphant 2018 and there’s no doubt David’s encouragement continues to draw admiration from his team and the gundog community.
You’ve had a successful 2018 as England’s Team Captain…what’s different?
We worked hard this year and we’ve spent a lot of time together training twice a week since February. There’s no doubt we had a strong retriever team with some good quality dogs and it’s all come together. I knew we’ve had a strong team for the last 3 years but we’ve given our success away. This year we didn’t make any mistakes, the team have been consistent and we won the Home International by 55 points which was massive at this level of competing. Three years ago we came third and got beaten by two points so our win this year was fantastic.
What makes a winning team?
Consistency is the key. 20/20/20/0 isn’t what you want in a competition. I want 18/19/17 and maybe a 16. All dogs need to be picking and the handlers must have the mentality to compete within the big occasion and deal with the pressure such as the Home International at the Game Fair. The level of pressure can be intense, more so than the IGL because you’re competing as a team and you don’t want to let anyone down and be the person who gets a zero, I’ve been there and it’s not a nice feeling. Not all handlers and dogs can compete with this pressure. This year our retriever and spaniel team were consistent throughout and able to step up in a pressurised environment. They all picked the dummies and for us the spaniel team were the icing on the cake. I’m really proud of them - a winning combination.
Do you enjoy the challenges of being England’s Team Captain?
To be honest it wasn’t one of my goals to be the England Team Captain. When John Halstead (senior) retired after the 2014 CLA Game Fair I was asked to represent England and it was a new challenge and I felt proud to follow in his footsteps. I’ve known John for many years and with his blessing I took the role on in 2015. John and Sandra still play an active part and offer a tremendous amount of support as it can be a testing role which has its pressures. I want to be able to prove to them I can manage the role as much as proving it to myself.
What attributes do you have which makes a good captain?
My enthusiasm and dedication for the game. I just love it. It’s my life and comes first before anything else. I think people can pick up on this and I try to give everything a fair crack. Nowadays the selection is wide open and there’s more handlers coming into the sport - Steve Richardson is new and very good as is Phil Goulden. Last year we had Nicola Reynolds who was great - They’ve all had an opportunity and stepped up and performed well.
What’s special about the dog you worked in the Home International Challenge?
F.T. Winner Fendawood Harold is a nice whistle dog. Ricky is very with me. He wants to be with me and has no hang ups and has a lovely pace and style. He’s committed and wants to work every day. Ricky is a good marking dog as you saw at the Game Fair where he nailed those last two retrieves and won the Millennium Challenge Trophy for Best Marking Retriever. He’s a very young dog so for his limited experience he’s come on well and matured nicely. Hopefully he’s got a promising career ahead of him.
Who’s currently training in your kennel?
I’m currently running three dogs. F.T. Winner Fendawood Harold (Ricky) who is about to have his first Open season. FTW Nettle Brae Andy of Fendawood had his first Open season last year and got two 2nds, a 3rd, 4th and a COM in a two day Open so he’s knocking on the door. I’ve learnt by my mistakes and I think I can read him a little better this year and make him stronger. I’ve also got a young dog, Meadowlark Big Rock. He’s my novice and a very nice game dog. He might not be a dummy dog but certainly very natural.
How often do you train them?
A lot depends on the dog. With these three I can give them as much as I want which I like and I’m usually out 6 days a week. FTch Drakeshead Deana who I won the IGL with in 2003 would ask too many questions and become sticky if i took her out more than 3 times a week, so it really depends on the dog. You just have to be careful not to over do it and take care with their legs, especially with the hard ground in the summer.
Following the interview four times winner of the IGL David Latham qualified both Fendawood Harold and Nettlebrae Andy of Fendawood for the IGL Championship in December 2018. This was David's 20th time running in the prestigious event and received a well deserved Diploma of Merit with Nettlebrae Andy of Fendawood.