DOGS AND THEIR HANDLERS
THE TALE OF TWO TRAINERS

Working Sheep Dog News MagazineBy Aza Pinney. Photos by the author.(scaned from photocopy)
 
Hilary Jones lives in the high ground whichoverlooks Chagford and then Dartmoor beyond; Cranbrook Farm is an 80 acreholding with 70 acres of rough grazing in addition; with a 4 1/2, acrefield on top of a hill set aside for training she has all the facilitiesand sheep that she needs.  

Next please! Catherine (third from left) collects the next pupil.Catherine Laxton lives up on a fell outside of the village of Waddingtonjust a few miles from Clitheroe; her training area is close by the farmhouse - Hodgson Moor Farm is reached by turning off the road where thereis a black and white sign that says ATB and then following along the laneuntil its end.  

It is those 3 letters which links these twoladies as much as their mutual dedication to the Border Collie.  

Hilary Jones became an ATB instructor in1985 and teaching under that scheme remains a part of her business. Withher experience of over 20 years Hilary is quite fierce in her oppositionto the suggestion that courses should be limited to just 4 lessons forshe believes that 6 to 8 is a more appropriate number. For Catherine Laxtonthe role of an ATB Instructor is but a year old, and already she has hadover 20 handlers enrolled on her courses organised by Northern Rural Training;she likes to keep her classes small with 4 or 5 handlers per course.  

Both ladies start their new courses in asimilar way in the classroom; for Catherine's pupils the theory if discussedover a brew in her kitchen whilst Hilary’s newcomers will sit in a caravanin the barn on the edge of the training field. It is thereafter that thedifferences in the approach and techniques of the two trainers emerge.  

Being able to devote more of her time totraining Hilary has a large clientele of private pupils in addition toher ATB work. Some of these pupils will be wanting to train or improvetheir dogs for flock work and exceptionally there will be those who willbe considering trialling; there will also be those, like Anne Smith fromEaling, who will come for training with no intention of ever working sheepon a regular basis but who want their dogs to realise some of the potentialthat they have for such activity. Anne with her dog Kai have been on aweek's training course and will be coming back again in the spring; Kaiis now calm enough to work the sheep and not chew them!  

With her husband being now retired, Hilaryis probably one of the busiest trainers today. Her training facilitiesare a small starting. paddock and then a larger field. She does not findthe need for, nor does she use, a fenced circle for basic training; hermules are so well dogged as to be steady enough for any dog to get aroundthem. Her private pupils will pay £10 per hour for one to one tuition,groups come cheaper per head and the sheep can be hired for practice withoutsupervision. The pupils who come from away make use of the many bed &breakfast and other establishments in this holiday area of Devon.  

PIC4 Catherine at work with a pupil.Catherine has a busy life; she has two young children, together with herhusband Simon she looks after their own registered flock of Swaledale sheepand then, somehow she fits in her training courses with the outside shepherdingwork that she undertakes for others. Bringing together new dogs and theirowners has been a natural progression for Catherine who started by breakingin dogs and now has responded to requests for assistance; she has not givenup on training dogs for sale nor on taking in dogs to train for a fee..  

On Catherine's courses the first day endswith an individual assessment of every dog after it has been taken to thesheep; information is recorded and notes are made on every dog throughouttheir courses what invaluable records these become when ex-pupils telephonefor Help!  

Training programmes are tailored to the needof each dog and to the skill of each handler; what is being taught to oneis explained to others in the group and thus everyone is learning fromeveryone else at the same time.  

Beginners will start with the sheep in asmall pen and with the dog on the outside; when sufficient control hasbeen established Catherine will bring the handler and the dog into a largerpen continuing the process of teaching balance and direction; progressis then made to either a half acre paddock or to a one acre field. On mostATB courses the handlers will be returning at fortnightly intervals; improvementswill be noted, problems discussed and by the end Catherine hopes to haveproduced a practical arm dog under good command.  

In the way that they involve other membersof the groups Hilary and Catherine work differently. Hilary will stay withthe group and by cross-questioning them will get them to observe and learnfrom what is being done by the pupil in the field. Catherine will be moreinclined to tell the group what she wants to achieve and then will go outto the field to work with the handler to get it correctly done.  

A bubbly and effervescent lady, Catherineperhaps sums up her philosophy when she tells her groups that "We laughwith them not at them"; she wants dog handling to be both practical andenjoyable.  

Hilary admits to getting satisfaction fromthe pleasure that handlers and owners get from achieving what they wantwith their dogs; perhaps her philosophy is summarised thus - " one shouldnever lightly give up on someone who is willing to keep trying." 


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