Welcome to Burns and Becks Gundog Club

The Burns and Becks Gundog Club was formed in 1965 by a small group of retriever trainers who ran training days and tests against other local clubs.

Since Kennel Club affiliation in 2012 the club has re-affirmed its aims to help handlers improve the standard of their dogs through training classes, working tests and field trials. Members of all ages and levels of experience are welcome, including young handlers who are the future of the sport.


The last year brought further success for the Club, great teamwork from the Committee and other helpers combining to deliver what has become a regular pattern of training classes, working tests and a Field Trial.

While I was personally unable to play as full a part as I have before in the club’s events, the team worked in harmony to deliver training to a similar very large number of members, new and existing, as in 2016. It was great once again to see the progress made by those handlers who listened to advice and went away to train their dogs, little and often, before returning to subsequent sessions with clear evidence of progress.

Two unrelated issues became very apparent as the year progressed, the first involving venues and the second the matching of dogs to the levels of classes offered.

Sadly our access to Plumpton has become much more restricted as a result of more intensive use of the improved grazing by the landowner and we have not managed to mitigate this thus far.
Thankfully the welcome we receive from landowner John Harris and his gamekeeper at Brackenbrough has continued and we have increased our use of this excellent training ground. Nevertheless we will need alternatives in future and would be glad to hear for any members who might be able to arrange access to similar ground. Ironically, car parking is one of the key requirements given the large numbers of members for whom we cater each time.

The second area of concern remains mismatches between the assessment of training levels by handlers and trainers. In the first stage classes, for puppies and beginners of any age, this is less of a problem, but in Intermediate (novice) and Open the training classes were often held up by dogs which were not yet at the standard needed to benefit from the group training.

While it is understandable that owners will want to make the most of the classes on offer on the day, when this is at the expense of progress of all the other dogs in the group, it is unhelpful and frustrating for most of those involved.“I might as well put my novice dog into the open class while I am here” may well be a very unhelpful approach for the class involved.

How do you assess your dog’s suitability for each class?
In general terms we advise that Intermediate class dogs will stop on the whistle every time, are steady to marked retrieves and walk to heel off the lead in group situations. These are basic requirements and we are likely to recommend training in less advanced groups until they are achieved.

Equally, in the Open class we will expect that dogs will stop on the whistle every time, are steady, will walk closely at heel for long periods and will run out in a straight line to collect blinds as directed. Without these skills the dogs are likely to hold up the progress of the groups, and adversely affect other handlers.

Of course training is where handlers and dogs make mistakes and learn from them and we do not expect perfection, but the principle remains that certain levels are expected to allow others to progress through practice.

Our working tests this year followed a familiar pattern, the puppy/novice/open safari at Winster in June, followed by the puppy safari/novice walk up at Brackenbrough in June and the open walk up at Brackenbrough in July. We seem to have got our venues right though it is sad that we could not run the Open walk up at Plumpton. Numbers unknown in recent years flocked to the safari tests at Winster, capably organised by Matt Rowlinson and Richard Howson, stretching our organisation to the limit, but it was a successful day. All committee members and other helpers combined to deliver three tests of high quality, standards of organisation being the envy of some other clubs. It was good to see the success of Tony Appleby, one of our newer handlers, in the novice walked up test.

Our Field Trial
The basic training goals mentioned earlier with regard to training classes are tested most at our Field Trial, under the pressure of live game falling to shot in sight of the dogs. While the delivery of the trial in October, run by Steward of the beat Andy Jardine with gamekeeper Ian Banks on the Roeburndale shoot was once again a matter of pride, the performance of many of the dogs was a disappointment.

A large amount of organisation, including liaison with the Kennel Club, shoot and team of helpers, went into the day, largely carried out by our General Secretary Kirsty Howson, who also judged the trial. Once again the experienced panel judges were full of praise for the venue and structure of the day, but sadly at the end could only award a second place, the standard of the highest placed dog being insufficient to be awarded a qualification into Open Trials.

Poor heelwork, failure to stop on the whistle and whining were basic issues with too many of the entrants who had been lucky enough to get a run from a large field that were in the draw. It is disappointing that some members may have seen their dogs in an optimistic light when applying to run, but in reality they were not ready for the pressure of a trial. In doing so they denied a run to dogs further down the draw that were trained and ready to win given the chance.

Trials are suitable for dogs, some would say, that are ready to win, with plenty of game experience, secure heelwork and a calm temperament. Naturally they work by elimination, but handlers aware of disqualifying faults in their dogs should think twice before entering. We had a close call this year, but some other clubs with similar issues ran trials with no result, all dogs being eliminated before a winner could be found.

While this can happen from a combination of extreme circumstances, we would like to think that the hard work of the organisers, gamekeeper and generosity of the landowner would always result in a winner being found and a worthwhile day for all involved.

Code of behaviour
I would like to respectfully remind members of our code of conduct, published on our website. In 2017 there were no reported incidents and we would like to keep it that way. Respect and appreciation for the work and time of others to produce opportunities for us to train, test and trial our dogs is the least we should expect.

Media Use
The internet is a fantastic resource for all sorts of useful things. YouTube in particular can reveal a hundred ways of training your dog! However, with such access to gundog chat rooms, twitter etc many challenges also exist. We ask members to show restraint at all times and to remember that once in print, their messages remain accessible for ever. Thanks.

A large number of members, as well as the Committee, have given their energy and enthusiasm to achieve our noble aim of helping others train their dogs. I would like to thank them on behalf of the membership. Kirsty Howson has once again coped admirably with the demands of being our club secretary alongside her full-time veterinary commitment and we are all indebted to her. A special thank you goes to Pat Dixon who is retiring after a number of years as Treasurer this year. She has kept us more than solvent, in touch with our financial position at all times, and has exhibited just the right degree of control of spending. Her conscientious and unseen work for the Club is appreciated.

Message for 2018
Enjoy your dogs!

Paul Dixon

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