I first heard about Frank Walker from a work colleague. Every time I spoke to this chap at work he would ask: “How are you getting on with that little spaniel you’re trying to train, you’re still struggling, aren’t you? I keep telling you, you need to go and see Frank”. He was right, I was struggling, and I was in way over my head with this one.
Let me explain, I’m a 50 year old courier driver but I come from a farming family and I was a gamekeeper for 4 years after leaving school. I have basically never had a day in my life so far without a working dog of some sort (mainly terriers or lurcher types) around me, so I can’t be completely useless when it comes to dogs. But I felt like it with this little Springer.
When I got Molly she was 6 months old and part-trained. I was looking for a fully trained gun dog but this little girl I just had to have. She had a quality about her, a lovely style, a willingness to please, a responsive good nature, a twinkle in her eyes. I liked her mum and she was bred right. When she came to our home her beautiful gentle nature became apparent when you watched her around my 16 year old lurcher. She would play so gently with the old girl and they soon became inseparable. This old dog was just getting ready to die and now it’s like she has this new lease of life since being around Molly.
So what’s the problem you must be thinking? The problem is having a well trained rock steady gun dog is not a simple process, especially if you have not trained one before. It takes patience and time, two things I lack in because of a very busy working life. It also helps if you know what you’re doing and I don’t. Anyone can do a bit of sit, stay and recall with their dogs and that’s all I really needed to do with my previous hunting dogs but a gun dog needs a lot more.
Molly is a highly intelligent hunting dog with some very good traits and would probably seem a gift from God to most professional trainers but in my hands she could easily have become a disaster. She has the drive of a pit bull terrier or a highly bred border collie, coupled with a very sensitive nature. She would appear very upset when she got things wrong and she was only really getting things wrong because of my obvious lack of experience. The sheer responsibility of owning this beautiful little bitch with so much potential and not knowing how to cope was truly overwhelming.
I read all the books, I watched all the training videos but it’s just not the same as being shown how by someone who knows their stuff. So I started seeing a professional trainer on a one to one basis, a local chap, he had all the credentials, he had won field trials and he was even supposed to be a field trial judge. He was good with Molly, he could get her to do most things but was not so patient with me. He lacked the ability to convey his skills on to me. I think maybe he would be better suited to someone who is far more experienced with gundogs than me but just needing help with one particular problem. He was so busy he could only see me for one hour every 7 weeks and after about 6 months of frustration I called it a day with him.
So it’s down to Frank’s place. A couple of hours driving and I was there. This was the single most important and the best thing I could ever have done. This two hour session just blew my mind! Oh, if only I had met this man years ago. The methods of Frank’s training would have been so useful in the past with so many of my dogs. Frank’s military background shows immediately in his training. It’s so simple and easy for dog and handler alike. The thing I noticed right from the start was how Molly was. She was so happy and content, she was no longer anxious and frustrated whilst training. She calmed right down when around Frank, she must have been thinking finally someone who understands me. His methods are designed around making everything easy and enjoyable for the dog and because the dog is relaxed and not confused her attention span is much longer, she learns more and she feels good and confident in herself.
Watching Frank with Molly is just amazing. Frank is a hell of a lot more than just a dog trainer, it’s as if he actually molds and shapes a dog into a gun dog almost like they are plasticine in his hands. He is a perfectionist and it shows in the dogs that he trains. Also nothing seems to faze him. No problems, only solutions.
Training Molly is still very much an ongoing project and I still struggle to give her the time she needs. The difference is after a few one to one sessions with Frank I now can actually train her and the whole thing is something Molly and me both enjoy and look forward to. In my hands she certainly won’t be winning any field trials but that competitive side of the dogs has never interested me, I’ve been down that route with other types of working dogs and for me win or lose it just takes all the fun out of it. All I ever wanted from the beginning was a well behaved gun dog and thanks to Frank and his endless patience with me I am well on my way to getting exactly that. To put things into perspective I took an out of control dog who just would not walk to heel with a very sloppy retrieve to Frank and in less than one hour he had her walking to heel on and yes off! the lead and retrieving. The first trainer I went to could not achieve this in six months.
Frank is a lovely bloke and fun to be around, he has endless patience and the rare leadership skills that are needed to impair his training methods onto others. Every time he opens his mouth if you just listen then you will learn something.
I for one will always be grateful to him for giving me the confidence to train my own dog.