Hastings and St Leonards Dog Training Club marked its 60th anniversary recently with celebrations.
The club began after one of its founder members, Vera Jones, went to see a professional dog trainer, Hubert Longhurst, because her dog Laddie would not come when he was called.
Following this, Vera successfully competed in Working Trials and Obedience Shows and in 1954, with nine other founder members, formed the club. Annual subscriptions were 25p with classes costing 2½p per week. Today annual subscriptions are £5 with class fees £2 per week.
Julia Norman-Brown, honorary secretary, said: “The club’s demonstrations in the 1950s in Alexandra Park have been well-documented and displays were reintroduced in the 1990s at local events. The club also held Championship Shows at the Hastings Bathing Pool Holiday Camp until it closed in 1985.
“The club has supported many charities over the years, most notably, Guide Dogs for the Blind, funding 23 dogs. The club’s current charity is Medical Detection Dogs and a raffle held at the celebration, drawn by their representative, Dr Moira Harrison and her medical alert dog, Treacle, raised £324.
“The most rewarding pupils are those dogs rescued from terrible backgrounds. Sweetpea, a Yorkshire Terrier, spent the first 18 months of her life in a small cage. She joined the club a very frightened dog with many phobias, but with kind and patient training by her owner, Melanie Reid, she went on to pass her Kennel Club Bronze and Silver Tests. She now leads a happy and full life.”
The club’s next event will be the Christmas party, featuring the popular games of Musical Sits, Retrieve the Boneo and Fastest Recall. In the old days, 12 children from the local National Children’s Home were invited and given some of the best dogs so they could take part in the fun.
The club’s current instructors were trained and mentored by the most experienced trainers from the period 1954 to 2004, also acquiring modern qualifications along the way. Seven classes are now run every week including a regular six-week beginner course, using two venues, St Luke’s, Silverhill and Christ Church, Ore offering the Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme tests from Puppy to Gold with a Competition Class. The club also benefits from an outside practice venue, courtesy of Hastings Borough Council.