History of ASPADS

Working Trials started in 1924, five years after ASPADS was founded in 1919, and, apart from the involvement of the GSD League during the first few years, ASPADS was fully responsible for the development and running of Trials until the late 1950’s.  The Society was founded by Capt. Radcliffe and Mrs Giffard, who probably gave the Society its name, and Capt. Gurney and Harry Darbyshire were also highly influential within the Society during its early days.  It was the first dog training Society in Great Britain, and was originally limited to the training of GSD’s, then known as Alsatians – indeed, the original name of the Society was the Alsatian, Sheep Police and Army Dog Society.  The training was centred around “criminal” work, with some tracking, using training methods used in Germany and France.  The Society at this time ran Obedience and Breed Shows as well as Working Trials.

In the early years, ASPADS was the only Society running Working Trials, which were restricted at the time to “Alsatians”, but in 1932 “other breeds” were permitted to enter, and ASPADS changed its name to the Associated Sheep, Police and Army Dog Society.  Prior to WWII, 47 “Tickets” were awarded, 42 to Alsatians, 1 to a Standard Poodle, 2 to Great Danes and 1 to a Sheltie.

Working Trials ceased during the second World War, but ASPADS resumed activity in June 1945 – after a five year break the Society was back in business, and they wasted no time in trying to take advantage of the new experiences which were gained with the work carried out by the British War Dogs, but it was the autumn of 1947 before Working Trials restarted.  In 1949, one TD and two PD trials were scheduled by ASPADS, and a new organiser emerged, as BAA (British Alsatian Association, now BAGSD) ran a TD trial in the autumn of that year.  ASPADS also continued to run Breed and Obedience Shows in the 1950’s, but in 1965, the Society dropped both Breed and Obedience Shows from their annual programme, after many years of heavy financial losses from these events, concentrating solely on running Working Trials.

In the 1950’s, the membership of ASPADS was growing steadily, and branches of the Society opened in Guildford, Streatham, Mortlake, Yorkshire, Leeds, Poole, East Kent, Thames Valley, Dundee and Perth.  Today only Dundee remains as a branch, - some of the others went out of existence, and others broke away on their own; most concentrated on Obedience but a few remained committed to Trials, and are still training and running Trials now, under different names.

Membership in the 1950’s included some familiar names to “old timers” – Harry Darbyshire, Jean Faulks, Fred and Margaret Welham, Tony and Ann West, Snowy Croft, Ray Matchell, Jack Comber and Daphne Foreman, to name but a few.  Of these, Fred and Margaret both still serve on ASPADS Committee, and Margaret is President of the Society, both having been members for more than 50 years – coincidentally, Fred was born in the year that ASPADS was formed, and celebrated his 90th birthday in 2009.

Harry Darbyshire did more than any other person to put ASPADS, Working Trials and the Nation’s Police Dog Sections on the map.  He was a very active member for many years, and his legacy to the Society on his death in 1977 has meant that ASPADS has financial security to this day.  He was honoured with the BEM in 1959, in recognition of his work within the Police Dog Section.

In 1956, ASPADS were joined by SATS in running competitive Trials, followed a couple of years later by Surrey Dog Training Society, which was formed from the Guildford branch of ASPADS.

In 1961 Border Collies were permitted to compete in PD, and the first BC WTCh was Shane, owned and handled by ASPADS member Valerie Slatcher.

In 1975, the first Kennel Club Working Trials Championship was held, and the honour of running this went to ASPADS.  The venue was Vicarage Farm, Enfield, and both judges, TD, John Cree, and PD, Jim Dykes, came from Scotland.  The TD Stake was won by Susan Hodson (Susan Wood) with her Labrador Linnifold Black Magic and the PD winner was PC Keith Lake with his GSD Bois of Limbrook. 

Over the last 35 years, ASPADS has continued running trials all over the country, with venues being used and lost, but some have stayed the course.  There have been trials at Enfield almost from the start, and there are still two trials a year there.  Scarborough is another longstanding venue, with the summer Championship trial being a great favourite – some years ago entries got so big that the trial ran for more than a week, with over 100 dogs in the TD Stake.  Dundee branch, the only autonomous branch left within the Society, also runs two trials a year, attracting entries from all over Scotland, as well as south of the border, and sometimes from Ireland.  Recently, a new venue at Tillmouth, in Northumberland, was added, and trials run there have been very successful and well attended.

Early in the 21st century another name change was approved by the Kennel Club, and the previous somewhat cumbersome name was abbreviated to ASPADS Working Trials Society.  The Society now runs nine trials a year, five Championship and four Open.  In 2010 both PD trials were lost, due to lack of tracking land, but Monk Fryston Open has now become a popular Championship PD trial..   Membership numbers are healthy, although not as great as in earlier years, and most members are happy to help in a variety of roles, from tea making to Ticket tracklaying.  Of course, being a national Society has its drawbacks, the main one being the lack of a core of people in some of the venues, so that helpers usually have to be drawn in from a wide area for each trial, which has its attendant costs.  But the future looks promising, and the Society will be celebrating its centenary in 2019, when we will be running the Kennel Club Championship.  Hopefully, you will all be there to help with the celebrations!

Judy Meekings

Secretary, ASPADS Working Trials Society

With grateful thanks to John Cree for the use of his book “ASPADS History of Working Trials”.

If this has whetted your appetite for more knowledge of the history of Working Trials, John Cree’s book, which covers the years from 1919 to 1999, is available at £15.  If you would like a copy, please contact Judy, 01276 475225, or email Judy .


13 Feb 2024
23 Feb 2024
01 Apr 2024
ASPADS Enfield