Last weekend I went to the Kennel Club event at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatsworth_House
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Chatsworth is the family seat of the Duke of Devonshire and has been the home of the Cavendish family since 1549!


This Kennel Club-organised occasion was centred around the International Retriever Team Event for which teams came from as far a field as Finland and Italy; in addition there were retriever and spaniel training days, Working Tests and a young handlers’ day. I went mainly for a different reason. As you may know, a while ago the Kennel Club introduced a new Gundog sub-group, the Utility Gundog sub-group, for the the Kooikerhondje, Spanish Water Dog and Lagotto Romagnolo as these breeds did not seem obviously to fit in any of the existing Gundog sub-groups. They subsequently changed their mind on this grouping and decided the breeds should be re-classified into the Utility Group. As far as I can see, the Kooikerhondje breed club appeared to accept this decision. The other two breed clubs insisted that they wished to continue to be classified as Gundogs and a practical assessment meeting was arranged between representatives of both breeds and members of the KC Field Trials Committee with a view to deciding into which of the Gundog sub-groups they should be placed. I was fortunate to be allowed to witness this assessment. I think there were 11 SWD and 3 Lagotti present. The assembled dogs had done different amounts of training and/or gun dog training but as far as I could ascertain very few actually worked on shoots. 

On arrival everyone was welcomed by the Chairman of the KC Field Trials Committee. It had taken about 15 minutes to drive form the main House up to the Gundog event,  but then we all got back in our vehicles and drove another 10 minutes up to the moor (What wouldn't I give for a “back garden” as huge as that!!!)

The tasks set for the first part of the assessment were (one dog at a time) :
  1. Hunt-up over excessively rough and tussocky moorland (heather, new bracken, tall white grass tussocks and bog!)
  2. Recall to handler
  3. Mark with pistol shot.
This was the part of the assessment for judging the spaniel and/or HPR attributes as far as I could tell.

We all then move to a slightly easier piece of terrain … grass, bracken and heather, but not tussocky.

Two dogs at a time time were called forward and were sat up each side of the 'organiser'. They were allowed to be on the lead. Three dummies were thrown out into the area by a thrower ‘hiding’ in the corner of a spinny about 35-40yds down the slope. The handlers were told that these were ‘marks’ but this wasn’t really so of course, as the second one was not really a ‘mark’ but a ‘go-back’. It wasn't explained why three dummies were thrown out for two dogs! One handler sent his/her dog and the second had to wait until the first dog returned with the dummy (or not!) to send his/her dog. Some ‘second dogs’ had to wait quite a while!
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The marks …. if you look carefully, you can just see the dummy thrower standing at the corner of the spinney!


After this stage of the assessment up on the moor everyone drove back down to the HQ tent for lunch, chat and discussion. The entry to the field was fun (if you had 4x4!!) as it was about a foot deep in thick slushy mud! Going in was OK but coming out, up hill, was very dodgy sliding about as the gate posts were very substantial ones made of stone!! Not a venue for the car-proud or the 2x2!!

The morning session had taken far longer than expected (due to various reasons I won’t go into!) so sadly I was unable stay for rest of the afternoon as I had over a three hour journey ahead of me. However after lunch, the dogs were assessed on water retrieves which, I understand, were impressive …. no surprise there then!!!

It was a great day in a fabulous venue and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a group of friendly and welcoming people. I learnt quite a lot more about the breeds and found everyone very willing to talk about their breed and their dog(s). Well done to all those dedicated SWD and Lagotto Romagnolo owners who are determined to keep their breeds in the Gundog Group. Only by getting out there and working our (minority breed) gundogs in the field will we be justified in demanding they be included in the Gundog Group. It will be interesting to see in which of the gun dog sub-groups these two breeds will be placed. Watch this space!!

This also applies to the barbet of course, which is why I was interested in attending the day, and should be borne in mind for the future. 

NOW is the time that barbet ‘breeders’ and owners should be training their barbets in gundog work even if they do not want to go on a shoot. In my opinion there should be a decision (ahead of any application for breed recognition) on which sub-group the barbet should be placed in. If this decision is not taken, a similar day to the one I witnessed might be needed and the barbet might end up like the Kooikerhondje, and no longer be classified as a Gundog. Surely we owe the barbet more than that? If not, nobody has any business promoting the barbet as a working gundog which continues to happen at the moment in spite of the tiny number of barbets actually trained
as working gundogs!!!


 
Spring has sprung, but you wouldn't know it looking at yesterday and today; we've had almost continuous torrential rain and gales! You expect to be out in all weathers with a dog, especially a gundog, and our "official" training (either individual or group) carries on however extreme the weather might be, but when it's a Sunday morning and just the two of us, the thought of going out to train in the pouring rain is sometimes not that appealing - so it was today!!

SO . . . what to do? A spot of indoor training of the "hunt" and the "hold". How to proceed . . . 

Choose an appropriate place to sit your dog. I sat Nénu in the porch, then left her there while I went through the kitchen into the living room to hide a toy. The only command given was "sit!" (There is no need to stay "stay" as "sit" means "sit there until I give you a command to do something else"!)

Return to your dog and walk around your dog so that she is in the "heel" position. Give the "go back" command and then your 'hunt' command using whichever word you have chosen for that ("hi-lost", "find it" or whatever other word you use)

When the dog returns to you with the toy and is in front of you in the correct delivery position (sitting, holding the toy), give the "hold" command. (If you turn your back to her and allow the dog to come around in front of you, she will be facing the correct way for the next time) Remind your dog to "sit" and "hold", leave her there holding the toy and repeat the action of hiding another toy in a different place.

Return to the dog, give the command to release the toy (I used "dead") Walk around the dog so she is in the heel position and facing the correct way and send her again with a "go-back" then "hi-lost" ( or whatever hunt command you use)

Repeat the whole exercise just a few times making the toy a little more difficult to find each time. Do NOT overdo this  just three or four times will do in any one session.

Below you can see Nénu sitting and holding a toy prior to me returning to her so she could release the toy when commanded, prior to being sent for the next article!
 
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Nénu picking-up on a driven pheasant shoot 
CAN the barbet survive as a gundog (hunting dog/chien de chasse)?   YES!
WILL the barbet survive as a gundog (hunting dog/chien de chasse)? NO!

These answers are, of course, purely my personal opinion. I am not talking about the survival of the breed per se, I am certain that is assured, not least because of the amount of money that is involved nowadays. I am referring to the possibility that the barbet will regain, yes regain not retain, it's rôle as a successful breed of working gundog. Certainly in the UK there would be an  unimaginable amount of work to establish the barbet as a successful member of even the "minor"  or "AV" breed gundog classification. With no unified opinion as to the sub-group in which it should be placed (retriever, spaniel or HPR) the barbet, (together, in this country, with two already KC recognised breeds, the Lagotto Romagnolo and Spanish Water Dog) starts off at a disadvantage if trying to become established as a working gundog in any country.

If the barbet is to retain (or gain, depending on the country) it's place as a working gundog, it needs to prove it's abilities. So-called "natural ability", which is a suspect concept anyway when the rôle of the breed has not been universally accepted, is insufficient. No breed of Gundog (or Working dog) emerges from puppyhood equipped to carry out the rôle for which it was bred. Yes, in certain breeds there are "strong working lines" but these have been built up over generations of selective breeding using the dogs and bitches which have shown the greatest "natural ability" AND have been TRAINED to develop it into the capacity to carry out the tasks required by the human handler under control and at a high standard.

So, how is this to be achieved? Firstly, people who breed barbet puppies and promote them as potentially "working gundogs" (as opposed to those who just market them as a lively companion breed) are doing so dishonestly unless they can back up their claim by PROVING it is true. There is so much constantly repeated false information on the internet that an uninformed or inexperienced potential owner would be justified in believing they were about to acquire a shooting companion with the working drive of one of the long-established recognised gundog breeds. The number of times I have read that the barbet is a "natural retriever" cannot be enumerated. This is really a meaningless statement; many breeds of dog, from all groups, will "retrieve". One has only to go to a park or to the beach to see owners throwing a ball (or, very dangerously, a stick) for their dog to see this in action. All this does is to demonstrate that all breeds have an instinct to chase and "catch" something (in the past it would have been their meal!) Working gundogs (in the UK anyway) are not required to chase; they are required, only when commanded to do so, to run out, pick up and bring back a shot bird or animal. IF a bird or animal has been shot, but not killed, and has run off then the dog will be required to take a line on that game and retrieve it to hand; this is not the same as chasing healthy unshot game or other wild animals or birds.

So how is the status of the barbet as a useful, accomplished working gundog to be achieved?

Firstly, a large number of owners must be seen to be training their dogs to be handled in the field and must be seen also to have done this to a good standard. This is particularly applicable to breeders who intend to promote the breed in this way. Most breeders who promote the breed thus have never trained a gun dog . . . hardly a position from which to tell potential buyers that their barbet will be a useful shoot companion . . .  and yes, I have heard this said!

Secondly such breeders should make as much effort as possible to place puppies with owners who intend to train them to work in the field.

Thirdly, barbet breed clubs should promote this aspect of the breed by providing quality training opportunities. After that, club assessment tests and working tests should be provided with participation in field trials being the ultimate aim. Of course, in this country, the latter two cannot take place if KC breed recognition is not achieved, but training and assessment tests can be organised by any breed club.

Fourthly, once a sufficient number of barbets have proven themselves in the field and some sort of test (and this will take many years), breeding from dogs and bitches with proven working ability should be a priority in order, hopefully, to produce the working lines of the future.

OK . . .  so I'm on my hobby horse again, but I DO do my best to show what the barbet is capable of by photos and descriptions of my own barbet's achievements in training and when picking-up on shoots. I just wish there were more like-minded barbet owners out there; there are some, but not enough to justify promoting the barbet as a working gundog! SO . . .  wherever you live, find yourself a good gundog training instructor whom you like, respect and trust (don't just accept the first one you come across if you're not happy for any reason) . . . and get out there into the field. There is no greater pleasure than, having embarked upon training your barbet, you take her (or him) out and see her working successfully as a shooting companion picking freshly shot game!

Good luck with your training! With a bit of effort, this might be your barbet eventually . . . .
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"Elevenses" on a shoot day (that's my Nénu!)
 
Barbets don't work only on duck you know (inspite of the pictures you might see online!!) Nénu and a large cock pheasant
The picking-up team sleeping it off at the end of a long day's very hard work!!
 
I would imagine that most of you reading this article either drive or have access to a vehicle in which to take your dog(s) out and about. Like many active 'dog people', I cover a fair number of miles with my dogs. I never cease to be horrified by the manner in which SOME dogs are transported in their owners' vehicles and, in some cases, the way that dogs get in and out of the vehicles.

As a Newfoundland owner before becoming a Barbet owner, I freely admit that my dog-transporting arrangements night seem a little over the top for those with, maybe just one Barbet, however I describe them along with more modest, but equally safe, set-ups!!

The first, and what should be the most obvious factor to consider when driving with your dog(s) is your safety (and the safety of your passengers, if any, especially children); the second is the safety of your dog(s). A parallel consideration is the safety of other road users.

If a dog is travelling unrestrained in a vehicle it becomes, potentially, a missile should you come to a sudden stop under any circumstances. Remember  Newton’s First Law of Motion

 "An object remains at rest or moves in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted on by an unbalanced force”

That means that if you are travelling at 40 m.p.h. and make an emergency stop, your unrestrained dog will continue to move forward at 40 m.p.h.!!!!!! A 25 kg dog hitting the back of your head, or the windscreen of your car ,  at that speed will probably kill you or kill itself.

Rule 57 of THE HIGHWAY CODE  (UK) . . . .

https://www.gov.uk/rules-about-animals-47-to-58/other-animals-56-to-58

states . . .

When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.

So, how should a dog be restrained?

Without a doubt, in my opinion, a strong, purpose-built dog box, cage or crate of appropriate size, is the solution. Equally good is to have your vehicle modified with a customised, built-in caging system. I am fortunate to have two vehicles and my van is professionally caged-out by  http://www.dogcages.net .This is the ideal solution, providing the best of both worlds, but I realise it is not practical for most people! They also make crates which, like their custom caging, have the added advantage of being guaranteed silent (no rattles when on the move!!) 
This is my van set-up  . . . (as I said, a little over the top for some!!)
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Two “upstairs” areas which can be converted to one large area.  Both areas have “escape” doors as well, in case of a rear  “shunt”!


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One large “downstairs” area.

This arrangement has the added advantage of providing excellent ventilation, both on the move (both side doors have sliding windows) and, more obviously, when stationery.

There are many types of cage or dog box available made from a variety of materials, of solid or mesh construction. Many crates are not up to the job of providing sufficient protection for the dog; they are made of flimsy- gauge wire. Ensure that if you use a mesh crate that it is very heavy-duty. "Solid" sided dog boxes are preferred by many gundog people who are proud of their vehicles as if their wet, muddy dog shakes when it gets into the vehicle, a solid box will contain the mess!!  Here are some examples  . . .
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Again, having owned working Newfoundlands I am somewhat obsessive about ventilation and would prefer a strong mesh crate or dog-guard and tail-gate guard combination in my car (but I am not worried about mud and water for the same reason!!)
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A good quality, heavy-duty crate is made by  http://www.doghealth.co.uk/  Check carefully before buying as they also make a lighter-weight crate suitable (in my opinion) only for indoor use at home. I have one of these heavy-duty crates in my car - it is excellent! If you're worried about wet/mud spread by a shaking dog, you can always just drape a towel over the crate

For whatever reason, some people will not use a strong crate or box and choose, in my opinion, an inferior method of restraint. These methods fall, basically into two groups - "soft" crates and harnesses.

Soft crates do restrain the dog and, if safely and firmly fixed (which in my experience they usually are not) will prevent the dog from being thrown forward on impact, but they provide virtually no protection in a crash as they just collapse.
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“Soft” or collapsible crates

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"Safety" harnesses which attach to the vehicle's seat belts have the same disadvantages.

Even more dangerous, I believe, are the "hammocks" or "slings" that fit between the rear and front seats. These are even more dangerous than the dog riding on the seat or in the foot well because I the dog is in a higher position and therefore even more likely to be catapulted forward on an emergency stop and it cannot be “attached” to a seat belt harness.

Bottom of the scale in safety (in descending order!) are the dogs that travel on the back seat, then the ones on the front seat (or the lap of the front passenger) then the ones on the rear parcel shelf, then the ones on the front dashboard (yes! .. really!) or, worst of all, on the driver's lap!!! Some of you will have seen examples of all these horrors.
Here are some nightmare scenarios I have found . . .
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Unrestrained “back seat dog”

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Unrestrained "front seat dog"
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Dog on rear parcel shelf

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Dog resting on driver’s head!!! (identity concealed)

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NO COMMENT!!

Something worth mentioning here is the danger of allowing a dog to travel along with its head sticking out if the window. Never permit this, it can be very harmful to your dog, especially if debris gets forced into it eyes or ears. In addition, the forced flapping of the pinnae caused by the strong wind speed and pressure can cause severe damage.
Another factor not often considered, is the possibility of the dog falling, or jumping, out of the window with obvious disastrous results. If the weather is hot and you want to have the windows open, fit grills over the aperture to prevent the dog sticking its head out.
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Again, no comment!!!


The final thing I am going to mention, in regard to safe travel, is the getting and getting out of a vehicle. Ensure that your puppy (as soon as it is old enough to do so safely) is able and willing to sit quietly by the vehicle and then jump into it on command without fuss. (or be lifted in if it is a very small dog or a very high vehicle) Even more important is training your dog/puppy not to jump out of the vehicle until it is told to do so on arrival at your destination. This is particularly relevant if you have more than one dog sharing a box or crate. The dogs should sit on command and remain sitting until each one, by name, is given the command to exit the vehicle safely. (Remember not to allow immature dogs/puppies to jump out at all as they could cause permanent damage to their joints by so doing.)

TRAVEL SAFELY and BON VOYAGE!!!

 
Before the first drive . . . Members of the picking-up team waiting for the action to start!
This game is most definitely NOT cold!!
 
This weekend (Sept 14th & 15th) it is the Midland Game Fair - the last major  game fair of the season and, I think, the biggest one in the UK after the CLA. It's WELL worth a visit and takes place at Weston Park, Shropshire . . . anyone going?? See you there if so . . . we'll be there!!

http://www.countrymanfairs.co.uk/midland-game-fair


 
Anyone whose dog frequents wild areas of parks, unused industrial land, farm land, many areas of the countryside or even less well-tended gardens (like mine!!). . . that’s virtually every dog owner I would say! Should be aware of the serious damage that can be caused by the seeds - often known as “barley spears” - of the FOXTAIL GRASS (Hordeum murinum or Wall barley) and other related grass varieties. Naturally, if you live in an arable area where barley is grown, this applies too although of course you should never allow your dog to roam into standing crops of any variety.
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Foxtail grass

Why are the seeds of these grasses (cereals) so dangerous?

Each seed on the seed head is pointed at one end and has barbed “hairs” at the other. The pointed end can easily be driven into the dog’s skin by the pressure of passing through vegetation or undergrowth or can later travel through the coat and penetrate the skin by the general movement of the dog and the pressure caused by lying down or rolling. Due to the tiny hairs or barbs which are backward-pointing, the seed will not naturally drop out and

IT MAY TRAVEL AWAY FROM THE PENETRATION POINT TO ANYWHERE IN THE BODY!!

This action is facilitated by the barbs ... rather like a fish hook which goes in easily enough but is very tricky to get out!

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A single seed - magnified view!
Note the direction in which the barbs lie

The embedded seed will probably cause the dog to lick the site (if it can be reached) or it might become infected . . . or both, and a very painful red, sore swelling will ensue. IF this is noticed in time, the seed can be removed by your vet, hopefully without too much trouble. Serious, potentially VERY serious, problems can develop if the seed is allowed to travel. It will be extremely difficult to locate the seed and, in some cases, major surgery may be needed to locate and remove the offending article. You may imagine the damage that could be caused if a dog inhaled a seed and it entered its lung for example.

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More spiky seeds.

QUESTION : what is the key to avoiding this potential danger?

ANSWER : CHECK YOUR DOG EVERY TIME YOU RETURN from an outing when it has been in or through areas of long or longish grass. This might seem tiresome, but it will be time well-spent and could save your dog a lot of suffering and you a lot of money (and suffering!!)

If you have a Newfoundland (as I do) you may have a blaster ... USE IT ... they are not just for wet coats, but should be used regularly on dry coats to rid them of dust, dander and .... grass seeds!!

If you have barbets you probably won’t have a blaster, but if you do, you can use it on a dry coat again, to blast out any debris (personally I wouldn’t recommend its use on a wet barbet coat), but in any case . . .

INSPECT and FEEL your dog all over; check for seeds especially the feet (between pads and toes), head, muzzle and behind ears, chest, fronts of legs, axillae and groin. If you suspect an embedded grass seed seek veterinary advice sooner rather than later!!

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BEWARE and BE AWARE OF THE FOXTAILS !

 
Yet again the interests of the "little person" are being trampled underfoot by "Big Business". What makes it worse is that the "Big Business" is posing as a supposedly "green" provider of energy.

Terrestrial wind farms are bad enough, but to despoil thousands of acres of beautiful countryside by erecting pylons to carry the wind-generated energy is, in my opinion, an abomination.
How would this scene look with pylons marching across it?
This is Brechfa Forest . . . where I live.
None of us who live here want it ruined.
PLEASE PLEASE SIGN THIS EPETITION . . . .  wherever you live. It could be YOUR countryside on another occasion!!

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/53592
 
The main training season for gundogs is in the summer (the winter is more the working season although training continues throughout the year!!) One of the places we go training has, without extreme care, become potentially very dangerous! The hazard was present last year, but is much worse this year because nobody has done anything about it!! Why? Because landowners have no legal obligation to deal with this hazard, their only obligation is to prevent it from spreading on to other landowners’ property. In my experience they are failing to do so!!

So what is this danger? ..

GIANT HOGWEED
(Heracleum mantegazzianum)
This non-native species was apparently introduced, from Russia, by the Victorians who thought it would be a stunning architectural plant for their gardens., but it has proven to be a nasty, dangerous and highly invasive species. It is a PHOTOTOXIC plant which means the sap becomes toxic when exposed to UV rays. Its sap causes horrible blistering burns. This plant is a member of the UMBELLIFERAE (e.g. cow parsley,  hogweed, fennel and ground elder) family  and can grow up to 5 METRES in height!!

If your skin should come into contact with the sap of this plant, within about 24 hours blistering will occur. Depending upon the degree of contact, you may end up with . .

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THIS . . . OR . . .
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. . . THIS . . . OR
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THIS ! ! !
and you may, or may not, need hospital treatment.

The blistering can last for  many months, but the overall effect will last for about 2-3 years provided you always cover up when you go outside If you do not do so, the sunlight will reactivate the blisters and you will be back to “square one”. Permanent effects can include scarring and/or a change in pigmentation of the skin. The sap of the  whole plant is dangerous, but the lower part of the hollow stems and petioles, hollow hairs on the plant, foliage, stem, flower and fruit (seed) have the highest concentration and so most serious adverse effects.

This Plant is difficult to miss when fully grown, due to its size, but early in the season it is easily overlooked in undergrowth;  it is commonly found along river banks (although in other places too) and spreads easily as it may have as many as 50,000 seeds which can float downstream, or be easily dispersed by the wind, and create more colonies of the plant.

Typical stock fences are between 3ft 6in and 4 ft so you can see how big these specimens are, and they can get a lot bigger too.

So . . . please BE AWARE and TAKE CARE. (This plant affects animals too)

Have a look at the following links for more information :

Video and very comprehensive information - http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/heracleum_mantegazzianum.htm

Other links –

http://www.ceh.ac.uk/sci_programmes/documents/gianthogweed.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/japanese-knotweed-giant-hogweed-and-other-invasive-plants

https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/nonnativespecies/index.cfm?pageid=152

http://japaneseknotweed.com/giant-hogweed-identification/