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Copyright Rupert Fawcett. Posted with the permission of Rupert Fawcett http://rupertfawcettsdoggyblog.tumblr.com/

OR
Well, to me there IS no question.
To use the common parlance . . .  “it is a no-brainer”!!!

However the breed standard for the Barbet states :

“The coat on the skull must fall onto the bridge of the nose.”

It does not say specifically that the eyes must be covered, but it implies that they should and I have been told by certain Barbet “authorities” that it must. I have also been told that the dog can easily see through this curtain of hair . . it cannot (see below). Certainly on browsing a good number of the vast multitude of Barbet photos now available online, a huge percentage of Barbets do have eyes covered by a thick curtain of wooly coat and virtually all “show” photos show the dog this way. The main exceptions, of course, are the “shaved brigade”!

I am not an expert on the history of the Barbet; although it is interesting, we are where we are now and must attempt to progress from the present, taking into account the past of course, but not in my opinion, becoming obsessive about it.  The Barbet is a chien de chasse/gundog/sporting dog used in the past, and in a very  few cases in the present, to assist mankind in the provision of petit gibier and gibier d’eau (small game and waterfowl) for the table; the Barbet was/is used by archers, guns or falconers to retrieve game they have shot or brought down.

Two points for consequent consideration:

1.      The dog must be able to mark the game fall in order to retrieve it (I will deal with blind retrieves and handling on another occasion!)

2.      Is the dog physically able to mark the game?

The first is obvious, but what is the answer to the second? Try this simple experiment: find a place where there are a number of trees/forest/woodland: hold the slightly separated fingers of both hands in front of your eyes: look up at the sky through your spaced fingers and through the tops of the trees. Do the same experiment using a background of mixed hedgerows and vegetation as would occur when marking and retrieving rabbit. (My point will be demonstrated even against an open sky) Could you see a medium-sized bird high in the sky, follow it with your eyes and mark it down? Could you pick out a rabbit against such a background?

I defy anyone to answer “yes” with honesty!

I am not against the “showing” of dogs; I have done so successfully myself in the past with another breed and also with my Barbet BUT as the breed standard also states . . .

“may be groomed in a specific manner to accommodate its work and maintenance.”

. . . the Barbet should be permitted to be shown clean, but in “working condition” as well, not be penalized for so doing.

I have also been told that the covered eyes are essential protection for the working dog. This is an absolutely ridiculous argument as all of the other gundog breeds seen in this country seem to manage perfectly well without this so-called protection. It is a totally spurious argument!

In my opinion the Barbet should be able to kept, worked and shown with its eyes visible because . . .

1.      It should be able mark game clearly. Whether or not it actually works on game, it is still a gundog.

2.      It should be able clearly to see its handler/owner, and vice versa. If the two are to make a successful working (or companion)  “team”, eye contact is essential.

3.      A saturated curtain of hair over the eyes when working in water is an encumbrance and potential danger; in addition it could lead the lead the dog to panic, lift its head and bring its front paws high out of the water . . in this case with the potentially SERIOUS result of it becoming vertical in the water and sinking feet first. I have known of two dogs (NOT BARBETS) who have drowned due to an excessively high, out-of-the-water swimming style leading to a vertical body position in the water and a "back feet first" surface dive to the bottom!

4.      Common sense dictates that a good flow of fresh air to the eyes, rather than a thick curtain of (sometimes wet) wooly hair harbouring dust or debris is bound to be better for the dog and its eyes.

 
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This is the second of two photos I received this morning (see the other on the International page of my website) of Nigel. Nigel is litter brother to Cousteau who visited us with his family earlier this year and whose photos can  be seen here ...  http://www.barbetchasseurfrancais.info/news2012.html

 
It would appear that there is no longer such a thing as a cross breed or a mongrel;  so what’s in a name? . . . a large price tag it would seem!
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Copyright Rupert Fawcett. Posted with the permission of Rupert Fawcett http://rupertfawcettsdoggyblog.tumblr.com/
I discovered, to my horror, there is a forum (there might be more than one for all I know, I stopped looking when I found one!) devoted solely to “Designer Mixes”.

Where has this terrible, relatively recent, fashion for designating cross-breeds as “Designer Dogs” come from? It would appear that it all stems from the Labradoodle whose creation, although done with the best of motives, has much to answer for.

Wally Conron, who at the time, was working for the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia, “invented” the Labradoodle as a consequence of being asked to provide a guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to dogs.

He now REGRETS his decision!  (see interview here . . .
 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/nov/13/inventors-idea-regret

This is the concluding paragraph of the article/interview . . .

“Conron has a pet labrador, Rocky, and has never kept a labradoodle as a pet. "No way!" he says, sounding shocked. He only ever bred 31 … "I'm on a pension and live in a little shoebox flat. If I'd gone into breeding labradoodles for a living, I'd be on easy street. But there was no way I'd do it. My conscience wouldn't let me."

It is pleasing that HIS conscience wouldn’t allow him to breed labradoodles for a living  . . . other people’s consciences are obviously not as strong as Wally Conron’s .

Not only do we have these cross-breeds, there is now the “miniature” cross-breed (or as breeders would like it described -  the “miniature” labradoodle) .... I dare say there will be, or even are already,  “toy”,” standard”,  “giant” and, heaven forefend,  “teacup” ones before long.  However .... there is light on the horizon and at least the ridiculous prices being charged for these dogs are coming down in a lot of cases .... but, not necessarily for a good reason .... the rise of other SO-CALLED designer breeds, properly known as cross-breeds, is providing competition. In my opinion many of these dogs are being bred deliberately just for their “cute” names; you all know what I’m talking about, I will not give them any further credence by noting examples of the names here.

Although the labradoodle was bred for a specific reason, and Guide Dog breeders also breed the Labrador/Golden cross often, unless there is an overwhelming  GOOD reason deliberately to breed crossbreeds I believe it is wrong.

So, to sum up . . . There are thousands of cross-breed dogs and mongrels in welfare and rescue centres all over the world (as indeed there are pedigree breeds too;) there are hundreds of pure-breeds out there, so why deliberately perpetuate and promote a cross-breed? I can see no good logical reason and conclude it must be for money and/or the “something-different-with-a-cute-name ” factor. Admittedly "pure breed" breeders breed for money as well, in spite of the noble motives they usually declare in public, but the cross-breed breeders (who like to refer to their dogs as designer breeds or merely by their so-called cute names) are, in my opinion, even less able to justify their commercial activities. I will now retreat to my foxhole and prepare for the enemy attack!!



 
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STEADINESS PRACTICE : One of life's essential skills - being steady to livestock. Every year we have the delight of hundreds of sheep passing the gate as they come down from the high fields to the farm below our house for shearing, and then seeing them returning again one or two days later 3 or 4 kilos lighter! This provides an excellent opportunity to reinforce the desired steady behaviour! This is a big occasion in the farming year round here and it's a question of "all hands on deck" for the muster - Land Rover, pick-up, quad bike, car, three dogs, the farmer and his family riding, walking or arm-flapping at errant sheep not to mention the frantic shouting and swearing that went on when a  bunch of them veered off into the churchyard . . .  and that's before you start counting the "yard brigade" of shearers, fleece rollers, sheep managers and refreshment providers; it is certainly a major operation!

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Nénu IS a very calm and steady dog (when required to be ... she has her moments at other times!!) so it isn't a problem, but she is always very fascintated by the procession past her gate. This photo was taken through the gate and shows the sheep on their downward journey; last night I timed the uphill return and it took very nearly 20 minutes for the whole flock to pass by . . . it is quite a large flock!!!!

 
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Long marks . . .

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. . . and hunting

 
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(BARF is taken to mean either Bones And Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food)

N.B NEVER FEED YOUR DOG COOKED BONES!!
There are two schools of thought amongst devotees of BARF feeding – the pro fruit & veg camp and the anti fruit & veg camp ...... I subscribe to the former, my dogs love the fruit and vegetable element of  the diet! Remember - it is raw MEATY BONES that form the mainstay of this diet NOT JUST MEAT.

Feeding the BARF diet
- basically there are two possible scenarios - EITHER you already have a dog and are considering changing its diet for some reason OR you are planning on getting a puppy and wonder on what to feed it!!

Why might you consider changing your adult dog’s diet from a “conventional” kibble, or even tinned food, to the BARF diet? Again, basically two reasons – medical or aesthetic! If your dog has any of a variety of allergies or digestive problems OR if you just don’t “fancy” the same-old-same-old stuff out of a bag (of which you can never be 100% sure of the contents unless you have a higher degree in food labelling!!) the BARF diet could be the solution. The reason I was converted to this diet more than 15 years ago was due to having a bitch with a severe contact allergy to many pollens – grass and some wild plants and trees. Inspite of being treated with a special customised de-sensitising vaccine flown in from the US there was no improvement, but within a few weeks of putting her on this diet her skin rash (which often became sore and even infected through persistent scratching) had disappeared and she had no further problems for the rest of her very long life!

Can you rear puppies on the BARF diet? ... most emphatically YES! If you are breeding a litter you will, of course already be an experienced dog owner, so I will not go into the details of weaning and rearing pups on a raw diet here, however suffice it to say puppies can be weaned straight onto a raw diet; they will love it and will thrive on it!  I will consider the prospective puppy owner, whose breeder has not reared the litter on the raw diet, but who would like to feed their new pup this way. Firstly, the old adage applies ... for the first few days in a new home it is probably best to keep the pup on the food provided by the breeder (which it should be - if this is not offered by your breeder then do not hesitate to ask for it!!) A puppy will have a lot to get used to in its new surroundings (not least a change in the water which is often overlooked as a cause of digestive upset in new puppies) so to stress it further by changing its diet is not a good idea. “All the books” say change over the diet gradually and I would absolutely agree with this when changing from one kibble to another, but I believe it is less critical when changing to a raw diet HOWEVER, it is still best to proceed with caution and observe your puppy extra-carefully as you make the change.

Young puppies not used to bones are usually put on to chicken wings to start with and these can be smashed up a bit with the side of a meat cleaver, a steak mallet or the back of a hand axe for the first couple of days (unless a giant breed pup when it probably won’t be necessary!!) if they are puzzled about how to deal with a whole wing. Be assured it will not take long for them to get used to it!!

I have encountered a number of people who say their puppy or dog will not eat the fruit & veg element of the diet; if you wish to include this, do not be persuaded to give up just because your pup is not immediately keen to eat it (although I’ve never had any trouble!). Some of the BARF books say add minced meat to the mix and gradually reduce it over a few days others advocate adding a small sprinkling of grated cheese or similar – personally I would NOT go down this route and allow my dog to train me to give them the “treats” that they want!! I would introduce the fruit/veg meal first and a few meals later the raw meaty bone/chicken wing meal.

Pros and Cons of the BARF diet!!

Pros - improvement in general well-being, fantastic teeth, “curing” of many allergies, the benefit of knowing exactly what your dog is eating, the obvious pleasure and enjoyment of the dog.

Cons – TO BEGIN WITH it can seem like a lot of trouble, but once you get into a routine it isn’t! Travelling/going on holiday can be tricky, there are two ways round this: you can buy pre-packed BARF food (it is expensive but would be OK for a short period) OR you can give your dog a high quality, preferably grain-free, kibble meal maybe once a fortnight when at home so that its system is accustomed to it and, in an emergency or when travelling it can be fed this kibble for a while without harm (this is the strategy I follow and I use Challenge Salmon and Potato kibble which I find to be one of the best kibbles)

You can research details of the BARF diet online or in assorted books (I recommend “Give Your Dog a Bone” by Ian Billinghurst) but if you need further help or advice or have any specific queries don’t hesitate to contact me! I could write much more on this diet, but I think that’s enough for now (although there is a little more information on my website www.barbetchasseurfrancais.info/feeding.html !)