WHERE WE WEREN'T . . . . . 
The CLA GameFair is over for another year and, by all accounts it was a very successful one. I must say, having been to a good number over the years at various venues, they really do seem to have picked a winner in Ragley Hall. The traffic management was superb - certainly no hold-ups or delays, unlike another venue which will be coming round again soon and could certainly learn a lesson or two from Ragley. There appeared to be a larger number of smaller parking areas, rather than a small number of vast ones (although this might have. been an illusion!) and access to the entrance from the parking area was easy and close-by. Parking staff, people on the entrance etc were all, without exception, friendly and helpful. Yes, they may have been instructed to be welcoming but there was none of the false-sounding and formulaic "Have a nice day! " that is all too prevalent these days . . .  all personnel sounded sincere in their greetings which made for a great start to the day. Well done the CLA and Ragley Estate!!

The heat was extreme and despite a multitude of advance warnings and publicity campaigns by various organisations in assorted media it was not long before an announcement over the tannoy requested the owner of a white Transit van, with three dogs shut inside it, to return to the vehicle as soon as possible. 

WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH SUCH PEOPLE?? They should be prosecuted and, in my opinion, banned from keeping dogs for a minimum of five years. I do not know the outcome of this incident, I can only hope that somebody had the sense to smash the vehicle windows and get the dogs out before they died, as they surely would have done very quickly on a day when the temperature in the sun was well over 30° Celsius!! ... Edited later to add: I have heard that it was three Labradors left by people for two hours while they took their children to the funfair. Two dogs died and one looks unlikely to survive.

Anyway, after sitting in the still pleasantly-warm sunshine over a relaxed breakfast of excellent coffee and almond croissant, during which I read the Game Fair brochure, I sallied forth to the adjacent gundog area. Shopping was first on the agenda and I succumbed to the temptation of a new game bag and some snipe dummies. The next port of call was the Sporting Dog Pavilion (it is NOT Discover Dogs as I have heard it referred to!!) I am not sure how it is decided which breeds are to appear in this Pavilion, there were some interesting inclusions and omissions! Early on it wasn't too oppressive in there, but the organisers really need to investigate making this very enclosed space more dog (and people!) friendly. The pens/stands are tiny and, as I know from having represented my breed on previous occasions, the human representatives are, quite rightly, requested to remain inside the pen in order to keep access free for the paying visitors; this frequently results in dogs being crowded, difficult to see and so not "displayed" as well as they could, and should, be. Perhaps the organisers should take a leaf out of the RWAS's (Royal Welsh Agricultural Society's) book; they have installed giant fans and air conditioning in the livestock areas in for their prestigious Royal Welsh Show which takes place this week. If they can afford it, I am sure the CLA should be able to do so.

I digress! As previously mentioned, we were not invited to represent the Barbet breed this year, but it was nice to catch up with the owners of one of Nénu's litter siblings. I understand that there were eleven Barbets present over the three days; as this was a pavilion for sporting dogs , not merely breeds classified as gundogs (which grouping doesn't even exist in  FCI classification by the way) it would be interesting to know how many of those on show were trained working gundogs. In the Sporting Dog Pavilion I also met up with one of my training companions, and her dogs, on the Welsh Springer Spaniel stand and chatted at length to a couple who have recently introduced another French breed into this country . . . the French Spaniel. Like another apparently mis-named breed, the Irish Water Spaniel (which is in the Retriever sub-group) the French Spaniel is, in fact, an HPR!!

WHERE WE WERE!!!

After a very welcome sit-down here in the Members' Area (but in the shade!) for coffee, I spent the  rest of the time looking at various gundog demonstrations and competitions which were  interesting, revealing(!!) and enjoyable.

Exit from the Game Fair was as trouble-free as entry. If you are interested in gundogs, country sports or rural affairs and you have never visited the CLA Game Fair I would thoroughly recommend that you do so next year at BLENHEIM PALACE, OXFORDSHIRE, JULY 18th - 20th 2014 - visitors come from all over Europe (and the world for all I know!!) both to compete and to spectate! So put the date in  your diary now!! I can only hope that the organisers provide the excellent traffic management that was in place this year at Ragley Hall!!!

WELL DONE SUBARU !!
 
Next week (July 19th - 21st) the CLA Game Fair will be held at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. This annual event is the biggest of its kind in the world and anyone with any interest in field sports, or the countryside in general, should, in my opinion, make the effort to visit it at least once in a lifetime! (Having visited once you will be bound to want to go again!!)

We have not been invited to represent the breed in the Sporting Dog Pavilion this year . . . as Nénu is one of the very very few Barbets trained as a working gundog this seems unfortunate but as a result there seems little point in just walking her round in the heat all day.

At an event patronised largely by people with a direct interest in one or more field sports, or with a deep affinity to all things rural, the CLA Game Fair is a shop window for an audience both knowledgeable and keen to find out more about everything from fishing reels to ecological land management to working gundogs.

The Sporting Dog Pavilion is always popular with visitors who love, both to "say hello" to the varied breeds on display but, more crucially, to find out whether any particular breed would suit their particular requirements in the field. Having been on the receiving end of many detailed and perceptive questions and comments frequently at this event in past I know how keen responsible potential gundog/sporting dog/working dog owners are to acquire impartial, detailed and accurate information about both the strengths and weaknesses, indeed all aspects, of any breed they might be considering.

Although we won't be in the Sporting Dog Pavilion this year, as in the past, I am sure you would have a great time if you were to visit the CLA Game Fair. Ideally you would spend three days there but one day is better than none!!! If you manage to get there . . . have fun . . . I hope you enjoy it!

 
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Thursday 10.50 am . . .

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Thursday 12.20 pm (local time) . . .

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The whole route!!

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Thursday evening and for several more days!!

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Friday, Saturday and Sunday!!

 
Here on "my" mountain in the forest, the midge season starts at the beginning of June and lasts about a month . . . it can be horrendous!! In addition there are the flies (which are always prevalent near sheep, although more so in the hot weather) and assorted other flying pests! Although I tend to cover myself with all sorts of probably noxious substances in an attempt to repel the little blighters, I'm not keen on doing that to my dogs!! I have used this mixture very successfully for many years.  It was originally suggested by a Danish Barbet owner who walks dogs in the forest every day. Some of the essential oils are not cheap, but they last for years if stored in a cool dark place. Here is the recipe . . .

In a mister bottle - Mix  . . .
  • 2 teaspoons “Plush Puppy” Seabreeze oil
  • 1 cup of water (8 fl oz)
  • 4 drops of citrus oil,
  • 2 drops of peppermint oil
  • 2 drops of lavender oil
  • 2 drops of sandalwood oil
Shake well before using, then mist this mixture over your dog everyday, and you should see no fleas, ticks or any other nasty bugs on your dogs.
IT WORKS and an added bonus is that it smells lovely!!

Disclaimer : I do not claim that this is as efficacious as chemical treatments or is a replacement for them, but I believe it to be safer and I have found it to be a safe and effective compound.




 
Some of those who style themselves “breeders” seem have few criteria determining the number of dogs they keep; no matter their declared motives or what they say, in my opinion their aim is usually to maximise their income and/or their status and they are often not overly concerned about their relationship with their individual  dogs. I am NOT referring to all people who breed a litter . . . just some of those that style themselves “breeders”! That is not to say that all other dog owners are responsible, far from it; both “breeders” and “ordinary dog owners” can be equally guilty of keeping too many (in my opinion) dogs!!

So, as I said, how many is too many? There is, of course no single answer to this question, there are many qualifying conditions. Here are a few to be considered -

  • Is the owner at home all day every day?              
  • What is the size of the owner’s house
  • Is there a good-sized garden?
  • How much time can be given each day to each individual dog (not the dogs as a group)?
  • What is the required exercise regime for the particular breed?
  • How much grooming is required by the breed in question?
  • Does the owner have other time-consuming responsibilities (albeit ones in and around the home)? e.g. does he/she have children? Is he/she a carer for another family member? Does she/he work from home?
  • Is the owner able to afford a large number of dogs under all circumstances (food bills and vet’s bills, for example can add up very quickly even for the basics) without having to “scrimp” on important things mentioned above such as prophylactics, other veterinary treatment, food quality etc.
  • Does the owner have sufficient training skills and general canine knowledge to obviate the development of the “pack mentality” or other bad behaviour in his/her dogs?

Incidentally these points also encompass the topics about which “breeders” should question prospective puppy buyers . . . they may say they do, but very often they don’t, or they do not check up on whether the answers from the would-be puppy owners are honest!

There are other considerations, but these are, perhaps, some of the most important factors to consider. I have known people, with five or more dogs, who work and have a family; how they can achieve, and maintain, a close relationship with each individual dog, train it, exercise it, groom it (depends on the breed of course . . . there’s a BIG difference between a GSP and a Barbet for example!) etc is beyond my comprehension. I know of one person (with a large breed) who kept 11 dogs in their house and another, with a giant breed who kept far more than that, also in the house. In my opinion that is irresponsible, for many reasons!!

SO . . . how many is too many? I offer no definitive answer; as I said, there is a wide variety of factors to be taken into consideration, the most important, and OBVIOUS, is the amount of time the owner has to give to each individual dog. It might look or sound good (to the uninformed) to declare that you have 6 or 7 (or more!) dogs, but think! . . are you acting responsibly and in the best interests of the dogs by so doing?

 
This fantastic setting is the venue for the French Game Fair which takes place in the grounds of the biggest of the Loire châteaux . . . Chambord. We will be there !!! for the three days of the Game Fair which starts next Friday, June 21st, and which will cost just €23 pp. For three days at the CLA Game Fair in this country you will pay a whopping £77(€ 90!!) pp for three days (unless you are "working" there, although a few £s cheaper if you buy in advance)
For more information on this prestigious event see www.gamefair.fr In the unlikely event that any of you are also going to this event . . . do email me . . . maybe we could meet up there!!! Unsurprisingly, you'll probably find us in the Village Chiens!!
 
Apologes for the lack of recent posts! Dog activities have taken over a lot of my time and then there were severe technical problems (now hopefully overcome!)
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When I bought my first and only (........ so far!!) Barbet I had the naive expectation that, being such a worldwide numerically small breed, compared with other breeds with which I’ve been associated, most, if not all, owners would be able and willing to co-operate and work for the good of the breed and that the politicking I’d encountered within previous breeds/clubs would be non-existent .......

HOW WRONG I WAS!!

Although there are bound to be cliques and factions in any breed or community, within a numerically large breed these are less likely to cause foment through opportunities to grab and exercise power and influence. Initially, many of those who have been in a breed the longest assume the mantle of knowledge and experience which, very often (although certainly not always) is totally justified; this may be done consciously or by default. As time goes by there is an emergence of “Young Pretenders” and the “old timers” (rightly or wrongly) often feel their position to be challenged or even threatened, but instead of opening their metaphorical arms to these newcomers and sharing their experience openly, they close ranks and take every opportunity to tighten their grip on their power! Whilst this is understandable up to a point (many of the newcomers ARE out to challenge or threaten the “old timers” – I have experienced this in the past) I find it sad that it just serves to emphasise divisions and reinforce differences. Newcomers are “recruited” by one faction or another; some breeders demand or encourage “undying devotion” from their puppy buyers, who then become their acolytes, by laying down all manner of conditions and the situation becomes more and more entrenched. In my opinion this is not good for any breed. Knowledge and experience are often not acknowledged and shared graciously but are seen as a threat rather than an opportunity to develop and improve a breed, community, club or other institution. Provided any criticism is reasoned, positive and constructive, I believe that it should be able to be accepted by any intelligent adult without fear and not seen as a possible putsch!

I have entitled this piece “Facebook – Friend or Foe” because although I am an internet “addict”, use Facebook myself and believe it to be a great tool in many ways, it can also be very divisive. Whereas, in pre-FB days there were large fora where all interested members of any particular community, canine or otherwise, could engage, now, with individual pages, community pages, open group pages and closed group pages those people with a common interest are channelled into smaller cliques and factions often operating behind “closed doors”, or even worse, in public, but anonymously. Rumours and gossip abound. The concept of FB “Friends” is a dangerous one – individuals ask others “Are you friends with so-and-so?” The reply is often “Yes” when, in fact, the two parties in question have never met, never had a proper conversation and are basing this so-called “friendship” on a perceived affinity, click of a mouse, a desire to know what’s going on in another clique, a fear of being excluded, a desire to be with the “in crowd” or other spurious motive. One has only to look at the number of FB friends sported by some people to realise that the whole situation can become farcical!

Recently I have observed a lot of “back-biting” in a  “community” to which I belong. I try to stay out of it most of the time and make it my policy not to be unkind or rude to others in a public place; I make every attempt to stick to facts (except when openly writing “opinion pieces”, for example on this Blog!) Text too, can be dangerous as subtleties of meaning can be misinterpreted, translation misunderstandings abound and as a result all sorts of falsehoods can be unintentionally (or intentionally) promulgated; again, in my opinion this can be extremely deleterious to the community, or the individual, concerned

A previous post “Pride, Megalomania or Money” covers some of the same ground as this piece, for which I make no apology. Of course any individual is entitled to his or her own opinion (as you can see, I am always willing to express mine!!) but surely these opinions should be able to be expressed without individuals having to suffer vitriol or “cyber-bullying” as a result?




 
Why do we do it? Working gundog people must be some of the maddest out there!! Walking about, or standing about, in mud and water all day for the fun of it . . . and yes, it IS fun!! So yes . . . we ARE mad!!
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The gun line . . . 
(in the rain hence the poor photo!)

Yesterday we were out on a "walk one, stand one" day. I wrote about the rain on another day in my last post . . that was nothing!! The rain and hail yesterday were of truly biblical proportions - in one of the wettest years I can remember, it was definitely one of the wettest days!! Driving to the shoot was an adventure in itself, luckily I was driving a 4x4. The surface water floods and extreme flow of water, vegetation and leaves across the roads made it quite an adventure; the lanes were more like rivers than highways!! The approach to the yard where we parked crossed a bridge over a very swollen river . . . the concrete roadsurface of the bridge was about eight inches under the water which was raging through the barred parapet - excellent fun if you're in the right vehicle with the right tyres!!
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Not a "peg dog", but a dog by a peg!! (well, my stick actually)

Nénu waiting patiently behind the guns, in the rain!

It's getting towards the end of the season now so the birds are becoming wily! In addtion the weather was execrable so they were staying well tucked in, not lifting well at all. Nénu was on her best behaviour; off lead all day and steady as a rock (a very wet one!!)
Waiting behind the guns again  . . . there are actually three guns visible although it's pretty difficult to see them due to the torrential rain and the distance!!

All-in-all an enjoyable day despite the weather. As I've mentioned before, it pays to have the right clothing. I was bone dry and warm at the end of the day!!
 
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It might not look it from this photograph, but believe me it was a VERY WET day on the shoot last Saturday. Days like that enable one to justify the vast amounts of money spent on decent waterproof gear for the field - I was still warm and dry by the end of the day!

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