A dif­fer­ent world

David Tom­lin­son talks to ca­nine be­haviourist Les Cromp­ton about the gun­dog scene in South Africa and why train­ing should be fun

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CONTENTS -

If only we could see our­selves as oth­ers see us. That is a quote from Rob­bie Burns, and it came to mind when I was in­ter­view­ing Les Cromp­ton. She is a pro­fes­sional ca­nine be­haviourist and work­ing gun­dog en­thu­si­ast, but she sees the Bri­tish gun­dog scene with the fresh eye of some­one who has lived on a dif­fer­ent con­ti­nent for al­most all her life. Born in South Africa, she vis­ited England for the first time in 2013, mov­ing here full time three years ago.

Be­fore I asked Les about dogs, I quizzed her on her ini­tial im­pres­sions of England com­pared with South Africa. “The shock at first was al­most over­whelm­ing,” she said. “It was so dif­fer­ent from South Africa that it was like land­ing on the moon. I couldn’t be­lieve how many peo­ple there are, how crowded the roads are, how close to­gether so many houses are. On the other hand, it is won­der­ful to have left the ra­zor wire and the high-se­cu­rity fences be­hind, and the con­stant fear of vi­o­lent crime in your own home.”

Many peo­ple in South Africa buy guard dogs for home pro­tec­tion, of­ten with dis­as­trous re­sults when their cute puppy ma­tures into an an­i­mal that they are un­able to han­dle. Les’s work in­cluded many con­sul­ta­tions with own­ers, try­ing to solve un­ruly dog be­hav­iour. Usu­ally the prob­lem was more with the own­ers than the dog, but han­dling a boer­boel (a South African mas­tiff and a favourite guard dog) is not for the faint-hearted.

“They’re enor­mous and fear­less, and of­ten peo­ple don’t re­alise what they have bought,” says Les. “I’d of­ten be called in to help when the dog was close to be­ing put down, so I be­came used to deal­ing with ag­gres­sive dogs. The se­cret was first gain­ing the trust of the dog, then telling the own­ers what they needed to change. Suc­cess in­vari­ably re­quired a calm but au­thor­i­ta­tive ap­proach to the dog.”

Les worked and tri­alled gun­dogs, but the South African gun­dog scene

“In South Africa there is no such thing as driven shoot­ing, so there is no pick­ing-up”


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