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