Black­ber­ries are good for you and good for your dog

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CONTENTS - E: dhtom­lin­son@bt­in­ter­net.com

have al­ways been a for­ager. On many oc­ca­sions I have come home from shoot days with my game bag stuffed full of mush­rooms. These days, though, it is just as likely to be onions or parsnips left be­hind af­ter har­vest, and I never fail to be amazed at how much of a crop is left in the field af­ter the har­vester has fin­ished. I am cur­rently pick­ing black­ber­ries on al­most ev­ery walk as it is an ex­cep­tion­ally good black­berry har­vest this year.

How­ever, I am not a great black­berry eater. Much as I like the fruit, I find the tiny pips get stuck in my teeth. Black­ber­ries are fine if I can be both­ered to pulp them and sieve them to get rid of the pips, but

Iis very dif­fer­ent to ours. “There is no such thing as driven shoot­ing, so there is no pick­ing-up,” she ex­plains. “Rough shoot­ing with a cou­ple of dogs is nor­mal. There is no walkedup for­mat in a South African trial; in­stead your dog will be ex­pected to do multiple, lengthy, in­di­vid­ual re­trieves, of any­thing from guinea fowl to geese. Dogs are en­cour­aged to work in a nat­u­ral way, and the whis­tle is used only as a last re­sort. The em­pha­sis is on the dog us­ing its own ini­tia­tive and think­ing for it­self.”

UK tri­alling

Les brought three dogs with her when she moved to the UK: Amy, a four-year-old golden re­triever, a 12-year-old Labrador and a 16-yearold Mal­tese poo­dle. Both the poo­dle and the Labrador have since died, but Amy has rel­ished the work she has been asked to do. She had never seen a pheas­ant or a par­tridge be­fore, but took to pick­ing-up as if she had done it all her life. How­ever, she was taken aback by the num­ber of birds killed on a big com­mer­cial par­tridge shoot in Hert­ford­shire. Les has since taken on a work­ing-bred golden re­triever, called Lucy, from Wendy An­drews’ Cat­combe Ken­nels.

Com­ing to terms with the UK tri­alling world has been a chal­lenge. “It’s been a huge eye-opener for me,” I don’t of­ten do that. How­ever, what

I do is pick them for my dogs, who re­ally en­joy them. I have had dogs that would pick them them­selves, gen­tly nuz­zling the fruit off the bram­ble, but most dogs are put off by the thorns, and pre­fer their black­ber­ries picked for them.

Black­ber­ries are a good source of an­tiox­i­dants, fi­bre and omega-3 for dogs. They also pro­vide vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, so it would be dif­fi­cult to find a bet­ter hedgerow snack for a dog. Lots of other an­i­mals like them too. I re­mem­ber once watch­ing a fox snack­ing on black­ber­ries early one morn­ing.

Change of email ad­dress

Ob­ser­vant read­ers may have no­ticed that my email ad­dress has changed. For rea­sons best known to BT, my last ad­dress stopped func­tion­ing re­li­ably, so if you have emailed me re­cently and haven’t re­ceived a re­ply that is the rea­son. says Les. “I have had to ad­just to the ex­cep­tion­ally high stan­dard of work re­quired by the dogs, the walked-up and driven for­mats, the grav­ity and in­ten­sity of it all, the cen­turies of tra­di­tion that sur­round it, and this darned awk­ward stuff called sugar beet. Even the cloth­ing is dif­fer­ent. How quaint to the for­eigner is the tra­di­tional tweed shoot­ing suit, com­plete with col­lar and tie. In South Africa, a T-shirt, shorts and san­dals suf­fice. The tri­als there have of­ten just a hand­ful of peo­ple, so it is a lot less com­pet­i­tive. An­other cru­cial dif­fer­ence in a trial over there is that each re­trieve is repli­cated as best as


If you have got ideas or sug­ges­tions for an ar­ti­cle, have a ques­tion to ask or sim­ply want to tell me about your dog’s ex­ploits, don’t hes­i­tate to email me. How­ever, you will be amused to know that read­ers who have en­joyed some­thing that I have writ­ten will email me, but those who dis­agree are more likely to write to the Editor. pos­si­ble for each dog. Here, of course, no two re­trieves are ever the same.

“In South Africa there is more free­dom in club train­ing, with all the dogs play­ing to­gether be­fore work­ing. It is a much more re­laxed, fun en­vi­ron­ment. UK gun­dog folk keep the lead on at all times, and ac­tively dis­cour­age their dogs from so­cial­is­ing with other dogs. My train­ing ethos is ‘Let’s put the joy back’. Yes, I do things dif­fer­ently. I use lots of cud­dles and praise and food re­wards and I throw the ball and shriek with joy to show my dog it has done well. I’m used to the funny looks and raised eye­brows now, but qui­etly per­sist as this ap­proach does get re­sults.” This does ap­pear to be the case as ear­lier this year, Les took the Top In­di­vid­ual Dog of the Day Award with her 22-month-old puppy at the South Eastern Gun­dogs In­ter­coun­ties Team Event, com­pet­ing against more than 60 Labradors.

“Train­ing doesn’t have to be all se­ri­ous and stern and full of dire threats,” adds Les. “My ways are softer and based on mu­tual re­spect, joy and un­der­stand­ing. We are a team, so we have to work to­gether. I see the dif­fer­ences here, I ob­serve, I lis­ten, I learn, I draw my own con­clu­sions, but I still train my dogs my way. How­ever, I do feel pas­sion­ately that train­ing and work should be fun for both dog and han­dler.”

Les Cromp­ton with Lucy, her work­ing-bred golden re­triever from Cat­combe Ken­nels

Black­ber­ries: a great hedgerow snack for dogs

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