A rogue gene could ex­plain Labs’ in­sa­tiable ap­petite

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We al­ready have ge­netic tests for a va­ri­ety of af­flic­tions that can af­fect Labradors, and we might have another one soon. Re­searchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge have dis­cov­ered a ge­netic vari­a­tion in Labradors that, they sus­pect, makes some in­di­vid­u­als ob­sessed with food. The re­search was led by Dr Eleanor Raf­fan, who said: “This is a com­mon ge­netic vari­a­tion in Labradors and it has a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on those dogs that carry it, so it is likely that this ex­plains why Labradors are more prone to be­ing over­weight than other breeds.”

The Cam­bridge re­searchers did warn, how­ever, that any bid to get rid of the rogue gene might also get rid of the Labrador per­son­al­ity we all know and my dog set off with en­thu­si­asm, soon dis­ap­pear­ing from sight. For what seemed an age there was no sign of her. Then, just as I was start­ing to get wor­ried, she ap­peared car­ry­ing a strong cock run­ner. It was the start of her long and suc­cess­ful ca­reer.

If you are pick­ing-up for the first time, then BASC’S code of prac­tice (­ing-up/) is es­sen­tial read­ing. The five golden rules are so im­por­tant that I will re­peat them here:

1. Or­gan­is­ers of shoots must en­sure there is ad­e­quate pro­vi­sion made for re­triev­ing shot game.

2. Dogs used for pick­ing-up must be trained, un­der con­trol and re­spon­sive to your in­struc­tions.

3. Game is food. It must be han­dled ap­pro­pri­ately to en­sure that it reaches the ta­ble in the best con­di­tion. 4. Re­trieve wounded game first.

5. All game must be re­trieved as soon as it is safe and prac­ti­cal to do so.

Flout­ing the rules

There is noth­ing there that is the least bit con­tentious, but I’ve been around long enough to see all five rules ig­nored. I went once to an end-of-sea­son day where none of the Guns had a dog yet there was only one picker-up with a sin­gle (and not very and love. Labradors with less in­ter­est in food might well be­come more dif­fi­cult to train, as many Labradors — though not, I sus­pect, that many work­ing gun­dogs — are trained us­ing tit­bits.

I have never met a Labrador that wasn’t keen on its food. In con­trast, I have come across a num­ber of spaniels that weren’t too both­ered about their din­ner. I also have a friend with a pair of stan­dard poo­dles that are so dis­in­ter­ested in food that they are left with a bowl of grub that is avail­able to them all day. They sim­ply have a munch when they feel so in­clined.

The an­swer to fat Labradors is to give them less to eat to keep them trim, and to give them things to oc­cupy them other than eat­ing. I know a lot of Labradors that start the pick­ing-up sea­son look­ing, shall we say, slightly portly, but fin­ish with the skinny-ribbed ap­pear­ance of a grey­hound. Show peo­ple tra­di­tion­ally liked well-up­hol­stered dogs, and it was a gen­eral rule that if you took a skinny Labrador into the show ring good) Labrador. I’ve seen dogs that flout rule two rather too of­ten, while one of my pet hates is see­ing pick­er­sup or Guns throw­ing birds to the ground or into the back of a ve­hi­cle. You wouldn’t do that with ap­ples or toma­toes, so why do it with game?

It clearly makes sense from ev­ery point of view to re­trieve wounded game first, but I have been on shoots where the pick­ers-up were in­structed not to re­trieve any birds, wounded you wouldn’t stand a chance of catch­ing the judge’s eye.

Fol­low­ing the film

Ex­posed, the breed stan­dard was amended. It now reads: “Ch­est of good width and depth, with well-sprung bar­rel ribs — this ef­fect not to be pro­duced by car­ry­ing ex­ces­sive weight”. Per­haps if your dog is a lit­tle porky you can make the ex­cuse that it has the gene that makes it food ob­sessed. or dead, dur­ing the drive. This is ab­so­lutely wrong. Imag­ine a sit­u­a­tion where a foot­path or road runs close to the shoot and you are be­ing watched by some­one who may not be an anti, but knows lit­tle about shoot­ing. Ig­nor­ing a wounded bird is cer­tain to ap­pal any ob­server, but they are likely to be im­pressed if a well-trained dog speed­ily col­lects that bird.

Pick­ing-up is a big sub­ject, so

I will re­turn to it next week.


A well-trained and re­spon­sive pick­ing-up dog is a must for any shoot

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