favour­ing flat­coats

The Field - - LETTERS -

I en­joyed read­ing David Tom­lin­son’s col­umn on the flat­coated re­triever (Sport­ing

dog, May is­sue). Sev­eral years back I took the de­ci­sion to give this won­der­ful breed a try – and I have not re­gret­ted it. I am now a flat­coat con­vert.

Pre­vi­ously, labradors and cocker spaniels had been my work­ing friends of choice for both shoot­ing and some tri­alling. I have loved them all, trained them and en­joyed many mag­i­cal mo­ments, both breeds earn­ing the re­spect and de­serv­ing the huge fol­low­ing that they have.

How­ever, as the shoot­ing field has be­come over­run by the same pop­u­lar breeds, the time for change sur­faced, bring­ing with it a fresh chal­lenge, new dy­nam­ics, slightly dif­fer­ent han­dling and one that still ticks the mag­i­cal-mo­ments box.

Hav­ing now owned and bred flat­coats, I would en­cour­age fel­low gun­dog en­thu­si­asts to con­sider this breed. Their pres­ence in the field is re­ward­ing and pleas­ing on the eye. Yes, they are dif­fer­ent but if you un­der­stand ca­nine psy­chol­ogy and are pa­tient you can have a dog that is steady, has in-built style and charm, is bold in cover, shows ini­tia­tive and, im­por­tantly, one that is con­sis­tently the king of game find­ers. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, they re­ally do sweep up game that is left be­hind in cover once the guns have moved on to the next drive. In dif­fi­cult scent­ing crops such as turnips, cab­bages and rape they can out­per­form other dogs.

In­ter­est­ingly, Dan Higgs, who last sea­son made his­tory in the tri­alling world by achiev­ing suc­cess with a flat­coated re­triever, a labrador and a golden re­triever, re­cently said: “if I stuck a good game-find­ing flat­coat and an ef­fec­tive lab in a block of wood­land, the flat­coat would more of­ten than not come back with some­thing over the lab”.

As to the “fa­tal flaw”, thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gate parent­age and you can se­lect a dog that can bring many years of plea­sure.

Neil Gilbert, Tun­stall, Suf­folk

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