For the love of dogs
Further to Mary Palk’s reply to my letter (October issue), which mentioned the dog show people and show dogs, I am delighted to learn flatcoat retrievers are in common use as picking-up dogs in her part of the West Country. I know it is pretty tough going on Exmoor, having whipped-in to beagles when taking visiting packs there. I think flatcoats are lovely-looking dogs but I haven’t seen many working. I would like to see more. I have seen golden retrievers working very well indeed.
Mary freely admits with golden retrievers that there is “a marked physical difference between the working and showbed dog”. She also refers to “the chasm” between working and show-bred dogs. I was trying to make these points. I ask the question, should there actually be a marked physical difference or a chasm between working and show-bred dogs? I don’t think so.
The different breeds of dogs were originally intended for work. The Standard of Points for the relevant breed should ensure that the breed is suitable for work and that there is no visible difference between working and show dogs of that particular breed.
I have seen Clumber spaniels work quite well (although the ones I have seen tend to dwell on the scent), but they are much lighter in build than the usual show Clumbers.
In Britain, we have many native breeds of gundog: Irish water spaniels, English and Welsh springer spaniels, Sussex spaniels, field spaniels, cocker spaniels (again, a great difference in appearance between the often diminutive working cockers I so often see and the show type). We have flat coat, curly coat and golden retrievers. We have red and white setters, red setters, English setters and Gordon setters. We have English pointers. There are big differences between the heavily built, large-headed show labradors and the much finerbuilt working labradors.
One sees almost white golden retrievers and yellow labs. It seems there is not really too much of a difference of opinion, between Mary and myself. I did say a good dog was a good dog. If a big, ‘white’, large-headed golden retriever or yellow lab can do its job well, perhaps it is quite all right.
Geoffrey Allen, by email