For the love of dogs

Shooting Gazette - - Letters -

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

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