2021 Working Tests
It's been a strange but busy season. Not all the tests were held but there was enough to meet old friends and fellow competitors. We were lucky to win 3 opens. Druid won 2 and Fia 1. The working test season isn't finished yet and we hope that we are lucky enough to get a run at Scone and see how that goes. All in all this has been a good year at Accio Gundogs for working tests and we look forward to the shooting season where we will be picking up and competing in Field Trials.
First test of the season and our all-lady team won second at the Hectorkirk charity team challenge in North Yorkshire. It was good ground, set up for testing the dog at all levels. Thanks go to CAB for their generosity to the prize winners, and Dog & Field working dog food.
There may not be too many working tests this year due to corona virus, so it was good to get Druid out into a competition to see how he does.
I put a lot of training into him after the end of the shooting season and before the start of the test season, which realistically is only about 6 weeks (in the worst of the winter weather with little or no daylight after work). The dogs are always a bit wild after picking up for 5 or 6 months, and the transition from finding game to finding a canvas bag full of sawdust can be difficult - I know what the dogs prefer. Working tests are about precision and handling with a judge at your shoulder watching your every move, there is a lot more team work required between dog and handler to find the dummy. Dogs can be used to being more self-employed picking up, where they are often just told to go and get on with it without little intervention from the handler. So having to get the dog's head back into taking pressure (instruction) from the handler needs work. At a shoot you often do not know where the fallen game is, at a test you are given the location. To expect a dog to go in a straight line indicated by the handler and to not deviate unless told, is a big ask after they have been running around unseen without the handler looking for shot game for months.
The Scottish selection for the Skinners International Retrievers competition is late March and your dog must be as good as he can be by then to be in the running for the Scotland Team. We got through to the second round last year and I had been working hard on improving the things we did poorly last time. Unfortunately Skinners has been cancelled this year but I'm glad my hard work didn't go to waste.
You are only as good as your last retrieve, and Druid did very well on the last exercise of the charity team test. So I will enjoy the warm glow until next time when it all goes belly up and you are brought back down to earth with a thud. But as they say, the more you practice the luckier you get.......................................
Helping you to choose the right dog for your home. In part one I discussed health problems and risks, and in part two I told you what you need to do before you go to see the pup. This part gives you some alternatives to think about.
That's my experience, and here are some more of my thoughts on the subject of buying a puppy or what might be better for your needs.
Is a puppy better than an older rescue dog?- A lot of people want a pup to prevent taking on anyone else's problems, and the risk that it might be a danger to children. But not all rescue dogs are screwed up, and for those with behaviour problems a lot of the time their bad behaviour was caused by the owner not caused by a bad dog. I have seen for myself how dogs change with new owners. You have a second chance to change the way a dog behaves by doing things differently. If you rehome through a reputable UK rescue organisation you will get an idea of the dogs strengths and weaknesses, and they will endeavour to match a dog to a new family that suits both needs. A rescue dog can be a mixed breed too but for a lot less money. Another advantage is that they are often past the puppy stage so you don't have the chewing and the peeing and the puppy madness, which can be a challenge for those not experienced. However, if you are thinking of a rescue dog imported from outside the UK read this post from the British Veterinary Association about some of the risks they are concerned about. If you already have a rescue dog and are struggling, then get in touch with a dog trainer who can help you read the dog and respond appropriately to get the behaviour you want.
Finally, why not try rehoming a retired or failed gundog?
It may be the best option if you are working full time, or older and don't have the time or energy to train a young dog or pup. Gundogs have been raised and trained to walk to heel and come back when called - job done. Failed gundogs may be too soft in nature - perfect for a loving family home. Older working gundogs often find it hard to retire and it is not fair if they are left in the kennel when the younger dogs are taken out to shoots. The retired dogs know what is happening and they are being left behind which is sad. A kenneled rescue dog will adjust to living in your home given time - a crate might help them transition. They are most likely to be healthy and intelligent companions for all ages. Ask someone who trials and I'm sure they can put you in touch with someone wishing to rehome a gundog, I share dogs on my facebook page, or why not try Labrador Retriever Rescue Scotland,or Perthshire Gundog Rescue.
Other Useful links; introducing dogs to children and babies, puppy socialisation.
In part one I discussed health problems and risks, and in this part I will tell you what you need to do before you go to see the pup. Part three is about rescue dogs and the risks and benefits.
That's my experience, and here are my insights on the subject of buying a puppy.
What pups are the most popular and in fashion? - A lot of people want a fashionable designer dog that is good with children, and a popular choice seems to be a labradoodle or cockapoo. We spoke about the potential health problems and risks that come with these dogs in part one. But here I wanted to focus on a common misconception "you only get what you pay for". You will often pay more for a designer dog than a pure bred pedigree dog. Mixed bred dogs are unreasonably expensive because they are so popular, and this is why they are targeted by disreputable breeders or puppy farms. Buyer beware, puppy farms go to great lengths to hide the origin of the pup. Read more about tips on what to look out for to prevent buying a puppy farm pup. Know what to look for in a healthy pup and know how to recognise a responsible breeder.
When you visit the pups do look out for the following signs:
Read more on rules for choosing a dog.
I bought a puppy from a puppy farm
I did it, I saw an advert online with a telephone contact. I had taken a week off work and I hadn't found anything for the breed I was looking for. I wanted instant gratification. We met in a car park and before we even spoke I knew I was taking that puppy home with me. It looked like the breed I wanted. I gave him the money he gave me the pup. I tried to call him later but the number he gave me didn't work and that was the last I ever saw of the person. The pup hadn't been vaccinated or wormed and needed immediate treatment from the vet. I was lucky, the dog had no life threatening illness or parvovirus, no behavioural issues caused by being removed too soon from it's mum, or lack of socialisation. But the pup was a mongrel and not pure bred and it didn't grow into what I expected. This happened a long time ago now, and I have learned a lot since then.
Remember, you should never allow someone to bring a puppy to you, you should be able to see the environment in which they lived in. Always ask to see them interact with their mum and siblings.
Here is what I think you need to know before you go to see the pup.
Know what the law is in relation to selling puppies - a pup cannot be sold under the age of 8 weeks. Know the laws in relation to breeders in Scotland, is the breeder licenced?. Are you considering a rescue dog or pup from outwith the UK - if it was born outside the UK it must have either a pet passport or a veterinary certificate. The breeder should supply you with microchip paperwork which includes your puppy’s individual identification number and database they are registered with. Vaccination records should be stamped by the veterinary practice and signed by a veterinary surgeon.
Questions to ask the breeder:
Pedigree - do your homework before you go to see the pup when your head is still rational. If a dog has a pedigree it means you can check its history and health tests online. A useful website to use (if you know the registered name of the sire and dam) is k9data.com which list health tests and pedigree, or The Kennel Club www.thekennelclub.org.uk/breeding.
What is the difference between a pedigree show or working dog?
I would say there are two types of pedigree dogs, show dogs and working dogs. They are the same breed but bred for different functions, especially within my area of interest - retrievers. Show dogs can look completely different from working dogs, this can be because they are bred for different reasons. Think of a show dog as a supermodel and a working dog as an athlete/soldier. Their shape is often different and sometimes their colour. Working dogs are the ones bred for shooting and hunting, used by gamekeepers shooters and those that compete in field trials and working tests. Some people use show retrievers to do the things working dogs do, or a combination of both. I would say however that their instincts and abilities are not as sharp as those bred specifically for that purpose. But they love it all the same. You can have a working dog and not do any of the above things, you just need to understand what motivates and drives their behaviour. Working dogs can often be more intelligent and require tired minds and body to prevent frustration.
If you look at a pedigree and the name of the dog is in red what does that mean?
This means that the dog is a field trial champion. It has proven skills and abilities in relation to finding game. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes that is a bad thing. It depends on what you want to do with the dog. If you just want a stay at home pet and you don't exercise it's mind, a highly bred working dog might not be the best thing for you. If that's what you have got and you are having problems, then the best thing to do is go see a trainer and give it a job (like agility).
Useful links; Link to UK Government - Buying a Dog guidance , 10 steps to puppy buying, Introducing dogs to children and babies, puppy socialisation.
Field Trial Winner and OFTAW Nullsecundus River Druie, current eye certificate (to July 2022), hips 2/2, elbows 0, clear of PRA, CNM, SD2, EIC. Full standard vaccination as well as kennel cough. Stud book number 3155DE. Carries yellow (EeBB). Approved bitches must have all of the above health tests and registered with the appropriate kennel club. EBV score will be checked as well as inbreeding coefficient of any proposed mating. Ovulation test must be undertaken prior to mating, the best time to mate a bitch is two days after ovulation when the eggs are fully mature and capable of being fertilised. The fertility of this dog has been tested and confirms viable healthy semen, and frozen semen is available for artificial insemination. This dog has sired several litters and details can be found on the Kennel Club website.
Druid's hip scores are 2/2 and his elbows 0. The estimated Breeding Value EBV score evaluates the genetic value of an individual dog, in relation to the whole of the dog’s breed. The EBV score is intended to help breeders reduce the prevalence of hip and/or elbow dysplasia by more accurately evaluating genetic risk. The breed average is always set to 0. Higher risk EBVs are shown as a positive number and lower risk EBVs as a negative number. The further a dog’s EBV is from the average, the higher or lower its genetic risk. Druid's EBV score for elbows is -33 and hips - 36.
Link to health tests details and pedigree. See also our home page for achievements and about us for the story about Druid and why I chose him to found my Accio kennel.
It's always a nervous time when you get the dog's eye examination done. You never think about it when you are working your dogs during the season, and encouraging them to hunt in thick cover like gorse and blackthorn for the bird that fell in there. It's only when you are walking in to the examination do you remember. Hips, elbows and genetics are a once in a lifetime examination and expense, but eyes are every year. At a cost of £60 per dog it shows the breeders commitment to ensuring fully health tested dogs. I am delighted to report that all 4 dogs in our kennel; Druid, Fia, Rory and Rhona have passed their eye exam for 2021. This will be updated on the Kennel Club website and K9 data.com. This was the first time for our 15 month old pups, and it is reassuring to know that the genetics are robust in this area.
What is the purpose of the annual eye check for Labradors?
The main purpose of the BVA/KC/ISDS eye scheme is to ensure that there is no clinical evidence of hereditary eye disease in dogs that are to be used for breeding. A secondary purpose is to identify breed related problems which may be inherited, especially if they have welfare implications for the dog.
Useful external links; Canine Health Schemes, What to do if your dog is suffering from a genetic disease.
You want to buy a puppy but are not sure what breed or where to look?
Read about my puppy owning experiences over 25 years, the mistakes I would not do again, and answers to common questions and difficulties about choosing the right dog for your home. What to do before you go to see the puppy.
My first pup was a mixed breed from a rescue centre. My second was a 6 months old street rescue beardie collie. The next pup was meant to be a jack russell pup who came from a puppy farm. I then bought a pedigree kennel-reared failed gundog at about a year old. She looked healthy so I didn't health test, but she died suddenly in middle age and her pup is going blind. For the past 5 years I have owned health tested pedigree dogs. I loved them all but wouldn't make the same mistakes again.
That's my experience, and here are my thoughts on the subject of buying a puppy. In part two I will tell you what you need to do before you go to see the pup.
What is the benefit of buying a pup from health tested parents?
"Healthy dogs create healthy puppies - All pedigree and crossbred dogs can suffer from inherited diseases which are passed on from parent to puppy. Health testing and screening allows owners and breeders to screen for inherited diseases, the results can then be used to help make sure that only healthy dogs are bred from. Responsible breeders should always health test the dogs they plan to use for breeding. To make sure you are buying a happy and health puppy, always ask to see the relevant health test results for both parents."
Firstly, be aware that health tests don't just mean they tell you that they had the vet check the pups over and they were fine. It means the pups parents hips and elbows have been independently assessed and lodged with the Kennel Club for those with pedigrees, and it means that blood tests have been taken to check for a range of genetic diseases common to the breed, and that their eyes are tested annually. Read more.
If the mum has been vaccinated, new born puppies get some protection against diseases through their mother’s milk that can help keep them healthy before they are able to get vaccinated themselves. Unfortunately, puppies that have been illegally imported or that were bred on puppy farms could be much more likely to suffer serious illnesses like parvovirus as their mums won’t have been vaccinated so can’t pass on their immunity.
There are many pedigree dogs who have been bred responsibly but who may not have been health tested. The mother looks healthy but there is no guarantee against, or reduced risk of, hip or elbow dysplasia, or genetic diseases like PRA and blindness. Read more.
What is hip or elbow dysplasia?
Hip and elbow dysplasia are both complex inherited diseases that cause a dog’s joints to develop incorrectly, which can result in pain, arthritis and lameness as they get older. Read more
A pedigree dog's parents who are health tested gives you the best chance of proven robustness or confirmation, because of a written guarantee of being clear of prescribed genetic diseases, and a reduced likelihood of expensive vet bills/ or a shortened pet life/ or a life of pain and discomfort.
Why should I test my bitch if I do not intend to spay her?
Some dogs may be carriers of a genetic disease and you would still have a healthy pet, but if you breed it (accidently or on purpose) with another carrier then some of the pups will get that genetic disease. However, it's important to keep the gene pool as wide as possible, breeding a carrier to a non carrier means the pups will only be carriers. This is why health tests are important it allows you to make informed breeding choices. On the Kennel Club website you can enter the sire and dam's details and find out the likelihood of any issues or risks.
"The more informed you are does not remove a risk but it does reduce it." Read more on the breed health information for labrador retrievers.
Useful links; introducing dogs to children and babies, puppy socialisation.
Working tests are static competitions where every dog is judged and scored according to how it performed across a series of retrieves. Every dog gets the same opportunity, at the end of the day the dog with the best score wins. In Scotland, if you have done well you are invited to compete at Scone amongst all the other dogs that have done well that year. Nae pressure!!! There is a commentator and an audience, and even a grand-stand of sorts. There is no hiding place if you screw up. Druid has been twice to Scone and Fia once. I still get as nervous as the first time but when you are out there you are in the zone, its just a focus of you and the dog, and you just forget about all the eyes on you. The only eyes you want to see are your dogs as they bring you back the hidden treasure. Below are two pictures of my dogs at Scone, different years and different weather, but the same focus and drive to bring me the dummy. My dogs give 100% on game as well as dummies but I'm sure if they could talk they would tell you they prefer game. Dummies don't run ………………………
Thanks to Jan Evans at Polarstar Photography for the pics.
We start in September on the partridge, on a shoot with challenging ground, where the dogs really need to use their noses. Then move on to partridge/duck/pheasant for the rest of the season where the dogs must be steady during drives and mark well. Runners are always their favourite, and training days or trials have given them access to a wider range of ground and flying game. At a shoot having trained dogs that handle is important, because I can get my dogs to the area of the difficult ones that the gun is certain fell. It's all about retrieving the game as quickly as possible so that it can be humanely dispatched. Then we get home and I always enjoy the fruits of our labours - partridge breast is my favourite. But that's it over for this year, now to get the dogs back into dummies and preparing for the test season.
Owner, trainer, handler, and taxi driver of Accio Gundogs.