The working day of Le Weekend 2019 was very well-supported, with an excellent total of 34 dogs participating in the various activities of which 26 dogs contested the Teste d’Aptitudes Naturels (TAN). This was a very good turn-out and we were lucky to have good weather conditions throughout the day, despite one short sharp shower. Most people went home with a diploma and perhaps a rosette and a trophy – and hopefully the determination to do even more next year.
As always the TAN was the centrepiece and it is important that this remains recognised as a meaningful way of assessing young stock, some of which will never appear at trials, working tests or in the field. It enables us to identify those kennels which consistently produce dogs with working potential – helping to retain the breed’s dual-purpose nature. The majority of dogs running were first-timers – puppies or yearlings taking part for the first time. Some were very impressive indeed.
To speed up the event the dogs were initially run in 2 heats on adjoining areas of land, judged respectively by John Anderson and myself. To the credit of dogs and handlers no dogs left their own ‘beat’ through being distracted by their neighbour, which had been a possible cause for concern. Each ‘beat’ had two cages of quail secreted in cover. The ground was gently sloping, parkland pasture dotted with mature trees and light undergrowth – with the wind coming directly up the slope from where spectators watched by the lakeside. Participants started from the top and worked down into the breeze.
Although the TAN is an assessment of ability it is also a training exercise for inexperienced dogs and handlers. Handlers were coached by the judges in using the wind effectively, covering their ground thoroughly and reading their dogs’ reactions to scent. Those dogs that showed a will to hunt, used the wind and acknowledged the presence of game were later awarded a diploma of aptitude. After lunch both judges put forward their two best runners to contest the Stan Smith Trophy. This time the dogs were each run over whichever ‘beat’ they had not worked before.
- Mandy Boaz’s orange & white bitch Jassendue Orsha. This little bitch worked stylishly across the wind, remaining responsive to her handler and found both cages of quail on her beat. She pointed both but was not steady on the second cage – coming away before being asked. With experience she will make a super little worker and has great potential.
- Anthony Booth’s white and orange bitch Rochus Olwen. The most stylish of our runners, working with dash and enthusiasm but not losing contact with her handler. She pointed her first cage of quail really clearly and solidly but, despite showing interest where the second cage was, failed to locate it successfully. She is Anthony’s first Brittany and they have a great future ahead of them.
- Rachel Hammond’s tricolour bitch Nellcote de Riviere Dureau. Lacked the drive of the first two but worked carefully and produced the best point of the day. Again missed her second cage of birds. A very biddable girl and could do well as she gains confidence and understands better what she is looking for.
- Debbie Mooney’s orange & white bitch Sh Ch Rochus Jorja at Challowmoon. A well-known bitch enjoying her outing. Very steady and biddable. Did not range out as fully as the youngsters but would make a very pleasant companion to shoot over.
Diplomas were also awarded to: Barbara Anderson’s Rochus Lottie, Mandy Boaz’s Jassendue Liana, Jenna Cocking & Pete Barnaby’s Bonapartiste Odette at Ruskinme, Fiona Cook’s Highclare Only One Avec Tailliside, Gay Davies’ Rochus Lottie, Danny Kay’s Freyas Spirit of Adventure, S Green’s rescue dog Ned, Rachel Hammond’s Denandmeg Natagura, Nick Hayes & Alex Wislon’s Sanboisier Nevis & Tillybirloch Otto, Mel Head’s Kentixen Moonbeam Echo, G Mogridge’s Orson de Chez Morris, Lesley Poole’s Sanboisier Naos at Laurremar & Sh Ch Bonapartiste Gourrege, Jenny Purawal’s Rochus Nico, Brian & Claire Rodgers’ Jassendue Oreo, Pip Skeet’s Sanboisier Naia, H Stamp’s Rochus Oceana, Lindsay & Mick Stevens’ Pixbrook Joyrider at Sanboisier..
Well done to all who achieved their TAN. So many combinations were new handlers with young dogs, and they did extremely well. Hopefully this will encourage them to continue to develop their dogs’ working skills so that they can become useful companions in the shooting or hawking field, or to take part in the various levels of competition available throughout the UK. The Brittany Club can help by putting you in touch with gundog societies throughout the UK, most of which have HPR specialist classes. Also just keep in touch with our Regional Organisers to make contact with other like-minded Brittany owners.
Deep water retrieve (REEP) is another basic qualification of a working Brittany. Even for a pet it is a pleasure to have a dog that will enjoy swimming. The lake at Riseholme offers a confidence-inspiring, shallow entry point, and is ideal for introducing young dogs to water. The numbers of geese on the lake does mean that there was a considerable amount of droppings along the bank. Participants were advised of the possibility of bio-hazards resulting from this, e.g. campylobacter, which might affect the dog’s stomach, so taking part was optional. Anyone whose dog experienced such problems should inform the secretary so that we can take this into account in future events.
Scurry: This is very much a fun event and was again run by Mike Porter. Dogs are asked to retrieve a thrown dummy, over a set distance, against the clock. Winner, and receiving a perpetual trophy, was Pip Skeet with Sanboisier Naia in a time of 6.79 seconds!
Carolyn Perks created a lot of interest with a demonstration of CaniX (cani-cross) with her dog Jassendue High Lander. This is an increasingly popular sport, and one which seems very suited to our breed. Dog and owner are ‘joined’ together with a bungee rope/leash attached to a padded belt around the owner’s waist and a padded harness on the dog. It is a wonderful way of exercising yourself and a pet in places where there are few opportunities to give your Brittany the freedom it craves. It does develop a responsiveness and understanding as well as keeping your pet fit. There are all sorts of levels of competitions over different courses and distances – and for different levels of owner fitness.
There was also an obedience/behavioural session towards the end of the day. The fact that two of those taking part had rescue dogs does highlight the increasing need to provide support for these imported dogs, which arrive here without much background and with a lot of ‘baggage’. Every single owner volunteered their main problem was with recall. It should be borne in mind that recall is only needed where you have not managed to make being with you sufficiently interesting. For some dogs, with an abusive background, the most urgent need is to promote trust and love. But engaging in Brittany-friendly activities with them, while free-running, is most useful. Retrieving is an excellent, and enjoyable way of burning off surplus energy and provides a positive reason for the dog coming back, instead of recall meaning just an end to its liberty.
Apologies! We owe you our apologies for failing to provide all of the activities we promised. The first reason for this was that we were without several of our usual instructors, some of whom also supply the equipment we use. This means we did not run the Novice and Advanced Retrieve competitions, nor the promised sessions in basic retrieving or agility. It was not any sinister dissatisfaction that had caused this but a lot of individual commitments coinciding. However it did highlight just how dependent we are on volunteers and, most worryingly, how few experienced and/or knowledgeable people we rely on. If you have been helped by the coaching we have given you it would be brilliant if you would step up to the mark and offer your help next year. Just stewarding or assisting by dummy throwing gives you access to a lot of knowledge.
The positive side of this was that everybody could start off for home fairly early. With the working day being on the Sunday there was less demand for extra events to fill up time before the evening meal. Perhaps we should look at inserting something on the Saturday in future. However we did offer ringcraft training with Gill Tully in the afternoon while Kathy Gorman took some trainee judges through the Points of the Dog element of their training. Thanks to both these ladies.
Finally I would like to pass on my personal thanks to all those who did help. John Anderson for sharing the TAN judging and his knowledge. Ruth Holt who kept a record of who was entered for what and made sure you were all ready with your dogs when it was your turn. Caroline Perks for her help with CaniX, and also helping, with Richard Perks and Sarah Finch, to keep the water retrieve going. Mike Porter for running the Scurry (yet again) and generally being a support and fount of common sense. Nurindar Pruawal and Joan Sheldon also worked tirelessly as the Press Corps and we will all enjoy seeing their many excellent photos of the day when these are posted on Facebook and the Club website. Most importantly thanks to all of you for entering and just bringing your Britts for the day.