BCGB (West Region) Training Day – held on 22nd May 2022 at Halmer End Hall Farm, Audley, Staffordshire.
As part of our continuing programme to support Brittany owners we held our 16th Training Day at the above venue, courtesy of Clare and Duncan Richardson. The intention is to assist novice owners (some with their very first dog of any kind) by providing tuition in basic dog control and care. Stalwarts Maurice Cooke and Norma Ansell again gave their time and knowledge, and we were particularly pleased to welcome new instructors Caroline Perks, Sue Wright and Laura Winder. Katie Hayward, who was to have been our expert on Cani-X, was unable to attend due to family commitments. The question of succession is becoming increasingly important and, with good people like this coming through, there is no reason why our training days should not continue to be a feature of the Club’s calendar.
A wide range of dogs took part. In all we had 18 Britts ranging in age from 15 weeks to 8 years, accompanied by a German Short-haired Pointer and a Labrador. Unusually only 2 dogs were via rescue.
Our program always starts with checking owners’ control (or lack of it!) through a ‘general disobedience’ session. Because of the numbers involved we split this – with newcomers forming the larger group, while more established partnerships practiced advanced exercises such as stop on recall, heelwork off the lead, etc. This latter group came with their own requests for particular areas of work to be covered, so that they could improve the performance of their dogs and themselves.
The bulk of participants gathered in the excellent ‘secure field’ which also housed the agility equipment that would come into use during the afternoon. The session started with a welcome free run, with a multi-coloured pack of Brittanys charging in all directions. One or two small squabbles were quickly sorted out, but quite a few owners had inadequate control over their dogs. This is our usual experience. Quite clearly many dogs only came back for treats, and would only do that when they wanted. This is not acceptable with a hard-running breed like ours. Fortunately most people recognise the inherent danger of this, but are unsure what they could do to improve things. Mostly they did not know what was acceptable or not, and it can be a relief to be told that it is OK to be cross with your dog – provided you reward it thoroughly when it does behave!
We do not expect to achieve miracles in these sessions but they do empower the owners to take control, and helps them recognise what they can do with improved communication with their dog. Sadly, practically all those present said they had been given no advice on the problems of managing a Brittany’s energy and its built-in drives, when they first got their pet from the breeder or rescue organisation. We must do better.
The most common problems are pulling on the lead, unreliable stays and an erratic response to recall. In all cases the response unsurprisingly deteriorated whenever the dog was distracted – in other words they knew what to do but chose when to ignore their handler’s commands. It will be up to the owners to do something about this at home, by developing a less sub-servient relationship with their dogs – which largely seemed to be the ones in control. A lot of emphasis was placed on creating and maintaining eye contact – instead of the dogs’ eyes being focussed on the owners’ hands and the treat bag!
After this session there was a choice of activities; retrieving in more advanced forms, water retrieving, agility and hunting/quartering to find cold game. Most people had a crack at all of these and there was some good promise shown by quite a few dogs.
Our next day will be at Oxford on July 10th, when as well as the exercises already described, we will be coaching for the TAN, using caged quail. This location will be much easier for the Nicaise-Davies from Cardiff, but harder for Jessica Saunders from North Yorkshire! But we will be back in Staffordshire in September.