I'm no fan of Crufts but I tuned in yesterday evening to watch the gundog class. This is perhaps the group that has been least messed around with of all the groups; the majority of the breeds - with the exception of the American cocker - actually look like dogs that could have spent the previous day out working. And of course, I have a special interest in the flat coated retriever...!
I sat through over an hour of the irritating Clare Balding (Ben Fogle was so much more watchable and entertaining). interspersed with some good and some appalling advice. Caroline Kisko of the Kennel Club encouraged people to do their research. So many of the problem dogs I see arise from an owner who has seen an article or watched something like Crufts, spotted a breed and within no time at all found a litter through the internet. The Kennel Club website tells potential buyers all about the pros and cons of the different breeds - so do visit it before making a possibly unwise choice. Other good advice came from Roger Mugford who advised against buying litter mates - an opinion I endorse 100%. But then a dog trainer advised the use of treats throughout a dog's life for training purposes. I so do not agree with this! I use treats at first until a puppy learns the basics and then I expect my dogs to obey because they enjoy pleasing me. Other advice I disagreed with was the person who said that if you lived in a top floor flat you shouldn't have a puppy because you'd never mange to housetrain it. True, it might be harder work for the owner and you may have to learn to skip down the stairs pretty smartly but of course it is possible. And I speak from experience: when I lived in London, I had a long haired dachsund puppy who was house trained within a fortnight! Also, I worried about the emphasis on lifestyle when talking about finding the right breed: I believe complementary personalities of dog and owner is also a vital ingredient.
Finally, at long last, the gundogs appeared and the beautiful flat coat won. For the life of me, I cannot understand how you can compare a flat coat with a cocker with a pointer with a spinone but if it was down to a constantly waving tail, the flat coat was a deserving winner! While other dogs were having their back legs positioned and their tails held out, the flat coat's was in perpetual motion! I was delighted for his quiet, unassuming owner but if he should win outright the Best in Show, my feelings would be mixed. Inevitably totally unsuitable owners would be attracted to a breed that is indeed gorgeous, lively and up-for-anything - but it is definitely not a breed for everyone. So we will just have to wait until Sunday to see what happens....
In the meantime, you can enjoy this photograph of my 10 year old flat coat, Titus. He wouldn't win any prizes in the show ring - not least because I refuse to trim his ears! - but when it comes to a loving, easy going temperament he's a winner! And isn't that - not looks - what it is all about?