Category Archives: Dogs

DON’T MISS THIS YEAR’S WESTCOUNTRY GAME SHOW

The historic pastime of falconry is just one of the many attractions at this year’s Game Fair.  Ben Long obtained his first kestrel in 1971, at which time there were very few falconers in Britain and he has now been involved in falconry as a professional for over 30 years and is a director of The Falconry School based near Gloucester.

Ben will be providing demonstrations and a static display at the West of England Game Fair, which takes place at the Bath & West Showground on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 March 2016. The demonstrations will focus on simulated hunting with Harris Hawks and Falcons plus stooping to the lure. Of course there will be some audience participation which will bring the audience as close as possible to the art of falconry.

The show’s other features will include an on-site clay shoot with Bristol Clay Shooting; BASC shotgun coaching; BASC air rifle coaching; fly-casting demonstrations; gundog training; archery; racing ferrets; vintage tractors and machinery; smallholders area; the Taste of Game Cookery Theatre and much more.

With the opportunity to find great show offers on guns and accessories, fishing equipment, gundog equipment, game feed, gifts, clothing, paintings, prints, food and much more in the indoor countryside shopping village, this is the perfect day out for all the family

You can keep up to date with everything happening at the show by visiting the website www.contour.uk.net or joining the Facebook group (www.facebook.com/WestCountryGameFair/) and following the Fair on Twitter (@WestGamefair).

Dog Control During Lambing & Beyond

The Quantock Hills AONB has been asking people to disseminate this message…

Nothing is more evocative of spring than seeing new lambs by their mothers out in the Quantock countryside.

But please remember that it is at this time of year when sheep and lambs are at their most vulnerable. Quantock Rangers, local farmers and the Police would like to highlight the problems that some dogs can cause to livestock on the hills.

From 1 March – 31 July dog owners are required by law to keep their dogs on a lead when being walked across Open Access land. In all other areas of the countryside dogs should be kept under close control. It’s not just the physical attacks that cause harm but simply allowing a dog to chase sheep may cause ewes to abort or become injured.

Rebekah West, Quantock Hills AONB Ranger, says, “We’d like to take this opportunity to remind all dog owners to please keep their dogs on leads when walking close to lambs or sheep. I also have to be extra careful with my dog Moss – being a lurcher there is nothing he likes more than to run, but across the common he is always on a lead, and will only be let off when I am confident it won’t be at the detriment of wildlife or livestock. Even if lambs are not present in a flock, the ewes may well be in lamb and a dog chasing them could cause them to abort.”

Rebekah goers on to say, “There have been many times when Quantock Rangers have had to deal with the aftermath of dog attacks on sheep and in all cases I believe they could have been easily avoided – it’s never easy visiting a farmer to tell them that their livestock has been injured or killed.”

Between 1 March and 31 July, keeping your dog on a lead on Open Access Land is also to protect ground-nesting birds, as dogs run about in the undergrowth, they flush birds such as Nightjars and Skylarks off their nests and may cause them to abandon them.

If your dog does kill or cause harm to livestock, you can be liable for a significant fine and for the value of the livestock harmed – your pet may also be dispatched, the cost of which will also have to be borne by you.  Moreover, if your dog is actually seen in action harassing livestock it could be shot on sight.

If you actually witness an attack in progress, call 999 otherwise any incidents witnessed should be reported to the Police on 101 or directly to the Quantock Hills AONB Office on 01823 451884.

‘Staffies’ and ‘rotties’: docile or dangerous?

From spring issue 2014
WORDS by Mary Bromiley

There is no disputing the fact that Staffordshire bull terriers and rottweilers have a reputation, in some quarters, for being both unreliable and savage.

That they are more often referred to affectionately as ‘Staffies’ and ‘rotties’, however, seems more than a little at odds with this.  Before meeting some of these infamous breeds ‘in person’, I was lucky enough to have a preparatory chat with a dog whisperer, who gave me her opinion of these controversial breeds.

The Staffie, a cross between a bulldog and terrier and originally bred to fight, is, she told me, a very different character from the rottie, and one known, due to its gentleness with children, as a ‘nanny dog’.  She had found Staffies to be a little “over courageous”, a characteristic which could sometimes lead to a tendency to “rush in without thinking”, and an “overwhelming desire to protect both owners and children”.  “Should either be threatened or hurt,” she explained, “retaliation could be instantaneous”.

The rottweiler boasts a lineage dating back to Roman times when its ancestors accompanied the legions driving their food on the hoof.   Maybe this is why the breed tends to “feel the need to do a job, to have a focus”.  I learnt that it was the protective nature of the rottie which sometimes leads to aggression, with respect for the master being the key to a well-behaved dog.

Following this enlightening conversation, I set off to meet Carol Burnett, who is joint head girl in Philip Hobbs’ racing yard at Bilbrook – and owner of two Staffies and two rotties!  My first impression?  A raft of rosettes and trophies won in obedience classes immediately suggested that this was the home of biddable dogs!

Carol came to these breeds after owning her very first dog, Tye (a Jack Russell x Patterdale), who had ‘taught her all about training’.  “He was hard-headed and stubborn, but I loved the challenge of learning to connect, followed by the elation when I got something back.  I quickly realised how necessary and important training was for both of us.”  Tye won a number of obedience classes, then, when he retired, Tikka, Carol’s first Staffie, moved into her house and heart.  A strict home routine was backed up with obedience classes with Rosemary Munday who had helped with Tye.

“Tikka was such a different character, sharp and strong-minded; any lack of concentration on my part resulted in her becoming over excited and losing focus.  I really had to persevere, but after 18 months I was winning.  Then I heard that her half-sister needed a home and Deva moved in.  She will do anything to please; I have never known a dog try so hard, she really wants to work, and she
is so driven she is sometimes OTT.”

Carol has found Staffies to be amazingly intelligent and keen to learn – and that the more they are taught the keener they are.  “They are fantastic dogs but need an owner who will be fair, firm and consistent when training; they are not a ‘we’ll go out for a walk if it’s fine’ type of dog.”  She confirmed, as I had already been told, that Staffies can rush into a fray if provoked!

Carol had also been keen to get a rottie for some time but could only do so once work flexibility and a house move combined to make this possible.  It took several months of careful research with in-depth consideration of both health and temperament before a suitable pup was found.  The new arrival, Bula, was sensitive and compliant, with ‘no difficult terrier traits’ as Carol had found in both Staffies.  However, training took considerably more time in terms of ensuring that the dog was confident and did not try to over perform in an effort to please.  “Once a lesson was learned, though, she gave her all and shines in competitions,” Carol told me, one eye straying over to Kane, her newest challenge, a male who “has to learn to focus while appreciating he must learn to control his inherent exuberance!”

Carol feels that neither breed deserves their current reputation, but emphasised that the genetic breed characteristics of Staffies can cause problems without training and education, and that this calls for dedicated owners.  The rottweiler – large, friendly, a macho symbol – is “easily trainable”, but, like the Staffie, its background has not been obliterated; untutored, it expects to herd and guard. I was pleased to have met some interesting dogs and fascinated that Carol, who did not know I had talked to a whisperer, confirmed all of her findings!

Top from left: Carol’s three competing dogs – Kane at eight months old (show name Pendley Ivanhoe), Deva (Rascals Evolution) and Bula (Thunderhead Heaven Sent). 

If you have a potential candidate to put forward for our Final Paws page which appears in every issue of the magazine then please get in touch.

STOP PRESS: After this story was published we heard the exciting news that Kane has qualified for crufts!

Voting opens for the Top Dog Walk in the West competition

Stephen Jenkinson
Stephen Jenkinson

The second annual competition to find the best dog walk along the South West Coast Path has been launched this week backed by the Kennel Club’s access adviser Stephen Jenkinson, an expert on where dog owners can go and what they can do in the countryside. The winning voter will win a holiday at one of Holiday Cottages 800 dog-friendly cottages in the region worth £400.

Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to vote for their dog’s favourite walk along this stunning 630-mile National Trail that stretches from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. With hundreds of routes to choose from that are dog-friendly throughout the year and with recommended places to eat, drink and sleep that are particularly dog-friendly, it’s not going to be easy.

Says Stephen, a columnist for Your Dog magazine, says: “I’ve always had a soft spot for the South West and its glorious coastline – it’s great for dogs with miles of golden sands to play around on as well as woodland paths and green pasture. One of my personal favourites is the walk from Padstow to Trevone, where the scenery is as delightful as the refreshments and the dog-friendly welcome you get along the way is one of the best.”

Stephen has worked alongside the South West Coast Path team to advise on dog walking issues, such as responsible dog walking through farmland, and helped to produce an introductory video for dog walkers on the Coast Path, which can be viewed on the dogs page of the South West Coast Path website.

St Michael's MountLast year’s winning dog walk, Heddon’s Mouth in Somerset, was described by Alison Moreland who nominated it, as “an easy section of the path with a great stream, a small beach for doggie paddling, and a dog-friendly pub for refreshment.”

Having dog-friendly establishments to welcome man’s best friend is one of the essentials of a good walk and, if you’re a visitor to the area, you want a really dog-friendly place to stay too. Holidaycottages.co.uk have made it their priority to ensure dog owners and their pets receive a warm welcome and enjoy a relaxing break.

Managing Director James Morris says: “We have found that more people than ever are taking their dogs on holidays within the UK and consider their pets an integral part of the family unit. Our dog-friendly cottages offer relaxation and safety for you and your pooch as many have direct access to footpaths and open countryside as well as large enclosed gardens.”

The closing date for the competition is 28 February 2014. For more information, full terms and conditions and details on how to vote, visit www.southwestcoastpath.com/dogs 

 

Those boots were made for walking festivals… The best in the West for 2014

The Coast Path at Kynance Cove. Photographer Luke Milsom, Leicester.
The Coast Path at Kynance Cove. Photographer Luke Milsom, Leicester.

Whether you’re a novice walker or an experienced hiker, fancy rounding up some friends to join you or want to go it alone and make new ones – walking festivals are a great way to set new fitness goals for the New Year and experience some spectacular scenery along the way. Here is the South West Coast Path team’s pick of the best walking festivals in the South West in 2014.

Lyme Regis Walking Festival (8-16 February) Explore the beautiful coastline and inspiring hinterland of West Dorset and East Devon during this family-friendly walking festival. Local residents share their favourite walks and organised events led by Lyme’s resident guided walk experts will help you explore the town’s fascinating fossil, wildlife, history and literary secrets. www.lymeregis.org

Boscastle Walking Week (28 March-5 April) Join a local guide on a ramble to waterfalls, climb Cornwall’s highest coastal clifftop, or meander along the country lanes and pathways that would have been familiar to Thomas Hardy, whose visit to Boscastle produced some of his finest poetry. www.visitboscastle.com

North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival (26 April-5 May) Starting in the Ilfracombe area, the festival, which has 41 guided walks to choose from, moves on to Lynton, Porlock and finally to Dunster over the May Day Bank holiday. Each area kicks off with a welcome evening in a local pub to meet the guides. www.exmoorwalkingfestival.co.uk

South East Cornwall Walking Festival (13-20 September) This week-long festival is a great way to explore South East Cornwall on foot and includes seaside locations such as the historic fishing port of Polperro, rural hamlets, the Tamar Valley, and the edge of Bodmin Moor. The walks are led by guides and range from more gentle options of two miles to the more challenging seven-mile trek. www.visitcornwall.com/whats-on

Swanage and Purbeck Walking Festival (20-28 September) Up to 50 guided walks – including Nordic, for those who want to get fit – through beautiful Purbeck countryside and Dorset clifftops for all abilities, including children and dogs on some walks. www.walkswanage.com

Great South West Walk 2014 (20-28 September) Don’t miss the opportunity to help protect the coastline with the South West Coast Path Association’s second annual event to help raise funds for improvements along the UK’s most popular National Trail. More details to follow at www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk

Fal River Autumn Walking Festival (17 October-2 November) A stunning collection of guided and self-guided walks for all the family (and dogs!), taking in areas from Falmouth to Truro, the Roseland to the Helford Passage. www.falriver.co.uk/walkingfestival

Torbridge Vets Sponsor Taff The Wonder Dog!

Bill Slee with Taff and Tracey Berridge founder of DFK.
Bill Slee with Taff and Tracey Berridge founder of DFK.

Dogs Helping Kids (DHK) is a local charity that harnesses dog power, to help children improve their literacy and social skills.  This involves highly-trained canines working in schools and libraries, often with amazing results. The dogs work on a different level to their human counterparts.  Their presence seems to disarm and engage the children, and working with the dogs alleviates the pressure some pupils can feel in education, often with amazing results.

Obviously using dogs as teachers and facilitators requires them to be trained to very special standards.  As yet only seven canny canines have passed all six assessments with flying colours, although a further dozen are are currently undergoing training.  One of these is the delightful Taff, a two year old Cavapoo (Cavalier Spaniel cross Poodle).  Taff has been on the DHK training programme for nine months and is sponsored by Torbridge Vets.

So far Taff has passed his First and Second level assessments.  This has involved basic training (heelwork, recall, wait, stay and the ‘watch me’) but in very distracting environments.  These include local shops and the town, learning how to cope with distractions such as noise, changing environments, different surfaces and lots of people.  The dogs have to learn how to do a five-minute ‘out of sight’ stay on the High Street, fun tricks to impress the children such as the snuggle; how to settle on a blanket (for the classroom), how to focus on the pages or cover of a book, and how to press the ‘Easy!’ button to let children know they have done well.

DHK was founded by Tracey Berridge, who has very hands on role in day to day proceedings, both in managing the charity and in selecting and training the dogs to do such amazing things! Tracey says: “We are delighted with the progress Taff is making and his aptitude for the task. After passing his first and second DHK assessments at the beginning of March, we are now working with Taff on reading and preparing him for working in a school environment.  We have just started helping him and the others in the same class to read single words – starting with ‘Down’ and ‘Sit’. This takes time, patience and a lot of practice, as you can imagine. However, once mastered, it is an immensely powerful tool which can bring real breakthroughs for kids who have difficulties in literacy.  Seeing a dog read can demonstrate how they can do it too!”

Torbridge Vets like to support DHK in a number of practical ways. An initiative involving vaccination donations earlier this year has just raised further funds for the cause.  Bill Slee Veterinary Director of Torbridge says:

“We are delighted to be able to donate this £772 to DHK and would like to thank all our clients who helped raised the money.  We know that a dog undertaking the intensive levels of training required by DHK will always require substantial amounts of finance and therefore we hope this will help Taff to progress to the next level.”

Torbridge Vets Sponsor Local Dogs Helping Kids charity

Bill Slee, Taff and Tracey Berridge 3
Bill Slee, Taff and Tracey Berridge 3

Torbridge Vets (www.torbridgevets.co.uk), which have four veterinary surgeries across North Devon, are pleased to announce their sponsorship of Dogs Helping Kids (www.dogshelpingkids.co.uk). This unique, local charity is dedicated to using highly trained dogs to help teach children non-violence, empathy, respect, kindness, love, responsibility, friendship and trust. As Torbridge specialise in caring for pets, this is an ideal partnership.

Dogs Helping Kids aim to educate, help and support children and teenagers of all ages, backgrounds, sexes and abilities, using very special dogs. These animals are trained to an incredibly high standard, before going into schools, colleges and libraries, to assist with education and therapy.

Charity founder Tracey Berridge is working hard to raise the profile of the charity. Recently she, one of the trustees, a very helpful volunteer, and Teazel (one of the charities top School Dogs) with her owner Gail Laurence, visited the House of Commons in London, to demonstrate the dogs’ skills, discuss the charity’s works and its ambitions for the future. Tracey says: “The House of Commons was amazing and Teazel in particular did the charity proud. She is one of our School Dogs that can read flash cards and she bowled people over with her demonstrations! But after so much preparation, the whole thing seemed to be over very quickly. However, it all went really well, we met some key people and managed to take loads of photos, which you can now see on our Dogs Helping Kids website.”

She continued: “The impact these special animals have can be enormous. Academic research has shown that dogs in the school environment can improve academic achievement and motivation – including literacy – promotes calm behavior, improve social skills and self esteem, and teach responsibility and respect.”

Teazel’s very proud owner Gail talks fondly of her pet: “I kept home-bred Teazel, who is a Labradoodle, just as I was diagnosed with cancer and only had four months to train her before surgery. On my return from hospital, Teazel seemed to know something was different. She is the most gentle, loving dog ever. She loves people and is very respectful of children. She really enjoys Agility, visiting elderly people in local care homes (she is registered P.A.T. dog), but also laying on the sofa for cuddles! Teazel has passed the Kennel Club Good Citizen Award Bronze and Silver and is now a Visiting School Dog and an Educational School Dog, working in Southmead Primary School, Braunton.”

Torbridge Vets are proud that they will partner Dogs Helping Kids in working towards the charity’s aim of a dog in every school and library in the United Kingdom. At the same time they will help promote the positive role that dogs have in society, and in children’s lives. Veterinary Director of Torbridge Bill Slee says: “Much research has concluded that contact with pets reduces stress levels and when this beneficial effect is coupled with expert, intensive training of exceptionally intelligent dogs, the results are outstanding. We are delighted to become sponsors of Dogs Helping Kids and encourage other local businesses to consider doing the same.  The charity is undertaking sterling work with proven outcomes, but to continue – and indeed grow – it needs funds. To this end, beginning in January, Torbridge Vets will begin an initiative where every canine vaccination will generate a £1 donation to DHK.”

To talk to Tracey Berridge about sponsorship, please email her at

dhk@tberridge.fsnet.co.uk

Your chance to vote for the Best Dog Walk in the West

Dartmouth-based TV explorer and expert diver Monty Halls, whose adventures with his beloved dog Reuben are captured in the hit TV series Great Escapes, is getting behind an exciting new competition to find the Best Dog Walk on the South West Coast Path.

“When it comes to dog walks, we’re spoilt for choice on the South West Coast Path – there are miles and miles of breathtaking routes to explore with your dog, not to mention great dog-friendly beaches and pubs along the way. My dog Reuben, a black Alsatian/Newfoundland cross, is its biggest fan – his favourite walk is from Cadgwith to Kynance Cove on the Lizard. One sniff of the Coast Path and he’s away!”

Dog walkers are invited to nominate their favourite from 630 miles of stunning Coast Path, stretching from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. It could be a two-mile stroll with your four-legged friend through a fishing village in Devon, a longer trek across open fields in Cornwall, or a short scamper across a dog-friendly expanse of sandy beach in Dorset – one thing’s for sure, you won’t be short of options. What’s more, one lucky winner will be chosen from the nominations to receive a year’s supply of Laughing Dog all-natural dog food and oven-baked oaties.

The deadline for competition entries is 31 January. For more information, full terms and conditions and details on how to enter your nomination, visit www.southwestcoastpath.com/dogs.

Final Paws: Brian Imeson from Challacombe with his Guide Dogs Enton and Yorkie

by Tortie Eveleigh, photo by Andy Hobbs

Many people say that dogs enrich their lives, but Brian Imeson’s two Labradors have transformed his life and given him an independence and self-confidence which, when he knew he was going blind, he thought he’d lost forever. Golden boy Enton (now 15 and retired) and boisterous young Yorkie are Brian’s guide dogs past and present. Owning a guide dog is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility, as Brian explained when Tortie visited him and his wife Tricia at their isolated cottage near Challacombe.

A huge amount of work goes into breeding, selecting and training a guide dog, so that by the time it’s ready to be placed with an owner it’s worth around £50,000. No wonder The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association gives every guide dog regular health checks and training assessments. “When I go out I have to carry a wallet with contact details in case of an accident,” Brian said. “For the dog’s vet, not for my doctor!”

Brian acquired Enton 13 years ago, following a rapid deterioration in his eyesight due to macular degeneration. Before they could go home, though, they had to go on a three-week training course together. “That was a turning point in Brian’s life,” Tricia said. “It gave him so much confidence! Our son said it was like getting his Dad back again.”

At the time, home was a hotel business in Ilfracombe and it was a great advantage for Brian to have Enton there to begin with. Towns are generally easier for blind people than the countryside, not least because there are people to ask for directions. Anyone who has become lost in the fog on Exmoor will have some idea how difficult it must be for Brian to go for country walks – one missed point of reference can throw him completely off course. Another potential problem is the ubiquitous muddy-lane-with-potholes. Guide dogs are trained to avoid puddles and potholes, so a walk up a country lane can become a challenge of epic proportions.

Brian’s glad he had dependable Enton first, and it helped enormously that he was partially sighted while learning how to work with and look after a guide dog. His next dog, a ‘dippy blonde’, ended up as a pet with her puppy walker after leading him into a ditch several times and (the act which sealed her fate) into a pond. So Brian was matched with another dog, a bouncy black Labrador called Yorkie who walks with a swagger and tries to bend the rules at every opportunity.

“If I’m out with Brian, Yorkie switches off and tries to get me to do his job for him,” Tricia told me. “He also likes to ‘help’ me in the garden; tomato picking’s his speciality. He’s much too clever, really.” “He even worked out how to get two dinners,” Brian added. “You see, I feed Yorkie first and then Enton. I used to be able to tell them apart because Enton makes a funny lip-smacking noise but Yorkie learnt to mimic him exactly so he got fed twice and poor Enton got nothing! I’m wise to that now.”

Yorkie and Enton behaved like relaxed family pets as we sat talking in the cosy sitting room. However, as soon as his harness is put on Yorkie changes into work mode – and only very occasionally forgets what that means…

His favourite thing is shopping, and he’s especially fond of the self-service fruit and veg displays in supermarkets. On one occasion he decided to help an assistant unpack a box of apples, and on another he helped himself to a Brussels sprout and carried it carefully all the way to the checkout!  His least favourite thing is the bull from Brockenbarrow Farm. Guide dogs are trained to be brave about all sorts of scary situations, but unfortunately a close encounter with a bull isn’t one of them. As Brian and Yorkie walked back home from Friendship Cross one day, they stopped in a gateway to let some traffic pass and a bull snorted at them. Terrified, Yorkie fled home at breakneck speed, with Brian hanging on valiantly, straight through all the potholes and puddles in the lane.

Brian has led such an interesting life that he alone could be the subject of an article. For instance he worked for Granada television for many years and met The Beatles, Laurence Olivier and other celebrities. But now the A-list celebrities in his life are most definitely Enton and Yorkie. His love and respect for them is immeasurable, and they’re great ambassadors for the wonderful work of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.