Elfyn Thomas and his gundogs at the Royal Welsh Show

Thursday 21 July 2011, 10:51

James McLaren James McLaren

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I'm partial to gundogs, with two of my own crazy beasts (flat-coated retrievers), so it's been great to see Elfyn Thomas of Awyr Iach Gundogs here with his pack.

Gundogs are divided into retrievers, setters, pointers and spaniels. Each group has its own specialism, but all of them can do the retrieving. The joke goes, of course, that they must be stupid, bringing back something their owner throws away, but these are some of the very cleverest dog breeds around.

Their capacity to understand and follow instructions, over-riding their instinctive behaviour until given permission to go, is what enables them to be used for the game hunting or other sports that their owners use them for.

Would that I were able to control my two as well as Elfyn, whose command of his spaniels and one Labrador is amazing. Even his new young dog, which has only been with him for a fortnight, behaves himself (just about). Patience, repetition and uniform training techniques are essential to make the pack do exactly what he wants. But he needs to ensure that the dogs are never bored, as he explains:

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