NVBC_Masthead

Brittany Articles Written by NVBC Members to Inform and Educate

Agility Barn Hunt Field Trials Grooming Hunt Tests Obedience

Agility Competition 101

article by Judi Parker, NVBC

If you are new to the world of agility competition you may feel as if you are an alien being who has just landed on this big field in the warm summer time. In this field are all these bizarre looking objects. There is a triangle, a circle, a flat surface, lots of poles held off the ground by other poles, a couple of bright colored tubes, a set of six or more sticks coming out of the ground, a long board sitting on a balance beam, and this other thing that looks like a long plank with ramps at each end. Now if this not confusing enough, make if more confusing by adding about 25 human beings wandering around all this stuff. And they are not just walking, they are WEIRD. They are jogging, bending, twisting, waiving their hands and silently mouthing words you cannot begin to understand: "out", "here", "weave", "over", "walk it", "scramble", "climb", "jump it", "tunnel", "switch", "teeter", and "table". Then, as if by magic, the field clears and one lone person moves to the center of all this stuff and proclaims that she is "ready". Ready for what? Then, lo and behold, the first four legged creature is brought on the field . . . .

Welcome to an agility trial and one of the most memorable experiences you and your dog may ever have on earth.

In the summer of 2000 I was feeling a bit like that alien. My Brittany, Dickens, was competing in agility and she has been allowing me to come along as her cheering section. I felt like I was learning a foreign language. I now know what all that stuff is, what all the words mean, and I know my dog loves it.

Introduction to Agility Trials

Agility_BrittanyAgility is an event for dog and handler that can be poetry in motion or an embarrassing moment waiting to happen. It's a timed event over a variety of items, some standard to each course and some optional. There are A-frames and tunnels, and dog walks and teeters, weave poles, and all manner of jumps that can be decorated in the strangest ways. I saw jump standards that were hung with crabs, fish, flags, and flowers. I must admit, they would have given me pause; however, the dogs didn't seem to much care.

Agility Levels

There are three levels in agility. Novice, for beginners, Open and Elite. There are also jumpers' courses that are basically jumps and tunnels or jumps and weave poles and, once again, the difficulty of the course is determined by the level at which your dog is competing.

The idea is to get your dog around the course in its proper order and under the allotted time. This is where the poetry or the embarrassment comes into play. Pretty straight forward, right?

Julie_JumpWrong! You are dealing with a living, breathing four-legged power ball shoe can run the course as nature intended, clean and fast or bounce around like a pinball smacking soundly up against the TILT cushions. And both runs can and will be accomplished by the same dog at the some time. Factor in the handler who is trying to run this course as well, usually in under a minute and is in charge of remembering the pattern.

There are three levels in agility. Novice, for beginners, Open and Elite. There are also jumpers' courses that are basically jumps and tunnels or jumps and weave poles and, once again, the difficulty of the course is determined by the level at which your dog is competing.

The idea is to get your dog around the course in its proper order and under the allotted time. This is where the poetry or the embarrassment comes into play. Pretty straight forward, right?

Julie_in_tunnelWrong! You are dealing with a living, breathing four-legged power ball shoe can run the course as nature intended, clean and fast or bounce around like a pinball smacking soundly up against the TILT cushions. And both runs can and will be accomplished by the same dog at the some time. Factor in the handler who is trying to run this course as well, usually in under a minute and is in charge of remembering the pattern.

Remember all those strange people walling around all that stuff? Well, that is called "walking the course" to familiarize yourself with the obstacles, the sequence, and the traps. Oh, did I forget to mention that there are some items on the field that are not part of the course. They are the traps! Use your imagination.

Gamblers Agility Course

And we have yet to discuss Gamblers, the course for those who wish to be creative or crazy depending on the day and the dog. This is agility for the strong of heart and fleet of foot. All the obstacles are out on the field in what I suspect is a random pattern. The "walk" will give any observer an idea of how interesting this is going to be. Many of the walkers are actually running and jogging, stop watches in hand. The object of this exercise is to gather points at the beginning of the run. If I'm correct, each team has 45 seconds to collect as many points as possible, jumps are worth 1 point, six weave poles are work 3 points, 12 are worth 6 points, all contact obstacles (e.g. ramps, tables) are worth 5 points, and tunnels are worth 3 points. The object is to get X number of points depending on your level (novice, open or elite) before the whistle blows and the gamble begins.

Now let me tell you about the gamble. There is a tape or some kind of marker laid out on the ground and on one side of the tape are a certain number of articles, maybe a teeter, weave poles, a tunnel or two and jump or two. When the whistle blows, the handler and dog has 17 seconds to complete the articles on the other side of the tape. The problem here is two fold. While you are running the first part of the course collecting your required points, you have to have a mental stopwatch in your head because you want to be as close to that tape line as possible with the most points possible before the whistle blows. This is not an easy feat to accomplish. The second problem is that stupid tape marker. You can't cross over the line to run the gamble. Only your teammate (your Brittany that may make you look like a hero or idiot) can and must cross the line and do the obstacles working away form you and in 17 seconds no less! This is, to say the least, one of the most interesting of the agility classes no matter what kind of dog you are handling.

You have to be able to laugh at yourself and allow others, including your dog, to laugh with and at you. Case in point is the handler whose timing was off and who ended up jumping the jump while his dog went around it. Go to an agility trial; bring a chair, a sun hat and sun screen. Park yourself and just watch. Maybe you will be lucky enough to watch a handler and dog have a run that is so beautiful and so in synch that it will take your breath away. Or you can enjoy the creative coursing that happens when dog and handler come unglued! Either way it is a day that you will not soon forget and I am pretty certain that when it is over you will be more that interested in finding a place to train so that you can be part of this lunacy and enjoy what may be the best time that you and your dog could possibly have together!

For more information on agility:

North American Dog Agility Council
HCR 2 Box 277
St. Mariens, ID 83861

United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. - "Promoting international standards in dog agility."
P.O. Box 850955
Richardson, TX 75085-0955
972-231-9700
214-503-0161 (FAX)

AKC Regulations for Agility Trials - Official rules and regulations from AKC with sample courses and obstacle construction.

Return to the top of page

Introduction to Barn Hunt 101

article by Tom Mauter, CNMBC, NVBC

As the web master for two Brittany Clubs, Northern Virginia and Central New Mexico, I receive some interesting inquires and requests. One such request was to inform members of the Central New Mexico Brittany Club about upcoming training sessions in Barn Hunt. Barn what? I never heard of it but before I would entertain informing the club’s board members of this request, I needed more information.

That was in late spring. Fast forward to this past weekend, I now have a new Barn Hunt title on Ollie, my Brittany – RATN (Novice)!

Barn Hunt – the Beginning

The founder, Robin Nuttall, was a frustrated Miniature Pinscher and Doberman owner. Her Min Pins were not allowed to compete in Earthdog competitions despite being excellent ratters. Shortly thereafter she discovered that several clubs held “above ground” barn hunts with dogs hunting rats. She entered her Min Pin and her Doberman in an event held by the Bluegrass (KY) Working Terrier Association. When her Dobe got a placement ribbon, the light bulb went off. Presto, a new sport was in the making. It was officially launched in 2013 and is now recognized by the AKC.

Barn Hunt – the Basics

Bales of straw or hay are stacked up, two, three, four bales tall depending on the level of competition (Novice, Open, Senor, Master.)  There are tunnels, the number and shape are based on the level, which each dog must go through. Each dog is required to climb atop a bale with all four paws in contact. Finally, the dog must find a rat in a tube. The number of finds is, again, dependent upon the level of competition.  Also, empty tubes and tubes with used rat litter are added to the mix for extra challenges. All tubes are hidden amidst the straw. The safety and well being of the rats are of utmost importance in this competition.

Ready Go!

All events have a qualifying time limit in which to correctly identify only the live rat(s) in a tube, complete the required tunnel(s) and execute a successful bale climb within two minutes to four and a half minutes, level specific. Qualifying placements, first through fourth place, are based on elapsed time.

What’s in Barn Hunts for Brittanys?

The purpose of Barn Hunt is to demonstrate a dog’s vermin hunting ability in finding and marking rats in a “barn-like” setting …inside or out. What Brittany doesn’t like to hunt? My Brittany enjoys the hunt for game birds as well as mice and lizards which are much more plentiful than quail around our property in New Mexico. This sport seemed like a good match between obedience and fieldwork with a bit of agility thrown in for a good measure of fun. There is also and an advanced level of Barn Hunt competition involving teams of two dogs and two handlers, working together to hunt for rats. Important to pointing sporting breeds, honoring and backing are allowed. Teams are self-selected and not subject to a random draw of teammates.

The going through the tunnel aspect was new for Ollie. It took all of seven minutes to train him to go through tunnels, both straight and angled with confidence. He climbed up on a bale on command, piece of kibble. Once he saw and scented the rat in the tube, he got it. Lots of positive reinforcement sealed the deal.

Watching him work amidst the stacks of straw bales and locking on point rivaled, on some levels, the beauty of seeing him point birds in our greenbelt or in a bird-field at a Hunt Test. His ability to freeze in place on a hard point with the tube hidden by straw was an eye opener for a number of other competing handlers. Of course, most dogs in Barn Hunt events don’t point…but we forgive them.

Does Ollie Enjoy Barn Hunt?

He turned 10 in this past June but his eagerness to get into the Barn Hunt area was intense. As the judge said, “he came in hunting.” My Brittany is huge and is the most built-for-comfort Brittany I have ever been around dating back to 1952. His three qualifying runs, earning his Novice title, were very pleasing but his placing second in all three runs was even more rewarding. Based on his time to complete the required activities, he was runner up on all three runs to an Australian Shepard named Vespa. Vespa!

Added Bonus

Barn Hunt titles, from Novice up, are now recognized by AKC. Moreover, it can be a way to expand club membership and members’ involvement with Brittany club activities.

More Information

This sport is growing. Demonstrations clinics and fun trials are popping-up across the nation as are full trials, many of which offer four trials at a single site over a weekend.  

Here’s a short video of Ollie in an early training session. He freezes on point when he sees the rat in a cage. The trainer is Lisa Berry of K 9 Performance, Jarales, NM.  YouTube has an array of videos with dogs participating in Barn Hunt events.

Official Barn Hunt Rules, adopted June 1, 2014

Barn Hunt Association Home Page  

Barn Hunt Calendar of Events

Return to the top of page

Introduction to Field Trials 101

article by Bob and Joann Anders, NVBC 

Portions of this article are excerpted from The Book of The American Brittany and AKC Field Trial Rules and Standard Procedure for Pointing Breeds

You should attend a licensed Brittany field trial, if not to compete, then just to observe. Here you will watch the top dogs of the breed, see the ultimate in manners in the adult dog, and learn what a pointing dog can do. Many people new to the breed do not realize how powerful the pointing, scenting, and hunting abilities of the average "hunting" Brittany can be, if it is of good bloodlines and properly socialized.

Sue with Nick at breakawayBrittany trials, licensed by the American Kennel Club, are held in almost all of the fifty states. Most of these licensed clubs normally holds one trial in the spring and another in the fall. Information about the time and location of the trials may be obtained from club secretaries whose names are listed in the American Brittany magazine. (Listing of NVBC Field Trials.)

Types of Field Trials 

At these trials Brittanys compete with others of their own breed and, lately, some continental breeds, for championship points. Four to six stakes are offered. Puppy stake (for dogs from six to 15 months of age), Derby stake (for dogs from six months to two years of age), Open and Amateur All-Age stakes for dogs any age more than six months, and Open and Amateur Gun Dog stakes for dogs of the same age, but different hunting styles.

A field champion wins its points by taking first place in any regular stake. Ten points are required of which two may be won in the Puppy stake, two in the Derby stake and the remainder in regular stakes in at least three licensed or member field trials provided 3 points have been won in a 3 point or better adult open stake. Only four points from the Amateur competition may be utilized. As in dog shows the number of dogs in the stake determines the number of points. Field Championships are quite difficult to obtain. You may have to travel many miles if you wish to attend a licensed trial every weekend of the season. But it is an exciting hobby and people travel long distances for a chance to place their dogs in licensed competition.

An Amateur field champion wins its points in amateur events. Ten points must be accumulated, in at least 3 licensed or member field trials. Points may be accumulated 2 points from Amateur Walking Puppy, 2 points from Amateur Walking Derby, and from second and third placements, except that a dog must have two first places one of which must be a 3 point or better to complete the title. As in show and obedience events the points are based on the number of dogs in the stake. The same amateur points may be used to gain a Field Championship title may be used for the Amateur Champion title.

Judges and gallery follow Sue and NickEntries for trials must be made on official entry forms. Entries usually close sometime during the week before the trial. Trials usually start early Saturday morning and end late Sunday, utilizing all the daylight hours. The premium list that you get from the secretary of the club giving the trial will have all the details - what stakes are being run, when they start, etc. If you intend to run your puppy and the premium list states that puppies will be fired over, you should equip yourself with a blank pistol to fire blank cartridges - or make arrangements to borrow one from one of the other competitors. Don't get a regular pistol for this; too many states have rigid laws forbidding carrying pistols in your vehicle. Firing over dogs is mandatory in all other stakes. You will find that horseback handling is allowable in most stakes. If you prefer to walk and handle your dog, you may do so. The rules say the horseback handler does not determine the pace. Usually the judge tries to set a pace, which is equitable for everybody.

Characteristics of Various Trial Levels

Puppies must show a keen desire to hunt, boldness, and initiative in covering ground and in searching likely cover. They should indicate the presence of game if the opportunity is presented. Puppies should show reasonable obedience to their handlers' commands, but should not be given additional credit for pointing staunchly. Each dog shall be judged on its actual performance as indicating its future as a high-class bird dog.
At least 15 minutes and not more than 30 minutes shall be allowed for each heat.

Derbies must show a keen desire to hunt, be bold and independent, have a fast, yet attractive, style of running, and demonstrate not only intelligence in seeking objectives but also the ability to find game. Derbies must establish point but no additional credit shall be given for steadiness to wing and shot. If the handler is within reasonable gun range of a bird, which has been flushed after a point, a shot must be fired. Derbies must show reasonable obedience to their handlers' commands. Each dog is to be judged on its actual performance as indication its future promise as a high-class bird dog for Gun Dog or All-Age stakes. At least 20 minutes and not more than 30 minutes shall be allowed for each heat. All placed dogs must have established a point.

Field Trail on HorsebackA Gun Dog must give a finished performance and must be under its handler's control at all times. It must handle kindly, with a minimum of noise and hacking by the handler. A Gun Dog must show a keen desire to hunt, must have a bold and attractive style of running, and must demonstrate not only intelligence in quartering and in seeking objectives but also the ability to find game. It must cover adequate ground but never range out of sight for a length of time that would detract from its usefulness as a practical hunting dog. The dog must locate game, must point staunchly, and must be steady to wing and shot. A dog that does not point cannot be placed. At least 30 minutes shall be allowed for each stake.

An All-Age Dog must give a finished performance and must be under reasonable control of its handler. It must show a keen desire to hunt, must have a bold and attractive style of running, and must show independence in hunting. It must range well out in a forward moving pattern, seeking the game on the course. The dog must respond to handling but must demonstrate its independent judgment in hunting the course, and should not look to its handler for directions as to where to go. The dog must find game, must point staunchly, and must be steady to wing and shot. A dog that does not point cannot be placed. At least 30 minutes shall be allowed for each heat.

Nemo with RibbonThe adult stakes may be either Open or Amateur, the professional handlers, (one who trains and campaign dogs as an occupation) dominate the Open stakes and it takes an advanced amateur to win first place in this type of competition. The Amateur stake is open to any person who has not taken money or other considerations for training field dogs. The designation refer to the handlers in the stakes, not the dogs, so you will likely run into the same dogs in either stake, but the performance of some of the professionally trained dogs may be totally different with their amateur owner/handlers. In these adult stakes the dog's manners on birds are of prime importance. The dog must hold point while the handler flushes the bird and fires his blank pistol. It may not move until the handler gives it permission. In a small number of trials, where the birds are shot, the dog is expected to retrieve on command.

For More Information

If your interest has been aroused and you want to learn more about field trials, write to the American Kennel Club and ask for the Regulations for Field Trials booklet or go to their web site.Their address is: The American Kennel Club, 5580 Centerview Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606.

AKC Regulations for Pointing Breed Trials - Official rules and regulations from AKC. 

Return to the top of page

Grooming Your Brittany

By Sue Drazek, NVBC

Portions of this article are excerpted from The Book of the American Brittany Eighties Edition by Rheta Cartmell, in the chapter "The Show Brittany"

For additional information on grooming your Brittany click on Jessica Carlson's Brittany Grooming article. (Linked with permission of the author.)

Recorded in September, 2016, this grooming video is one of the best so far on how to trim and groom your Brittany. It is done by Dawn Droel of Sovereign Brittanys, Marine, MN, with camera work by Joe Droel. Dawn clearly demostrates how to groom your Brittany whether for show ring, working in the field, playing in the back yard or walking on lead in your community. [Linked with permission.] Thanks Dawn!

To my eyes, there are few things as beautiful to watch as a Brittany racing around the yard or field, just for the love of running. And then when that happy dog come close for some love pats, there is a great feeling in stroking a clean, well groomed Brittany. I have found the Brittany very easy to maintain. In this article, I will share what I have learned about grooming over the 18 years that I have had Brittanys. I use the same type of grooming on my show dogs (Breed, Obedience, Agility, and Hunt) and on my older dogs who are retired from obedience and agility and enjoy life at home.

Getting Started

It's a good idea to have a clear picture, in mind or on paper, of what a properly groomed Brittany looks like. You can use your copy of The American Brittany Magazineor one of the available books on Brittanys, to locate pictures of several groomed dogs. These will most likely be found in the section dealing with conformation shows. Note especially the amount of hair on the ears, neck, tail and feet. (See listing of resources at the end of this article.)

Brushing Brittany

Shedding

One question frequently asked by someone interested in the Brittany, is "Does a Brittany shed?" Most dogs shed, as do people. It is a natural process, hair falls out and, with any luck, new hair grows again from the same follicle. With regular brushing, the amount of hair scattered around your house, stuck to your clothes and landing on your dinner plate can be controlled. And for those special events, be sure to keep a pet hair remover - one of the those sticky rolls of paper with a handle - close at hand.

Grooming Routine

Following is my standard, weekly grooming routine:

Start with a clean dog. You be the judge of when a bath is needed. I have found that the coat on the Brittany is naturally clean. Dirt just seems to fall off easily. I don't bathe the dogs every week, just when needed. I use a slicker brush - one with wire teeth - to remove dirt, snarls, and plant material like burrs.

Ear Flaps Up

Ear cleaning suppliesI clean the inside of the ear flap and the inside of the ear by squirting ear cleaning solution into the ear canal, then massaging the base of the ear. I then wipe with a cotton pad wetted with an ear cleansing solution made especially to dry quickly. Let the dog shake it's head and dry the ears again. Regular cleaning will control the brown waxy buildup that smells.                                 [Ear cleaning supplies on right.]

When bathing my dog, I use a good quality shampoo made expressly for dogs. It is the correct pH for their skin, and rinses without leaving a soapy residue. Dog shampoo is available at dog shows, through pet supply catalogs and web sites, and local feed and pet stores.

Start at the Head

Have a good supply of big towels at hand. My Brittanys fit in the laundry sink, where the faucet is a hand held spray head on a retractable hose. I thoroughly wet the dog, soap, rinse and dry the head, and then soap and rinse the rest of the body.

Let's Get Anal

While the dog is soapy, express the anal glands. There are several methods to do this:
orange ballPut on disposable rubber gloves, put KY jelly on one index finger, hold the tail up with the other hand and insert the gloved finger into the rectum. Using your thumb on the outside of the dog and the finger on the inside, locate one of the anal glands (at about 4 and 8 on a clock face); if full, it feels like a grape. Gently squeeze the accumulated fluid out. Beware, it may come squirting out and it is stinky. Twist your thumb to the other side of the anus and do the same to the gland on the other side. 

orange ballAnother way is to use paper towels or Handi-Wipes to cover the anal area, apply pressure externally at the 4 and 8 o'clock areas to express the glands. Get your veterinaria or someone who knows to show you how this done before trying it yourself.

Anal glands are found in all dogs. Anal sacs are collectors for glandular secretions and are located on both sides of the dog's anus. These sacs contain a liquid that ranges from brownish-yellow to light gray in healthy dogs. The anal gland is normally maintained during bowel movements if the dog's stool is firm then this liquid is normally discharged. These anal glands are used as a scent indicator. This is why dogs greet each other by sniffing the other's butt. If the anal gland fluid is discharged during the greeting, they know if they have frighten or made the other dog nervous and can be assured they are the dominant dog.

Often these sacs empty easily, however, some dogs are not able to empty their sacs completely and risk anal sac disease.

Visible signs that your dog may be suffering from anal gland discomfort include:
orange ball scooting across the floor or yard,
orange ballchasing their tail, or 
orange ballchewing or licking at their rear end.

It is important that all stages of anal sac disease should be treated by a veterinarian. If your dog suffers chronically from anal sac impaction, there is a surgical removal procedure which involves anesthetization. Consult with your veterinarian about this treatment and include discussion of anal glands during regular checkups with your vet.
Anal glands aren't a popular topic of conversation but they are an important part of your dog.

After expressing the anal glands, I squirt more shampoo on the rear area and suds well. Then rinse the dog thoroughly. Throw a towel over the dog sopping up as much water as you can. I taught my dogs to shake on command, so I hold a towel over them and say "shake." Wrap a dry towel over the dog and lift him onto the grooming table, the top of the washer, or the floor, which has been covered with another dry towel. Towel off as much of the remaining water as possible. I like to use a hair dryer and brush or fluff the coat with my hand while drying.

Smile

Additionally, I clean the teeth with a toothbrush and dog toothpaste, which has a beef flavor. Never use human toothpaste. It is not designed to be swallowed. If swallowed by your dog, it may make the dog ill. I also scrape off any accumulated tarter and plaque, using a scrapper similar to that dentists use. These are available at dog shows, pet supply catalogs and web sites, and feed and pet stores. When necessary have your vet do a more complete cleaning, removing plaque from your dog's teeth.

Brushing to remove dead hair

Zoom GroomAll brushing and combing is done in the direction the hair grows. Once the dog is thoroughly dry, a use a Zoom-groom (pictured on the right), a flexible soft rubber devise with 20 to 30 cone-shaped teeth. It fits in the palm of the hand and removes the loose guard hairs. It is very soft so it doesn't poke or scratch the dog's skin. It is especially good on the bony areas like the leg and feet.

 

Finally, I use a fine striping comb (pictured below.) I learned about this comb several years ago and really like it. It has a wooden handle and metal head at one end. The metal head is about two-inches long with a row of tiny teeth about ½ inch deep.

Mars striping knifeStart at the rear of the dog, combing a patch at a time, and work your way forward. The stripper comb removes dead hair, especially from the undercoat. The amount I can remove depends on the dog's coat. The thicker and woollier the coat, the more hair may remove. 

Clipping and Trimming

Get someone experienced to show you how to do this the first time, and refer to the pictures of well groomed Brittanys.

Holding the dog's muzzle pointing upward, use clippers with a #10 blade and clip the neck of the Brittany. Go the way the hair grows in a "V" shape, to the top of the breast bone (the top of the "V" being the top of the neck and point of the "V" at the tip of the breast bone. 

Next use thinning shears (the best quality you can afford) to thin and blend in the hair on the side of the neck with clipped area. Do not trim the coat on the top of the neck.

Triming Brittany

Grooming the Ears

Grooming the ears is necessary especially on those Brittanys with lots of furnishings, long or profuse feathering. First, using straight scissors, trim the hair following the outline of the ear from ¾ down the front, under the tip and up the back of the ear. Then thin the rest of the furnishings with either a thinning shear or stripping comb, making sure to blend in with the edges. Remember the ear set is high so do not take out the hair at the top and the front top of the ear. Thinning shears may be used under and in back of the ear to blend in with the neck. The ears should not have so much hair taken out that it has a hound appearance.

Grooming ears

Whiskers

If you are showing your dog in Conformation, whiskers may be taken off using blunt ended scissors. Some people prefer to leave them on, with the thought that they need them in the field. It is not a fault leaving them on but taking them off gives a smoother, much more finished look.

Tail's End

Thinning is also done under the tail and blended into the rear feathering. The coat should be thinned to lay flat from the anal area to the circular areas of hair on either side of the rear. The tail is completely thinned out underneath and the sides are blended in with the top of the tail. The tip of the tail should be thinned also to blend in, if necessary, taking care not to have any bald spots showing. To make a tail look longer, thinning can be done on both sides of the tail but never on the rump above the tail.

Feet

In trimming the feet, the hair growing between the pads is cut even with the pad. Do not cut or clipper out the hair in between the pads as this is protection for their feet. Trim the hair evenly along the sides of the pads all the way around. With a bristle type brush, back brush the fur on the feet (from toenails toward the foot). With thinning shears, trim the wispy hair sticking out on the tops between the toes, taking care not to trim out the hair in between the toes. This gives the foot a neat appearance. I especially like to keep the feet trimmed to minimize the amount of dirt that gets carried into the house.

Grooming feet

Hind Hocks and Front Pasterns

On the hind hock, brush the fur against the growth pattern, then use thinning shears to clip the rough coat that sticks out from the hock to the footpad. On the front pastern, thinning shears or clippers again may be used to smooth out the rough coat between the foot pad and the wrist pad, only on the back side of the leg. Clippers should not be used on the hock.

Toenails

I trim off the tips (about 1/8 to ¼ inch) of the toenails with a nail clipper. I use a light located on the far side of the foot so that the pink quick is visible through the white nail. This way I can avoid cutting the quick and drawing blood. On the brown nails, I estimate how much to trim based on a white nail. Then I use an electric grinder with a medium grit sanding drum to smooth the rough edges of the mail and to shorten it further. Apply the grinder in short intervals, without much pressure, so that the friction does not heat up the nail. I feel the end of the nail during this process and quit when I sense I am getting to a soft area.

Introducing Pups and New Dogs to Grooming

When you bring a new puppy or new adult dog, such as a rescue dog, into your home, you will want to gradually introduce the new dog to this grooming routine. I use treats and praise for calm behavior. When the dog is tired and relaxed, I sit on the floor with the dog and start out just touching and manipulating the feet, ears, mouth, and the rest of the body. I show the dog the tool (brush, clipper, etc.), touch it to their side or foot. Gradually build up to short brush strokes, then a treat, more brushing and another treat. I trim the tip of one toenail and give a treat. I introduce the electric grinder, showing the tool, turning it on, touching the foot with vibrating handle and rewarding calm behavior with a treat. I gradually build up to touching one nail with grinding wheel, and so forth.

Your Rewards

At the end of this process, you will have a lovely, well-groomed Brittany, ready to show in the ring, or jump up and sleep on your bed, one that will feel and smell wonderful when you pet them.

Trimmed Btirrany

Recommended Brittany Grooming Resources:

orange ballThe Book of the American Brittany: Eighties Edition by Rheta Cartmell
    Order from: Velma Tiedman, ABC, 2036 N. 48th Ave., Omaha, NE 68104 
orange ballNew Owner's Guide to Brittanys by Beverly Millette
orange ballThe Guide to Owning a Brittany by Stacy Kennedy
orange ballBrittanys by Beverly Pisano
orange ballBrittanys by Dan Rice

Return to the top of page

An Introduction to Hunt Tests

by Tom Mauter, NVBC, CNMBC

If you have never considered entering your Brittany in a hunt test because you don't hunt you may want to reconsider.

At the urging of Roscoe Tippett, NVBC member and an AKC Hunt Test judge, I entered my then five year old Brittany, Jake, in his first hunt test. What an exciting day it was! Living inside the Washington, DC beltway, Jake's hunting had been limited to our backyard. When given the opportunity to work in the field, he had the time of his life.

The Basics

Take your dog's lead

So just what is a hunt test and what is needed to enter? From my limited but growing experience, (Jake and my current Brittany Ollie and I have now participated in more thant wo dozen hunt test events) if your Brittany is fairly obedient, likes to sniff out birds and points, then he or she is ready for the beginning or junior hunter level. As for equipment, you will need a blank pistol (starter's gun) and holster - if you are just getting started, you should be able to borrow one from a fellow club member - and blanks. A good pair of hiking boots and jeans or heavy pants are recommended to get you through the field course. So your dog, a blank gun, hiking clothes, a water bottle for you and your dog, and the entrance fee and you and your Brittany are on your way.



Junior Hunter

At the Junior Hunter or beginning level, each dog competes against a standard in four areas:

1. HUNTING - a dog is scored from '0' to '10' on the basis of whether or not it shows a keen desire to hunt on his or her own and has a fast pattern of running which is near the handler.
2. BIRD FINDING ABILITY- a dog must find and then point bird(s) in order to receive a qualifying score. Dogs are scored from '0' to '10' based upon how well they demonstrate their intelligence, use of the wind, and the ability to find birds.
3. POINTING - a dog is scored from '0' to '10' on the intensity of its point, as well as its ability to located (pinpoint) birds under difficult scenting conditions and/or confusing scent patterns. A 'flash point' (a point that is not held for any length of time) cannot be graded as pointing, however, a dog's score in this category shall not be influenced by its steadiness to wing and shot (when the bird is flushed and the blank pistol is fired).
4. TRAINABILITY - a dog is scored from '0' to '10' on its willingness to be handled, its reasonable obedience to commands, and its gun response. If the handler is within reasonable gun range of the bird, which has been pointed and flushed, a blank pistol must be fired. It is recommended to point the pistol towards the ground, away from the dog and the judge(s).

A minimum score of 7.0 in each of the four categories qualifies. Four such qualifying scores, scored by four different judges, earns your dog a Junior Hunter title and you some bragging rights.

NVBC and CNMBC Hunt Tests

Typically, NVBC and CNMBC conduct hunt tests in the spring and the fall. These are wonderful opportunities to get a first hand understanding of what a hunt test is all about. You can follow the junior level braces (two dogs) and their handlers as they work them through the fields and hedgerows. You can also set up your favorite lawn or camping chair overlooking the bird field and watch the more experienced dogs (Senior and Master levels) show their stuff. Binoculars will bring the action right up close and personal. There are always lots of Club members on hand to answer questions and help you and your Brittany have a good time. Of course, your Brittany needs to be on a lead.

 

Early field work Club Fun Trials

The NVBCand the CNMBC put on Fun Trials. These are another excellent way to get an introduction to hunt tests for you and your Brittany. The Fun Trial replicates a hunt test without the official scoring. Birds are planted and members and their dogs are paired up to provide the levels of training and guidance needed. This fun day in the field often features a delicious pot-luck lunch and lots of Brittany conversations.

 

Check the NVBC Events menu link above for upcoming events.


Return to the top of page

jump Why obedience training? dumbbell

by Tom Mauter, NVBC and CNMBC with Jocab of Sterling (Jake) CDX, JH and Sigbrit Ollie, CD,RA, JH

With great and deserved pride, we refer to the Brittany as THE DUAL DOG given our breed holds more dual championships than any other. Typically, these championships refer to success in the ring and the field. More recently, obedience and agility championship titles are being pursued and earned by Brittanys.

Titles aside, I suggest that obedience training is at the foundation of a happy dog and a happy owner/handler. Clearly, an obedient dog is a better performer whether in the show ring or in a field event. But the majority of the time our dogs are with us at home and in our community. This is where obedience training is one of the most important aspects of raising a dog. In fact, a well-trained dog is by far a happier dog! Why? A trained dog requires fewer restrictions. The more reliable the dog, the more freedom he can be given.

Jakes ribbonsObedience training also gives the dog owner the voice control necessary to prevent numerous potential tragedies. Not only will obedience training help your dog to become more responsive, it enables you to have immediate control over your dog's behavior; in an emergency situation, obedience training may save your dog's life. (Ask me about my Brittany Ollie's encounter with two rattlesnakes and the role obedience training played!)

Training develops you as your dog's leader by strengthening the bond between you and your dog . It builds communication, understanding, and mutual respect, and subtly but effectively demonstrates to your dog that you're the leader of the pack - the "Alpha".

Aside from earning titles, obedience work is a great way to have fun with your dog. Following advice from a serious obedience competitor, I try to train my dog Jake everyday. Yes, we are working towards competing for his Utility title, but the most important fact is that he WANTS to do it! Like most Brittanys I've been around, Jake enjoys pleasing me and he likes to be praised. 

I would offer the following suggestions:

The sooner the better - with classes are available for puppies on up to older dogs, I would encourage every owner to enroll with their dog in a group class with a certified trainer. Group classes promote socialization and the trainer will teach you and your dog the proper techniques and commands.

Ollies ribbonsBe consistent with you commands, signals and body language. It takes a lot of the confusion out of the experience for your dog. There are a variety of training methods - read and talk to others and determine which works best for you and your dog. I do not reward with treats until after our work is complete. In obedience competition, you are not allowed to use treats so I thought it best not to add to Jake's confusion. Besides, being a Brittany he responds to praise and affection. As the exercises become more complex and difficult to master, I find that not using the word "no" has a more positive effect. When they are trying to figure out what you want, a negative command leads to more confusion and, certainly in Jake's case, nervousness and stress when he is trying to please but hears "no".

Above all have fun with your dog!

While you and your dog are learning, mistakes will be made. Keep your humor and he'll forgive you every time!

Return to the top of page

Articles will be added as received; past NVBC newsletter articles and new submissions are welcome! Also, if you would like to see a topic addressed let me know and we'll do our best. Send via e-mail to: Tom Mauter.