Hounds R Us Seminar 2016

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Today, the Afghan Hound Association held its “Hounds R Us” Seminar at Chieveley, Berkshire and around 50 people enjoyed an action-packed and varied day of hound education.

Susan Rhodes welcomed everyone and immediately handed over to the first speaker, Pat Sutton, who had the challenge of explaining “scent over sight” in 15 minutes. Pat talked about the difference between ground-scenting and air-scenting hounds and ended up focusing on the Beagle. She told us they worked primarily with their heads held up, scenting the air, unlike Bloodhounds and Bassets who keep their noses to the ground. As Beagles need to be able to be out working all day, they require good angulation to give them a long stride, together with a good nose and a “big brain” to process all the information from their noses.

Viv Phillips was the second speaker and she introduced us to the Grand and Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen which are both scent hounds. They are built to be able to work in rough terrain, hence the coats and are meant to “give tongue” when on the trail. This was a term which some were unfamiliar with, so Viv had to explain the loud shreeking noise they make (and which most of us Dachshund owners are all too aware of). These breeds use their noses all the time and work with their heads in the air. They need good feet, with firm pads to be able to work in Winter over snowy ground. They also have a role to drive prey back to the hunter to shoot. GBGV were described as very fast runners who could easily out-run a pack of Foxhounds. Amusingly, like Dachshunds, they are a breed that you usually have to wait for patiently, in the hope that they will come back and find you, which they invariably do in their own good time.

I was the third speaker and talked about the diverse range of functions which Dachshunds are able to perform; covering den hunting (underground), searching and trailing, keeping at bay and retrieving.  I discussed the two extremes of their function; working underground and working above ground, both of which lead to very specific conformational requirements. Much of a Dachshund’s function is determined by its front construction; a well-angulated front allows the legs to fold and permit the dog to crawl when underground, as well as dig. Above ground, a well-angulated front enables the Dachshund to reach far forward and push well back when covering the ground. A dog with straight shoulders and short upper arm will be less capable of covering distance unless it uses more energy, compared with a well-angulated dog.  Good ground clearance is also essential and the current Breed Standard does not call for a dog that is “Long, Low and Level”.

Claire Boggia spoke about the Greyhound, one of the oldest known UK breeds which was even mentioned by Homer and in the Bible. She explained it is a dog bred to chase and the power for its short extreme bursts of speed come from the rear quarters. Claire said they don’t work with their heads held up, so the practice of “stringing them up” in the show ring is completely counter to their way of working. She showed a great video clip of a dog in action which illustrated what happens to the topline and legs, in motion.

Jean Clare took us through the function of the Borzoi and carefully explained its topline which is very roached when in full flight. She showed some pictures to illustrate how the breed had not changed significantly over the past 100 years and emphasised the need for exaggerations to be avoided in the show-ring.

Finally, Susan Rhodes shared her views of the Afghan and focused, in particular, on the topline and hind quarters. This is a breed that requires good feet and agile pasterns which act as the suspension for it to maintain an easy trot for miles, over sandy ground and up into snowy foothills. A couple of pictures of dogs from Afghanistan illustrated variations in type, but were not markedly different from many of today’s UK dogs (other than in presentation, of course). She ended with a video showing two Afghans chasing each other in a garden, emphasising their speed and agility.

After lunch there were opportunities for people to participate in a variety of classes where aspiring judges could get their hands on the various different hound breeds.

All in all, this was a busy day with lots of learning for everyone. Congratulations to the AHA for such a great day and for all their hard work (and good catering too!).


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