In my notes of 15th September, I said that Sarah Stonton had competed in her first NNA trial, and here she tells of the new journey she has started. ‘Having competed at scent work for over 2yrs now, doing SWUK competitions with Jack (Ch Arnscroft In Di Ana Jack), it was time to embark on another organisation’s trials which are different in many ways. In SWUK Jack has recently acquired his first qualifying score at Level 6 whilst achieving 4th place simultaneously. National Nosework Association came into being more recently; of particular interest to me is the varied places in which the trials can be run; not only in village halls and surroundings, but farms, outbuildings, railway, schools, and museums to mention a few.
In the past, Jack has sometimes been slightly concerned about working in new places particularly when there are startling noises, so I chose to start him at the easiest level of difficulty called Foundation to build on confidence as needed.
Our first NNA was on the hot Sunday Sept 10th near Norwich, it was not our most successful outing with Jack only finding 1 of 3 hides in time, in part being hampered by me with far from good handling, but it was a debut for learning how these trials work.
Sat 16th at another hall in Ashdon, nr Saffron Walden, was different again; not only did Jack find all hides within time but achieved 2nd place out of 11 competitors. Lots we can still improve on, but we worked confidently together, then really appreciated the judge giving praise that I was verbally rewarding Jack for good searching as we went along.
The search areas were interior (inside the main hall), exterior (an ‘interesting’ bit of wall with 3 doorways, drainpipes, lower bits of wall, fencing, dustbins and additional items) then the selection test (a row of 6 identical containers where the dog has to work systematically along to find the scent without the handler stopping, turning or retracing steps. Our scent was clove.
Next NNA trial for us will be gun oil but in the meantime, we will be doing another SWUK level 6 which has 12 hides (clove, gun oil and truffle oil) over 3 areas.
Remember! Whatever you are doing with your canine friends, praise and reward are essential’ Thanks Sarah we will look forward to hearing how you both do in your next trials.
On Friday 22nd September I headed off early to Cambridge University for a Canine Genetics Research Day for Breed Health Co-ordinators, there have been webinars, but this was the first fact to face one since pandemic and the AHT closed, and they moved to Cambridge. Debbie joined me as my guest taking a day off work, so not representing the KC this time but Buhunds, as she is on the committee and vice Chairperson. Dr Cathryn Mellersh opened the proceedings, she is the Principal Investigator of the KC Genetics Centre, with a team of researchers dedicated to understanding the genetic basis of inherited canine diseases, which are often painful, blinding or require medical or surgical intervention. The hope is that the research conducted can help dog breeders reduce the incidence of diseases in purebred dogs, and help veterinary surgeons diagnose diseases. They have as particular interest in ocular and neurological disorders. Cathryn also talked about the very difficult time when the AHT had closed and they thought that they might lose everything, and thanked the KC Charitable Trust for helping them, she recounted even having to phone up to ask for money just to be able to have a fridge moved from the AHT to Cambridge. Their main funding now is from the KCCT, Pet Plan and the Dogs Trust. They also collaborate with specialists in sixteen other countries. The first talk was on Inherited Eye diseases, with an in-depth discussion on Hereditary Cataracts in Old Englis Sheepdogs, and how they had first just looked at the cataract but as they looked further, they found it was much more complicated than the dog just having cataracts, they also found PRA. Dogs can be shown to have conditions from an early age to the age of 8 yrs, after which some conditions are thought probably to be related to old age. With some conditions where there is no DNA test some dogs may have been bred from which is why a DNA test is so import for eye mutations. If there is no DNA test regularly testing should be carried out and the dogs not bred from otherwise the disease may become much more complicated. So far, the Centre has now identified 86 eye disease mutations and 9 risk alleles (each of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome) which is thought are associated with disease, located within 61 different genes which have been identified in 157 dog breeds. Thousands of dogs have been tested globally saving the sight of hundreds of dogs.
The next talk was on Intervertebral Disc Disease, which is the cause of most spinal injuries, which range from pain to complete paralysis, it can occur in in any breed, but of course short legged breeds are more prone to the condition, Debbie and I were surprised that cocker spaniels were in included in the group. This is one of the diseases where lifestyle and conformation is being looked at as well as the genetic factor, and now it looks as if the more active the dog the less likely it is to suffer. In cases of complete paralysis operations are necessary but in less severe cases, changes in lifestyle are often recommended over surgery by many veterinary surgeons.
The final talk after lunch was on Complex Diseases, although it really concentrated on Epilepsy. Which is the most prevalent chronic neurological disorder found in dogs. The research they are doing is concentrating on Idiopathic Epilepsy which is where the dog has fits but there is no known cause. Many breeds suffer from it, but the age of onset and type of seizures can vary between breeds. Genetic, lifestyles and environment are all thought to be relevant. In the past Debbie had a dog that would very occasionally have a seizure if it was stressed never when it was competing, just suddenly something would trigger it.
During one of the breaks, we caught up with Dr Sally Ricketts who does the work on Hereditary Cataracts in the Nordic Breeds, she will be publishing a paper soon on her work which will include Norwegian Buhunds. Disappointingly I do not think that we will having a DNA test any time soon. At the AHT they always said that the breed cataract was to the specific to Buhund so was complicated to find, and Sally said more or less the same thing. We will have to see what the paper says when it is published. Something we can all do, is if the dog has an affected eye test or should need treatment for a condition, is to ask the vet to take a cheek swab and send it to Cambridge where it can help with further research, the referral centres are very good at this and have supplied many of the swabs the centre has stored.
Stay safe everyone, there is a lot of Covid about, I have just had my autumn booster so am hoping I do not get it again.
Margaret Deuchar email@example.com
Any views expressed in Margaret’s Breed Notes are hers and hers alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Norwegian Buhund Club of the UK