Well it’s been a couple of years since I first went to Betley and boy has it changed! I wrote about how spread out it was last time and I think they listened! All of the stalls were circled around the big main arena and the smaller second arena. The scurries were grouped together nearby down the hill with the terrier and lurcher racing a stones throw across the main driveway.
First into the main arena was the Carry On’s Flyball Team, the main reason I’d come to Betley this year. I can never get enough opportunities to photograph these guys and I love the exciting races at the end of the demo! Even Ash gets well into it, and he pretends to hate all things dogs.
Afterwards we had a wander around past the stalls and over to the activity display ring. Guinness was doing really with the gunshots, until the guy doing a demo on wildfowling let off a shotgun in the ring right by us. I think we all crapped ourselves, but Guinness especially so.
The show is still fairly small and other than getting a new slip lead there wasn’t anything on sale that I was particularly bothered about, so we’d quickly seen everything and sat down for a coffee to chill with the flyball team. However I was really interested to see a Discover Dogs type marquee! There were a number of rare gundog breeds to meet with their owners on hand to tell you all you need to know. I especially loved seeing the Brittanys and Large Musterlanders! What a unique and brilliant feature for a gundog & game fair.
Just before lunch time we took position back at the main arena for Cheshire Canine Services, the second reason I’d come to the show.
A lot of the demos were telling the story of training the dogs to do that specific sport/discipline, and Mike’s display was no different. Starting with some young dogs and talking about building focus through play and reward, then the beginning of bite work, before getting on with the big crowd wows.
Fury dived over a large pile of stray bales at head height to stop a “criminal” with a gun, grabbing him in a bicep bite… ouch! Then Rizzo flew over a barrier and took down another “bad” guy.
My stomach was now rumbling so we browsed the different catering vans. I had an expensive, posh named burger than just tasted like any other burger-van burger and Ash chowed down on a pie. The show had started off fairly quiet but was now bustling with a modest number of visitors. As it’s not very large and the demonstrations are all on twice you can easily be done in half a day.
We wandered down to the scurries after lunch and enjoyed watching the different exercises, especially the water retrieve. Ash and I talked about how a collie could complete the exercises just as well as the typical gundog breeds, as long as it wasn’t gun-shy, and probably be even faster at some of the time trials. Oh how I’d laugh to see a person with a collie take first place in the gundog trials!
As the end of the day approached I watched the second displays from Cheshire Canine Services and Carry On’s Flyball. Cheshire Canine Services finished with a double dog attack on a hostage situation, sending Rizzo first over a jump and onto the criminal and then Kai over the straw bales onto the other arm! I can’t believe Matt stayed up with the two of them grabbing him! They are definitely the two biggest and best dogs on the team and Kai is an especially large shepherd! It was very impressive to see.
The Carry Ons finished with another great display with a close race to finish, but unfortunately being the first and last demonstration of the day not many people were around to see it. It was lovely to spot that Andy Cullen MBE had wandered over to watch and seemed genuinely interested. Regrettably I missed both of his displays on the day.
Betley Gundog and Game Fair is a lovely little fair, with its main strength definitely being the quality of the displays. However it got a little tedious hearing each display making their own unsubtle point about their method of dog training. Some displays were shouting about “discipline and control” (although showing an embarrassing lack of it with their own dog), while others were emphasising the use of rewards and not punishing dogs.
There’s still a large conflict of opinion on dog training methods within the gundog world, however the overall message of all of the activities and demonstrations was to do something fun with your dog, catered to their natural behaviour and enjoy it.