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Terrier seminar and ‘hands on’

Jim Beaufoy giving a very professional talk on the Staffordshire Bull Terrier

No fewer than ninety Terrier enthusiasts filled Shenstone Village Hall in Leicestershire on January 11th, when they attended a highly acclaimed seminar organised by Mrs Sue McCourt. With a bumper raffle bringing in £265, a total of £560 was raised to be split between ‘Arthritis Research’ and ‘Dogs For the Disabled’ .

Sue always works hard to organise these events, but this year must have been especially demanding as she is still recovering from surgery, with her leg in a posh sort of ‘plaster’.

Held on a bi-annual basis, this is the third such event. Several breeds are covered in one day, which some might think a little over-ambitious, but it really is quite amazing how much can be packed into a day when working to a very strict timetable. Each speaker gave only a brief overview of his or her specialist breed, but there was plenty of opportunity during the afternoon to discuss finer points with the speakers who were on hand with their dogs.

The day’s first speaker was Sue McCourt, talking on Skyes, this being the breed for which she has always been best known. The points she particularly wished to stress were that the Skye must have ear fringes and face furnishings, even though not all vets agree with this!

Coat must be straight and you should be able to see the pads of the feet as the dog moves away from you, with lots of drive from the rear. Sue no longer has Skyes of her own, but Colin and Lyn Richardson were kind enough to provide dogs for demonstration.

Peter Eva was the next speaker, his breed the Manchester Terrier. He made many valid points, one of which was that this breed should not be approached from ‘above’, but from the front. The Manchester has an outstanding mouth, with large teeth for the dog’s size, and something I found particularly fascinating was the subject of markings, which Peter was kind enough to explain in depth during the ‘hands on’ session. It is believed that the various spots confuse the rats, for each one looks like an eye, so that the rat is likely to go for the spots instead of his adversary’s eyes. This certainly makes good sense, but might be difficult to prove unless we can get more fully into the mind of the rat! Peter had hand-outs available for the audience, one of which clearly portrays the required markings. And before we move on to the next breed, the speaker made a very valid general statement that is worthy of quotation, "All Terriers should have good feet; without good feet we are lost."


Les Price spoke on the Parson Russell Terrier pointing out several relevant facts such as that the breed needs endurance to stay with hounds across country. He also emphasised the necessity of spanning the breed, for unless you can span a Parson, it wouldn’t be able to get to ground. He also mentioned that many people who show the breed also work them and that it is not unknown for a Parson to get stuck under ground for several days. With weight loss they are able to escape, but their coat is very important, for without it they would die.

Another of the lady speakers was Jackie Shaw who amongst other interesting things, explained how the weight clause in the breed standard had changed. Many years ago the weight range was 14 – 16 lbs, but now it is 18 – 24 lbs, and it is not unusual for a male to be even a little heavier than that. Jackie runs 22 Dandies together at home, but they know the pecking order. She also mentioned that she had read an old article which said the breed had been run with deer. Jackie did feel it important that it should be pointed out to pet owners that when Dandies are allowed off the lead they are likely to run off and will take no notice of the owner’s calls.

Jim Beaufoy gave a very professional talk on the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, explaining some of the things that are implied in the standard, but not actually written. He was at pains to point out that the breed should not have insufficient underjaw; it must have a tremendous bite and large teeth. Jim felt that sometimes too much emphasis is placed on minor dentition faults, whereas obviously over or undershot bites are serious. It was good to speak to Jim during that ‘hands on’ session in the afternoon and to discover how knowledgeable he is about his breed’s history.


The Cesky Terrier speaker was Norina Evans who said this was a fast moving breed, with plenty of propulsion. She also discussed colour at some length and mentioned that a Cesky should not be penalised for moving with its tail down, unless of course it is nervous. She clearly described the rise over the loin, pointing out that there should not be a dip in the back, nor behind the withers. She closed by warning us all that a Cesky can eat all day, so it can be difficult to keep the weight off!

I suspect I have not mentioned all the speakers in their correct order, but there were seven in all, and it was Dot Britten who spoke on the West Highland White. She interestingly compared the neck to a champagne bottle, rather than a beer bottle. Now that’s what I call class! Dot felt that black lining around the eyes helped expression and that the neck and shoulder has always been considered one of the most important parts of a Westie.

Lunch provided a pleasant, informal interlude, spent in good company, and we are most grateful to Janet Arrowsmith for all her hard work, and to the two ‘tea boys’, Stuart Atkinson and Nick Gourley, who were much appreciated for their good work!


Whilst we are in the process of extending thanks, Sue McCourt has also asked me to mention Helen Reaney who so kindly dealt with all the welcome packs, and of course the many people who donated raffle prizes. Max King introduced the morning’s speakers and was also instrumental in guiding questions to the top table when the hands-on session was over.

This section of the day was kept relatively brief, but the day closed with the speakers having provided plenty of food for thought, including whether or not we should consider introducing Champions classes, as happens overseas.

At the close of the day, Mrs McCourt very kindly gave bottles of wine out as personal ‘thank you gifts’. Although she had planned for this to be the last seminar she organised, I suspect that some people will have successfully ‘twisted her arm’ so that she does at least one more. After all, we haven’t heard about the Cairn Terrier yet!