THE KENNEL Club has decided that the Kooikerhondje, Lagotto Romagnolo and Spanish Water Dog (SWD) will be reclassified from the gundog group to working from 2014.
It said consideration of the group classification of the three breeds arose because gundog judges have to attend a working event for the breed concerned in order to achieve approval to judge at CC level in the gundog group.
Furthermore, the KC said, dogs in the gundog group are not able to qualify as a full champion if they have not completed a breed-specific working test.
"Although none of these breeds have been awarded CCs yet, this could become a reality in the future,” said spokesman Caroline Kisko.
"The decision to reclassify the breeds was made following detailed consideration of submissions from the respective breed clubs on proposed working tests for their dogs, from which it was apparent that the work contemplated for each of the breeds was not that which might be expected of a gundog.
"However, we are aware that this decision has caused some consternation within the three breeds and we will listen to individual appeals from the respective breed clubs should they feel that they wish to make one.”
The KC told DOG WORLD that the breeds ‘were aware that they were being considered in terms of their future for CC judging’, and that they knew they could appeal against the decision.
DW understands that, some time ago, the breed clubs received a letter from the KC saying that each breed’s status was under consideration and warning them that this was taking place. However, it is believed the clubs did not infer from this that the KC was considering reclassifying them.
The SWD club is to call an emergency committee meeting to discuss the matter and is going to appeal against the decision to the KC. The officers and committee said they had been shocked by the decision and were unaware that any discussion regarding the reclassification had taken place.
"In a letter from the KC dated January 16, the club was asked to submit an application for consideration of championship status and we were also subsequently asked, in a letter dated January 24, to submit a draft, breed-specific gundog working test,” a spokesman said.
"The KC says that a gundog which has a CC or previously qualified for Crufts through a breed class may be entered for a show gundog working certificate at a field trial or a show gundog working day for its sub-group, licensed by the KC, with a minimum of two judges officiating, of which at least one must be an A panel judge. There is no mention of a breed-specific test, only sub-group.
"The decision to move our breed to the working group after 20 years in the gundog group has therefore shocked the officers and committee members. This decision has been taken without any notification to or consultation with the official breed club.”
"Therefore, the committee has registered an objection to the manner in which this matter has been dealt with and requested full details of the reasoning behind the reclassification. We feel the move is inappropriate and that it has been handled inappropriately. Once this is done, a consultation document will be produced and will be available to all UK SWD owners. The next step is a consultation period with all/any owners who wish to put forward their views. Further details will be announced when the response from the KC has been received.”
DW was inundated with comments from SWD enthusiasts. Here are just a few. Jenny Johnson said: "As a member of the SWD Club I was horrified to hear what the KC had done. I have owned SWDs for the last 12 years and always trained and worked them as gundogs. I have attended a class for several years where my SWD certainly held her own with the Labradors, spaniels and HPRs.
"I entered a conservation test at Catton Park coming first out of 12 gundogs. All the judges were impressed with how she worked marking and retrieving, as she was faster and more accurate than all the other dogs. I have also gained the working gundog certificate.
"These dogs are very strong retrievers and excellent hunters. They are not as a rule gun shy, and will retrieve both fur and feather. They also have terrific stamina and will work all day…”
She continued: "This is not the first time the KC has tried to change where SWDs belong. When they first came into the country the KC made the decision quite rightly that they were gundogs, but after a few years in 1999 they then changed their mind and decided they were working dogs. This lasted only a few months, when they changed the breed back to the gundog group. Now they want to change them yet again.
"I don’t believe they have even looked into the way these dogs work. They had three breeds in the utility sub-group – the SWD, Kooikerhondje and Lagotto Romagnolo – and didn’t know what to do, so they bulked them altogether and put them all in to the working group. This may or may not be right for the other breeds, but SWDs are gundogs and that is where they need to be.”
Beverley Rippon of the Kincara SWDs said she was outraged by the move.
"It is unbelievable that the KC can just announce that the breed should be moved to another group without first approaching the breed club and discussing it with them,” she said.
She concluded: "I will probably give up showing my SWDs as a result which is very upsetting and disappointing as I was about to embark on a breeding programme.”
Nigel Egginton, speaking on behalf of the Spanish SWD club, said the club was horrified by the move ‘made with no notification or correspondence’ with the UK club.
"We are adamant that the SWD should remain in the gundog group, which sits very neatly with the FCI classification of group 8 – retrievers, flushers and water dogs,” he said. "The SWD must remain in the gundog group in the UK to ensure unity throughout Europe. The SWD has been in the FCI group 8 since the 1990s.”
Veronica Tuszkay, president of the Swedish SWD club, said her club would ‘stand side by side with the UK club in the fight to keep our breed in the gundog group where it belongs’.
"The SWD will continue to surprise many people with its capacity to perform gundog work,” she said.
The Lagotto Romagnolo Club of GB said it was ‘dismayed and incredulous’ at the turn of events, with one member saying that it would undermine the breed’s ancient origins and place the UK at odds with the rest of the world, where the FCI classification of ‘water gundogs’ remains.
Club chairman Ann Kemp, who with the club’s secretary Gael Stenton introduced the Lagotto to the UK in ‘95, said: "Confusion as to the purpose of this breed exists because the KC originally used an English translation from French of the Italian breed specification.
"In French, the name Lagotto Romagnolo is translated as Chien d’eau de Romagnol, Romagnan Water Dog. A correct translation of the Italian however, would be ‘curly-coated duck retriever’.
"This crucial difference led to a previous attempt by the KC to reclassify this breed which the breed club successfully opposed. It is particularly galling to have to go through this all again some 20 years later.”
Mrs Stenton said: "Early this year, the club was asked to submit working tests. We submitted a novice and an intermediate test, based on dummy work, in common with all other gundog breeds, and clearly stating that we were still working on an open test, needing to clarify some health and safety issues and source a punt – a necessity if the breed is to be tested on its historic way of working.
"If the KC felt that the tests were not of the correct standard, surely the way forward should have been to communicate their reservations to us and give us the opportunity to amend our tests.
"It is particularly disappointing that neither the KC’s Breed Standard Sub-Committee nor Field Trial Committee members have ever contacted the club to arrange to watch a Lagotto working as a gundog on a shoot or to observe our annual water tests. We will hold the 13th such test in September.”
The morphology of the Lagotto reflects its ancient purpose, the club said.
"He is an exceptionally hardy little dog, able to work long hours in icy water thanks to his dense double coat which evolved to protect him from the razor sharp rushes of the Romagnan marshland,” a spokesman said. "Skeletally, his narrow front with ribcage flaring behind the forequarters allows a strong swimming action and creates good lung capacity. Strongly webbed feet further aid swimming, while the hair on the inside flaps of his ears protects the inner ear from water when diving after duck.
"Historically, before the invention of gunpowder, this breed was used by their Romagnan peasant owners to take live duck from the water. His superb ability at retrieving all forms of wild fowl is aided by his phenomenal scenting ability and his strong jaws. Agility enables him to get in and out of boats and across marshy ground.
"Owners in the UK will attest that Lagotto are very capable of working a whole season retrieving grouse. This is a dog ‘designed’ for life and ‘fit for purpose’ as a duck retriever and strong enough to be a match for the occasional goose.
"In the 21st century, many dogs fulfil more than one role. Labradors are assistance dogs, Springer Spaniels are ‘sniffer’ dogs whether for cadavers in earthquake zones or drugs in airports; their continuing status as gundogs is unquestioned. Lagotto are similarly adaptable and have the honour to be the only breed recognised as a truffle hunter.
"Paradoxically the adaptations which make them uniquely suited to duck retrieving, work against them in truffling. Only their agility and brilliant scenting ability outweigh their disadvantages.
"This duality of purpose was recognised in ‘98 when, at the foundation of the World Union of Lagotto, it was agreed that the function of the Lagotto in countries where there is no history of truffling, such as the UK, would remain as it had been for centuries – a water retriever.”
The club said it is united in the view that the Lagotto is a gundog, ‘albeit specialist water retrieving gundogs, and they will always be gundogs’.
"It goes without saying that the Club will be launching a formal appeal,” Mrs Kemp said.
Sheila Rees of the Kooikerhondje Club of GB said the news was what she had been waiting for and dreading in equal measure.
"We are all very unhappy about this, and the subject is under review,” she said.
"Some time ago the KC listed the three breeds in a sub-group entitled utility gundogs. We were all asked to submit a working test relevant to our respective breeds. After a failed effort to get together to work something out with the other breeds, we evolved a test we considered suitable for the Kooiker. This was submitted to the KC and later rejected.
No gun work
"The problem with the Kooikers is that they do not work to the gun in the course of their work, nor are they supposed to pick up feather as they are decoy dogs; fur is another matter as they kill it first.
"Their other job is vermin hunting. There are no working tests in their country of origin, which left us with very little to work on.
"A possible positive in this difficult situation may be that the working group secretaries may be more generous in their classification with dog and bitch classes instead of the three mixed classes we are given at some shows, even those who are gundog specific.”
I find it incomprehensible that the KC has not sort to communicate and consult with the breed clubs over this matter.
Shouldn't Canaan dogs be in the working group? And Beauceron in Pastoral?