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Competitive Showing, Responsible Breeding and Golden Girls with Lesley Wilson

Q. What’s the best way to start the day?

A brisk walk with my dogs, happy wagging tails.

Q. What was your main career before retirement?

Cancer Research: lab work

Q. What is something people might not know about you?

On 19th October 2014, I abseiled 165 feet from the Forth Rail Bridge, raising £2500 for the charity Canine Partners.

Q. What are the biggest issues you face as a multi-dog owner?

One seldom sets out to have a multi-dog household, I certainly did not, but Golden Retrievers are addictive and you can’t have one without then wanting another!

And there is no point in having the work and worry of a litter without keeping one for yourself and so it goes on.

As dogs are essentially pack animals, the pleasure in watching for inter-generational behaviour patterns (I have one girl who can open the back door, her mother also opened doors) and play interaction is immense, quite simply, they enjoy each other’s company.

This does not detract from the unconditional love they shower on their hooman.

In an increasingly anti-dog society, however, few understand the life enhancing benefits dogs can bring and many are intolerant of even the occasional bark, happy to phone the Council to complain in an anonymous capacity which causes a great deal of stress and anxiety to the dog owners who regard their pets as part of the family.

The law seems to be on the side of incomers, and I have heard of more than one kennel which had to close when houses were built in the vicinity. This is the biggest worry for most of us unless we live out in the country.

Constant nuisance barking is a different matter altogether and I do not condone this, usually caused by bad management and/or unhappy dogs.

Apart from a drain on my purse, I would not wish to live any other way.

Q. What clubs have you been part of with regards to the dog industry?

I am a Founder Charter Member of the Institute for Animal Care Education from which I gained a Diploma in Judging (with Credit) 1993, and Kennel Management (with Distinction) 1995.

I was elected on to the committee of our local canine club Kirkintilloch, Lenzie & District C.C. in the late ‘70s and served until retiring on health grounds in 2014, whereupon I was made an Honorary Vice – President.

I have been a member of The Golden Retriever Club of Scotland since 1973 and

The Golden Retriever Club since 1976.

For many years, GRC of Northumbria, North West GRC and Yorkshire GRC.

I was elected on to The Golden Retriever Club of Scotland committee in 1991 and served in various capacities including Membership Secretary, Newsletter Editor and Trophy Steward. I was on the Show and Judges Sub-Committees and took an active role in Rescue.

I retired on health grounds in 2009 and was honoured with a Life Membership.

I am a member of The Cocker Spaniel Club of Scotland.

I am a Founder Member of Gundog Breeds Association of Scotland

In the 1990s I owned a Bernese Mountain Dog called Liesl.

I was a member of the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Great Britain and

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Scotland for several years.

The Dogs Trust

Q. How did you get into showing and have you always been showing Golden Retrievers?

My first dog was a present on my 9th birthday. Jockey bore more than a passing resemblance to a black spaniel, albeit with a long tail. In those days it was unusual to see a spaniel with a long tail as most were docked. My aunt took one from the litter for herself: he was a parti-coloured terrier. They were mongrels, though nowadays they might be called “designer dogs”.

Jockey lived a full and active life as a family dog and 'show jumper', taught by me as a pony mad teenager.

During this time, I long admired a friend's dog Sandy. He was a golden retriever, the only one in our district as they were quite rare in the 1960s, and eventually, after Jockey passed away at a grand old age, I set my sites on obtaining a Golden Retriever.

In 1970, my dream was realised when I purchased Sherry from a breeder in Ayrshire.

Sherry was a typical biddable Golden and I competed in Obedience at the local agricultural shows and she passed her Road Safety, a forerunner of the Good Citizens Scheme with flying colours.

By this time, she had been joined by a ‘proper’ spaniel, a wee blue roan called Linti.

In 1973, I decided, with much trepidation, to have a litter from Sherry. All went well and from a litter of nine, I kept a pale bitch called Shona.

I was encouraged to show her by local enthusiasts who thought she had potential, and at our first show, Waverley Gundog Association, she won a third and that was it- I was hooked.

Q. What are you biggest achievements in showing?

Winning the Bitch CC and Best in Show at the Golden Retriever Club of Sc

otland 70th Anniversary Championship Show in 2016 with Caiti, Lillieslea Lorra Class, 5th generation, handled by my friend Anne.

Q. What is it about golden retrievers you love so much?

Goldens have beauty and brains. They live to please.

Goldens retain the basic canine conformation so are free from many of the health problems which beset the more exaggerated genetically modified breeds. NB I didn't say they are without health problems but responsible breeders do their best to screen for these, minimising the risk.

Goldens make ideal family pets, as happy to accompany the munro bagger as to follow the pram to the school gates each day. They are people dogs, happy so long as they are with their hooman.

They have a wavy double coat which is easy to maintain with a brush.

They love to swim which serves as a bath. However, they also love to wallow in the muddiest puddle they can find!

But, do not be fooled, they are clever and will take advantage if allowed.

Give them the respect they deserve, and you have a friend for life, unconditional love.

Their versatility is endless- they can be trained for Obedience, Agility and Cani Cross.

Goldens have soft loving natures which make them ideal as Thera pets, visiting hospitals and care homes where they brighten up the lives of residents.

As Gundogs, they have a keen nose and are trained as Medical Sniffer Dogs.

Goldens are biddable and love to please and, as such, are widely used as Assistance Dogs: Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Partners where they make life transforming partnerships for people with disabilities.

There is a dog for everyone, except the couch potato, in one Golden package.

Q. How many dogs do you have now?

As well as my Golden girls I have a cocker spaniel called Rosie.

Q. I know you are an animal lover! What other animals do you have?

I have 2 ancient Birman cats, Barbie and BT (because she called a lot!)

Esaya Lillieslea Puregold aka Barbie is a Champion as I showed cats at one time too.

Q. What would your advice be to someone who wants to get into showing?

Attend a few local shows without your dog, to see if it is for you. Take your dog to a local Training Class where you will be given an honest opinion of its potential, and he will learn what is expected of him.

Learn how to trim your dog or get someone to do it for you.

If the breeder of your dog would act as your mentor, this would be half the battle.

Look, Listen and Learn.

Do not be disappointed if, at first, you are unsuccessful, it is a learning curve.

And remember, you always take the best dog home.

Q. Is showing a competitive industry?

Yes, I would say it is, much like every sport or hobby nowadays.

Gone are the days when we went along with a brush and dog on lead to enjoy a day out with our friends.

Presentation and Handling are of a high standard, many exhibitors highly skilled at grooming to present their exhibit to its best advantage.

The successful exhibitors work hard training their dogs and perfecting their handling skills, and, unlike in tennis where you can put your racket in the cupboard for a few days, it is a full time commitment keeping your dogs in peak condition.

Q. What would your advice be to someone who is looking to adopt a puppy from a breeder?

Try and get along to a show to talk to breeders. The Breed Club show of your chosen breed is particularly valuable

Look for the type you particularly like and get your name on the breeder's waiting list.

Do your research: learn what health issues are associated with the breed and what screening programs are available for the breed.

In the case of Golden Retrievers, prospective parents should be at least screened for hip

and elbow dysplasia and eye tested annually.

Ask to see the results of these tests.

The breeder will want to ask questions to make sure the puppy will fit into your lifestyle.

He/she may ask you to visit before the pups are born, then send you pictures during the first 3 or 4 weeks before inviting you to see the pups for the first time.

Build a relationship with your breeder who should be willing to offer help and advice for the lifetime of your puppy.

Don't be surprised if the breeder has put endorsements on the registration document, this is normal practice to ensure the welfare of the puppy and the breed in general but discuss it with him/her to avoid any misunderstandings later.

Should life take a downturn and you are unable to keep your pup/dog, always contact the breeder first. A good breeder will take their puppy back at whatever age, this should be written in your Contract of Sale, or will be happy to approve any suitable arrangement you yourself may have made.

Q. Would your advice be to someone who is looking rescue a dog?

It is very fashionable these days to adopt a dog from Eastern Europe. Please don't be tempted to go down this route: a few of the many charities which have sprung up are not all they appear to be, and most worryingly, vets are concerned with the diseases such as Leishmaniasis and heartworm, some of these dogs may be introducing into the UK, posing a threat to the native pet population.

While I have every sympathy for these dogs, there are many dogs already in UK looking for their forever home.

The Dog Trust has a Centre in the East of Scotland.

For a specific breed, contact the relevant Breed Club as most have a Rescue scheme.

For Golden Retrievers, the GRCS list is long so prepare for a wait before a suitable dog becomes available.

Q. What diet would you recommend for a dog competing in showing?

Take advice from the breeder of your puppy who should issue you with a diet sheet to follow. It is a mistake to change the puppy's diet too soon after you buy it.

Nutrition is a vast subject: there are those who advocate raw feeding, but I have for many years fed a quality brand of extruded complete food.

Recently I have been introduced to cold pressed food which I think has some benefits over the extruded brands which are heated to temperatures over 100* C killing or altering amino acids and nutrients.

There is no difference between a pet and “show” dog as regards nutrition, both should be kept in optimum condition, and after doing your research, it is a personal choice as to what suits your dog and your lifestyle.

Q. Would you encourage people to get into this industry?

If you are prepared to get up at 3 am, drive hundreds of miles in your car, drink flasks of coffee, eat loads of rubbish, all for an opinion of your beloved (and it is just one subjective opinion ), and if you get lucky, you will be handed a piece of coloured cardboard.

If this floats your boat, then this is the hobby for you.

Did I say you have to have deep pockets?

On the plus side, I have met many like-minded people, made a few good friends, and have many happy memories.

Q. Are you still involved in the showing industry?

I still like to attend a few shows a year as a spectator but, as I no longer drive, I am dependent on others for a lift.

This year, I was looking forward to showing a granddaughter of one of my girls, in partnership with my friend, but along came corona virus and all shows have been postponed or cancelled, quite rightly.

I do miss the camaraderie and buzz of competition and like to keep up to date with results, but my health does not allow full participation.

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