Thursday, 14 February 2008

Beardies and close shaves

There are some things you expect to be constants. Things you don't need to question.
For example, I've spent the majority of my life surrounded by Bearded Collies. I have always explained this by saying, they are a nightmare to keep clean but that have the loveliest natures. Complex and entertaining, sensitive but basically lovely. Some super bright, some (often the boys!) very definitely not pin-sharp - but all gentle souls that love people with differing levels of bounce.
In all my time around the breed I had only found one that was sharp, that bit without growling and meant it. But he had a weird growth on his head so I assumed he was slightly brain damaged.
My own lovely Sal loved people, but didn't like other dogs - but her excuse was having been isolated for her key learning months when she had parvovirus.
So yesterday I was stunned when I picked up Oscar from the groomers. He hadn't done anything bad, far from it.
"We love Oscar so much, he's so gentle - not like the other Beardies we see."
Apparently the others are really snappy, and that's an experienced groomer speaking - used to dealing with all sorts of bad behaviour.
That reminded me of a chap I'd met a few months before, I'd admired his Beardie and he'd shown me his arm. Many years previously he'd been grooming his dog when he says "it suddenly" bit him. The scar was enormous. He'd kept the dog and loved it to pieces, but had ever after booked him in for grooming at a salon.
I find this puzzling. Are grumpy, bitey Beardies national or local? Is our local groomer's experience isolated? Has someone mucked up the temperament in breeding for other qualities?
Or is it more complex than that? Is it that people who aren't very assertive feel drawn to Beardies because of their big-softy reputation. They don't groom the dog until it's full of knots. Then when it hurts and the dog bites the comb (all mine have tried that one!) the unassertive owner shows fear, backs off and calls up the grooming salon where another bitey Beardie adds to the emerging stereotype.
Oscar loves being groomed. Yesterday morning he was squeaking with excitement to see his lovely groomer, and he loves flirting with all the Poodles in there!
I do hope the essence of Beardies isn't being lost. The dog I love is beautiful on the outside, but it's the inner qualities that I admire the most. There's a poet inside every Beardie, look into those eyes and you are lost!
Do you groom? Is my perception of the Beardie of today still being big softies naive?


Em said...

In the 1970s, my family had a beardie, Duke. He was my best mate and I loved him dearly. However, he couldn't be groomed - he had to be doped first as otherwise he'd bite the groomer. If he was teased, he snapped. If you tried to step over him when he was sleeping, he snapped (which was unfortunate for my parents as he slept in their doorway). In all other respects he was a wonderful dog and like I say, he was my best friend when I was a kid - but yes, he was definitely grumpy. So I don't quite know where you've got this idea of all beardies being big softies from - his entire family had a slightly bad-tempered strain and other beardie owners reported the same experience as us - and that was 30 years ago!! One common thing as well was that a lot of them disliked being groomed and the only way round it was to brush them gently every few days from when they were tiny, to get them used to it.

Beverley Cuddy said...

What a cutie! Maybe I do have selective memories of my Beardies! I've just remembered that Annie would chase you if you stood on her toe by accident and Misty would often nip you on the bottom and run away when you were pegging out the washing. Rose-coloured spectacles probably made me think of these being examples of the breed's keen sense of humour! And Magic once bit my Mum on the knee - but we always said it was because she put her knee in the way when he was barking!

I think they are often very bright and if they don't want to do something they'll find a way to get out of it. My first dog Chi-Chi found training classes really dull and used to run off and hide in the gents as she knew I couldn't go in there to get her out!

Grooming has to be incentivised and started early, and with all that hair can be a major chore. But our girls and boys never objected and often volunteered for it - I suspect they wanted the treats! We did have a miracle grooming spray too that made the knots slide out - really does help if it doesn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

I have to confess that all of the handful of Beardies that I've encountered, both in the USA when I worked in a vet clinic as well as those on this side of the pond have been rather snappy.

I don't hate Beardies by any means, but I have learnt through my experiences to be cautious around them.


Skidge said...

I have a slate beardie called Digby. He has a nightmare coat as well! He doesn't snap at people, but just wants to give furry hugs lots of the time - especially when covered in mud!

He can be grumpy in other ways - bit of growling for attention and will try and raid cheese out of my jacket on walks. He loves other people and dogs but has developed a phobia of big parks at the moment, which we are dealing with.

However, I used a groomer recently that has ruined his coat. She phoned up after 2 and half hours to say he was ready and my Mum was on the grooming run, went to get him. The groomer had hacked large chunks of his coat out and shaved his legs. As he is only 18 months old his coat had only just finished coming through and was a bit matted when he went - but then he spends lots of time out side in grass, streams etc. She also charged me an extortionate amount - well above any other rate I have encountered. He won't be going back there.

We do brush him at home - bribed by chicken and he is allowed to chew the decoy brush. He has hated the brush since we got him at 12 weeks and I can only assume the breeder was no nonsense when she came to grooming - whereas I am a novice and can be fooled by the beardie "look" with his eyes. However I would expect a groomer to take the best part of the day to do him and also not hack like has happened.

I am sure Beardies only snap when threatened. They are quite a nervy breed, and I suppose if my hair was being pulled hard to get knots out I'd complain. Digs has never had any complaints about snapping. He also LOVES the vets and practically breaks the door down to get into the surgery!

Sam said...

Hey, i'm a dog groomer and to be honest all the beardies we get in are snappy! Athough 9 times out of 10 its because the owners have left it way to long between grooms and the dog is matted, so its not really their fault.

Skidge said...

Hi Sam

I should have said I had used other groomers and Digby behaved perfectly for them.. I was just highlighting one that couldn't be bothered and charged me loads...