Expertly trained gundog he may be, but retriever Bertie prefers fetching a tennis ball to a pheasant.
Bertie, six years old and, prized pet of Michael Carden of Trees Ghyll Road, Crowborough, has worked out for himself how to sniff out and retrieve balls that have been lost by not-so-clever hounds on the Ashdown Forest.
He has now brought home 118 balls of all sorts; tennis balls, spongy sorbo ones, footballs, hard rubber balls as prizes for his owner.
Former dental ceramist Mr Carden said: “Bertie is a properly trained gundog. He is from gundog stock so he is darker in colour than many other retrievers and he has a wonderful retrieving instinct. I love to take long walks on the Ashdown Forest and suddenly Bertie will stop, stare very hard at a dense clump of heather or gorse, then lunge in and come out with ball in his jaws. I assume they have been lost by other, less clever dogs. They’re not all new ones either; some have been there for ages and they are a bit mouldy but Bertie doesn’t mind. He can spot and collect them from more than 20 feet away.
“I often see other dog walkers throw their balls into the undergrowth and most dogs won’t be bothered to go and find them.
“We have built up quite a collection now and I am just waiting for him to reach the magic 200 number.”
Mr Carden, 73 trained six-year-old Bertie himself and his sister is well known for showing Golden Retrievers. He went on: “I retired from my job and thought I love walking so I will get a dog. Bertie is such a beautiful dog and has a wonderfully biddable temperament. Because of his gundog stock he has a more highly developer sense of scent.”
“I don’t put him into competitions or anything like that. I have never rewarded him for his ball collecting - it is simply in his nature. It would be interesting to see if he decided to collect golf balls - on second thoughts, that’s not such a bad idea!”
The warmer than usual 2015 autumn has helped Bertie’s ball-finding ability and his collection is growing at a faster rate than ever before.
One of the most popular dogs in the world, the Golden Retriever was bred to retrieve game in the shooting field but there is virtually nothing he doesn’t do, with the exception of being professional guard dog – a task for which his friendly temperament makes him quite unsuited.
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