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Let sleeping gundogs lie in comfort

A comfortable bed is important for your dogs, so it is worth letting them try a few out to see which they like best, says David Tomlinson

gundog beds Barka Parka

David's spaniel Emma lying comfortably in a Barka Parka bed

A favourite subject for debate in the gundog world is whether working dogs should be kennelled or kept in the house. I don’t think dogs mind much either way, as it depends on what they get used to.

I know of dogs that spend the day indoors but at 11pm queue up at the back door waiting to go back to their kennel. We may prefer the warmth of a centrally heated house but we don’t wear fur coats all the time, so a dog’s perspective is radically different.

My spaniels are indoor dogs. They have a kennel but they don’t go in it often, though it is useful to have if we don’t want them in the house. If I had more than two dogs, I would give serious consideration to kennelling, but there’s plenty of room indoors for two spaniels.

Gundog beds by Orvis

Lying in comfort courtesy of Orvis

Sleeping on gundog beds, not the furniture

There are strict house rules, as the dogs are not allowed to sit on furniture, though occasionally one tries its luck. I’m prepared to forgive, as they often stay with friends where such crimes are allowed, so they would presumably plead confusion.

Many years ago, I interviewed a couple who had, if I remember rightly, 22 golden retrievers, all of which lived in their bungalow. I never visited the property, though friends who had done so said it was an interesting experience, as each dog had its favourite chair. Quite where their owners sat was a mystery.

Golden retrievers are notorious for shedding their lovely golden locks, so keeping a house like this hair free would be a challenge for even the best of Mr Dyson’s products.

gundog beds in front of AGA

Well-deserved after a hard day in the field

Back to gundog beds

However, I transgress. This article isn’t about where dogs sleep, but what they sleep in. Dogs will generally accept what you give them and they will just as readily adopt a piece of Vetbed in the corner of their kennel as a luxury dog bed in front of the Aga. My first spaniel puppy slept in a series of cardboard orange boxes, supplied by the local greengrocer. The boxes were lined with an old towel, with one side removed for easy access.

Eventually she grew out of orange boxes, which were replaced by a beanbag bed, bought at the Game Fair. This was an instant success and my dogs have had beanbags ever since. They certainly find them comfortable, while they are light, easy to move and have excellent insulative properties. Eventually, the polystyrene beads get squashed so need a replacement, an inexpensive job, though one not as easy as it may seem. The beads are virtually weightless, so pouring new beans into an old bag is frustrating as they tend to float off in all directions.

But, though beanbags may have been the favoured form of bed in the Tomlinson household, numerous other gundog beds have been bought, tried and tested over the years.

Sampling other gundog beds

We often have canine visitors, all of 
whom bring their own beds with them. 
My dogs will instantly abandon their 
own bed in favour of trying out the 
visitor’s bed — seeing a full-size springer squeezing into a bed designed for a cavalier always brings a smile. I’m not sure whether sampling the visitor’s bed is all that it seems. It could be something to do with dominance: you’ve moved into my territory, so I’m going to sleep in your bed.

Sleeping in luxury

The dogs have never had a so-called luxury gundog bed until now. The death of a friend’s dog means that they have inherited his expensive bed. Apart from 
being stylish, it features memory foam, 
though whether they will appreciate such a feature remains to be seen. They certainly like it and are happy to sleep in it. A minus point is that it is heavy, and removing and replacing the covers is tedious and time consuming. It is British designed, but made in China.

Currently, much their favourite bed is a Barka Parka, a thoroughly British product made in Butleigh in Somerset by Emma Aitken and Richard Burdett. Though Barka Parka beds started in Australia more than 40 years ago, Emma and Richard took over the company in January last year, giving the traditional beanbag a subtle but effective redesign. The beds are round and available in a variety of sizes to suit any breed of dog, from a papillon to an Irish wolfhound.

There’s a choice of filling, with either polystyrene beans or BioFoam eco-beans. The latter are made from plant extract and can be composted at the end of their life. From a human point of view, the bed’s plus points include its toughness (it may not be indestructible but it comes close) and a cover that’s simple to remove for washing (at 40°C). It’s elasticated, with no fiddly zips, so you can take it off and put it back on again in seconds. It also looks exceedingly smart.

Barka Parka Maharaja bed

The best-selling Maharaja bed

The bed of choice

A Barka Parka Maharaja bed costs a reasonable £55 and comes with a three-year guarantee. If looked after it should last the life of the dog, if not longer. The real test of a bed is giving dogs a choice to see which one they like best: the Barka Parka consistently comes out as their bed of choice.