Having recently attended a toy breed national specialty, I was
amazed and delighted to hear discussions between exhibitors
regarding future breeding plans that included many dogs from the
current entry. It was refreshing to hear a breeder not only admit
the shortcomings of her breeding program but to begin serious
negotiations with fellow breeders. It was reassuring to know that
these formidable rivals could put aside their differences in the
interest of improving their particular breed and its future. In far
too many cases, exhibitors view the dog show as nothing more than an
opportunity to accrue points, finish dogs and attain recognition and
national rankings. Few participants seem to be able to observe their
competitor’s dogs with an ability to assess them objectively or to
consider incorporating a rival’s dog into their own breeding
As a judge, it is my sole responsibility to assess the merits
of breeding stock. In view of this, I do not hesitate to identify
and award dogs of quality, often enough in spite of an ineffective
or novice handler. To the best of my ability, I believe it is my
duty to protect and uphold the original purpose of our sport. As a
former professional handler I am aware of the advantages of
presenting a dog with style and skillful technique, but such a
presentation must never obscure the primary purpose of the event.
One rarely hears an inquiry as to the breeder of any
particular quality animal or even what his pedigree may reflect. I’m
beginning to wonder whether the average participant even attempts to
understand basic canine genetics and the ancestry behind a dog they
openly admire or are currently showing. Unfortunately, in contrast,
we hear all the buzz on the scene about who may actually own a dog,
handle him, pay for the campaigning, or where he is ranked this
week. Are modern dog shows really a place where we gather to compare
notes and share thoughts on the “betterment of the breed”, as it
should be, or have our shows become an arena for competition based
more upon self-promotion and petty rivalries? I think our shows
should return to an atmosphere of open discussion and
observation/evaluation of breeding stock which will strengthen the
sport because these things are essential to breeding healthy,
correct dogs of genuine breed type.
I often hear of dogs not being bred during an active specials
campaign because it may have a negative effect on their performance!
Yes, this actually occurs, and there is something seriously wrong
with this approach. Has our sport become a competition for who can
drive the furthest, defeat the most, and handle the best? Is it not
the rule rather than the exception that the majority of the folks
active in dogs not only have very little breeding sense or
experience, they have little or no recollection of the dogs that
appear on their very own dog’s pedigree? It seems we are moving in a
direction further and further away from the primary focus of
exhibiting, which is to display and perhaps share our quality stock.
As I have stated previously, many breeders disdain the show scene
and avoid entering their wonderful dogs altogether. Have the true
pioneers of our sport fallen aside and been replaced by individuals
with a focus on fame and success alone? Do such individuals truly
believe they are in possession of the best animals and that they can
secure the future of their breed?
Breeding better dogs is in no way served when winning is the
only impetus for showing.
Attending a dog show in a foreign country where professional
handlers are a rare commodity is truly an eye-opening experience.
Having judged in various countries, the one common denominator seems
to be that judges’ decisions are based on the physical quality of
the dog and very little on the presentation or performance elements.
To me, this is the ideal scenario. One often hears how fortunate we
are to live in a country where there are so many shows, and where so
much attention is given to the sport. Having judged both in
Australia and Japan, I can honestly say I came away with a sense
that they were doing it right and our system was failing.
Judges, breeders and exhibitors alike need to take a very
serious look at our sport in this country. We need to change our
focus away from status and fame back to breeding and exhibiting
better dogs, which requires some self-evaluation and scrutiny. We
need to form long and lasting relationships with dedicated and
experienced mentors, as well as maintaining good relations with our
fellow breeders. Our sport has become more about hiding a lack of
quality through trickery and handling skills, and less about facing
the real problem: a severe lack of quality animals. After attending
your next dog show, ask yourself how many of the dogs you observed
on the day would you actually care to own, exhibit, breed to, or be
proud to have bred? How many people would make the time to discuss
pedigrees or possible breeding schemes with you? I think we have a
Other articles by Dana Cline:
IN MY VIEW
ARE THE BEST DOGS REALLY WINNING?
IN CONFORMATION EVENTS
ASKING THE JUDGE FOR THEIR OPINION
FLAW, FAULT or UNFORGIVABLE?
VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE
PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON JUDGING
THE SPORT OF PUREBRED
DOGS: "A place where humanity thrives"