DANELINKS.COM                                                                                                                                           6.1.05 





Do We Have A Problem Here?

By Dana Cline



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 program.

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 problem here!

Other articles by Dana Cline:


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