did you grow up?
grew up in a large family in a very small town called Mt.
Morris, Illinois. It’s only about twenty five miles from
where I live now.
as a boy, did your family have dogs?
as a young boy, we didn’t get a dog as a family pet until I
was about seven years old. It was a Bassett Hound.
you show the Bassett?
DC…No, actually the Bassett was just a pet. It was sometime
later that I got my first show dog as a 4-H project. It was
a black Great Dane, and mixed-color bred at that. I
participated in 4H showmanship and animal husbandry and
things like that.
use that dog for breeding?
as I began to learn more and gain some experience around the
dog show, I realized that there were dogs of a whole
different caliber than mine. While my first Dane was a good
introduction into the world of competitive dogs, it became
obvious that it was not consistent with the direction that I
wanted to be going in. I also started to be interested in
breeds other than Great Danes. You have to remember that,
in the beginning, I wasn’t “in” any one breed and the dog
show offered a huge amount of possibilities.
what other breeds did you become involved with?
over the years I have handled almost all of the breeds at
one time or another. However, as far as breeding is
concerned, I’ve also bred Beagles, Mini-Bull Terriers,
Borzoi and German Wirehaired Pointers aside from Danes.
think that this involvement over a large cross section of
breeds was enriching to your formative years in dogs?
absolutely. Working with a large number of different breeds
within all the different groups enables you to bring more to
the table. Often, the most effective way to learn a given
trait such as breed type, is to observe it in the different
contexts of various breeds. It allows you to have a depth
of perspective that would otherwise be impossible to attain.
point it is pretty obvious that your passion for dogs was
deepening, how did you translate that into the direction of
becoming a professional handler?
I had this natural interest in dogs, and was a competitive
person. When you combined this with my love of animals, the
pursuit of a career as a professional handler just seemed
started handling at about sixteen and then became a
professional handler at twenty-two years old.
quite a successful professional handler. What would you say
are the responsibilities of a handler?
perfect world, the responsibilities of a breeder, owner and
the handler would all coincide. However, in many cases
today, the handler must be able to determine the level of
quality of the exhibit because the owners cannot do it
themselves. Determining when a dog’s quality is that of a
champion, a special, or a top special. Is the dog an
excellent example of its breed or is the dog merely
saying that honesty as to the quality of the dog and the
resulting aspirations are paramount in the handler-client
DC…That’s right, the good handler must be straight-forward
and honest from the beginning. Without a doubt, honesty
with clients will help in the long-term relationship. That
way, everybody’s on the same page and has realistic
expectations which are in-line with the quality of the dog.
Of course it’s nice if the handler can really believe in and
be inspired by the dog at the end of his lead.
Unfortunately, this is happening less and less often because
of the increasing numbers of sub-par dogs being produced.
Instead the handler is now all too frequently having to
justify and “push through” dogs of inferior quality. This
is somewhat of a vicious cycle; the handler has to take on
these dogs to survive, but in doing so they enable dogs of
inferior quality. Although, there are several other parts to
this equation which are deficient, such as the judging and
Today, the sport seems to have become more commercialized
and now it seems many breeders just want numbers of
champions. Often there is more value put on the win than on
the quality of the dog.
any other subtleties which you feel contribute to one
becoming a great handler, rather than merely a good one?
truly excellent handler has more than just the desire.
There’s a lot more to do with it than that. First, there’s
the tremendous amount of hard work that goes into it, apart
from the enormous task of being responsible for other
people’s dogs. Then there is that elusive ability to be
able to get inside a dog’s head and make him the best he can
be. The importance of this, especially with a top dog,
cannot be overestimated.
reached a high level with many of your client’s dogs and
then transitioned from your career as a handler to your
present position as a judge. When and how did that come
DC…Well, I’ve been a judge for seven and a half years now.
Again it was a natural progression to become a judge, to
give back to the sport, getting to a point where your
experience can become a real asset to the sport. This is
where my career as a handler came into play. It enabled me
to be involved with many breeds and people at the high
level, helping me to grasp the “big picture” of dog showing
and how individual breeds contributed to it. Currently, I
am approved for Best in Show, the Sporting and Hound Groups,
as well as twenty-five other breeds.
your primary motivation to become a judge rested on the
desire to educate others?
DC…My only interest was to educate and promote something I
really loved and cared about. And……it’s a real challenge to
be a credible judge. Being a professional handler can help
one to become a good judge but judging is actually an
artistic expression. If one has an aptitude for it, only
then can he learn to enhance it. In other words, there is a
certain God-given knack for this, just as with handling.
Now, that is not to say that this raw talent cannot be
refined and developed, to the contrary, it absolutely should
be. However, it cannot be created if it’s not there.
AP…In your opinion, is good judging lacking in the sport?
DC…Yes, the ability to access artistic value is definitely
lacking; somewhat because the percentage of good dogs is
lacking. The actual focus now on what is important with the
AKC has changed the opportunity for people to become good
I think the focus has completely shifted. Before, it was
mostly about the breeder. Now, good breeding is barely a
consideration. Now the dog and breeder are lost and dogs
are identified by their handlers.
AP…And as we
talked about before, one reinforces the other. Loss of
focus on good breeding necessitates an increase on the focus
on handling, which further de-emphasizes breeding, and on
DC…That’s right, and I’m not quite exactly sure how this
trend took hold. It’s like that old saying, “which came
first, the chicken or the egg?”, but it is a trend that is
definitely there. The sad part is that many judges have just
become apathetic because there aren’t many inspiring dogs
out there to pick from. I think some new judges and
promising breeders are the sport’s best bet. For this whole
thing to be worthwhile there has to be good dogs being
produced, that’s the foundation of the entire thing.
already said you think that there is a real lack of quality
judging in the sport, how do you think this relates to
really all goes back to the loss of focus on breeding and
the effect it has had on the way we all learn dogs. All of
us: owners, handlers, and judges. I was a handler, but I
learned from breeders. When I was young, I always visited
kennels where you could see families of dogs; you could talk
and discuss families of dogs. It’s hard to conceive of now,
but it really was all about “talking dogs” and seeing the
subtle nuances of structure and patterns. It was focused on
the art of breeding dogs and the show ring was a necessary
outgrowth of that, but not the primary objective.
importance placed on the development and progression of a
DC…Exactly, Adam, many breeders used to have a certain line
of success. Whether you liked their dogs or not, they had
to breed a group of related good dogs to be thought of as
successful. That was the standard by which you were
judged. People were active in breeding and showing many of
their own dogs. Today’s style of exhibiting is also
creating a group of weak judges. The people active today
are often not multi-functional show people. Especially the
excellent breeder and breeding is missing. Traditionally
dog shows were for exhibiting good breeding stock. That’s
what they were designed for. Now so many winning dogs are
never even found in any successful breeding programs; that
tells you something right there.
the most challenging part of being a judge?
of all, it’s not a glamorous job. To be good at it takes a
lot of hard work and dedication. Being disciplined is vital
to being a responsible judge. Also, it really helps to
understand how hard it is to get good dogs to show. Those
who did not do this cannot bring the same judging attributes
to the table, nor are they able to defend their decisions
with the same conviction.
political aspect challenging?
handler, I was not a promoter of dogs. Showing a dog as a
professional and promoting it are two very different
things. This is where the honesty that we talked about
earlier is a big help. Frankly, Best In Show or Group
promotion never interested me. This was a foreign concept
and never really interested me. It just wasn’t that
necessary. Politics is definitely out there, but it still
doesn’t much pertain to me.
that same vein, is it hard to face your friends being the
DC…Certainly. Yes, it crosses your mind. I hope when my
friends come into my ring, if they are my friends that they
will be my friends after they leave, regardless what
happens. Friends should know when a dog is good enough to
bring to me and when its not. I will give my best opinion
and that’s it; I’ll stand firm and be committed in what I am
going to do. You don’t become successful by compromise. If
you care about your work, from breeding dogs to handling
dogs to judging dogs, you must maintain your ability to
stand by your conviction………………no compromise.
quality of the judge have a direct influence on the quality
of the entry?
the exhibitor usually knows the style of dog to show to a
particular judge. A positive thing for judges is when
exhibitors learn that a dog has to be of a certain level in
order to be competitive in that judge’s ring. I don’t ever
get shaken-up by a smaller entry. Once they realize what
style of dogs a judge likes, it is a benefit to that judge.
This is an example of knowing when to stay and when to go
away. There are difficult moments when judging dogs, but
again, being convicted is really important. In the end,
your true success is being able to stand by your
AP…Having this conviction, as you put it, seems to rest
heavily on knowing what your responsibilities are and taking
them seriously. As a judge, how would you describe your
most serious obligation?
DC…My singular job is to select the best dog. When you are
judging breeding stock, which is what conformation is based
on, it is necessary to minimize the ability of the handler,
to always make sure the best dog wins in the end and to not
reward the dreads of the breed under any circumstances. I
always do my best to bring the best dog forward and to not
promote characteristics that are bad for the breed, and
certainly not just the best performance. You can not make a
dog good by a good performance; a good dog is always good,
touched on the issue of the lack of quality dogs before.
Why do you think there are so many poor specimens being
shown, and furthermore, why are they winning?
think it has evolved to the point where nearly all value is
put on winning and not on the quality of the dog. Each dog
has to be considered in the confines of its purpose. The
Great Dane’s sole purpose is its appearance. The Great Dane
breed should be at a higher level of quality than it is;
actually I think our breed is in serous trouble.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone in this assessment. Most of my
colleagues, many of whom are high level judges, regard the
breed as little more than an afterthought.
tie in with the lack of inspiring dogs being bred?
there has been a huge erosion of quality. I think the
focus has been taken off show dogs and has been spread
across too many venues, and even what’s left in the
conformation arena is misguided. It’s fine to have other
events and side goals for fun, but this is creating a huge
distraction and people are pretending to be successful for
reasons that have nothing to do with the breeding of show
feel that a recent emphasis on breeding for performance is
compounding this problem?
honest, Adam, how high a Great Dane can jump is of no
consequence or value. People who place value on these
non-breed specific attributes are really missing the point.
The beauty of any breed should be accessed to the degree of
how they satisfy their purpose. A Great Dane’s distinction
rests completely on his appearance. There is no other breed
even remotely similar, which stands in sharp contrast to
other groups of dogs such as Spaniels and Setters. Some
breeds’ identity lies in other specific characteristics such
as performance or gait. This is not so with the Dane, his
distinctiveness lies in the ability of his appearance to be
striking, as outlined by the Standard. To attempt to change
this purpose is nothing more than people trying to
accommodate their own inferior dogs and that is a disservice
to the breed.
Standard certainly is pretty explicit in its priorities.
DC…There’s actually not a lot of gray area as far as the
direction of the Standard goes. People create that for
their own agendas. The Great Dane should stimulate you
visually, that’s how the standard directs you. The Brittany
Standard instructs you to value its performance.
The Great Dane Standard instructs you to value a visual
you say to people who say the emphasis on aesthetic value
has come at the expense of soundness?
would say that soundness has to be evaluated within the
context of purpose, and a Dane’s solitary purpose, according
to the Standard is to be striking. For instance, a toy
breed is made to be carried in the sleeve of a woman. That
is not to say that it shouldn’t be able to walk. In fact,
in the early days of Toy conformation, they were not even
required to gait for the judge.
of gait, how does it apply to your assessment of the Dane in
relation to the Standard?
Great Dane Standard only requires the Great Dane to
demonstrate a generic gait. It requires no breed-specific
traits whatsoever regarding gait. According to the
Standard, you should not make major decisions about Great
Danes based on gait, but rather about how they look. Things
like type and gait are not weighted equally in different
breeds. If gait was a crucial consideration for all working
breeds, the Siberian would always win and the Mastiff never
like type and movement must be weighted relative to the
definitely relative. Type is the only thing that sets Great
Danes apart. As much value as one puts on a Sporting dog’s
ability to do its duty, one should put the same value on the
Great Dane’s appearance. A Great Dane’s appearance is his
value. So, it is impossible for a Great Dane to do its job
without being beautiful. There may be many things you wish
them to be- but there’s only one thing they must
be….beautiful. It is a guardian dog who protects his family
by his appearance and presence, by his intimidating,
DC…Thanks, but I would like to make the point that I didn’t
just make this stuff up. It is the culmination of years of
involvement with dogs and others at the high level that were
successful. This includes breeders, judges, and handlers
not only in Danes, but across the entire realm of dogs.
This allowed me to discern what yields results and what
doesn’t. It’s about what fosters the creation and
recognition of outstanding dogs according to their standard.
also had experience judging dog shows abroad. In which
other countries have you judged and what are some
judged in Japan and Australia, among others. In those
countries it seems that much more emphasis is put on breed
level competition. Because in the U.S. it seems people are
always looking beyond the breed, I think they put false
credibility and false criteria while not sticking to the
fundamentals of the breeds.
wouldn’t you say that Danes are best here in the United
States? I mean they are coveted by people all over the
Danes are the best here, but breeders in some other
countries seem to have a truer sense of value and investment
in the quality of the dogs. The attitude of the breeders is
in better shape. By comparison and contrast, in this
country we have advantages such as lack of isolation and
greater numbers of dogs. Consequently, particularly in
recent times, we should be doing better in Danes than we
are. This is especially true considering the advantages we
have become complacent about quality because of the
fundamental good work of our predecessors.
DC…Exactly, from where the breed started, our Danes are in
worse shape than the other countries’ Danes are from where
they started. Even with all the disadvantages they have.
Our Great Danes should be better by leaps and bounds, and as
of late that margin has been narrowing. If we adopted and
adapted some of the attitudes of our predecessors, with all
the recourses provided to us, we would be making much better
decisions regarding this breed. The focus has been taken
off the serious breeder; the role of the serious breeder in
dog shows has been diminished throughout the whole sport by
the AKC and parent breed clubs alike.
you brought that up, the Parent Club, that is. The Great
Dane Club of America (GDCA) takes great pride in the hosting
of our National Specialty; how do you feel about the state
of the National?
National can be a wonderful resource for people to get
together, learn, and improve their dogs. Unfortunately, I
feel our National’s scope has become too broad and it’s
harder and harder for people to do just that. Now there is
nearly as much attention given to all the parades and
non-breed specific activities as there is given to
conformation. Its fine to have fun with those things, but
the focus should be on conformation. Conformation is the
way that better individuals of a breed are created because
it’s about the evaluation of breeding stock. This is what a
National should be about, the progression to better Great
Danes. A lot of those other things are enjoyable, but their
focus is simply not on breeding stock.
think this shift in focus has hurt the quality of the entry?
it’s come to the point where it’s hardly even about serious
conformation anymore. It doesn’t seem to be directed at
having or bringing good Danes to it. As a consequence it is
not for the betterment of the breed. To the contrary, it’s
become an excuse for people to bring every dog they have in
their house, it’s become a Great Dane vacation. Of course,
this is further enflamed when the judging is poor. Then the
entry only gets worse and the whole thing becomes a self
fulfilling prophecy, feeding off itself. It will take some
really outstanding leadership which puts the focus back on
breeding to break that cycle.
you had a great dog of your own to show at the National,
what judges would you like to have officiating?
let me think a minute……three; I would like the panel to
consist of Carolyn Thomas, Nancy Carroll-Draper, and Hazel
them? I mean, how do they fit the criteria you have in your
mind of an ideal judge?
DC…A judge should be straight, dedicated to the breed, and
without any predisposed objectives. I think all of those
people excel in those areas. They also have a tremendous
amount of experience in the breeding, raising, and showing
of Danes. They’ve excelled in several different areas of
the sport and, consequently, bring an in-depth perspective
of Great Danes to the ring.
understand that you have made some significant contributions
in the realm of judges’ education. Tell me about that along
with any other ideas you have for how it could be improved.
First I would have to mention that each and every parent
club should be the guardian of the “mainstay” or traditions
that are sacred to each breed. As for the GDCA, I believe
the relaxation of the color code sent a strong, clear
message to the general sport that we were negligent and a
club divided on some very basic requirements of our standard
and breed. As for education, like all else, one must be
dedicated to educate individuals free from predisposed
ideas. This means promoting the facts that favor only the
breed and those wishing to learn about it. It is true that
the details of the Standard are open to some interpretation
and are somewhat subjective, hence different styles.
However, we must strive to focus on the true purpose of the
Great Dane and preserve the direction of the breed as
outlined by the Standard. We must promote it as the true
estate and pleasure dog that the Standard demands. This
will not only serve to set the correct tone for new judges
to better understand how to approach judging our breed, but
will also give them the knowledge and confidence they need
to stand by their choices.
give them the courage of their convictions, so to speak?
DC…Right, they can stand by their decisions because they
were educated correctly about the true function and purpose
of our beautiful breed. Our breed should never be created or
taught from a one dimensional standpoint. An educator must
always strive to find that unspoken communication with his
pupils that best describes the true essence of Great Danes.
While one must go beyond the written confines of the
Standard if this is to be achieved, it must always serve as
our guide and be afforded the respect it deserves. When
someone truly becomes a master breeder, they are able take
the theme of our Standard well beyond the minimums
prescribed by its written boundaries. This is what I was
referring to when I made mention of different styles. The
hallmark of this is the development of a bloodline. There
is just so much to be said about our breed that is really
hard to put into words. We must always focus our education
from the beginning, or breeding, of the animal; from how the
animal was established. Remember, most standards are a
guideline for breeders to breed from, not simply for judges
to judge from. This makes it a tricky, and certainly a
controversial task to educate judges. Consequently, it
takes someone with a sound understanding and commitment;
someone who will not only stand by our breed, but also by
talked a lot about the pitfalls of judging today. In your
estimation, why does it sometimes look so hard for so many
judges to find the best dog?
should be easier to find the best dog in a lot of bad ones
than the best dog in a lot of good ones. But sometimes,
especially judges inexperienced in Danes can be thrown off
kilter by the extreme low quality we are seeing in a lot of
the entries. They end up thinking the bad ones are correct
because there are so many more of them.
quality dogs are obviously being produced by people who
think they’re breeders. Most of them probably think they’re
doing a good job.
DC…That’s just it. They’re not intending to produce
inferior dogs, but there is just no good place for people to
learn from credible sources. There is this notion now that
everyone’s opinion has equal value and it’s simply not the
case, especially when one is referring to an art form such
as purebred dogs. Any art form must be studied and learned
from the masters in that craft. It must be learned from
those with experience, expertise, and credentials if it is
to survive and maintain its forward momentum.
the breeders producing these sub-par dogs be doing a better
of the biggest problems today is that they breed for
individuals but what you really need to do is to create an
excellent family. When breeding, you need to gain some
knowledge and to be your own strongest critic. You know, if
you ever become satisfied, it’s time to quit. Your new dog
must always be at least as good as your last one.
last 35 years or so there seems to be an intensifying
emphasis on campaigning for number one. How has this
influenced the direction of the breed?
DC…Winning a Best In Show is fun, winning a Best Of Breed is
important. Everything after BOB should be determined by
that first step. And it is this first step that should be
the most important. An over emphasis on winning a group or
BIS is a misplaced priority. When there is a concentration
at the breed level, successes at the higher levels will
naturally follow. If Great Danes are to excel at the
highest levels of competition, they should not try and mimic
the qualities of other breeds, but instead they must excel
at what it is that makes them distinctive as Great Danes.
This is why it is really important to win at the
Specialties. Participation at Specialty shows consistently
stimulates you to raise your goals. If you lag, the next
person will pass you by. People cannot stay competitive
unless they stay focused in their breeding. And the focus
in conformation should be on the breed level.
feel that emphasis on campaigning a dog is undermining this?
always, but many people campaigning top dogs today are not
necessarily interested in seeking out keen competition.
Often the least consideration is the quality of the dogs.
Sometimes if the dog simply has the characteristic to stand
up to the rigorous schedule of the dog show, they will take
it out to see who they can fool. Frequently, it’s more a
test of endurance than an evaluation of breeding quality.
The focus has turned from strategy in breeding to strategy
in winning. Unfortunately, the desire of the good breeders
who have managed to hang on has been completely squashed by
bad judging. This is because those with good dogs and good
breeding have been discouraged and replaced by the rewarding
of inferior dogs. Of course, no one enjoys taking their
excellent dog to a poor judge and having it disregarded in
favor of a dog of blatantly lesser quality.
AP…What is going wrong?
DC…I think the people in the position to educate do not
remain true to the Standard. Many of those people can not
themselves rise to the quality of the Standard; they cannot
or have not bred excellent dogs. This cannot be
underestimated. The educating has turned from meeting the
Standard to distorting the Standard for one’s own purposes,
actually drawing attention away from the Hallmarks of our
breed. If you can’t create it, try to minimize its
importance. They are trying to justify their own lack of
ability. And they do it with determination and passion.
we make improvements on some of these situations?
biggest crime committed by parent clubs, especially the
GDCA, is that they seem to ignore the mainstay people in
Great Danes. The most likely people to help improve the
situation have removed themselves from the GDCA. You leave
because you could not possibly prescribe to that way of
thinking. The leadership has nothing to do with supporting
the creation of better dogs. Even when they say they’d love
to have your input at meetings, the reality is they have no
interest in it. It is more revealing to see who is not
active in the GDCA than who is. I was a member for
approximately twenty five years. You really have to stop
and ask yourself what’s gone wrong when a person like myself
and others in similar positions have relinquished their
membership. Sadly, it is meaningless and does not promote
the creation of good dogs. So many people of integrity and
ability simply can not identify with the direction or
interests of the GDCA today. Often those doing the serious
work in the breed don’t have as much time as the ones doing
the least. Instead those doing the least have time to spend
seeking out positions of power for themselves. That is
their craft I suppose; but does it even relate to the
important issues of the breed? All their insecurities relate
to the threat posed to their own winning. If they can’t
compete on a level playing field with good dogs, they try to
change the focus to issues of lesser importance. In essence,
they are always trying to take a short-cut for a win.
turning to a lighter side, what would you say
are some of your best moments in
would have to say that judging the Hound group at the Garden
was a pretty awing experience. I also was honored to judge
at our National Specialty several years ago.
AP…On a more
personal note, let’s find out a little about you outside of
DC…----Gardening, I really love to work in my water
garden, as you can see from the pictures, it really relaxes
I’m always going to games to cheer on my nieces and nephews.
tied with Brokeback Mountain
Close, she is such a great actress; anything with her in it
is almost always excellent.
Favorite type of
Favorite public figure----
Barak Obama, he’s positive and inspiring, with so much
sorry to throw this in at the last minute, but one last dog
question: who do you feel are three truly excellent
multiple breed judges?
DC…Hum, let me think...OK, Edd
Michelle Billings and Peggy
thanks for taking the time to do this, I really learned a
DC…No problem, Adam. I’m always glad to share what I know.