re-reading Mrs. Trotter’s article, “Too Much of a Good Thing”, as well as
poll # 53 on DANELINKS, I started thinking about its implications. Was this
really a good prescription for “too much of a good thing”? Would this increase
the credibility of the championship title? What would happen if the AKC actually
decided to institute such a measure?
Championships are the result of a system which evaluates breeding stock. By
increasing the rigor of how these championship points are awarded, a higher
quality champion would result. In turn this would elevate the quality of
championship breeding stock and have a positive impact on the whole Great Dane
community. Like it or not, a reasonable way to accomplish these objectives would
be to implement a more rigorous and demanding point schedule.
As I understand it, the point schedule is determined by a percentage scale. In
most of the United States, this means that not more than 20% of the shows in a
given region will be events carrying major points. The rubric used for this is
the number of dogs in a given breed actually in competition at the shows in a
particular region for a specific year. The AKC then sets the numbers for the
point schedule to roughly yield their percentage criteria. This is why the point
schedule for each breed is revised every year and published in the April issue
of the Gazette.
This seems like a good enough system, with built in flexibility to adjust to
changing trends. However, the whole mechanism has been thrown off kilter by the
rapidly proliferating numbers of dog shows. The math underscores this point. On
the whole the numbers of dogs have been spread out over a greater number of
shows, resulting in a lot of shows with smaller entries. Now, using the AKC
percentage system, a greater number of shows with smaller entries results in a
point schedule which is drastically lower combined with a greater number of
opportunities to earn majors. For instance, 20% of 300 shows with small entries,
yields more major point events than 20% of 100 shows with larger entries.
"So what?” you say. Many contend that more opportunities for majors equates to
faster and easier finishing. Well, I would say that finishing a dog is not
supposed to be inherently fast or easy. This is exactly the mentality that is
promoting dogs that are pushed through, often eking out their championships on
majors in inconsequential competition.
Another problem at so many dog shows is that the high quality dogs are much more
spread out, going in all different directions to an infinite number of shows.
Thus, since there is no worthy competition at many of these shows, mediocre dogs
are going up weekend after weekend, sending an unclear and incorrect picture of
what a Great Dane is supposed to look like to the judges and exhibitors alike.
This is compounded by the fact that this situation is ripe for exploitation.
With these new, lowered and incorrect expectations, people begin to seek out
weak competition instead of the opposite. Often the worst offenders of this are
the determined specials, who have figured out that you really don't have to do
any real winning in stiff competition to be high in the rankings.
Quite the opposite, all you have to do is rack up breed points slow and steady
at one of hundreds of insignificant shows all over the country on a given
weekend. As a result it enables a momentum to be established which is
based on inferior competition. Is this what we're campaigning and
endorsing as a breed? Ego and insecurity over high quality is never a sound
prescription for a worthwhile outcome. And we all wonder why a Dane has never
won BIS at Westminster. With this mind set one never will.
This brings us to another point......exactly who is judging all of these shows?
Everyone laments the decline in the quality of judging, but the truth is that
there are just not enough good, competent judges to officiate at these prolific
and sub-par competitions. Making more stringent requirements for the point
schedule may correct several of these problems.
It would encourage people to make a concerted effort to work toward large
entries. This would result in the building up of some shows and the folding of
others, gradually concentrating the quality of the entry at fewer shows. It
could also inspire clubs to be very judicious with their judging assignments, so
as to attract the numbers needed for these coveted majors. There would also be
more quality judges available for a given weekend on account of the reduced
number of shows.
No more going to North Dakota or Alaska for those majors, people. You would have
to compete against large entries for those points, and a higher quality of Great
Dane champion would emerge. Can someone give me one instance where increasing
the quality and rigor of competition could hurt the breed? If you really
believed in the high quality of your exhibit why wouldn’t you support keen
What about all the dogs that won't come because there wouldn't be shows in their
area? Tough. While this will be more inconvenient for some, most passionate dog
people with competitive Danes wouldn’t have much trouble making it work.
Besides, the benefits would outweigh the detractions, thus enabling win records
to gain a greater degree of respectability and actually mean something.
Hopefully, it would inspire people to work within their own club to put on a
really first rate show. Besides, dog shows were never about convenience, and God
knows, neither were Great Danes.
I guess I had better address the inevitable at this point. Many are going to say
that with an educational program such drastic measures are unnecessary. That
they will educate judges so that if the quality isn't there, ribbons are
withheld. Ya, right. Let's face it; ribbon withholding is a fairly rare
practice, because it's negative and unpleasant. Thus, it will never occur enough
to make a substantial impact on the culture of the breed. Besides, wouldn't a
more positive and inspiring way to achieve the same effect be to increase the
level of competition?
Furthermore, how in the world can you have a quality judges’ education program
when so many of the mainstay Daneites don't even endorse or respect the
current Illustrated Standard, and haven't since its inception. It just isn’t about the
promotion of striking and excellent Great Danes. What a farce. We have to get it
together on our own educational tools before we can ever expect judges to do the
same. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the spreading of misinformation does
not constitute education. On the contrary, it is baseless and detrimental, and
is often times rooted in agendas which are unrelated to the stated purpose.
Effectively, the Great Dane Club of America has long since succeeded in
rendering the word “education” as a hollow and meaningless term. The Illustrated
Standard seems to be the consummate embodiment of this. Consequently, just
“saying” education all the time is just more moot lip service.
It goes without saying that a legitimate educational approach is always part of
Coupling this to increasing the numbers of the point schedules could actually
cause the caliber of Dane which was able to go on and be successful in
conformation to move in a positive direction. Consequently, the quality of
breeding stock would improve, elevating the gene bank, and allowing the whole
Great Dane world to “breed up”. Posterity might have a chance to breed better
Danes than what they started with.
Hardly anyone would stop showing dogs because of this, and surely not those with
good ones. It might however make people a little more conscious of just
breeding and exhibiting more unremarkable Danes. Essentially, tough competition
would enable the top dogs to rise, while preventing the mediocre ones from
reaching the same status. So, since the current situation actually devalues the good dogs, it seems
that often the people who would be against raising the bar don’t have faith in
the high quality of their Danes.
In conclusion, such a proposal might actually increase the number of high level
shows, with high level judging, which are worthy of high quality specimens. The championships would
represent more of an accomplishment of substance rather than just frivolous,
“feel good winning”. If feeling good is all you’re after there are much more
affordable and accessible ways of accomplishing this that aren't detrimental to
For instance, you might try engaging in the positive experience of a serious AKC
Considering Mrs.Trotter’s initiative is at least a sincere and genuine attempt
at fixing the devalued and broken system that is the AKC dog show. So, who
really is afraid of raising the bar? It might be those breeding and
exhibiting mediocre dogs, judges who aren't capable of doing competent jobs,
those focused on self glorification, dog food companies who want to engage the
pet market, and others. It certainly is not people who aspire to create
and recognize remarkable dogs. And contrary to all the camouflaging and
self deception, the two camps are completely recognizable to one another.
Which one are you in?
Despite all the details and intricacies of this
issue, it all boils down to this: build faith in your Danes. Relish keen
competition and say "bring it on", instead of running for Alaska. You know Mrs.
Trotter, this might be a “Good Thing” after all.
ARTICLES BY ADAM PROTOS:
and the Direction of the Breed: A
Type and Soundness:
INTERVIEW......Conducted by Adam Protos