DANELINKS.COM                                                                                                                                       6.8.06


by Adam Protos


After 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 competition?

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 the solution.
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 the breed. For instance, you might try engaging in the positive experience of a serious AKC performance event.

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.


Health Screening and the Direction of the Breed:  A Newcomer’s Perspective

Type and Soundness:  An Artificial Distinction
DANA CLINE INTERVIEW......Conducted by Adam Protos

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