Murder in the AKC Library!

Pup Culture By Bud Boccone

Dogs are everywhere in popular culture. Movies, TV, books, comic strips, songs, viral videos: You name it, dogs have been there and done that. But the sport of dogs? Not so much.

Think of it. How many times have dog sports captured the popular spotlight in a big way? There’s the movie Best in Show. There’s Babe, with its backdrop of competitive herding. Then there’s … uh … wait, wait, don’t tell me. There’s … OK, I give up.

I consider it part of this column’s mission to draw your attention to pop culture’s all-too-rare dog-sport sightings, even if they are 81 years old. And that leads us to The Kennel Murder Case, a 1933 murder mystery I read in the AKC Library when I should have been working.

Willard Huntington Wright was a Scottish Terrier breeder-exhibitor of the 1930s. By all accounts Wright was a brilliant, sophisticated man of exquisite taste and wide learning. He was also a liar, drug addict and, according to his biographer, “something of a cad.”

Wright began his literary career as a highbrow art critic, but he became world famous as S.S. Van Dine, author of 12 mystery novels featuring his dapper detective and alter ego, Philo Vance. According to mystery buffs, The Kennel Murder Case is among Van Dine’s best.

It’s a classic “locked-door” mystery: A wealthy gent is found dead in his swanky Manhattan townhouse. The room is locked from the inside. Suicide, or murder most foul? As the debonair Vance unravels the almost-perfect crime, he encounters shifty servants, greedy relatives, and the usual assortment of exotics, eccentrics, and flatfoots one expects in a ’30s-style detective novel.

But here’s the fun part, at least for us: The entire plot hinges on a runaway Scottish Terrier found in the room with the corpse. This four-legged clue leads Vance into the world of dog shows and the AKC. Luckily for all concerned, the smug know-it-all detective (just like his smug, know-it-all author) happens to be a breeder of champion Scotties.

In one amazing chapter Vance, in search of clues, visits the registrations department at AKC headquarters, then located at 221 Fourth Avenue. There he meets several real-life AKC figures of the era, including Secretary-Treasurer Perry Rice, AKC Gazette Editor Louis de Casanova, and famed artist and AKC director Edwin Megargee (who today has a conference room at the AKC named for him).

In another passage, Vance expounds for three full pages on the qualities a good Scottish Terrier should possess. “Proportion in all things,” he begins. “One must approach a Scottie as one approaches a work of art…”

As it turns out, Wright/Van Dine was no different from any dog fancier I’ve known. A real fancier will happily prattle on for hours about what they think a good dog of their breed should look like. The only difference is, this one had a bestselling novel to do in!

The Kennel Murder Case is available in several print editions and a Kindle version at The 1933 movie adaptation, starring William Powell, Mary Astor, and some gorgeous show dogs, can be seen in its entirety for free at YouTube.

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AKC/Eukanuba Flashback: Knotty’s Triumph and Tragedy


AKC Gazette, “Times Past”“He floats around a show ring with his feet lightly skimming the ground. His tail arches slightly over his back and sways like a homecoming queen’s well practiced wave. His coat glistens and his skin jiggles. He smiles. It’s impossible to take your eyes off him because Knotty isn’t just competing, he’s performing.”

That’s how the Los Angeles Times described Ch. Heathers Knock on Wood, the Bloodhound judged Best in Show by Michele Billings at the 2005 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.

During the mid-2000s Knotty owned the Hound Group. With handler Ken Griffith, Knotty set a breed record with 31 Bests in Show in 2004. He was ranked number one in the group and number five among all breeds. He was a 2005 Westminster group winner. But perhaps the best indicator of his charisma and crossover appeal took place at ground zero of American culture: He had his own float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“He looks for an audience,” owner Lyn Sherman, of Topanga, California, said of her russet-colored superstar. “He’s like the guys on the beach who think they’re hot.”

Teams of Pixar animators working in shifts couldn’t have designed a sweeter face than Knotty’s. It was the mask of a sad clown, the frontispiece in the book of woe-is-me, the face of a comedian whose melancholy provoked our mirth. His eyes were warm and deeply set beneath a wrinkled brow. Gravity tugged loose skin and heavy flews into a delightful caricature of concern, framed by long ears that fell in graceful folds like a set of velveteen drapes. Judges were putty in his meaty paws.

When not commanding show rings, Knotty was a typical Bloodhound. He might spend long hours napping, then, as once happened, slip through an open gate to trail a passing motorcycle—for 32 miles! A relieved Sherman got a call from the bemused biker saying her dog was in his garage, safe and sound, and needed a ride home.

On a morning two years after their AKC/Eukanuba win, while Knotty and Sherman were out for their daily run, disaster struck. “Knotty heard a noise before I did, and dove into a bush and found a snake,” Sherman said. “As he so often did, he had jumped out in front to protect me from something.”

The diamondback rattler bit Knotty on the hind leg. With long, expensive treatment, Knotty was able to resume the life of a celebrity show dog—for a while. “He was such a fighter,” Sherman said, “The liver recovered, but the kidneys did not mend so well. So 13 months after the bite, we helped him over the rainbow bridge so he wouldn’t suffer.” Knotty died in 2008.

“He was first my pet, and then my show dog. I fed him, walked him, and conditioned him every day. We traveled everywhere together,” Sherman said of her once-in-a-lifetime hound. “He was such a character. Everyone loved him.”—Bud Boccone

Read the latest AKC Gazette here, and follow us on Facebook.

The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship begins December 13. Follow the action via streaming video at

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Teach Your Dog a Few Tricks!

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AKC Gazette breed column—Teaching your dog a few simple tricks can have a lot of benefits, including some you might not have thought of.

In our household we usually teach each of our dogs a parlor trick or two. Tricks make for great public relations. The average person is far more impressed with a dog who barks on command than one who has a list of accomplishments that can’t be demonstrated during a brief street encounter.

While I used to think that trick training was primarily for the benefit of people, I am revising that opinion. I have seen how well a repertoire of tricks can work as an icebreaker for a sensitive dog who has inhibitions about strangers. People love feeding dogs, but given the opportunity to have an animal perform tricks for them, they often go out of their way to make a connection. Success breeds success, and a reticent dog will often learn to really enjoy interacting with strangers after being taught a script they can use with comfort.

Behaviorist and author Ian Dunbar suggests that specific tricks are particularly useful for socializing. “Shake” or offering a paw is an appeasing behavior in dogs and can be used to reinforce the human’s alpha status. There is also nothing like practicing a bow to get the dog in the mood for play. Many trainers also advise teaching the dog tricks as an aid in correcting undesired behaviors, such as training speak to facilitate training the negative shush.

One might argue that trick training detracts from time one could spend working on “serious,” competition-oriented drills. However, dogs don’t know that tricks aren’t competition lessons; they just know that they are a means to a treat or praise.

Since tricks are usually simple to teach, they make great mind games for a dog who is not ready for more exacting lessons. Trick training addresses the very important matter of the dog’s “learning how to learn,” without the danger of getting either party too frustrated.

These mind games are also fabulous for a dog who is on restricted exercise. A dog who is forced to go cold turkey from his regular exercise can still get the stimulation he is used to through low-impact tricks.

Many conformation exhibitors refuse to train in obedience for fear their dog will sit in the conformation ring, and the same thought process leaves some performance competitors reluctant to add tricks to their dog’s repertoire. Indeed, it is easy to see how a dog might offer a trick at an inappropriate time in competition in a desperate attempt to relieve tension. There have been some pretty charming behaviors offered in the heat of the moment in the obedience ring and on the pause table during agility trials!

Of course, the way to avoid such confusion is with thorough training. Serious competitors can also refuse to work on tricks when they are working competition exercises. However, by doing so, they miss out on the great tension-relief that familiar and simple tricks offer.

Lastly, parlor tricks are a superb way to increase dog tolerance within the family. I am sharing our new puppy with my young daughter. I have charged her with all the trick training and do the more competition-oriented work myself. She delights in showing off the tricks to her friends, who immediately want to experiment with the tricks themselves. I don’t have to interfere. They aren’t going to ruin any of the “important” work, but they can still experience the rapport with dogs that we are all seeking. —Lee Foote, The Labrador Retriever Club

Further information about Labrador Retrievers can be found here and here, and on the website of The Labrador Retriever Club.

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Posted in AKC Gazette, AKC Gazette breed columns, Dog training, Obedience, Training, Tricks

Small Louisiana Village Backtracking on Draconian Breed-Specific Law?

Rottweiler3_headBy Phil Guidry, AKC Government Relations Sr. Policy Analyst

Last month, the Board of Aldermen of Moreauville, Louisiana, a village of approximately 1,000 residents in Avoyelles Parish, passed a draconian breed-specific vicious dog law that bans the ownership of “pit bulls” and Rottweilers. No exceptions were provided to the ordinance, including for service, therapy, or emotional support dogs. Little public notice was provided when the ordinance was considered. Town officials were originally planning to begin enforcing the ordinance on December 1, with plans to confiscate each dog of the targeted breeds and euthanizing them within 30 days, regardless of whether or not a dog had previously exhibited any dangerous behavior. Officials also recently approved paying for city officials to be certified in using tranquilizer rifles as a means of subduing targeted dogs.

A nationwide backlash resulted.  In addition to broad national media coverage, including on CNN and ABC’s The View, close to 300,000 individuals have already signed a petition in opposition to the ordinance.  In response, a Moreauville official publicly stated that the ordinance would not be enforced beginning on December 1 as originally planned.  Instead, they planned to meet and discuss ways to address the negative response.

That special council meeting has been scheduled for Monday, December 1, 2014, at 5PM, at the Town Hall in Moreauville.

Because the breed-specific ordinance still remains current law, the AKC continues to oppose the Moreauville law, and encourages all concerned dog owners to contact Moreauville officials and respectfully urge them to repeal the village’s drastic, unjust, and unnecessary vicious dog ordinance.

The American Kennel Club strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs.  Instead, we support reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of dogs.  In detail, the AKC supports laws that: establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners; and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous.  The American Kennel Club is joined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Animal Care and Control Association, the American Bar Association, the National Animal Interest Alliance, and a multitude of other animal-focused organizations in opposing breed-specific policies.

The AKC will continue to fight the Moreauville ordinance, and will provide updates as developments occur.  AKC’s Government Relations Department tracks, addresses, and provides updates on all dog-related governmental issues nationwide.  It issues Legislative Alerts on important currently-pending issues, and maintains an online tracking system of all federal and state governmental issues potentially important to dog owners.

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Posted in Government Relations

Watch These Playful Norfolk Terrier Pups

Meet dog breeder Barbara Miller and her Norfolk Terrier puppies. Learn what goes into being a good breeder and find out if the Norfolk Terrier is a breed that’s right for you.

Learn more about the Norfolk Terrier and visit the Norfolk Terrier Club.

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Posted in Breeders, Purpose-Bred Dogs, responsible breeder, Responsible Dog Ownership, Video

Raising a Confident Canine: Socialization Tips For Your Pup

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Socializing your puppy is extremely important and should start early on, as it sets the stage for your dog to feel happy and confident throughout its life.  It’s key to start exposing your puppy to new people, places, and situations as soon as you can, and early socialization can begin when you bring your puppy home.

  • Start at home: Peak socialization is from birth to 16 weeks, so it’s important to begin socializing your puppy right away. Playtime is a great way to start socialization, and it’s also a wonderful way for you and your pup to bond.  Try sitting on the floor and cuddle with your puppy or play using his favorite toys.  Have a friend or two come over during playtime so your puppy can start meeting new people.
  •  Puppy’s day out: While socialization is important, it’s best to introduce your puppy to new people, places and things gradually.  After your dog starts feeling comfortable around new people at home, take him for a walk around the block.  Keep the walks close to home and don’t take your pup around large crowds of dogs until he’s fully vaccinated.  Once your dog begins to feel more comfortable with daily walks, take him to places that have more people and activity, such as a park.  If your dog is on a leash and sitting calmly, invite people to pet him.
  •  Puppyhood and beyond: Socialization never stops – it is an ongoing process that continues throughout your dog’s life. Keep introducing him to new places, sounds, people, environments and other animals so he is confident in all types of environments.  You can take your dog to a new dog park or take a different route while walking. Make it a positive experience by using treats and praise to reward him in new situations.

For additional socialization tips, visit the AKC website.

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Posted in Dog training, socialization, Training, training puppies

Bridging the Great Divide Between Show and Field


AKC Gazette breed column— Parent clubs, judges, breeders, owners, how about if we let all our sporting dogs go back to being dual-purpose dogs? If that means decreasing excessive coat to a moderate length, maybe that’s what we should do.

Some sporting breeds have a marked divergence between the field type and the show type, with the two differing considerably in appearance. The English Setter is one of those breeds. Compared to show-type English Setters, field English Setters are smaller, have less bone, have a different-style head with less flew, a lot less coat, and carry their tails very high.

Show-type English Setters love their birds just as much as field English Setters do. Field-type English Setters would be unlikely to win points in the show ring because they don’t fit the written breed standard. Show-type English Setters find it difficult to win field trials because they can be slower than the judges like and do not hold their tails at “12 o’clock,” as the field judges want them to; indeed, the breed’s standard calls for a tail that “is carried straight and level with the back.”

Since both types evolved from the same origins, with the dog’s express function of helping to put meat on the table, one wonders how this divide occurred.

Dual Champions

The dual championship is the only title that certifies that the dog has enough breed type to earn a show championship and enough hunting skill to earn a field championship. It is one of the most difficult titles to attain in all of dogdom.

Of the 28 breeds currently in the Sporting Group, dual championships have been achieved in only nine of those breeds over the last five years:

Dual Champions finished over the last five years, by breed:

  • Brittanys — 90
  • Vizslas — 43
  • German Shorthaired Pointers — 29
  • German Wirehaired Pointers — 18
  • Gordon Setters — 5
  • Irish Setters — 4
  • Pointers — 2
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers — 1
  • Weimaraners — 1

What do these breeds have in common? For one thing, most of them are not coated breeds. Amount of coat may be partly responsible for the great divide.

It is impossible to keep English Setters in show coat and run them in the field at the same time because vegetation in the field tears out that precious coat. Those who have gone the show-ring route have had to give up running their dogs in field trials, which requires a commitment of years of training time and years of running in trials, making coat growth impossible.

Yes, coated breeds can and do earn hunt-test titles, but the jewel in the crown—the dual championship—eludes their grasp if they want to have enough coat to be competitive in the show ring.

Some English Setter owners have done their show-ring campaign first and then shaved the dog down for the field. A good example of a dog who successfully competed in both areas is DC Set’r Ridge’s Solid Gold, CDX, MH, HDX, CGC, who won the national specialty and many Bests in Show before he got shaved down to work on his field championship, proving once and for all that a great show dog can also be a great field dog.

The American Brittany Club has been very successful at keeping their breed from undergoing the great divide. They really work at it. Since 1943, the club has held the breed’s national specialty in conjunction with their National All-Age Field Championships, demonstrating the parent club’s commitment to promoting the breed’s participation in both field and show.

Judges’ education materials for the Brittany emphasize over and over that the parent club wishes this breed to be a dual breed. The club has written into the breed’s standard the following words about coat:

Too little is definitely preferable to too much. Dogs with long or profuse feathering or furnishings shall be so severely penalized as to effectively eliminate them from competition.

Their methods must be working, because Brittanys lead the way, by far, year after year, in the number of dual champions finished, and now there are well over 700 duals in the breed.

There are only 12 dual-champion English Setters, the last one attaining his dual title in 2002. This distinctive dozen are treasured as members of the breed who have attained a rare and difficult honor.

English Setter Dual Champions, with date FC/AFC* Championship finished

  1. DC Heathrow’s Rainbow Robber, HDX, FC (6/1985)
  2. DC Indian Bend Bow and Arrow, MH, FC (6/1992)
  3. DC/AFC Cobblestone’s Stolen Moments, CD, MH, AFC (1/1996; FC 6/1992)
  4. DC Gemody’s Heathrow SoSiouxMe, MH, FC (6/1993)
  5. DC/AFC Heathrow’s the Black Marble, MH, CGC, AFC (6/1997; FC 6/1994)
  6. DC/AFC Heathrow’s Robbin’ Hood, MH, AFC (2/1995; FC 6/1993)
  7. DC/AFC Heathrow’s Winchester Ranger, UDX, MH, TD, OA, NAJ, NAP, NJP, VCD1, HDX, CGC, AFC (7/1995; FC 5/1995)
  8. DC Set’r Ridge’s Solid Gold, CDX, MH, HDX, CGC, FC (2/1997)
  9. DC Columbine Heathrow’s Skylark, MH, CD, CGC, FC (4/1997)
  10. DC Gold Rush’s Fancy Dancer, CDX, SH, HD, FC (5/2000)
  11. DC Kelyric Starry Starry Sky, CDX, SH, HD, FC (12/2000)
  12. DC Set’r Ridge’s Real Gold, MH, FC (11/2002)

*FC=Field Champion; AFC=Amateur Field Champion (where the handler is not a paid professional). List compiled by Carl Sillman, English Setter breed historian.

Though many English Setters are both talented hunters and fine examples of breed type, they rarely get an opportunity to show what they can do in the field. They can’t both hunt and satisfy that coat “requirement” for the show ring.

This “requirement” is strictly an acquired feature of the contemporary show ring. English Setter Ch. Daro of Maridor went Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club in 1938 with only an inch or two of coat hanging from his belly. The amount of coat Daro had when he went BIS at the Garden would have presented no problem for running in the field at the same time. With that amount of coat, he could have run in a field trial one day, had a bath, and then competed at a conformation show the next day.

The English Setter breed standard says regarding coat:

Feathering … of good length but not so excessive as to hide true lines and movement or to affect the dog’s appearance or function as a sporting dog.

Photos of English Setter national-specialty winners over the years reveal that they carried moderate coat until the 1980s, when coats started getting longer and longer. When the dogs with the big coats started winning, guess what? Breeders started breeding for more coat. And that’s how we got to the situation we’re in now, where many English Setter show dogs have very long coat, almost to the floor.

Consider that all the standards of all the sporting breeds emphasize structure for hunting, not coat length. Excessive coat serves no function except to give the dog a certain look—and indeed, it can even interfere with the dog enjoying normal doggie activities.

So, parent clubs, judges, breeders, owners, how about if we let all our sporting dogs go back to being dual-purpose dogs? If that means decreasing excessive coat to a moderate length, maybe that’s what we should do. I guarantee, the dogs won’t miss their long furnishings at all.

Jill Warren, English Setter Association of America

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Posted in AKC Gazette, AKC Gazette breed columns, Breeders, Field work, Purpose-Bred Dogs, Uncategorized

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