Bring Your “A” Game to the Ring

Leo headAKC Gazette breed column, Leonbergers—A solid knowledge of exactly what strengths and weaknesses you and your dog bring to the show ring, as well as strategies for maximizing your assets, can play a huge part in sharpening your competitive edge.

The “dog show game” is unique among sports in that amateurs compete with professionals in an arena of subjectivity. Add in the fact that our dogs, unlike basketballs or hockey pucks, are living, breathing creatures who have good days and bad days—and, in the case of Leonbergers, the often uncanny and creative sense of humor that they’ve been known to deploy at very inopportune moments—and the show ring can become a maelstrom of emotions for exhibitors and spectators alike.

For owner-handlers, especially, stepping into a ring full of professional handlers can be a daunting experience. As an owner-handler myself, I know well the self-doubt that often pools in the pit of the stomach prior to ring time. Those nagging questions such as “Is my dog good enough?” “Have I groomed him well enough?” and “What if I trip over my own feet on the down and back?” are bound to echo in the minds of even seasoned owner-handlers.

It’s easy, especially after leaving the ring without a ribbon, to let those feelings of inadequacy morph into frustration and anger. Many times I’ve heard exhibitors, professional and novice alike, angrily mumble about “politics” as they head back to their setup.

While politics may be at play some of the time, it’s an undeniable truth that when novices compete together with professionals, it’s up to the novices to bring their “A” game. Showing dogs requires some honest assessment and self-reflection, as well as careful preparation and training, and it’s necessary for owner-handlers to be their own toughest critics.

Additionally, it’s often helpful to enlist the help of longtime fanciers who know your breed and have an experienced eye for structure and type as well as movement to give you honest, constructive feedback about your dog’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing which elements of structure to emphasize and which ones should be downplayed can help you formulate a game plan for exhibiting your dog to his fullest potential.

dani garden crop

Photo: Courtesy Astrid Robitaille

However, even if you’re a seasoned fancier, it’s impossible to see yourself in the ring as the judge does. One of the best tools I’ve found to improve presentation is having a friend videotape you from outside the ring. Just as professional athletes “review tape” to up their game and identify areas to fine-tune in practice, owner-handlers can benefit greatly from taking a look at their own dog stacking and gaiting, as well as those of the professionals in the ring, and those who took home the ribbons.

As an owner-handler, I find it extremely helpful to review old tapes of myself in the ring with various dogs I’ve shown. I always catch something different upon which I can improve—and those glaring reminders of what not to do are always valuable as well!

I’ve picked up so many tips from watching tapes of professionals in the ring, too, from how best to present a beautiful head so that it will stop a judge in his tracks, to ways to downplay a straighter rear, to what wardrobe colors and patterns look downright awful against a Leonberger coat.

A good example is in watching movement. Sitting ringside to watch judging of my breed, I often see both owner-handlers and professionals not moving their Leonberger fast enough. Our standard calls for a free, easy, elastic gait, with good reach and drive. It’s essential to move the dogs fast enough so that these qualities are exhibited. In some other breeds, on the other hand, there are tendencies to move the dogs too fast. Until you see yourself and your dog in action and can really critique his movement for yourself, the optimal speed can be difficult to gauge. Having your breed mentor videotape you in the ring allows you to watch not only your dog’s movement and paw placement, but also that of your fellow exhibitors.

Evaluating yourself, your dog, and your competition is a great education and can go a long way toward preparing you and your dog to bring your best performance to the ring. It’s never easy to accept criticism, and sometimes we can be our own worst critics. However, having a solid knowledge of exactly what strengths and weaknesses you and your dog bring to the game, as well as strategies for maximizing your assets, can play a huge part in sharpening the owner-handler’s competitive edge. —Astrid Robitaille, astridrobi@gmail.com

Further information about Leonbergers can be found here and here and on the website of the breed’s national parent club, the Leonberger Club of America.

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Posted in AKC Gazette, AKC Gazette breed columns, Breeds, dog shows, junior handler, Leonberger, owner handler, Training

Westminster Flashback: When Sealys Owned the Garden

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”—The Sealyham Terrier joined the AKC in 1911. Within just a few years—thanks to shrewd imports, judicious breeding, and a small but enthusiastic U.S. fancy—the sturdy little Welshman was a force in the American show ring.

Here are two Westminster Best in Show Sealyhams, immortalized in the AKC art collection.

BOOTLEGGER

Ch. Barberryhill Bootlegger (BIS 1924)

A show-ring aristocrat of the Prohibition era, Bootlegger was named, as Bill Stifel wrote, “for what some wit thought of as Man’s Other Best Friend—which is to say, a discreet source of alcohol.”

During the 10 long years booze was illegal, fanciers vented their displeasure through their dogs: Among the entry Bootlegger defeated for Best in Show were dogs with names like Tom Collins, Egg Nog, and Home Brew. And the name of Bootlegger’s sire? Gin Rickey!

William Schnelle’s painting is done in a loose, impressionistic style, a daring choice for a dog portraitist of the day.

SWELL_PERFECTION

Ch. Pinegrade Scotia Swell

Ch. Pinegrade Perfection (BIS 1927)

Lillian Cheviot’s delightful twin portrait depicts two all-time great Sealys. Perfection (right) was the more famous of the two, having gone Best of All Breeds at the 1926 AKC Sequicentennial show and BIS at Westminster the following year. Scotia Swell, a British import, went Best of Breed at the Garden in 1925.

Their handler was Percy Roberts, who in 1937 handled to his fourth Westminster BIS, a record he held alone until Peter Green matched it in 1998. The combined eight dogs Roberts and Green handled to the top at Westminster were all terriers.

The most recent Sealy to take BIS at the Garden was Ch. Dersade Bobby’s Girl, 1977, handled by Green.

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Posted in AKC Gazette, Times Past

8 Ways of Looking at a Dog Show Judge

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”—What makes a good judge? The judges themselves have been kicking around that question in our pages for 125 years. Here are some answers.

“First Match,” May 1957 Gazette

“First Match,” May 1957 Gazette

 

  1. “It is first necessary for a judge to know dogs generally before he can know any breed of dog in particular.”—Irving C. Ackerman, 1939

 

  1. “A good judge looks for virtues in every dog. Fault judging is lazy judging, the pitfall of the inexperienced. The dog is picked apart and never put back together.”—Mrs. George W. Dow, 1975

 

  1. “The breeder furnishes the dogs, but it is the judge who decides the type.”—H.W. Lacy, 1925

 

  1. “Go over every dog carefully, if for no other reason than to make a friend of each exhibitor by causing him to feel that he has a ‘run for his money’ at least.”—Garvin Denby, 1931

 

  1. “Hesitancy in judging creates a bad impression on the ringside. Too much speed in judging, however, is quite as bad. Exhibitors are never satisfied when the judge has rushed through his work, even when he has done a good job.”—W. Edgar Baker, 1938

 

  1. “Knowledgeable judging is the ability to reconcile oneself to the fact that no perfect dog has yet been produced.”—Anna Katherine Nicholas, 1967

 

  1. “A judge who has acted entirely in good faith does not feel the necessity of defending himself and his placings.”—John Kemps, 1946

 

  1. “You were invited as an expert. Be one.”—Anne Rogers Clark, 1996

 

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Finding the Right Dog for You

At the end of last year, the AKC Dog Lovers video crew traveled to Virginia for the 2014 Timbreblue Whippet Reunion. More than 30 Whippets and their families came together for a day of fun!

We spoke with three Whippet owners about why they love the Whippet, why they chose to get their dog from a breeder and why they enjoy the reunion so much every year.

The importance of working with a responsible breeder:

How to find a good breeder: 

How breeders can match the perfect dog to the perfect owner:  (and see a dancing dog!)

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Posted in Breed Spotlight, Video

Breed Spotlight: Living With a Field Spaniel

FieldSpaniel2_head WebDAMAKC Gazette breed column, Field Spaniels—The Field Spaniel combines a lot of dog into a medium package who can enjoy a wide range of activities and is suited for a variety of conditions.

Our breed is noted to be “unusually docile, sensitive, fun-loving, independent, and intelligent, with a great affinity for human companionship,” and they have unique individual personalities, as is true for so many canines. Field Spaniels range from the serious stalwart to the downright goofball in attitude—and we often see a range of traits within one dog! Owners agree that life is sweet with our chosen breed, though the breed is not necessarily for everyone.

As an active sporting breed, the Field Spaniel likes to be a member of his family first and foremost. His sensitivity and desire to be with people serves him well as a medium-sized hunter companion. He is active in the home, busy with daily activity, and enjoys being part of your world.

Spaniel Field 5*Our dogs fare well having jobs—if made fun and using their natural abilities, it is highly satisfying for them. An active home companion, the Field Spaniel loves the games we play, from rally, obedience, and agility to tracking and fieldwork, as well as such things as nose work, barn hunt, freestyle, and lure coursing. Our dogs enjoy learning new “games” with us and train well when we use rewarding methods and a fun, positive approach.

As with all canines, proper socialization and basic obedience training are imperative for having a lifelong companion who is not only your best friend but also appreciated in public. Many Field owners enjoy the breed’s biddability, or ease of teaching. We find their problem-solving ability to be amazing and enjoyable throughout a lifetime. Know that Field Spaniels do best with work to do, be it within your community or through sport. When raised and trained with structure, a Field makes a lovely and sensitive canine friend.

Our breed has found its home in the city, the country, and everywhere in between—from walks on suburban sidewalks to hunting in rural fields. With responsible ownership and access to controllable exercise, the Field thrives with people and can do well with other animals as well.

Keeping a Field Spaniel groomed is a bonding experience and keeps our friends healthy and happy. Maintenance of the body coat is relatively simple with good nutrition. The coat is single and glossy in texture, never to be body clipped. Trimming and stripping are generally limited to the head and ears, and the feet and pasterns, with regular care required. Breeders are helpful in showing new owners the ropes of proper care.

Spaniel Field 3*While noted as a land spaniel, some individuals are known to enjoy water—whether outdoors, or in the drinking capacity. It is not always just their long, pendulous ears that dip in the water! Many are known to be sloppy drinkers, sometimes because of enthusiasm, and at times just not minding that they are being busy—dripping water from their lips as they happily trot by. Strategic placement of water stations will help, as will certain types of containers.

Another interesting trait is the occasional snoring some do. Still other individuals make interesting sounds, but this again may range from quiet peeps, to yodels, to warbling, outside of the typical dog bark.

When considering the lifespan of the Field Spaniel, it is exciting to see puppies and healthy young dogs in their prime. Many are living into their teens and remaining active as well. We are fortunate to have shared improved health and longevity with our breed over the years. It is important to note that reputable Field Spaniel breeders have been working on health testing for hips, knees and elbows, eyes, heart, and thyroid in their stock. Many say we have a “gene puddle” as opposed to a gene pool, so we must breed carefully to maintain genetic diversity.

One of the Field Spaniel’s best characteristics, besides being charming to behold, is their apparent silly nature, at times playing the jester of their home. Antics can be redirected and channeled into proper desired behaviors, and their humor is much revered.

Temperaments range from outgoing to reserved, and the breed should never be aggressive. This is a breed who may take time to socialize as a puppy and in younger years and may “size someone up” before bestowing trust and friendship upon them. They are a slow-to-mature breed, both in body and mind, but the payoff is an amazing journey of a lifetime together.

All the Fields I have known have displayed mellow moments and a spirit and joy in life that makes them fun and interesting to live with. Life with Fields will yield hair and an air of energy in your home, as well as water and humor!

Overall, the Field Spaniel combines a lot of dog into a medium package who can enjoy a wide range of activities and is suited for a variety of conditions.

A finer friend I have not found …

Shannon Rodgers, shannontrodgers@hotmail.com

Further information about Field Spaniels can be found here and here and on the website of the breed’s national parent club, the Field Spaniel Society of America.

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There Is No Substitute for Good Breeding

Chi silo crop*AKC Gazette breed column, Chihuahuas—Don’t be in a hurry for that great one. It is far better for a breeder to move slowly toward an eventual goal by tackling one problem at a time, collecting virtues into the genotype and breeding away from faults through careful selection.

We all start at the same place, but it doesn’t take long before we think we know everything. Eventually we admit to ourselves this is probably not the case, and we begin again. It is at this point that we really start learning, and hopefully we continue learning for the rest of our lives.

People tend to learn only their immediate interest. As breeders, we need to broaden our horizons beyond our immediate boundaries. A championship title does not guarantee perfection. Knowing and understanding your breed standard is all important. With that, you also need to know canine anatomy, animal husbandry, and the understanding of genetics, health screening, and DNA testing. Once all these puzzle pieces are gathered, we put them together to begin a breeding program.

It is always good to make it a habit to look at virtues first, and faults last. If you are a “fault-finder,” the faults will override the total perspective and leave a lingering impression.

Always weigh the faults against the virtues. Do the qualities outweigh the faults? Because of the complexities of genetics and the many variables of inherited characteristics, a breeder must be willing to gamble with nature, taking the worst along with the best. With conviction and courage, triumph will eventually emerge, and a great dog will be born.

A breeder must realize that every puppy, in reality, is two different beings and therefore cannot be bred with any degree of certainty. Phenotype is what the animal looks like on the outside. Certain genes have come together to create his physical appearance. What a dog looks like on the inside is his genotype, a blueprint of inherited traits from his ancestors.

If you like jigsaw puzzles, you will enjoy putting your genetic knowledge to work—but remember, 75 percent is luck, and 25 percent is skill.

Now that we know so much of the dog is determined by what he has inherited, even such things as his show spirit or ability to perform tricks, we can make better choices. Many faults can be eliminated from a bloodline, and superior qualities introduced, through selection and understanding of the laws of heredity. Therefore, a dog’s true qualities are not necessarily evidenced in his physical appearance but are also concealed in his genetic framework.

Chi LC*As breeders, we all understand that there is no perfect dog. Don’t be in a hurry for that great one. It is far better for a breeder to move slowly toward an eventual goal by tackling one problem at a time, collecting virtues into the genotype and breeding away from faults through careful selection, and including health screening. The overall dog must be kept in mind. For success in the show ring, not only does this require a quality dog but also a dog who is properly raised, conditioned, trained, groomed, and handled. This is hard work, and there are no shortcuts.

Understanding of the pedigree should never be ignored. What a dog transmits to his progeny depends on the genetics and actually has little to do with the number of champions we see in the pedigree. The idea that an inferior dog will produce something greater than himself because he has an impressive pedigree is a fallacy. Unless he carries in his genetic makeup a combination for a desired quality, he cannot pass it to his progeny.

Probably one rule stands out above any other, and that is “breed only the best to the best, and don’t be satisfied with anything less.” —Virginia (Jenny) Hauber, wynjynchis@yahoo.com

Further information about Chihuahuas can be found here and here and on the website of the breed’s national parent club, the Chihuahua Club of America.

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Posted in AKC Gazette, AKC Gazette breed columns, dog breeding, responsible breeder

Golden Gate Kennel Club Hosts Annual Dog Shows This Weekend

The Golden Gate Kennel Club hosts its 115th and 116th annual dog shows this weekend! If you’re in the San Francisco area, stop by to meet more than 100 different dog breeds (including very rare ones!), watch a Hollywood-themed doggie fashion show and see blazing fast dogs run Flyball! All info is available at www.GoldenGateKennelClub.com. It’s a fun event for the entire family!

GoldenGate

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Posted in dog show, Dog Sports
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