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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AKC Joins AVMA, Other Animal Groups to Launch Animal Law Writing Contest

By Phil Guidry, Senior Policy Analyst, AKC Government Relations writing contest

Since its development in the 1970s, the relatively new field of animal law in the United States has expanded into a diverse body of topics that touches almost all traditional areas of the law.  Examples range from veterinary malpractice (professional liability/torts), to location restrictions on animal facilities (zoning/land use), to wildlife/livestock or pet ownership (property law).

Whereas legislative proposals prescribe or prohibit certain activities by establishing broad rules for all animal owners in a jurisdiction, court cases usually deal with individual circumstances.  However, they can set legal precedent and impact a large number of animal owners too.

Paralleling the expansion of animal law subject matter is an explosive growth of animal rights ideology in America’s law schools.  Today, almost all American law schools have at least one animal law-focused effort, many of which are designed with an animal-rights bias, including classes, certificate programs, and extracurricular groups.

If recent history is a reliable indicator, a large number of future federal and state lawmakers are likely to be lawyers.  To help ensure that future lawyers and lawmakers are exposed to a variety of animal law perspectives and have the opportunity to engage in unbiased debate of animal law’s expansive issues, the American Kennel Club, American Veterinary Medical Association, the Cat Fanciers’ Association, and the Animal Health Institute have joined together to establish the Animal Law Writing Contest for Law Students.

The contest is part of a shared effort by concerned mainstream animal welfare groups to ensure access and familiarity with a broad range of perspectives on animal law. The contest launches this month and welcomes all scholarly viewpoints.

Students currently enrolled at ABA-accredited law schools located in the United States are invited to write a 10-20 page scholarly paper on the constitutionality of one of two preselected animal law topics.  A committee with relevant experience will judge all properly-submitted entries received by Noon on February 15, 2015.  The winner, who will be notified by April 1, 2015, will receive a $2,500 cash prize and a trip to the American Veterinary Medical Law Association’s Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, next July.  The second place author will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

The contest is one of a number of ways in which the American Kennel Club and the collaborating organizations are dedicated to promoting further education and unbiased study regarding the human-animal bond, the role of animals in society, and animal welfare practices and policies.

For contest rules, to submit a contest entry, or for more information, visit the AKC website or email



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5 Ways of Looking at a Wolfhound

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“He is sure to win friends and, when won, to hold them.”

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”

  1. “A firm stand must be made against awarding prizes to hounds that are not absolutely sound, as the breed is essentially a galloping one and meant for rough rather than fast work, and therefore coat, soundness of limb, and freedom of action, must be insisted on.” —George Augustus Graham, who saved the breed from extinction, 1890
  1. “Exuberantly affectionate, yet stately and sedate … So many are the great qualities of the Irish Wolfhound that he is sure to win friends and, when won, to hold them.” —Rawdon B. Lee, from his book Modern Dogs, 1893
  1. “It need not be with the idea of making sales or champions that we take our dogs to shows. It is a duty we owe to the breed, to let the public see how many really good Irish Wolfhounds there are.” —Mrs. Norwood B. Smith, Irish Wolfhound Club of America president, 1927
  1. “Long and grey and gaunt he lies, a Lincoln among dogs …” —Christopher Morley, 1940
  1. “All seven of my Irish Wolfhound friends possessed a consciousness—awareness of self, awareness of selflessness, awareness of mortality—far more persuasive than that of many people I have known.” —Edward Albee, 2001


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AKC Pet Disaster Relief Trailer Helps County Prepare for Disaster

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AKC Pet Disaster Relief, a national program spearheaded by AKC Reunite and dedicated to keeping pets and their owners safe in the aftermath of disaster, recently donated an AKC Pet Disaster Relief Trailer to McClain County, Oklahoma.

Town and Country Kennel Club, Sooner State Kennel Club, West Central Oklahoma Kennel Club, Canadian Valley Kennel Club and Onofrio Dog Shows, as well as national organizations like the Bulldog Club of America, the Old English Sheepdog Club of America, and AKC Reunite presented the trailer to officials from McClain County Emergency Management/McClain County Animal Response Team (McCART) in a ceremony in September.


McCART recently rolled out the trailer for the first time to participate in the American Red Cross Central Region Mass Care Exercise in the Town of Wayne, Oklahoma. The team practiced standing up a pet shelter in conjunction with a Red Cross Shelter. We hope you enjoy these photos of the trailer in action!

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The Doberman Breeder—An Endangered Species?

Dobe stack-WebDAM smAKC Gazette breed column—Anti-breeding ways of thinking distract people from remembering that it’s through the breeding of good dogs that the breed exists and continues.

In the 1970s the Doberman Pinscher was among the top five breeds in popularity. At that time, most specialty shows had well over 100 Doberman entries, with some shows having so many that two judges were needed. The entry at the nationals was between 700 and 1,000 dogs. There were movies featuring Dobermans, and the breed was used by law enforcement. They were the dog of the day.

Serious breeders became alarmed to see our breed becoming the dog for everyone; we knew they aren’t that. Therefore, we started to discourage breeding. “Only breed to champions” was the catchphrase.

Fast-forward 40 years, and today’s Doberman Pinscher specialties are lucky to have a major, let alone an entry reaching 40 dogs. Shockingly, our nationals have entries of only about 300. Unfortunately, however, we still have an anti-breeding way of thinking. We are all about rescue and spay and neuter—and not breeding. You could say we subconsciously bought into the animal-rights agenda.

Today, most of our breeders are over 50, and there aren’t many young breeders in the wings. People tend to feel rescue is more important: “Save a life, don’t bring one into this world” is a common position. However, if we don’t have breeders—knowledgeable, responsible breeders—we won’t have Dobermans. Then we won’t need Doberman rescue or the DPCA.

This situation could become a tornado destroying our breed. What can we do?

We need to reevaluate our positions. We can be for rescue and not hate Doberman breeders. We can be for agility, obedience, and Schutzhund and not deprecate the conformation people. Conformation competition is the venue we use to judge breeding stock—it is where breeders show the fruits of their breeding program, and these breeders are producing the dogs shown in the other venues. Therefore, when you criticize conformation people, you are putting a negative light on the people who are actually preserving the breed.

Just ask yourself: Where would our breed be if all we have are rescue homes and participants in non-conformation activities, and no people to breed our dogs? If you love this breed, you need to be an advocate.

Be a mentor. Encourage new people to breed their good dogs. Help them find the best stud dog for their bitch. Share your knowledge.

When I started, I couldn’t wait to start a line of Dobermans. I studied every pedigree and the standard, and I went to the shows eager to learn about this fascinating breed. I met many people who felt the same way. We talked and studied together. We bred good dogs, the competition was intense, and we all had winners.

I was so proud to be the owner of the top brood bitch for the DPCA. Today, no one even applies for the award—what happened?

Please show respect and appreciation for Doberman breeders. They are the foundation of our breed, and its future. —Faye Strauss, Doberman Pinscher Club of America

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The Ludwig Touch: She Took It With Her

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”—Joan Ludwig was a leading ringside photographer of the mid-20th century. She could take a routine win shot with the best of them, but what set Ludwig apart was her eye for the unexpected. Alone among her peers, she sought the offbeat, the comical, the ironic.

The photo here is a classic sample of the Ludwig touch.

ludwig touch

Ludwig chose just the right moment to etch her cast of characters at the 1964 Glendale Kennel Club show: veteran judge Dr. Frank Porter Miller, who’s been around long enough to know there’s nothing wrong with this show that couldn’t be fixed by dry socks and an even drier martini; dog groomer Jerry Roose putting a good face on what was undoubtedly a very long day; the beaming breeder-exhibitor Virginia R. Withington, whose pride no foul weather could dampen; and, the visual punch line, a soggy but serene Afghan Hound Am./Mex. Ch. Pandora of Stormhill, gazing at us as if to say, “What fools these mortals be.” Like the best of Norman Rockwell, the whimsical tableau invites the viewer to fill in missing details.

Framing the composition are raindrops reacting with the camera’s flash to produce an ethereal trick of light.

That Ludwig was able to get such a masterly shot under brutal conditions is testament to her craftsmanship; that she somehow imbued it with her distinctive humor suggests a touch of genius.

Ludwig died in 2004, at age 89. The sport has gone on, but Ludwig took some of the fun of it with her. —Bud Boccone

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Reaching Out With a Rare Breed


Meet the Otterhound.

AKC Gazette breed column—Giving the public opportunities to meet a rare breed can be the key to its survival.

A rare-breed dog is often a delight to own and an enigma to people unfamiliar with them. Taking a rare-breed dog out for his daily walk in the neighborhood frequently results in questions from folks along the way. That is certainly the case with the large-sized Otterhound.

“What kind of dog is that?” is the question each of us hears most. Replying “an Otterhound” leads to the next inevitable question: “A what?” This time, replying more slowly and distinctly, we say, “An otter hound.” The follow-up question is “What were they bred to do?” With tongue in cheek, we explain, “Well, they were meant to hunt otters!” An often-heard response is “I’ve never heard of that kind of dog.”

With the breed’s low numbers—about 350 to 400 in North America—the Otterhound Club of America (OHCA) must look for ways to reach out to the dog-loving public to engage folks with this “clown of the Hound Group.” Building interest in the breed is the only way to keep it from extinction. It’s important for each of us to give our Otterhounds opportunities to be ambassadors, for they speak volumes for themselves. We need only to present them.

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Recently several of our members attended a tall-ship festival where maritime and water dogs, including Otterhounds, were invited to meet and greet the public. Five other club members attended a Renaissance fair, where they presented information on how Otterhounds were used to hunt in the medieval period in England. One Otterhound on a horse-show circuit last year made many steadfast friends!

Therapy work is another way your rare breed can meet a wide range of people. One club member who does therapy work with her dogs noted, “From kids in schools and libraries, to teens, to older people in assisted living, my Otterhounds visit and interact with a lot of people.” Another member says she and her hounds go to the dog parks—where what might be an hour-long walk usually takes twice as long, as she is stopped by everyone who asks about the breed and wants to know about its history, temperament, amount of shedding, and so on. She says the “boys” love hands-on, and they gravitate immediately to small children who shriek with delight over their sweet kisses (with permission first, of course). She also carries many pictures of her Otterhounds on her cell phone, and when she tells folks what kind of dogs she has, their blank looks take her right to the photos.

“Meet the Breeds” events, dog shows, and other organized dog activities are good ways to engage people interested in dogs. However, we’ve got to also think outside the box for more ways to find our audience. We must keep in mind that the very survival of the Otterhound depends on each owner. Many owners have several Otterhounds, so if there are 350-400 of our hounds in the United States, that means there are fewer than 350-400 households owning the dogs.

The responsibility is daunting. The question becomes, “What will each of us do to save the Otterhound?”

Thanks to OHCA members Peggy Powell, Jodi Geerlings, Eibhlin Glennon, and Marilyn Hajjar for their comments about how they promote the breed. —Becky Van Houten, Otterhound Club of America

Further information about Otterhounds can be found here.

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