We're All in This Together
You don’t know what you have until it is gone.
I am sure everyone in our dog show family has felt that during the terrible pandemic that has forever changed the world as we knew it. It feels like we are starting all over now, and it is my sincere hope that we remember how it felt not to have a dog-show season, and that each of us rededicates ourselves to try to be the person that our dogs think we are. During our time away, I also hope that we remember how important our dogs are to us – and not just as what they can do for us in a dog show – but as important members of our family.
We are all in this together became an over-used slogan that we heard every day on TV, and now I say to you as dog shows are starting up again: We are all in this together. This time away has given us a chance to hit “restart” to what our dog shows mean. Actually, maybe it gives us a chance to return to what dog shows were meant to be. To say it another way, it should be a partnership of breeder, exhibitor and handler aligned in their desire to maintain and save breed qualities and nuances.
It is an unfortunate fact in our dog community that there has often been a “we versus them” mentality when it comes to judges, breeders and exhibitors. To my mind this is the case when each of these people has disparate goals. Obviously, if the only goal of a breeder or exhibitor is a first-place ribbon, the judge who does not point the finger in that direction is looked upon as an adversary or pariah. This is exactly the opposite of what should be. If – and that is a very major if – our goals are the same, this would not be the case.
And what should those goals be? Let’s start by looking at the mission statement that theoretically defines our goals.
The American Kennel Club’s Mission Statement says: The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Founded in 1884, the AKC and its affiliated organizations advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership.
The last sentence in Section 2 of the Charter reads … generally to do everything to advance the study, breeding, exhibiting, running and maintenance of the purity of thoroughbred dogs.
Consider this “letter” posted on a social-media site:
“Dear AKC, As a preservation breeder, I feel extremely undermined that you allow ‘pug like mutts’ in various colors like brindle, white, blue, Merle, Black and Tan, purple and green to share the same registry and status with my carefully selected dogs. My dogs, with champion lineage whom the great breeders before me have achieved through years of dedication, blood, sweat, sleepless weeks and tears … AKC; your greed makes me sad, and AKC you fail. You fail at your one job, that is to register and keep record of PUREBRED animals for the future of our dogs. Preservation breeders of all breeds affected by these indiscriminate policies need to demand the AKC do a quality job with valid recording of PUREBRED dogs.”
There may be at least two sides to the issue, but I don’t think this person is alone in that thinking. How many of you have seen puppies of your breed for sale in colors that are not possible in your breed if it is purebred? Will we soon be showing “doodles” so that we are not considered elitist?
Purebred fanciers become rightfully outraged about "fad" colors such as blue French Bulldogs and brindle pugs. A Frenchie site we found was selling a lilac-and-tan male who was a "fluffy carrier" for $15,000 – with full AKC registration.
Even though the leadership of the AKC has relatively recently switched a lot of emphasis to include mixed breeds as well, to me, the words above in bold still say that our significant focus should be on protecting breeders and purebred dogs. I have heard the words espoused that we are stronger when we stand for all dogs – and I readily agree that we should protect all dogs – and heaven forbid we don’t want to be considered elitist. But that in no way means that our love, caring and protection should lessen when it comes to protecting what is right in our purebred dogs.
Hmm … I also wonder if there might have been a little consideration given to finances when the decision was made to include all-American dogs under our umbrella.
The protection of our beloved purebred dogs should continue with judges and breeders working together. I believe in the excellent statement by Erika Wyatt (Sloughi breeder and judge): “Every act of judging is an act of breed preservation!”
It is a common refrain among judges that “we can only judge what is brought before us.” Well … yes and no. If what we are asked to judge is not of adequate quality, there is nothing in the rules that states we must award it. Surely we can give a second place instead of a first place if a blue ribbon is not deserved. There is nothing that says that even if we give out a blue ribbon on every class, we must award Winners. Winners may be withheld. Heck, Best of Breed may also be withheld if necessary. To reward a dog just because it is there is not judging. This is one of the ways the “act of judging is an act of breed preservation.”
Consider the motto of the Pharaoh Hound as stated on their breed website, … a great responsibility … to keep faith with 5,000 years of true breeding … they must shun man’s natural tendency to “improve” which so often in dog breeding terms means to alter out of all recognition.
Think judges don’t affect the “style” of a breed being shown? How about this post: Does anyone know anything about [judge’s name]? Does she like Fine boned or heavy boned Frenchies. Mine look less like Bostons and more like Bulldogs. I know weird question but I’m seeing less and less bone in Frenchies. Judges have been picking less bone, skinny with small heads in our area.”
How many breeds have we already “altered out of all recognition”? How many have we made caricatures of the breed? Sometimes we have done it through grooming. For example, there are some Sporting breeds for which correct grooming is to shave or clipper the top part of the hanging ear and clipper the front of the neck. An example of this is the Irish Setter. So what we do is then groom all sporting breeds with hanging ears in the same manner. For many of these breeds, this grooming completely ruins the correct expression. How long will it take for these breeds to no longer look the way the standard describes? How long before we are seeing all generic dogs – or are we there already?
How many breeds have we already started down the wrong path with our blow dryers and pin brushes? For example, there are breeds such as the Pumi that state in presentation that the dog is never to be blow-dried – it ruins one of the nuances of the breed, the tight curl to skin. We must not allow judges and handlers to change another breed. Over-grooming is not just something that most standards say not to do, but it also makes it difficult to properly assess coat texture and condition. How many have we changed by having them shown excessively fat by breeders who for some reason have come to accept that as being correct?
A presenter of a new breed pointed out that if judges don’t reward a dog because it is not dripping in coat – or a bitch who has blown her coat – you are setting the breed up for handlers to show them with a profusion of coat – which is wrong. Some say that over-grooming or excessive coat is needed to make the dog or breed to look “elegant.” What is meant by elegance? To me it does not just mean having a long neck or a sleek outline. It is not confined to a single look. Elegance is achieved by being the best representative of your breed. Consider the Clydesdales or Friesian horses. To me they are very elegant, but are certainly not built like an Arabian.
I realize dog shows today are significantly different than the first ones. Early dog shows with kennel managers showing were designed to help breeders pick the correct breeding stock in addition to the competition among large kennels. We are far from that now. Dog shows are now a form of socializing and sport – as well as being competitive. The goal these days seems to be to be able to say “My dog (as a representative of ME) is #1!” Why not use our opportunity to restart our shows as a way to return to judging breeding stock?
What do you think?