Dog Shows -
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? by Ron Hevener
I get lots of letters from people asking about dog shows and why they matter in the overall scheme of things.
Let's take a closer look at that question. Dog shows, like most shows for purebred livestock, started out as a chance for breeders to compare their kennels and evaluate the progress of their breeding, nutritional and training programs. We still have that chance today, in an age when shows have been elevated into glamorous events of national stature. Has just about everybody who loves dogs seen the recent Westminster Kennel Club show from Madison Square Garden in New York City? Of course they have. Nobody who has ever been to Crufts in England, the Salon du Cheval in Paris or the national Arabian horse show in Scottsdale can walk away without being impressed by how far the world of purebred animals has come. So, how does that fit with other kinds of dog training, you ask? Other disciplines like Obedience, Agility, Lure Coursing or Racing?
A recent conversation with Greyhound breeder/trainer (and former Quarter Horse jockey) Kevin Gresham, from his farm in Kansas brought an answer to that and it goes something like this: "Years ago," he says, "Back when I was ridin', you'd have horses that did all kinds of crazy stuff. Some of them horses could really get to carryin' on and a guy could get hurt. Well, there was this one trainer who did a lot of winning. And I mean a lot. I always liked ridin' his horses 'cause they would just, you know, be real calm and keep their mind on business. Well, what this guy said was, the best racehorses are the ones who are trained the most."
Now, that's a very interesting statement and a rather broad one. But, Kevin has a broad base of experience. Besides having a few show dogs, he raises and trains some of the most expensive, successful Greyhounds in the sport. Kevin Gresham counts among his clients some of the most well known owners in the game and he knows what he's talking about.
Hearing that statement is one thing. But, understanding it and putting it into practice is a whole different matter. What it boils down to is this: the dog with more experience is less likely to be surprised, distracted or worried about anything that happens. What Kevin is talking about is cross-training. And that can be the difference that makes a champion.
Some of the most successful people in other disciplines have come from the show world. What secrets do they know? To find that out, you'd have to ask the many Arabian horse trainers succeeding on the track. From there, you'd have to ask people like Neal and Ginny Ehrhart of Keystone Driving Force, who show horses and are also among the top winners in Harness racing. After Neal and Ginny, you'd have to go on and ask people like Jack and Mary Butler, who were busy showing Siberian Huskies in New England about fifteen or so years ago and today own one of the most respected Greyhound kennels in the world. Or ask Jan Troxell who to this day still raises and shows German Shepherds from her Greyhound racing farm in Oklahoma. The list goes on. Maybe what these successful breeders and trainers discovered is that all training disciplines - no matter how different from each other they may seem to be - go hand in hand. Maybe they see the world of champions from a wider scope and in a brighter light than their competitors do. Maybe it gives them an advantage.
We are in the show world because we believe in our dogs becoming the best they can be. Whether we are fans, owners or somewhere in between, all of us play a role in the making of champions and champions can be found in many different arenas. Racehorses have proven themselves in dressage, driving, hunter/jumper classes, western pleasure and halter. Obedience and Herding winners have become conformation champions and retired racing Greyhounds have gone on to win ribbons in the show ring as well.
In the dog sports of our choice, we see time-honored rituals that touch a chord in all of us. We see dogs from across the country competing to prove which is smartest, which is fastest, which more beautiful. We see kennels competing against each other like Esmeralda and Blanche do in my dog show novel "The Blue Ribbon" to prove which kennel is the best, which trainer the wisest and which owner the most savvy.
In a society growing ever more soft, where schools and companies and towns seem to be falling into a political correctness that makes our lives more boring at every turn, we in dog sports have something to look forward to. We live our dreams every day. We see their promise played out with every sporting event we attend - the promise that if you look straight ahead and give your all, you will get from where you are right now to where you want to be. You will cross the finish line, fast or slow. Dog sports are about the individual, not about hiding behind a team that you're part of, but about you, alone, against all odds. They don't teach you that kind of self-confidence in high school, but the dog world does. When you are a winner in the dog world, you will always know on some level - no matter how long you live or what you do - that you "made it."
There, for all to see, you stood before the crowd. You reached the winner's circle and somewhere in the archives of your Breed, the world will always know it.
Crating Opinions by John Cipollina http://www.bealenet.com/~maestro/
To all pet owners who do not believe in crating:
One of the biggest myths believed by many pet owners is that dogs should not be crated or put in pens. Many of them are under the erroneous assumption that ALL dogs should run free. While this noble sentiment comes out of love and the desire of the pet owner to do right by the dog, it is based on a fervor of belief as opposed to a working knowledge of canine behavior.
What many people do not realize is that dogs are pack animals and when in groups, they exhibit pack
behavior. While the average pet owner may have only one to 3 dogs, and in most cases they are spayed or neutered, they can be left to run freely throughout the house or a fenced in area even when the owner is not home with hardly any adverse consequences.
However, in the case of those of us with hobby kennels, this is not feasible and could prove to be
detrimental to the wellbeing of the dogs. Accidental breedings would occur regularly. Imagine the problem it could cause if there were more than one breed? I have both Chihuahuas and Chinese Cresteds. I have separate runs and living areas for my dogs and bitches to try and prevent these types of accidents. I also separate them by breed when out in the runs.
Another possibility is kennel fights. Anyone with experience in these matters know that in the a kennel fight, it usually starts between two dogs and the rest of the pack usually take the side of the one that is winning and gang up on the other. This can result in the death of one of the dogs. This is not just behavior among males. In my 30+ years in dogs I have learned that males fight for dominance but bitches fight to kill. They don't call them bitches for nothing.
Another issue with those of us that have more than one breed is the size discrepancy. My males have a tendency to argue, especially when there is a bitch in season. When they are of equal size, they generally don't hurt each other in these little tiffs. If I were to let my Cresteds run with my Chihuahuas, these fights could result in the loss of life of a dog which would more than likely be a Chihuahua.
While addressing myths, another common misconception is that kennel dogs are not as well adjusted or as happy as someone's house pet. I am licensed in King William County, VA to have 40 dogs. I have not
reached that limit but I do have a lot of dogs. Even with my numbers I can tell you that my dogs are well adjusted and happy. Each one gets handled at least once every day. It is really easy to see how my dogs respond very positively toward me. A number of people on this list have seen and had their hands on my dogs and in some cases even been to my home. My dogs are friendly and outgoing. They have a reputation for having good temperaments. Each year I do a genetics seminar for 7th graders in the school system I teach in and the neighboring school system. At the end of the presentation, my dogs are passed around entire 7th grades. I teach in an inner city school system with a high percentage of street smart kids.
Probably the biggest myth is that the dogs don't like being in the crates. My oldest is a 13 1/2 year old Chihuahua. Because of her age I let her stay in the house while the others are outside. She can go wherever she pleases and by her choice goes into her individual kennel in my kennel room. She is not the only dog in my kennel that will willing go to an open traveling crate and curl up and go to sleep.
I do have my pets. There are four of them that sleep in my lap every night and I have some that do get time to run in the house, but to not kennel my dogs would be neither practical nor responsible. I am in no way advocating that dogs should spend their entire lives in crates, but discretion is in order for those of us breeder/exhibitors with more dogs than the average pet owner.
My suggestion to those who like to get on their "soap box" when it comes to issues of crating dogs or
putting them in pens is to learn more about what is truly in the best interest of the dogs before standing in judgment over those of us who do kennel our dogs. There is more to it than you may realize. Mis dos centavos