Sunday, November 11, 2012

Showing a Champion

Showing a Champion

Over the years I’ve tried to understand what some folks are doing when they show their special.  To start with a class that says “for Specials only” tells me that any dog or bitch in that class should stand head and shoulders above the ones not yet Champions.  Unfortunately most specials do not fit that description.  The AKC may find ways to keep you showing with “Grand Champion” lollipops to put in your hand, but most of the ones who finish should call it a day and stay home.

Edith Levine of Glen Knolls did not like showing in the Specials class.  She used to say “nothing is as stale” as last year’s champion.  To her the proof of a breeder was what you could come out with each year in young stock.  Perhaps her Collies matured early and didn’t age well, but that was her outlook on specials.

During my time as a breeder/exhibitor there were only two dogs that I specialed:  Ch. Jadene’s Breezalong (BB CC of A 1967) and Ch. Gingeor’s Indelibly Blue (BB CC of A 1976)  To be sure I did show some of my other champions on occasion if I thought they had a good shot at winning, but no others steadily campaigned.  My outlook on showing in the Specials Only class was that you had to have a good reason. 

Never in those years did I ever want to campaign a bitch.  My outlook on that was probably a lot like some others who felt that once a bitch finished her job was to provide the next generation.  The stress of an ongoing campaign puts a bitch at risk in being successful in the whelping box.  Of course, there are exceptions, but also plenty of bitches who win a lot and are flops as producers.  Personally I’d rather have the producer.  She helps you move your breeding program forward while the winner just feeds your ego.

If you have a good young male who finishes and looks promising as he matures, then further showing as a Special gives prospective customers with bitches to breed a chance to see him.  Once his puppies are old enough to start winning (we hope) the need to show him diminishes.  If the pups aren’t outstanding, then he may need to look for a new home.  Ditto for any bitch who hasn’t shown anything special in her first two litters.  Don’t try to keep dogs that don’t help forge the next link in your chain.

The stress of an extended campaign can have adverse affects on males as well as bitches.  Sperm counts may go down and condition as well.  Each dog is different and must be evaluated as to their ability to handle a number of shows.  Today’s Collies sometimes seem a bit “sharp” in disposition compared to earlier dogs.  It may help keep them showing, but may not be enjoyable to live with at home.  Perhaps it’s what is needed with the large number of shows today, but I’m not sure if it appeals to the public.

I read an article some time back where a handler was asked about what he looked for in a dog to campaign.  The answer was “toughness”, of course, quality was also presumed.  The way we show today and the number of shows available may be changing what we breed.  You can decide for yourself whether it is changing and whether you like the change if it exists.

The British have a saying that says “showing a dog fearlessly!”  The meaning is fairly clear.  Such a dog or bitch would be of quality that allows you to show where the competition is really tough, not to duck the big boys to pick up more wins.  Though I also showed at all-breed shows, my preference as I bred better Collies was to go to the specialties.  Not only were more points available, but the judging was more competent, and you could learn more.  You learn most by going where the  competition is tough and your dogs must be good to be competitive.  Showing against second rate dogs makes you lazy.

Years ago I spoke at Acconeus Collie College and told the audience that the people I showed against were “The wind beneath my wings!”  Starting with Trudy Mangels and Pat Shyrock (Starkweather) and continuing thru Bobbi Roos and John Buddie.  They made me breed better dogs to keep up and win.  Set your sights high and don’t lower the bar, but raise it.  When my sons were growing up and playing sports I always told them to learn from losing as much or more than winning.  The act of winning makes you feel good, but losing makes you try harder.

Think about it!

p.s.  Since your humble scribe has taken a fall and cracked his pelvis, blogs may be skimpy for now.  Moral is that T-Rex should not try to do pushups.  They’re not built for it!!

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