Our Eva has been in Dallas all weekend on the first leg of her farewell tour. With her has been a Havenese, just starting out, and two more Kerries. Also in this entry was a son of a dog we own. This young dog has been working on his championship, with his owner/hander. They have been learning about showing together and this weekend were rewarded with wins, two of the four days. The young woman went home with great satisfaction and her new champion. The breeder, who lives on the other side of the mountains from us, was happy and we were happy. Another champion for her bitch and for our dog, Tucker.
Our handler had two of the other class dogs. The class bitch was a Tucker daughter, Murphy, and the class dog, Toby, a close relation to our young male. These two dogs also needed two wins a piece to finish their championships. It was a nice surprise that these two finished, also. Three champions in one weekend! Everybody was thrilled.
Something else that made these wins all the better was the diversity in the entry and the age of the winning dogs. The entry consisted of enough exhibits to make up majors in both dogs and bitches. There is a local Kerry Blue Terrier club and the members had a nice showing to support this fledgling, all terrier, show. The class dogs entered reflected the Kerries from the area, as well as some from the outside with handlers. We had been interested to hear about the puppies from an English import breeding and received positive comments from our handler about them. The Winner’s Bitch the first day comes from local breeders who have some of the most interesting breeding theories I’ve heard. We sat with them at our National dinner and I am still intrigued with some of the ideas they had. Breeding an Irish import to a dog they bought from a breeder in Kansas, they produced two very nice dogs that have been successful in the ring in limited showing. There was also a puppy entered, that won the Sweepstakes, that came to it’s new owner from the breeders in Iowa we showed against several times this year.
While some of these dogs were somewhat related, there was a nice mix of lines, both foreign and American represented. Also, with the exception of the three puppies entered, the dogs competing in the classes were either over two, or very close to two years old. The class male our handler finished was six. Why should anybody care about the diversity or age of the entries? I’ll tell you.
In the US, under AKC rules, a dog needs fifteen points to become an AKC champion. This includes two majors. Majors are groups of points, three, four or five points, awarded at one time for one win. The number of points is determined by how many dogs of each sex are present. The number varies from region to region and is evaluated, and sometimes changed, annually by the AKC. The majors also have to be awarded by two different judges. A dog has to be awarded Winner’s Dog or Winners Bitch, and sometimes Best of Winners, to get the major if one is available. A dog can finish with more than two majors, but not less. At these shows in Dallas, the male our handler showed had eighteen points coming into the shows, but no majors. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s lack of quality on the part of a dog. He/she could beat one or two others, but when faced with four or more always fell short. Sometimes it’s lack of access to majors. If a dog is shown by the owner, who has limited funds to travel the country looking for beatable dogs, majors may not be available close enough. Sometimes, somebody shows up with a better dog. No matter what the scenario, majors are hard to find, and hard to win. I think they should be. It should require some effort and work to finish a dog. The dog should face real competition, not just a parade of littermates and kennel mates. This new owner/handler with her dog on this weekend, can take real pride not just in the fact that she did it by herself, with mentoring from her breeder, but that her wins came over time and outside her area.
Many people will brag to you about finishing their dog at a very young age. Certainly, it sounds impressive. But what does it really show about the quality of the dog. If showing is supposed to be about the evaluation of breeding stock, how can anybody deem a dog so young, under two, as a specimen worthy of breeding. The AKC won’t register a litter produced from a sire or dam under seven months. OFA won’t certify hip xrays until two years old, although you can PennHip your dogs at a year, because the dog is not structurally mature until two.
In the ring, judges have to judge the dogs shown to them on any given day. If all he sees is an entry of puppies, what can he do. He has to apply the standard, designed to evaluate the mature exhibit, to the puppies before him. The Gordon Setter standard states, “topline moderately sloping.” People familiar with the breed will tell you the topline remaines high in the rear until the dog is often well over a year. The ribs are to be “well sprung”, but does a puppy or even an adolescent dog, show this? As the judge studies his entry of enough puppies and juveniles to make majors in one or both sexes, he has to pick somebody. He picks the one that looks the most mature and has the best ring manners. Is this the right dog? Today it has to be. The puppy receives a major and the owners and breeder are elated. What a great pup they must have to get his first or maybe his second major at 8 months old! In a stacked entry, one full of littermates or one lacking in enough diversity, a win such as this is often contrived by the breeder to finish more champions for their own vanity. These cheap champions go home are are never seen again. When you go to look for a stud dog, or a breeder to sell you a puppy, you have no idea how this “wunderkind’ turned out. He may have lived up to his potential or the puppy who was mature early may now be over size or coarse for the standard.
In some other countries, like Sweden, a dog cannot be a champion until they earn one CC after they are two years of age. This would be an excellent policy for the AKC to adopt. Dogs would still need only fifteen points to finish, and only two majors from two different judges, but one would have to be won after the dog turned two. This would encourage exhibitors to keep showing for that time, or at least bring these early to major dogs back out when they were more mature, to get that last major.
The judges in the Texas shows last weekend saw dogs from puppies to very mature adult specimens. The dogs who garnered the majors were the more mature ones in the entry, those at least two or close to it, and thus better able to be judged by the current standard. They were of an age where mature color was expected, toplines had solidified, musculature should have been evident and coat texture would hold a good groom. When the judges made their decisions, they were based on their interpretation of the standard and personal preference, not just which puppy could be examined the easiest.
The owners of these dogs had put in the time to learn something about correct breed presentation, both in grooming and handling. They had been through many shows with wins and loses. I would like to think they all read the breed standard and took time to really consider it. Spectators were treated to a living timeline of our breed as it progresses from puppy, through adolesence to maturity with each class. How much better for the breed that the new champions reflected more than just wins in a stacked entry, or luck and a big handler on the lead at a cluster weekend.