On Your Mark, Get Set, Show

Once again the first raft of shows for the new show season have come and gone. The results are online and people who read the dog show magazines, and who doesn’t after all, are starting to see who’s out there. A quick check of the Florida circuit, just beginning, reveals a duel, between two male Kerry Blue specials, that will come down to type. One is a dog from Ireland, imported by a woman living in Indiana, shown by an accomplished young man from Florida, who may be the dog to beat on a small-scale. The other comes from a long, proud line of American bred dogs and is very representative of what this line has always had to offer. There are a lot of dogs in Florida and the breed point potential for either of these dogs is enormous. If they face each other it will be a battle every time.

I am waiting to see if the beautiful bitch from the Northeast will be shown again this year. She is owner handled and very tough. If the owners would consider breeding her to our young dog, we’d do it for free and hope for a puppy back. Her competition will be a Canadian dog shown by a well-known East coast handler, with the help of his able assistant. The handler provides the face power and the assistant provides the ringside whistling and attention-getting antics that make the dog look better than he probably is. A dark horse candidate in the East will be a dog from New York. He was the sire of our lease litter and he finished the year with some nice wins.

The West coast is really wide open this year. The bitch that pleased few in the breed, but rose to number one status for most of 2008 and part of 2009, will be taken away by her distant owner and replaced with a PBGV to be shown by the same handler with predictably the same results. Just plug and play for some people. The other Kerries on the West coast will jockey for position and see the top spot change leads several times. If the winner of our national specialty, and his very flamboyant handler, stay on the West coast, he will run almost unopposed for the top spot there. This dog is winning the war of attrition and he is in the right place at the right time. He will have to attend shows in the upper Midwest and the East to rack up enough points to keep his ranking high. This part of the country used to be a mecca for terrier people, but no more. With the exception of a very lovely bitch from a long-time breeder, the same mediocrity that has overtaken our breed in general has found its way there, too.

This brings us closer to home. Divided between the upper and lower Midwestern states, this area is what we watch. There are plenty of shows and plenty of dogs. There is a powerhouse kennel in Ohio that seems to turn out winner after winner, all owner handled. Then there’s the dog in Indiana. If he’s shown close to home, he could face at least two other dogs that are capable of group placements on any weekend. He might be better advised to travel throughout Florida, picking up breed points from the myriad class dogs shown there. The dog from Missouri, one of only three Kerries to win an all breed best in show in the last two years, is stangely absent so far this year. His handler is showing a Canadian champion, bred by a breeder in Kansas, that is well on his way to his American title after one weekend out. This handler is usually the best thing about any dog he shows and is nearly unbeatable in his area. This is not the case with his current class dog. If the rumored rift between the Missouri special’s owner and this handler are true, this area will have an open door if anybody cares to walk through it.

Of course, nobody in our state can think of showing Kerries in the Midwest without thinking of the dogs in Iowa. Two breeders have joined to produce a line of dogs with a certain type and character all their own. The two women have a certain vision for the breed and have come a long way in a short time. They can rank a dog in the top ten, in breed points, any time they want due in no small part to the fact that they usually enter at least six dogs at every show they attend. For several years nobody came to challenge these people in their own house, but last year all that changed. They were discovered. While sometimes beating the out-of-towners, they were sometimes a rich source of majors for dogs in our area.

We in Colorado are in the fly over states. Often overlooked and under-rated, our time is coming, but not this year. A battle is shaping up that may bring us attention as never before. There is the possibility of four litters whelping in our state this year and within them might be some of the best puppies, at least on paper, any of us has bred in a while. There is a quality and diversity within the breed, in our state, than we haven’t experienced before. This should increase the numer of Kerries shown in Colorado and mean we won’t have to travel for majors. We have an exciting mix of old lines taking new direction and new lines starting out. It’s fun to roll the dice in our game and dream of being the big winner.

You really can’t talk about showing dogs without mentioning the ethics problems that are rampant. The wish to own or show a winner has created an attitude among exhibitors and breeders that threatens to undo the good work that has gone before. The Unites States Kerry Blue Terrier Club has a Cole of Ethics that provides sensible guidelines meant to safeguard the breed in general and provide a standard of excellence to be proud of. The Code allows for exceptions made by skillful, knowledgeable breeder/owners, but overall there are far too many people choosing to ignore what should be common sense guides. Examples can be found coast to coast. There is a breeder on the West coast selling puppies as young as eight weeks old. There are people in a couple of areas breeding bitches over eight years old, as well as breeders with dogs in rescue who choose not to take them back from failed placements. And my pet peeve, showing and building kennel majors.

What excuse can a breeder, who continues to produce puppies for sale, have for not taking back an older “puppy” of his breeding that needs to be rehomed. We constantly tout the benefits of buying a puppy from a reputable breeder because the new owner will always have support should something go wrong. But these owners got no more from their reputable breeder than from one found through the internet or in the local paper. Is it asking too much to expect breeders to take dogs of their breeding back in any circumstance? I think not.

It is well documented that the eighth week is a critical one in a puppy’s development. They do best if kept with littermates through this period. Surely keeping puppies until 12 weeks is not a burden. Let no one forget the specter of PNA that lurks behind many of our lines. Why not hold on to puppies a little longer just to make sure the puppies and their new owners have the best chance for success. And does anybody really have to breed old bitches. How is this improving the breed? No matter what their condition, do they really need to endure the stress of a pregnancy and puppies at an advanced age? Is your line so important, to people outside your livingroom, that using old dogs to produce the next generation is warranted? Aren’t younger bitches in your line able to carry on for you?

Kennel majors are especially repugnant to people who enjoy knowing their dogs gained their championship in an honest way. Showing and winning majors against dogs outside your own kennel should take priority over the easy, cheap championship that comes from showing in a pack week in and week out. Sometimes it seems, these large entries are manufactured solely to rank the kennel’s current special or to amass a large number of champions finished in a given year. This produces impressive statistics, but does it really speak to the quality of a line or individual dog? How can someone say their dog is really a great example of the breed when all it did was beat littermates, and kennel mates, all season. The artificially inflated results helps to sell puppies, however, and I guess those are the ends that justify the means. People engaging in this practice must count on potential buyers and their competition being so naive, all this will never be noticed. But how do they delude themselves year after year.

The 2010 show season looks like an exciting one in the ring. This is one of those years where many of the crop of past winners have gone and new, fresh recruits are taking their places. I look forward to attending several specialties and seeing dogs outside our area. It will be exciting to see some of these dogs rise to prominence and sad that some will not fulfill their owners’ dreams. And most of all, we look forward to our puppies, if we are so lucky.

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