The dearest Kerry Blue puppies will be six weeks old tomorrow. They are really individuals now and we can see glimpses of the dogs they will become. The Pink puppy is still the Whelp Leader. She is first out of the box in the morning and the first, and best, at lapping water from the big dog bowl. As Eva has grown more and more ready to relinquish her responsibility for her puppies, the Whelp Leader has stepped in. She patrols the box on strong legs seeking out wrong doing from her littermates and meting out punishment. Whining and yipping is not tolerated by this puppy. The Pink puppy will knock down the offender and render them still. She is supremely confident and is ready to leave her little world of the bedroom and follow her mom out into the yard.
The little Green puppy is the best at climbing over the lip of the whelping box. He will climb back inside to potty and his tail is still wagging. Last night we saw that the soul of his grandfather, Desmond, is alive in him as he pinned the Whelp Leader on her back and growled and snarled at her over her constant devilment. The Leader lay motionless under him as he stood stiff-legged above her, his little neck locked and lips quivering.
The Blue puppy has come out of her shyness and is now holding her own with the others. She is the last to learn to climb out of the box and when she struggles to join the others she barks sharply and seems mad at herself. When she eats from the puppy pan the Blue puppy will balance on her front legs only and eat until her sides bulge out. This puppy has the smallest eyes, a gift from her father, and if you hold her she will lay motionless on your arm. The Blue puppy has discovered the paper rolls we throw in to them. She will grab one up and carry it off to savage it. After she is exhausted from her play she heads back into the box and pulls herself along under the rails. Blue puppy falls asleep stretched out beneath the rail with her sister laying next to her.
We no longer need the collars to tell them apart at a glance. About every other day we can see some change in each one. Although this is a small litter, our breed average is six puppies, three is enough to see each parent’s contribution. As they continue to grow and change we will see which genes have won out in the genetic battle that is each developing puppy.
Eva and Danny are new to the breeding game. This had made their breeding more dicey than had we chosen a stud dog who had been used before. With an experienced sire, a breeder has a tremendous advantage in planning a litter. Frequently the bitch is unproven. She has sometimes been purchased specifically to further the breeder’s line. Hopes for her success as a producer are based on what the breeder knew of her line in general or maybe her sire and dam. The stud dog is often one picked out at the national as he stood in the line up to receive some award. It’s amusing to see people who consider themselves breeders mob the winners and ask to “go over” them. They mumble and cast sage looks toward the dog’s handler or owner and make overtures to them about the desire to use this wonderful specimen of the breed on their young, unproven bitch. While all this is going on, nobody, especially people seeking a stud dog, is watching the Stud Dog/Brood Bitch Classes.
Last year at Montgomery there were only two dogs entered in the stud dog class and no brood bitches. The two dogs entered were good examples of our breed and both differed from each other in type. Either one would be an asset to the right breeding program. But where were the people looking for stud dogs? The stud dog class represents the single best opportunity for breeders looking for studs to see a dog they are interested in himself and better still see what he has produced. Seeing the progeny of a given dog can provide more information to a breeder than just going over the dog outside the ring. Certainly the winners are impressive, but good stud dogs? Not always.
When you look at one dog of a line you see only that dog. The traits that make a dog a winner are often intangible and not heritable. Some dogs are the products of good training, handling and grooming. Well groomed but not well made. If there is no access to littermates of the big winners, and with the rampant use of technology in breeding the sire of the dog may be older or not even living, what have you seen that would lead you to think the dog getting the prize is a suitable stud dog?
Before we bred our litter with Danny, we were anxious to see dogs that his father and mother had produced. We have seen three littermates. Seeing other progeny from his father has proven problematic, however. We don’t live near many of his half siblings, and people often pull their class dogs if they need a major and one isn’t available. We had to go on our knowledge of the dogs behind him, most of which now reside in our fading memories. How much better for us to have been able to see a stud dog or brood bitch class and see the side by side evaluation of the progeny.
Entering a male in Stud Dog class takes a lot of time and guts. To prepare a dog with as much care for a non-regular class, as for the Best of Breed competition takes dedication and a true love of the breed. There is little prestige in a win in this class and sometime the only people proud of the entrants are the owners. It seems hardly worth the effort. The naked light of the afternoon sun beating down upon a dog you are very proud of and knowing your highly critical peers are evaluating your life’s work in dogs can make the decision to enter this class even harder. But to those who consider themselves, or aspire to be, breeders it should be regarded as the most important class at the specialty. This is the time to evaluate critically what a given dog has contributed to the breed. It is a litmus test to see how a particular line is progressing. In the case of the stud dogs entered in 2009, it was a study in old and new, American and Imported blood lines. Both owners provided progeny from different bitches yet both dogs clearly stamped themselves on their offspring in obvious ways. The movement of the progeny was very similar to their fathers in both cases. So remarkably, was the color. Head type was another factor clearly attributable to these stud dogs. One dog is three-quarters import blood lines and the other American. With so many more imported dogs entering our lines it was a wonderful contrast of where our breed has been and what our breed may be heading toward. The American lines were comfortable and expected. Displaying some of the best being bred today. The progeny exhibited were from nice line breedings which served to further the comparison.
From ringside, not nearly as full as just moments before, you could see the neck sets, tail sets, coat textures, movement and even size produced by these two dogs. How sad there were only two. Our breed club puts on a Futurity every year during the Specialty weekend. There are often several puppies from the same litter on display. How much better it would have been to have seen the sires of these puppies and their dams in the ring with them in these non-regular classes in order to really understand what a certain stud dog might do for you. The chance to go over not just the potential stud dog, but his progeny is invaluable. Why do so many people breeding dogs approach the process from such a one-dimensional view?
This past year, watching the stud dog class was more enjoyable than I can recall. A friend of ours from Tennessee had entered his dog, Ringo. He is newer in the breed but has a depth of knowledge to be envied. Another long time friend had entered her male. A big winner for several years and wonderful producer for her. Her dog is also our Danny’s half-brother through his father. The pride in these stud dog owners was palpable from ringside. I was cheering for both.
I hope this year more people make the effort to enter this class and I hope those entering will be given the respect they deserve. These are the true breeders and stewards of the breed among us. Here’s a belated congratulations to Texas Eddie Delaney with Ch. Topgun Ragin’ Ring of Blueaire (Ringo) and Connie Meyer with Ch. TNT’s Silver Salute (Eli). I look forward to standing in your shoes some day.