Tag Archives: UKC

UKC Obedience – Real Dogs for Real Assholes

Yes, my title is harsh…but read on and you’ll understand.  If you don’t then leave a comment and let’s discuss!

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This past weekend was the 2014 UKC Premier and as is tradition I was there with my mom and friend.  It’s tradition for us to stay in a hotel and enjoy all 4 days of the show.  Usually I show my mom’s Silken Windhounds for her but this year I managed to seriously injure my calf while practicing flyball with my golden.  However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying the show!  I am currently processing the photos I took and will get those up here in the next few days.  I have a few posts to write about the 2014 UKC Premier but I want to focus on something that happened that put a damper on our weekend for a bit.

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The UKC Premier features all major dog sporting events:  confirmation, junior showmanship, obedience, rally, agility, lure coursing, weight pulls, dock jumping, and barn hunts (apologies if I missed your sport).  We had spent most of the weekend ringside watching confirmation and decided on Saturday we wanted to go watch some obedience.  Housed in another part of the expo center, we grabbed our chairs and headed off to watch obedience.  There were several rings for rally and several for traditional obedience which was running novice and open.  My friend and I decided we wanted to watch some Open, walked to the ring,  put our chairs against the back wall about 6 feet from the ring and sat down.  We weren’t sitting there more than 5 minutes when a ring steward came up to us and told us we had to move because we were a distraction to the dogs in the ring.  We apologized, picked up our chairs and moved.  Now mind you, we were a good distance from the ring and were positioned by the garbage can and doors; we weren’t talking and couldn’t have been a bigger distraction then the people coming in and out and walking past us.  The dirty glares we were getting from other obedience exhibitors should have killed us on the spot.  Seriously… you would have thought we were screaming with bullhorns at a ballet.

We tried watching her... I'm sure she did great!

We tried watching her… I’m sure she did great!

We set our chairs up and are promptly told we can’t sit there because it’s a fire hazard.  We were a little perplexed.  There were no signs and no indications of where we could and couldn’t sit.  Another UKC representation comes up and tells us we have to sit behind the yellow line as per the Fire Marshal.  We look around and realize that behind the line means squishing back against where all the obedience exhibitors were crating.  There was very little space so we pull our chairs back and start to squeeze in.  Now mind you, there is almost NO space for us to put our chairs so we’re trying to do the best we can.  As we’re attempting to get settled, one of the obedience exhibitors very rudely says to us, “Don’t set your chairs up there, my friend will be coming back soon and you’ll be in her space.”  We look around, flabbergasted.  There is literally no other space for us to set up.  The obedience exhibitor crates are literally wall to yellow line and then have their chairs set up in front.  You couldn’t squeeze a chair in anywhere if your life depended on it.  So, we picked up our chairs and left.  What a shame!

I remember when I first started I showed in obedience and they were the most welcoming, easy going people you could ask for in the dog sport.  What happened?  We were so unwelcome and treated rudely that it put a little bit of a damper on our Saturday.  The problem was compounded upon by several factors.  First, the crating.  Confirmation exhibitors aren’t allowed to crate in the same building so why should the obedience folks be allowed to?  If it’s literally the only space for them then they should be limited in exactly where they can crate.  Second, there was no set space for spectators.  The exhibitors were literally taking up all available space behind the yellow line so a spectator could not watch.  The UKC needs to set space aside that can’t be used for crating or exhibitors so that someone coming into the show can sit, watch, learn and enjoy this part of the sport.  Third; the absolutely horrible attitude and treatment from the obedience exhibitors themselves.  There was no reason they couldn’t have moved to make room for us.  Instead we were told to not sit because that was their spot.  Last time I checked, obedience was a dying sport and I don’t think having an ultra-elitist attitude is the way to bring people in.

I think what perplexes me the most about what happened is the attitude of ‘being so quiet you could hear a pin drop’ in the obedience building.  I understand not wanting there to be kids running around screaming or other major distractions but since when do obedience trained competitors need a completely distraction free environment?!  I remember when I trained we trained in all types of conditions and made our own distractions to help our dogs learn to focus.  If your dog can’t handle a couple of gals sitting in chairs watching 6 feet from the ring then you probably aren’t ready to be competing.

Now, you might be reading this thinking I’m a confirmation elitist and I’m not.  I have put obedience and agility titles on dogs as well as finished dogs in their confirmation championship.  I have waited two years for a performance Border Collie to show in flyball, agility and obedience.  I love all aspects of the sport and it pisses me off when one type of exhibitor acts like they are better than another.  All aspects of the sport have their own challenges and require training, patience and dedication.  We get enough gruff from those outside the dog sport that we don’t need to be assholes to one another.

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Unnatural Selection – Thoughts

If you haven’t seen the HBO’s Real Sports segment called Unnatural Selection you’re missing out!

Fortunately, I have it right here for you!

Watch this and then come back and see if you agree with me.

Go on.  I’ll wait.  Really.  This is a MUST watch for all individuals involved in the world of dog sports.

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Watch it?  Good.

Now read on:

Overall it was a very impactful 15 minutes.  The phase that stood out to me the most was referring to the AKC as the “Lord of Dog Shows”.  While AKC may like the nomenclature, to me it conjures up something more akin to a world filled with more drama and backstabbing than the series Game of Thrones.  The problem with being a “Lord” is that often you’re too high up in your ivory tower to realize what’s really happening down below.  In this case, they are turning a blind eye to the damage that is being caused to many purebred breeds due to standards that have turned the sport into a mere beauty pageant where form is the end all be all and function be damned.  I’ve talked about this before in length and won’t belabor the point here again.  What the representatives for AKC say in this segment really speaks for itself.

I’d love to see the AKC be taken to task and really answer how they plan to help stop line/in- breedings.  Last year’s Westminster winner was a father to daughter cross and the AKC’s only response was “We stand for happy, healthy dogs.”  They said it so much that I wondered if they truly believe that’s what they are doing with the AKC or if they were told to say that (as if saying it made it actually meaningful).

Now, I’ll admit, it’s not entirely up to the AKC to ‘police’.  Individual breeders need to step up and start taking responsibility.  However, the AKC has enabled this type of poor breeding practice by not doing anything to stop it.  The solution is simple and is already in play in the UK:  Litters that are line/in-bred shouldn’t be allowed to become registered.  Next, start working towards healthy dogs, not just dog that fit a standard on paper.  And finally, make sure that all dogs are certified healthy before being bred.  Don’t leave this up to the individual breeder; make it mandatory.  Is it a lot?  Sure.  But until the collective dog community as a whole can be responsible in their own actions and breeding plans the AKC should step up and really help make “Happy, healthy dogs”.

So, where does that leave the UKC?  They certainly aren’t as ‘angelic’ as the show made them out to be.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the UKC.  However, Wayne Cavanaugh’s words are great but at the end of the day they are just that… words.  Words without any action behind them are meaningless.  I think the UKC has started making strides in the right direction but in the years since coming aboard it’s been business as usual for the UKC.  Mr. Cavanaugh has been president of the UKC since 2000.  UKC still has politics.  UKC still runs into the same issues of breeding for ‘looks’.  UKC still see’s judges putting up dogs because of the ‘friends and favors’ ideology that runs through dog shows.   Like I said, I like the UKC and prefer them and their mission over the AKC but they are far from perfect.  14 years is long enough and I think Mr. Cavanaugh needs to be more than ideology and put words into action more.

Regardless of who is right or which organization is better, at the end of the day it’s the dogs who are going to continue to suffer if something isn’t done.  I love dogs.  They are a passion.  I love dog sports.  I don’t want to see them go away but I do want to see an organization truly stand for ‘happy, healthy dogs’.

What did you think?

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Start Them Young!

One thing I love about the UKC is the time and attention they give to juniors who want to participate in the sport of dog showing.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to not only show but mentor two green junior handlers (and by green I mean this was going to be their very first dog show ever).  The show was a UKC show held in Mason, MI at the Ingham County Fairgrounds.  If you have never shown in UKC you’re missing out.  These shows are relaxed, generally friendly and most people are more then eager to help.  It’s not without it’s own ‘dog show politics’ but the laid back atmosphere coupled with the friendliness and ‘realness’ of those that show in UKC make it worth competing in.  If your dog has an AKC registration then you can register for UKC.

Unlike the AKC which requires juniors be at least 9 years of age to start handling, UKC allows children as young as 2 years old to start getting experience in the ring.  Pee Wee, Sub Junior  and Pre Junior (all up to the ages of 7) allow a parent to enter the ring with the child or help from the sidelines.  Once they get into Novice Junior they are judged and earn points. All of the ‘pre classes’ are run through their paces but not ‘judged’ per se.  The idea is to get children experience in the ring, build confidence, build knowledge and most importantly give them a great spark for showing dogs.

My daughter Braewyn, who is 4 years old showed a dog for the first time ever this weekend.  She absolutely loved it and had such a big smile the entire time I know it left a great impression with her.  She was so proud of herself and the work she did.  With each show she got more and more confident in the ring; so much so that by the end show she needed someone in the ring with her but not by her side.

Just look at her beam with pride!

Just look at her beam with pride!

 

We told her to smile when she got back to the judge after her down and back.  She was genuinely happy!

We told her to smile when she got back to the judge after her down and back. She was genuinely happy!

 

One of the best things about UKC is that it’s not just cut throat competition with cold judges.  Most judges genuinely care about the juniors who are starting out because they know that they are the future of their sport.  They take the time to make it educational and do what they can to help juniors grow; they don’t just hand out ribbons and let them go without giving them tips on how to best grow and learn.

Showing in UKC doesn’t just require you know how to show the dog off, it also requires you have a wealth of information around the breed you’re showing, dog health and dog anatomy.  They ask about what the dog’s purpose is, what they do and general anatomy questions such as where the dog’s stop, croup or withers are.  The kids in the ring can’t just look good, they have to be smart as well.

Savanna with Oracle.  This was her very first dog show and she did amazing!

Savanna with Oracle. This was her very first dog show and she did amazing!

 

My two young dog handler prodigies!

My two young dog handler prodigies!

 

Savanna, the daughter of a good friend of mine showed for the first time this weekend as well.  She did absolutely amazing. In fact, she went from not knowing how to even handle a dog to not only showing in junior showmanship but going on to handle Oracle to his championship by getting him two Best of Breeds.  She learned quickly, was eager and a natural.

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If you want to keep the sport of dog showing going you have to have a future generation who is interested.  To do this you have to make it fun.  You have to build confidence.  You have to let them know that their passion means something.  UKC does this and they do it well.  I am so proud of these two young ladies for the work they did this past weekend and I cannot wait to see them grow!

 

Much deserved rest after some hard showing!

Much deserved rest after some hard showing!

 

 

 

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Where Should I get a Puppy / Dog From? Part 2: Responsible breeders: Conformation / Performance Breeders

Edit:  I made an absolutely horrible spelling error which is now fixed.  Apologies!

Welcome to part 2!  This post is going to be a really good look at dog breeders; specifically those who breed their dogs for either conformation, performance or both.  I will attempt to peel back the layers to get at the heart of the matter and arm you with some good knowledge and a deep understanding of the professional dog breeding industry.  This is specifically looking at the more responsible breeders out there and should serve as a guide to spotting one.  We’ll tackled puppy mills and back yard breeders in a later post.

First, let me tackle some common misconceptions that I hear from various individuals and organizations about dog breeders.

  1. Breeders are the reason there are so many dogs in animals shelters.
  2. Breeders only care about money; they view their dogs as a business and nothing more.
  3. Purebred dogs from breeders will have more health problems and genetic issues than a mixed breed.
  4. All dog breeders are bad.

I have heard these arguments over and over again; in fact, I still hear them today. Let me respond in turn:

(1)Breeders are not the reason that animals make their ways into shelters.  Uniformed, uneducated and careless owners are the reason.  As a result of this ignorance states are making blind legislation that hurts reputable breeders and makes it hard to continue doing something they are passionate about and love.  Again, it’s treated like a ‘black and white’ issue.  It’s not (I’m sure you’re noticing the theme here).

(2)Reputable breeders don’t breed dogs for money.  In fact, they typically spend more money on testing, vaccines, food, shelter and a variety of other items that they are often lucky if they break even.  Good breeders simply are not in it for the money; they are in it for the love of the dog.

(3) Yes, purebred dogs can have health problems from irresponsible breeders who are breeding for the wrong reasons.  However, a breeder who knows the breed can inform you of potential issues and you can make an informed decision from there.  Just because we are cognizant about potential health issues doesn’t mean they are less healthy than a mixed breed.

I cannot iterate this last point enough.  (4) Not all dog breeders are created equal.  In fact, we need reputable and responsible breeders to preserve the breed and continue to improve it.

Purchasing from a breeder is right for you if you’re looking specifically for certain characteristics in a dog, want a guarantee on temperament as well as health or are looking to get a specific breed.

If you’re looking for a puppy or starting to contemplate getting one you should first keep the following in mind.

All good breeders should do the following:

  • Genetic and/or health testing specific to their breed.They will also explain in-detail all the potential issues they face and what they have done to keep them out of the lines they breed.
  • Make sure the dogs they are breeding have appropriate health clearances before breeding; specifically look for:
    • Things like hips and elbows if the breed is known to have problems.  They will provide you proof if asked.
  • Provide health guarantees for the life of the dog against known genetic or other health problems for that breed; they should provide such guarantees in writing.
  • Have you fill out a puppy questionnaire or ask you A LOT of questions about where the pup is going.  Expect an interrogation.
  • Let you meet mom and/or dad if they are onsite at the breeders premise
  • Provide you pedigrees for mom and dad so you can track lineage and ensure against line breeding
  • Has only 1 or 2 breeds they work with
  • Let’s you spend quality time with the puppy on multiple occasions before you purchase
  • Breeds no sooner than every other heat
  • Breeds for specific characteristics and can tell you why they bred the two dogs they did
  • Doesn’t just give you a puppy based on ‘looks’ alone.  Tries to match you to a puppy that has a personality you’re looking for
  • Explains in depth the pros and cons of the breed (no breed is perfect for everyone)
  • Will serve as a point of contact for questions or just check-ins through the life of your dog; they should be willing to be a resource
  • Should be the first person you contact if you don’t want the dog; a responsible breeder will always take a dog back

With that in mind, I want to delve more deeply into the difference between a breeder who breeds for conformation and a breeder who breeds for performance.

Yes, I said earlier that a breeder’s job is to improve the breed.  No, it’s not playing god. What it is doing is being responsible.  Dogs make fantastic pets but that’s not what all dogs are bred for.  If you’ve watched a dog show on TV you know that dogs fall into different categories; Companion, Sporting, Non-Sporting, Herding, Hound, Terrier, Toy and Working.  I won’t get into these so if you want to learn more, take a look at the AKC’s website for a deeper explanation.  Companion and Toy dogs are the only breeds specifically bred to be pets, the rest were bred with a specific ‘job’ to do.  Their structure and personality have direct correlation around this ‘job’.  Now, this is where conformation and performance breeders are going to diverge.  Breeders who primarily breed for conformation are attempting to improve the breed by continuing to breed towards the ideal breed standard.  Those who breed for performance do so specifically to improve the breed by selecting for those characteristics that allow the dog to perform it’s job.

Let’s pause a moment.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t purchase a dog that was bred for something other than being a pet to be a part of your family.  It’s these job characteristics that make certain dogs absolutely wonderful family companions.  Just know that there are some breeds out there that still need a ‘job’ to be happy.  Often times the destructive behavior that lands a dog in a shelter or rescue is from neurotic behavior that stems from boredom, not getting enough exercise or by simply not having a job to keep their minds occupied; behavior that could have been prevented with a little history into the breed you’re getting.  This is also a reason many people chose to purchase from a breeder and not a rescue; knowing the breed helps them react and work with their dog properly. Unpause.

Let’s get back to the difference in conformation and performance dog breeders.

Conformation

The dog industry (in the US, I’m looking at you AKC), has forced a divergent split between ‘looks’ and ‘performance’ in purebreds.  While not unheard of, it’s rare to see a dog that conforms to the breed standard while still being able to perform what it has been bred to do.  In fact, special awards are given for dogs that can do both conformation and agility or obedience.  The reasons for this are twofold.  First, since breeders are selecting essentially for ‘looks’, any of the dogs personality or ability to perform is secondary.  Who cares if my Border Collie can’t herd if he looks great and can become a champion?  Second, many breeders don’t work on the duality that their breed presents.  When I bought my dog Blizzard, I asked the breeder about hunting and retrieving.  Her dogs hadn’t even ever been swimming.  She bred purely for looks and while her dogs could potentially been great hunting and retrieving dogs, she didn’t know as she never worked any of her dogs to see if they even had that aptitude.  Sure, you can teach your dog to do what it is supposed to do but let’s be honest here; great dogs have innate ability, drive, and intelligence to do what they were bred to.  Conformation breeders, who breed only to the standards of structure are unintentionally selecting against the reasons for that breed existing.

I’m not saying you can’t take a Golden Retriever that was bred for conformation and teach them retrieving and make then a hunting dog.  You can, with hard work and lots of hours of training.  However, if your retriever is gun shy or doesn’t gently pick up the duck you’re going to have issues.  What I am saying is that if you want a dog specifically to do what it is supposed to do you generally have to find a performance breeder and not a conformation one.

The AKC in the US has turned the sport of conformation into one that relies solely on looks with no brains (this is politics aside, something I’m not tackling now).  As long as the dog conforms to the breed standards it doesn’t matter if they can sit when told, let alone do what they were bred for.  This exaggeration of certain breed characteristics has forever changed many breeds and not for the positive.  German Sheppard’s now have such severe angulations in the hind quarters that they can hardly walk let alone herd or do protection work.  Even many of the ‘companion breeds’ are suffering from such irresponsible breeding.  The French Bulldog and Pug are perfect examples.  This is a breed that, left to it’s own devices, would select against the snubbed nose.  In fact, many of the French Bulldogs born in the US have to be born via c-section due to their heads being too large to fit through the birth canal.  There would be no genetic preference to have such a severely snubbed nose.

Look at the AKC’s breed standard for the French Bulldog:

The stop well defined, causing a hollow groove between the eyes with heavy wrinkles forming a soft roll over the extremely short nose; nostrils broad with a well defined line between them

The standard calls for an extremely short nose but I would argue the breed, as it stands today has a fairly non-existent nose.  What is ‘extremely short’?  It’s left open and as the years have gone by the nose has gone from extremely short to a health hazard.  Unfortunately common sense seems to have left the building for breeders whose livelihood comes from their show winners.

Comparative look at a French Bulldog from the past to today.

Comparative look at a French Bulldog from the past to today.

If you’re looking for a conformation dog to show, good luck to you.  Most breeders won’t sell their shows dogs to someone who is unknown in the industry.  Purchasing a conformation show dog is a lot like gambling; you pay a ton of money with no actual guarantees on the dog actually conforming to standards; in fact, from my experience you’re probably better off gambling the money you would otherwise spend.  While conformation breeders will and do guarantee against health issues they never guarantee that your dog is going to win in the show ring.  Case in point:  I purchased Blizzard for conformation and at the age of 3 I am having him neutered.  He never panned out to be a show dog but I love him nonetheless and he will stay with this family until he dies.  I have a very expensive pet dog.

My advice to you, if you want to get a dog to show, is to network, network, network and be patient.  Many breeders are going to turn you away.  Some might even downright laugh at you.  If you are tenacious enough you might eventually find someone willing to sell you a show dog.  Conformation breeders evaluate the litter’s structure at around 8 weeks of age to get a gauge on show potential.  They then go down a list starting with ‘pick of the litter’.  If you are getting pick 5 out of 6 you likely shouldn’t expect too much from your new show pup in the ring.  I once had ‘pick of the litter’ and ended up choosing the 2nd pick in the litter as I like her personality more.  Even at second pick she turned out to not be show quality either.  Also, expect a contract that outlines the terms and how many shows you’ll need to do.  Most importantly don’t expect to win big time, not in the AKC at least unless you are willing to shell out big bucks for a handler.  Make sure you ask questions and get referrals to ensure you are getting a dog from a breeder who isn’t so focused on ‘looking pretty’ that they are wearing blinders to other issues like temperament.

Performance

Breeders who breed specifically for performance do so looking at drive, ability, intelligence and whether or not they can do a number of different tasks.  Performance breeders aren’t necessarily breeding their dogs to do their specific job but they can be looking to breed for certain characteristics that the breed is known to be good at; agility, flyball, obedience, search and rescue, therapy, etc.  I know many Border Collie breeders that look for that high drive that make them fantastic agility dogs.  My first dog ever was a Golden Retriever that was bred for obedience.  She was everything I could have asked for and we went all the way up to UD training.  She did obedience, agility, junior showmanship and would have learned math for me if I asked her too.  She would have never made it in the show ring; her coat was curly, she didn’t have a straight topline, and her head was a tad too small.  However, she did what she was bred to do an I couldn’t have asked for more.

The Golden Retriever is a perfect example of a breed that has diverged due to the conformation / performance split.  20 years ago Golden Retrievers were one of the go-to breeds for obedience work due to their intelligence and eagerness to please.  Today, unless you specifically find a performance Golden they are often a few nuggets short of a happy meal.  Unsurprisingly there is often a vast difference in appearance between a performance and conformation dog.

Difference between a 'show' Golden bred specifically for conformation and one bred for hunting/retrieving. Notice the difference in head, coat texture, coat color and bone structure.

Difference between a ‘show’ Golden bred specifically for conformation and one bred for hunting/retrieving. Notice the difference in head, coat texture, coat color and bone structure.

Performance dogs are a good bet if you’re looking for a family member or for the dog to participate in a specific sport.  The dogs bred typically have  impressive lineage with multi-titles in a number of different dog sports.  Since they are focused on ‘doing’ and not ‘looking’ you tend to get a healthier more well rounded dog.

There are breeders out there who pay careful attention to both structure and temperament.  A good breeder should always keep an eye on temperament but unfortunately many do not.  When I look for a breeder I look for someone who has champion bloodlines with versatile dogs who can do more than look pretty in a show ring.  The UKC is an organization that recognizes the importance of both ‘form and function’ and their breed standards are being changed to reflect that.  The dog should conform to the standards but should also be able to do what it was meant to do.  More organizations and breeders need to bring conformation and performance back together in the breed.

Check back for Part 3 – Backyard Breeders, Puppy Mills and Pet Stores

 

 

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