Page 82 - ShowSight - August 2019
P. 82

                  Becoming: Junior Dog Breeding—An Update
  “Working for a handler will teach the care
and grooming of multiple dogs,
important, or how you would handle RV parking. And then explain why giving up a weekend of showing to help your club can actually benefit your career.
Working for a handler will teach the care and grooming of multiple dogs, but it doesn’t teach breeding. It can teach the discipline necessary to manage several cli- ent dogs, and figure out how to get them groomed and into rings on time. It can teach you good sportsmanship, how to say please and thank you, and how to be public- ly polite to people while your internal anger rages. It should teach you how to form a business relationship with people who pay you money to do a job, but it doesn’t teach breeding.
I feel like a broken record—BREED- ING, BREEDING, BREEDING—not exhibiting is what we need young people to learn. Instead of being focused on going to every show, they need to stay behind and help whelp litters or take care of pup- pies. They need to become involved in the decision-making process for choosing a stud dog, or deciding which bitches should be bred, and which can be placed. They need to learn genetics and biology—not just showing dogs. They need to learn the value and reward for doing something that produces the dogs we want to send to dog shows regardless of whether or not they get shown or win.
The kids in 4-H all raise their own ani- mals. When they win at the fairs it’s because they helped to breed and care for beautiful animals. It’s a lifestyle and work they enjoy. The kids in FFA are the same—the biol- ogy and study of animals and genetics, and health issues are being taught in school. They are encouraged to work for kennels, groomers and vets—not show people. Both of these organizations encourage volunteer- ing. Our all-breed club has used volunteers from both organizations at our annual dog
show, and they are always grateful for the opportunity to help. These FFA and 4-H kids are learning the basics of an animal husbandry trade, not just getting a taste of winning. Their reward is producing beauti- ful well-bred dogs that can compete, but do not have to for value. Their reward is learn- ing about structure, movement, health, nutrition and biology and applying that knowledge in a real-life setting. They are eager to learn, not just win. The animals, not the ribbons, are their primary reward. They are proud of their dogs, pigs, goats and cows even if they don’t win a blue rib- bon at the annual fairs. They know there will be another county and state fair next year, and they are ready to apply more learn- ing to try for a blue ribbon the next year.
I think junior handlers (maybe all han- dlers) today just enjoy winning regardless of the quality or origin of the dog on the end of their lead. It’s what we’ve taught them. We’ve all become slaves to the Vince Lom- bardi mantra, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing!” You get more clients when you win. You get more money when you win. You get more respect from peers when you win. You get noticed by judges more when you win. You get more influence and power when you win. You start to win more when you win.
I think we need to get out of the mind- set that winning at a show is the “reward”, and somehow transition to the reward being understanding, raising and breeding beau- tiful purpose-bred dogs that meet the stan- dard for their breed—win or lose. Get back to our roots. Pull dog shows back from the sports-like competition that is ruining them to the animal husbandry roots of determin- ing the quality of breeding stock.
I have learned that when I explain how judging works to novice spectators watch- ing a show, they suddenly have a lot more respect for what they are watching. It’s not
just a beauty contest, it’s a livestock evalu- ation of form and function. They relate it to the livestock shows at fairs, and suddenly there is a newfound level of respect for what it takes to breed the dogs that can compete not against each other, but against a written standard of perfection for each breed. They start asking about how long those standards are, and how much detail is in each one. As this information sinks in they begin to realize how much information judges must know, and their respect level goes up again. If you can relate the importance of health and structure, and how that relates to the breeding of good purebred dogs, the specta- tors’ respect for the complexity of what they are watching increases again. They don’t understand exactly how a judge compares a Beagle to an Afghan, but they understand perfectly when you tell them that the beagle they see in the ring is as close to a perfect beagle as they will see, but the Afghan needs a few different characteristics to be considered a great Afghan.
In a perfect world the AKC would have enough money, people and literature to sup- ply all FFA and 4-H programs with study materials. They’d have a department dedi- cated to reaching out to the kids who want to learn animal husbandry. That would surely encourage these kids who are already showing a love for owning and breeding dogs to look to a place like the AKC to guide them into our world. And in that per- fect world we would have a trade school or academy (or several) to help teach them how to move from studying to applying their knowledge as apprentice purebred breeders. And that academy would have curriculums, teaching positions and honorary professor- ships for our aging breeders and judges to transition into. Then we would have Junior Breeders, not just Junior Handlers, and our existence, and the future of our dogs—not just dog shows—would be assured.
  80 • ShowSight Magazine, auguSt 2019

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