Page 246 - ShowSight - November 2019
P. 246

                 AKC Breeder of the Year 2019 Q & A
 “Probably the most valuable advice is how you must look at the entire dog ‘globally’ as one organism with all its parts in place and typey, with the correct temperament and attitude as well as style, movement, head, head carriage, let down of hock, etc working in universal harmony.”
qualities of other breeds as in our discussions specific to Pyr Sheps. Early on, while I was still a teenager, he began refusing to give me specific advice or help me choose breeding stock and puppies. At least beyond the occasional “ah oui?” with an eyebrow cocked when he felt I may have been making an important mistake or he’d some- times offer a rare hardy endorsement—long after the fact—of deci- sions he felt were particularly sound. But even today his main mode is to press me to make judgements and articulate my thoughts. Every time I speak with him, he always asks me to describe what I saw at the most recent show I went to. What did I like, what’s out there of value looking to the future? I am honored that several dogs of my breeding—both rough and smooth-faced—are among the small complement of photos he keeps to educate judges on what the breed should look like. I was shocked, honored, even a bit dismayed to find out that a couple years ago he sent out a photo far and wide of one of my bitches, challenging French breeders to produce such a dog in their own breeding programs and asking why the best dogs are now found in America! Probably the most valuable advice is how you must look at the entire dog “globally” as one organism with all its parts in place and typey, with the correct temperament and attitude as well as style, movement, head, head carriage, let down of hock, etc working in universal harmony. All of it must be taken as one whole dog. The individual parts are of less concern. You can part out a dog all you want but once the harmony is gone, the sym- metry is broken, you’ll never get it back.
From my very first bitch, he has bequeathed me a genetic legacy of stunning, sublime dogs. I didn’t create this bloodline, it has been my privilege to inherit it from the breeders who went before. My job has been to not mess it up, and for whatever reasons I’m one of the few who has managed not to thus far. I try always to bear in mind what Mansencal once said to me “This breed is not the work of man. It was made from the wind, and the rain, and the mountain.”
What advice would I give the newcomer? Believe In Your Dog! Whether you’re in show, performance or everyday life, believe in her and she will believe in you. Keep trying! I tell them yes, nobody wins more than I do, but nobody loses more either.
The funniest thing that I’ve experienced at a dog show? I heard about a high flying young dog that went into the BIS ring. The judge checked the testicles and said, “Um, there’s three...”
I’d also like to share:
1) I will talk directly to judges here. Remember that every time an owner handler walks into your ring, they have poured their heart and soul into the dog at the end of that lead. That deserves your utmost respect in this day and age of negative attitudes toward purebred dogs—even if you don’t like the dog at all. Assume that exhibitor has a living room full of breed-specific art and antiques and photographs and breed history the nature of which you can’t begin to imagine. Any time you feel dismissive of a dog who isn’t well groomed, or isn’t behaving well, or looks like an adolescent string bean on roller skates, there’s a reason he’s there and he is the future of that breed. We are graced with an inordinate number of outstanding dogs, but not every dog can be outstanding. And yet they matter. The average dog you see in the ring is the start- ing place for the next generation of this very rare breed. Most have
useful qualities important to the breed when bred judiciously. If you withhold a ribbon on a newbie, assume that person will drop out of dog shows forever. I see it happen several times a year. I’m serious. Several times a year. It’s ruining our sport. If you can’t see the dog’s qualities, it’s probably behavior. Don’t give them handling lessons, back off and give them a little extra time. They’re nervous and that goes right down the leash. And be patient with yourself as well. This is a very difficult dog to judge and an even more difficult dog to breed. You’re going to make mistakes. I know I do. Even as a breeder-judge. But try to err on the side of inclusiveness. When you see one you don’t like, bear in mind, that I, as a breeder, I challenge you to try to breed a better one. This breed is complex. It takes years to mature. They look their best at age five or six or even seven. An outstanding dog of 18 months just isn’t going to look like that. They should look like an 18-month-old dog and should be judged that way. And remember that DQs are your friends. They alleviate the need to make tough decisions when a dog does lack some basic ele- ment of correct type despite maybe having other excellent qualities. DQs let you concentrate on what matters—after all, sorting out a ring full of typey dog is the most challenging task you face but also the most rewarding. It’s where the joy of judging comes in!
2) I take advantage of extensive health testing and genetic resources now available. These are in no way the be-all and end-all of breeding. But it is a mistake not to make judicious use of them. Good dogs need to be kept in the gene pool, but every dog carries several deleterious recessives. It’s like a puzzle. New tests come out every month that allow breeders to keep dogs in the gene pool while avoiding doubling up on unsuspected recessives that could produce needless health problems. And tests are now coming out that iden- tify good traits as well. Breeders should educate themselves. Use these advisedly, but do use them.
3) Raising puppies is hard work. Mine are exposed to noises and surfaces from birth. We do super puppy exercises. My pups run loose around the house with tolerant adult dogs. They are vac- cinated at five weeks so they can go to my local dog club and be safely handled by strangers. Maybe some breeds have trouble with vaccinations but not mine. They do great and live healthy lives into old age. (In fact, I feel too many genetic problems are blamed on vaccines as a scapegoat). I feed a sensible dog food (Bil-Jac) that’s locally made with quality ingredients (liver, steamed corn) even though they aren’t the fad ingredients of the day (no pea pollen and turtle tails or whatever.) Again, they do great and live healthy lives into old age. Many of my puppy people feed raw but getting a raw diet right takes serious study and I’ve seen it go awry—though I do admire its effect on teeth.
4) This hobby has so much to offer! Travel. Sightsee when you go to dog shows. Learn about different places and people. Visit your breed’s place of origin if you can—whether it’s Asia, Africa, Nova Scotia or Louisiana. And while you’re at shows watch unfa- miliar breeds. Learn something new. Talk to people different than your usual friends. It is a rare opportunity to mingle with people from all walks of life competing on a pretty level field. What a terrific sport!
 244 • ShowSight Magazine, noveMber 2019

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