Page 224 - ShowSight - April 2020
P. 224

                is most important is the quality of the breedings going forward, which depends on the expertise of the breeders. The need for expert and skilled breeders is a grave concern for me. I am less con- cerned about numbers than quality, of course, with health issues addressed always when breeding. And we always want to keep sight of their field abilities. The Spinone has helped put dinner in the pot for generations.
Do these numbers help or hurt the breed? They certainly could do either, it depends on the quality of the dogs being bred, and the knowledge and experience of the breeders who are going for- ward with these dogs. There are a lot of “new” breeders. This is always a good thing. We want new breeders! However, I have some concerns about mentoring for our breeders. It is crucial that those being mentored know to reach out and choose good mentors and equally important that really good mentors are open and willing to share their knowledge beyond self-promotion, and with the con- fidence that what they are producing can endure despite creating more competition. We should welcome that competition if we are improving the breed overall. It is paramount that all of us as breed- ers do our homework. We must all develop a good eye for breed type; it is common for breeders and owners to judge by placements at dog shows. Especially with a rare breed, we should not evalu- ate our dogs based on show-ring records. This is a hard concept for many to understand. Some believe AKC rankings are an affir- mation of the best breed type, I would respectfully disagree. AKC judges can only place what they have in the ring. If we do not bring them correct breed type, then it is impossible for judges to under- stand correct breed type. In our breed we see handlers who perhaps have shown one or maybe two Spinoni in their entire lives, yet they are mentoring judges, so I believe when seeking a mentor ( whether you are a breeder or a judge) it is important to understand the histo- ry, expertise and goals of that mentor when they are mentoring you.
Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? I would say that most do not recognize the breed. They are usually very curious though, and enamored by them when they see them!
Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dis- pel? There are some misconceptions indeed. Our Judges Educa- tion committee struggles with judges wanting to over-simplify the breed, therefore missing crucial aspects of breed type and overall quality because they are trying to narrow the Spinone down to a few points. It is a more difficult breed to learn, and we ask the judges to put in the effort to learn about them in detail. For example, this breed has divergent head planes, however that is only one aspect of the head. The head has many details: eye shape and placement, pro- nounced medial furrow, the occipital crest, minimal stop, sloping lateral walls of the oval-shaped skull, the flat cheeks, the ear set and length—and that’s just the head! Many judges focus only on the divergent head planes and then consider the head “judged”—not so!
What special challenges do breeders face in our current econom- ic and social climate? Oh my, what a question. As we answer this, we are in the middle of the COVID-19 emergency. Many breeders are deciding not to breed a litter right now because of the uncertain future we are all facing. We are on the precipice of a whole new world in every aspect, but also in dogs, so we will see what we have as we move forward, when we can move forward.
At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? This breed usually takes several years to mature. Although we can see obvious lack of breed type early in many of them (lack of bone, lack of substance, poor head type, etc.), it is often not until they are at least two years old (or three!) that they start filling out and look- ing like an adult.
What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? The most important thing about the breed is putting all of the (many) pieces of the puzzle together and under- standing the whole dog. Judges must develop an eye for this breed
and this requires time. Of course, it is the same for every breed. However, with the Spinone, developing an eye seems to be more difficult. We don’t always see the best examples of the breed in the ring. This is an “old world” breed. Ancient and rustic are the best words I can come up with at the moment. The Spinone is not a typi- cal Sporting dog in the Group. He is not flashy, he is not “pretty”— unless you are a true aficionado, then wow, he’s so beautiful in such a different way than the flashy Irish Setter (for example) is! He is not showy, he is not covered with a beautiful flowing coat, but rather a harsh, prickly coat that is oh-so-beautiful to a true fan. He is a breath-taking dog on the move, but only if you are looking for that relaxed, loose, neck-forward dog that is so coveted by breed special- ists. It is not possible to develop an eye in one or two sessions with a mentor. I know several judges who are doing a lot of homework as they prepare. They continue to ask questions and seek guidance far past their basic AKC requirements. We are most impressed!
What’s the best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? I think the dogs themselves are wonderful at attracting newcomers! They are such a rustic, authentic old-style dog, with the most charming expression and sense of humor. We are starting to develop regional clubs, and we make sure that our parent club’s annual meeting includes field, show, education, health and just-for- fun events. We love Meet the Breed opportunities. Most breeders are very welcoming and generous with their information as they work together for the good of the breed. As with all breeds, they fiercely love their dogs!
Our ultimate goal is high quality breeding. Breeders who are not just interested in the dog they love at home, but are interested in the preservation of our breed long after they, themselves are gone. We need breeders who are not kennel blind, who can understand that no dog is perfect and that our goal is to always improve the breed. We need breeders who ask themselves very tough questions and who are willing to be unhappy with what they’ve produced so they can strive to produce better next time. Our goal is to educate breeders about breed type and hoping breeders can develop a good eye for breed type. We fight so hard to keep this breed from becoming a generic Sporting dog. They are SO unique and different. Our goal is not to succumb to the “showy is best” scenario.
My ultimate goal for this breed is breeders who are self-aware and doing everything they can to sharpen their eye and become knowledgeable; breeders who realize that we are all kennel blind to some degree and we must work to combat this.
My favorite dog show memory is watching my dog, BISS GCHS Ovidius Dal Podere Antico, win the National Specialty. He is an old-style, brown roan, a sturdy, rustic dog; strong and athletic and very different from the showy white, refined and elegant dogs that we see so often in the ring. He is in retirement now. For me, there is no greater honor than to win the National Specialty under a savvy breed specialist. Or I could also say my favorite memory would be when Italian CH. Puccini Del Mucrone won the National. He had exquisite breed type with a long, beautiful head and an oval shaped skull. He had great bone and substance, huge feet and the proper underline, topline and long sloping croup. The judge that year was Michele Ivaldi—a true Italian breed specialist. This dog was barely even shown in the U.S. because both breeders and judges did not understand his value—they were not used to seeing something so close to the standard. He had faults, of course, but that is not the point. Puccini was bred in the United States by the revered breeders Michelle Brustein and Dave Brooks. He was then sent to Italy with one of his daughters, where he was crowned an Italian Champion. He was Best Brown Roan Dog at the Raduno in 2011. But most here never understood that he carried the true essence of the Spino- ne Italiano. To see a very skilled Italian Judge give him the National Win in the U.S. was beyond joyous.

   222   223   224   225   226