161 – Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine on Judging Dogs as Breeding Stock|Pure Dog Talk

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine


Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine was recently nominated for the third time as judge of the year by the ShowDog of the Year Committee.  A judge of four groups, Beisel-McIlwaine is well respected within the fancy for her over-arching mission to judge dogs as breeding stock. She’s judged the Garden, Montgomery and Great Western, as well as internationally. Her gentle hands on the dogs, discerning eye for a “good one” and her pleasant demeanor with exhibitors have made her a favorite.

Her first love, an Old English Sheepdog acquired after high school, eventually led Beisel-McIlwaine to work dog shows on weekends for Connie Gerstner (Miller). “I went to UWGreenBay. Eventually, I was going to classes less and less and dog shows more and more,” Beisel-McIlwaine said.

In the spring of 1977, at a local Wisconsin show, she encountered legendary dog man and Terrier handler George Ward. He was looking for full time help and Beisel-McIlwaine wanted to learn. “I never intending to be a professional handler, but I wanted to learn more about dogs and breedings. I fully intended to breed Old English Sheepdogs,” Beisel-McIlwaine said. She was impressed by the cleanliness and quality of his kennel and fell in love with Wire Fox Terriers. And, she says, she’s never looked back.

“It was great,” Beisel-McIlwaine said. “(Ward) had a special bond with the dogs. He said I was a great student because I didn’t have any bad habits to unlearn.

“I stayed until May 1980. George was not an easy person to work for. But I’m glad I learned terriers from him because I didn’t learn any short cuts. I don’t like to see terriers run in the ring. They’re not bred to be raced around the ring. To see proper movement, you need to see them at the right speed. I’m old school.


“George taught me three things when I first started working for him:

* never keep your hands in your pocket, it makes you look like you’re not serious

* never chew gum in the ring

* talk to the dogs in the ring, don’t let them think they’re in there alone…. I like to see kids in Juniors talking to dogs in the ring


“The kennels were clean. The dogs came first. We’d go to a show and if it was too hot, we went home. His clients understood that. Grooming and care of the dogs were number one.

He and Dick Cooper were good friends, so we were always set up together. I’d just sit there and soak up all the stories.

“I remember going to shows, playing cards and it was so much fun. I think we’re a little too stiff some times these days. You’ve gotta have a little fun. Maybe because of the PC attitude, we’ve taken some of the fun out of it.”

Peggy and Sandy Beisel-McIlwaine

Peggy and Sandy Beisel-McIlwaine


When Beisel-McIlwaine left Ward’s employ, she married Cairn Terrier fancier Sandy McIlwaine. Together their Foxairn dogs have “finished a multitude of Cairns” and 15 homebred Wires. Foxairn has twice produced the number-one Cairn in the country, one of whom was a two-time national-specialty winner. Peggy was handling professionally and Sandy managed the kennel and the kids. “He was the original Mr. Mom,” she noted.

As her children grew up, Beisel-McIlwaine wanted to spend more time with them and less time on the road. So, she quit handling and started judging. “Family comes first. We had a couple slim years. But I was fortunate and I got the whole terrier group.”


For our listeners who heard Dana Cline’s interview, Beisel-McIlwaine’s comments on what makes a great dog will begin to sound familiar.

“You have to have the type,” Beisel-McIlwaine said. “Annie Clark said from the best type you pick the best movement. What makes a dog great is the showmanship. Now, I don’t want a bloodhound showing like a fox terrier. I want a bloodhound to be a bloodhound. Showmanship and character has to go along with the breed. But, for me, to be great the dogs also have to be able to produce. I think what we’re doing is judging breeding stock. We’ve had lots of top winning dogs, but when they also produce other top quality specimens, that’s when I call them great.”


Beisel-McIlwaine strongly recommends Ric Beauchamp’s book “Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type” and understanding the five elements of type.

“Type is spelled out in the standard,” Beisel-McIlwaine. “There is only one correct type, but there are elements of style. If you took every Best in Show winning Wire Fox Terrier from the last 20 years and put them in the ring, you’d see big differences… Spot On, Dominator, Lonesome Dove, Special Edition… They are all so different.”


One of the lost arts of judging terriers, Beisel-McIlwaine contends, is sparring the dogs in the ring.

“(Sparring) is so important to do,” Beisel-McIlwaine said. “Especially when you have a nice group of terriers. It is NOT fighting, and not all breeds do it. It is showing the confidence. One of my favorite lines (from Wire Fox Terrier standard) is ‘on the tip toe of expectation.’ We want that fire. It’s trash talk, (the dog is saying) ‘I own this ring, I’m allowing you in this ring, but not for long’…

“Irish and Kerries are real tough…. they can set off real quick…. Cairns and Westies were bred to work together…but they won’t back down… Scotties want to do it all themselves.

“In (other countries) they won’t do it. It’s so frustrating. Instead of teaching people why we spar or dock or crop, we back down. We’re just saying, ’OK, it’s bad, we won’t do it anymore… you win.’ The Animal Rights people are taking control. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing two or three terriers standing their ground looking at each other, probably saying a few curse words and then walking away…

Beisel-McIlwaine worked with other judges at the Terrier Club of Michigan to create a “sparring seminar” that is available for purchase here. A discount is offered for judges who’d like to learn more about how to properly and safely spar dogs in their rings.


Finally, Beisel-McIlwaine gives encouragement and a caution to owner handlers.

“Nowadays (with all the shows) I don’t know when handlers have time to get dogs properly trimmed,” Beisel-McIlwain said. “Owner Handler dogs are often in better condition. I think Owner Handlers can do it.

“But I get offended when people say they can’t. That judges only put up Professional Handlers. I’m sure there are those that don’t have confidence and they put up Professional Handlers. But I don’t think it’s fair to say Owner Handlers can’t compete. I know they get discouraged. The Owner Handled series is popular, but it’s sad they even had to do it.

“(Unfortunately) people aren’t coming up and asking for help. (People) are in it for five years and get out because they know everything. Most people are more than willing to help people out. But you have to be brave enough to ask. We do want the sport to succeed. I’m a huge proponent of bench shows. I think it’s sad to see them dying out. We’d sit and listen to people. Go over dogs. They’d show you how to examine the dogs, what to look for. Today, half of the people don’t stay past 6-9 puppy dog if they don’t win.”

Peggy McIlwaine-Beisel



Art of Sparring

“The Art of Sparring Terriers” from the Terrier Club of Michigan


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Pure Dog Talk

“Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine on Judging Dogs as Breeding Stock”

Pure Dog Talk is the voice of pure bred dogs.  We talk to the legends of the sport and give you the tips and tools to create an awesome life with your pure-bred dog.  As strong supporters of the American Kennel Club, we talk about everything, from confirmation to preservation breeding, from competitive obedience to field work, from agility to therapy dogs, and all the fun in between.  Your passion is our purpose.  Tremendous thanks to our sponsor, Royal Canin.  Every day, more top breeders are choosing Royal Canin.  Join the winning team.

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Laura Reeves: Welcome to Pure Dog Talk.  I am your host, Laura Reeves, and we have a very special guest today, Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine, who is an American Kennel Club judge.  She is a breeder of Wire Fox Terriers and Cairn Terriers and was recently nominated for Judge of the Year in the, what used to be the Winkies.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yes, I don’t know what they’re calling them now.

Laura Reeves: Show Dog of the Year Awards.  That’s it.  Welcome Peggy.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Well, thank you for having me, Laura.  And we did breed Wires and Cairns and now we live with a couple Bull Terriers and are enamored by them.

Laura Reeves: Oh, my goodness.  Okay.  I had not heard that particular advance.  Very cool.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah, yeah.  I sleep with two of them.

Laura Reeves: Do you have white Bull Terriers or colored Bull Terriers?

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: We have one of each.  Our male, who is ten years old, is colored and the bitch is white.

Laura Reeves: Wow, very cool.  So, give us the 411.  Give us a little bit of a background.  I mean, you have been at this a long time. You have some wonderful stories I am very excited to get to.  So, how did you get started in this bit?

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Well, we always had a pure-bred dog.  They were never show-quality.  I was raised by a Collie and then when she died we got a Field Golden who took me through my teenage and adolescent years and crises.  And in high school one of my sisters and her husband ended up getting an Old English Sheep Dog and went to dog shows with, I think his name was Wally.  And I became very good friends with the breeders that they got Wally from and that’s who I got my first show dog from.  So, I got started late.  I bought her when I graduated from high school and she was born in ’74, so I graduated in ’73, but now everybody knows how old I am.  So, that’s how I got started going to dog shows and when I was in college I went to the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, and I was going to classes less and less and dog shows more and more and changed my major so many times that I thought, well, I’m going to take a break from college, and I got a job with Terrier master George Ward in 1977, after I finished my Old English and fell in love with Terriers and never looked back.

Laura Reeves: And that is the one that I’m excited – George Ward – I’m not sure how many of our listeners remember George Ward.  I personally never met him.  I only read about him and heard about him.  And the legend that was George Ward, I think is sort of an important mentor to talk about.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Well, it was great. He really had a special bond with the dogs.  And one time he said I was a great student because I didn’t have any bad habits I learned, because I came from an Old English Sheep Dog and didn’t know anything about stripping Terriers, but fell in love with the Terriers as soon as I walked into the kennel.  I actually met him at a show in Wisconsin.  I was working weekends for Connie Gerstner, now Connie Miller, meeting her at shows and helping her out and George was at a show and he needed an assistant.  And I had been talking to other people about full-time jobs, never intending to be a professional handler, but wanting to learn more about the proper care about dogs and breeding because I fully intended to become an Old English Sheep Dog breeder.  And then when I met him he was looking for help and I went and interviewed at his place, and his place was immaculate.  And I thought, yeah, I can work here, because I had visited a couple other kennels and there was just no way I was going to live there.  So, in the early summer of ’77, I went to work for George.  And I stayed there until, actually Mount St. Helen’s erupted the same time that I quit.  It was around the same time.  It was May of 1980.  So, that’s when I left his employment.  He wasn’t an easy person to work with, but I’m glad I learned Terriers from him because I didn’t learn any shortcuts.  Anybody who is close to me knows I don’t like the Terriers run in the ring.  They are not bred to be raced around the ring.  And to see a proper movement you’ve got to see them at the right speed, not racing around the ring.  So, that’s where that comes from.  I always tell them I am old school.

Laura Reeves: I like that.  So, George was certainly famous and well-known for being again that connection with the dog.  I remember hearing a story many, many years ago.  I don’t even remember from who, honestly, maybe Dennis Springer, about him like talking to the dogs in the ring and how he would just carry on a conversation with them.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: You know, he told me three things when I first started working for him when I would go in the ring.  First of all, never keep your hands in your pocket; it makes you look like you’re not serious.  And he said never chew gum in the ring.  And the third one, which has always stuck with me, is talk to the dogs in the ring; don’t let them think you are in there alone.  And when I judge Junior Showmanship I like to see the kids talking to the dogs in the ring, and they do respond.  They want to hear your voice.  You’ve got to talk to them loud enough so they can hear, some of those buildings can be pretty loud.  So, yes, definitely talk to the dogs in the ring.  But I loved it.  He said don’t let them think they are in there by themselves.

Laura Reeves: I absolutely love that.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah.

Laura Reeves: What are some of your other either major memories or sort of lessons that you came away with from somebody that a lot of people think was pretty much the master of Terriers?

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Well, obviously the proper trimming and care of the dogs.  His kennel is clean.  Dogs came first.  We’d go to a show and if it was too hot we’d just go back home.  The dogs came first and that should be of utmost importance.  And there were times I left shows because it was too hot.  If the dogs aren’t going to be safe, then it’s not worth it.  And most of his clients always understood that, and I think appreciated it, obviously.  But the grooming and the care of the dogs was number one.  I used to love all the old stories.  He and Dick Cooper were good friends and we’d always be set up with them and had dinner and talking and I remember Ed Bracy, and Bob (inaudible), and Bob Waters and soak up all the stories and Jack Funk’s stories.  I mean, just hysterical some of them, but I was like a sponge, just eating it all up.  It was great.

Laura Reeves: Right.  And that was sort of a different era too.  I think that our entire world, not just dog shows, are a little more politically correct these days.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah, it’s gotten to be a little too stiff.  Sometimes you got to have a little fun.  And I think that’s one of the things that’s happened to our sport, is now because of political correctness we’ve taken some of the fun out and it’s not attracting people anymore.

Laura Reeves: Certainly, when I grew up it was a lot of fun.  So…

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: I remember going to shows and playing cards and there was a game we used to play.  It was great.  I can’t remember what it is it was so long ago.  But it was just so much fun.

Laura Reeves: That’s my early memories.  So, you went on to handle professionally yourself, yeah?

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: I did.  I actually met my husband.  He had a little Cairn bitch that had gone undershot that he was having a hard time finishing.  And he hired George to finish her.  And that’s where I met my husband, Sandy.  And he had Cairns and Scotties and of course by the time I got to George’s I fell in love with Wires, so our kennel name was Foxairn, a combination of the Wires and Cairns.  And we always had a Scottie, but we were not going to breed three breeds.  So, when I met my husband and we moved into the Ann Arbor area and started our handling business and I was the handler and groomer but my husband managed the kennel and eventually the kids when I was on the road.  He was the original Mr. Mom.

Laura Reeves: Wow.  That’s very cool.  And I think something that we still see today in the sport I think about Luke and Rowan Baggenstos, and Luke and Tammy Seidlitz, and all of these people…

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Oh yeah.

Laura Reeves: …that are at the dog show with their kids.  We all go as a family.  And I love that.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah, and my kids were very social.  They could hold a conversation with anybody and I think because they were around so many different people, obviously.  My oldest son, he would even go and help me, and he did Junior Showmanship a little bit more than the second one.  And I don’t think the third one even went in to compete in Junior Showmanship because by the time my oldest was getting into the 8th grade I wanted to be home and be with them.  And that was the time I decided that I think I had to give up the handling and I wanted to go to their water polo games and swim meets and I always volunteered in their schools.  And family comes first.  So, we took, we had a couple slim years.

Laura Reeves: Yeah.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Because I quit, and my husband had been working for the railroad but when the handling business was making more money and we didn’t want a nanny.  So, anyway, we had a couple slim years and of course I was fortunate I got the whole Terrier group.  But, you know, I was lucky if I judged maybe fifteen shows in the first years.  Now the kids are all grown and gone and I’m back out as often as I can be.

Laura Reeves: So, let’s talk about judging.  And I ask this of a lot of people that I particularly respect their opinion.  What makes a great one, right, versus, a good dog in your mind?  What is that distinction?

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Well, first of all, they have to have the type.  As Annie Clark (inaudible), as she always said, you have to have the type first.  From that type, you pick the best movement.  And then, to make them be great, to have that little extra, is the showmanship.  Now, I don’t was a Bloodhound showing like a Fox Terrier.  I want a Bloodhound to be a Bloodhound, so their character and their showmanship has to be along with their type and their breed.  But, in order for me to call a dog great, they also have to produce.  Because I think what we’re doing is we are judging breeding stock, and we have had a lot of top winning dogs, but once they produce other top-quality specimens, that’s when I call them great.

Laura Reeves: And you just mentioned type, and again this is one of my favorites is Rick Beauchamp’s book and talking about type versus style.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Exactly. Yeah.  Rick Beauchamp’s “Five Elements of Type – that’s a great book, everybody should buy it and read it.  And he was wonderful.  I just loved him.  He was – oh, I’m getting emotional.  He was very special.  The first time I got nominated for the Winkie awards – this is actually my third nomination – but the first time, I got this cute little letter from Rick and then a personal little note on it.  I’m getting teary-eyed thinking about it.  And, so, I thought you know what, I’m going to frame it because it was very special to me.  It meant a lot that he took the time to write a little special note on it.

Laura Reeves: That is very special.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah.

Laura Reeves: I think he was special to a lot of us.  The very first time I ever judged anything, really, to speak of, I judged the sweepstakes for Clumber Spaniels, my family’s breed – and he was judging – at the national – and he was judging the regional the day I judged the sweepstakes.  And I remember being like beside myself with glee jumping up and down with my mom because the bitch that I had given the sweepstakes he gave best opposite over a whole bunch of specials.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah.  He was so passionate about the sport.  He is sorely missed.

Laura Reeves: I would definitely agree.  And one of the things that stayed with me from all the things that I read of his, was this concept of type versus style.  That type is what makes it a Wire Fox Terrier.  Style is your understanding of what a Wire Fox Terrier looks like.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah, your spin on it.

Laura Reeves: So, I think that it’s important for people to understand when they are talking about type, type is what your breed is.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah.  And type is spelled out in the standard.  Phil Marsh once told me there is only one correct type but there are those elements of style that do add into it.

Laura Reeves: So, let’s do an example.  I had Jim Reynolds do this with me with Scotties, and it was like the most fascinating thing I’ve ever done.  So, give me some examples, if you can think of any, in say Wires, of two dogs that exude breed type but have different styles.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: I think if you took every Wire Fox Terrier that ever went best in show in the last twenty years and put them in the ring you would see a big difference.  They are the epitome of a show dog, first of all, so that is a big selling point on them for when they go into the ring.  Well, you know, you take Spot On and you take Harry, the one that – I can’t think of his name and I know it as well as my own – well they were about the same time.  And, also George had Dominator.  Now, Dominator was Spot On’s son, but they don’t look alike.  So, Wire’s – isn’t the right choice of the breed because they’re – the one that Michael Kemp showed.

Laura Reeves: Wasn’t that Lonesome Dove?

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah.

Laura Reeves: Yeah.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah, Lonesome Dove was totally different too.  I mean…

Laura Reeves: Lonesome Dove is the one I was trying to think of something to compare her to because she was very specific in the look that she had, but I couldn’t come up with another dog for comparison.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah.  The one Peter Green had I loved.  I loved Special Edition that Ricky owned.  In fact, I bred to that dog, and I took a Dominator daughter and bred to him and had five out of the five finished.  I thought he was a spectacular dog, Special Edition.  But I also liked Spot On a lot.  But the Wire Fox Terriers probably have the biggest difference.

Laura Reeves: In the terrier group you think?

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Like I said, if you threw the last twenty years, even the last ten years of every one that has won best in show, you would be like are they the same breed?

Laura Reeves: Wow.  And one of the things that we haven’t talked about here on this show, and I think it’s – I don’t want to say esoteric, but it is very, very specific.  And that is talking about Sparring Terriers.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Well, I’m glad you brought that up because last year Beth Clovin, who is a Scottie person in Michigan, approached me and she said, I’m getting so tired, nobody’s Sparring Terriers anymore.  And she knows I do.  I don’t do it all the time, but I do do it because I think it’s important.  And she said, we have got to do a seminar.  So, Beth, myself, and the president of the Terrier Club of Michigan, Bobby Green, we all met at my house and we put together a program.  And we presented it for the Terrier Club of Michigan and prospective judges – I don’t think we had many judges – but we had a good turnout.  It was two years ago.  And it is available to purchase through the Terrier Club of Michigan.

Laura Reeves: Very good.  I could put a link on our website so people could go there to purchase it.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: They do give a discount rate for anybody who is planning on judging terriers.  But, it is so important to do, especially when you have a nice group of terriers, and it is not fighting.  And not all breeds do it.  One of the ways you can tell what breeds you don’t spar, obviously you don’t spar any of the bully breeds.  Or any of the breeds whose tails come off the back and don’t go up at the 90-degree angle.  But that’s not set in stone.  But it’s not fighting, it’s showing the confidence.  And one of my favorite lines in the Fox Terrier standard is on the tiptoe of expectation, and that’s what we want.  That is what we want in the terriers.  We want that spunk, we want that fire.  But it’s confidence.  And it’s like linemen on a football team saying, oh, I slept with your sister last night, you know, that type of stuff.  But I own this ring and I am allowing you in it.  But not for long.

Laura Reeves: Yes.  I showed an Irish terrier many years ago, Campaigned.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Oh!  The toughest of them all.

Laura Reeves: He was wonderful.  You know how sometimes as a handler you have that imaginary best in show lineup in your head, right…

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yes.

Laura Reeves: …of all the dogs you have shown.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Uh-huh.

Laura Reeves: In all honesty, this dog would win best in show in my ring every day.  He was amazing.  And they talk about the Irish Terrier.  They own the ground they stand on.  Right?

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yep. That’s very true.

Laura Reeves: This dog owned his ground, my ground, your ground, and everybody else’s ground.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Well it was all his ground.  And that’s how the terrier should be.  And your Irish and your Kerrys are real tough, and they’re Irish and just like the Irish people, they can set off real quick – and I can say that because I’m mostly Irish – where your Cairns and your Westies, they were bred to go to ground together, work together.  So, they shouldn’t back down, but they shouldn’t get too nasty with each other.  So, Scotties, they want to do it all themselves, so they can get pretty tough as well.  So, you’ve got to know within the breed what they are supposed to be doing, their personality.  And it’s a shame that in Europe FBI, they don’t allow it.  And in England they don’t want it anymore.  And this is what makes me crazy.  Instead of teaching people why we spar them, or why we dock a tail, or why we crop an ear, we back down and say oh, okay, it’s bad, we won’t do it anymore.  You know, you win.  And the animal rights people are taking control.  And let’s teach people that sparring is not about fighting, it’s just having the dogs come, take a look at each other and showing the confidence that they have.  And I’ll tell you there’s nothing more beautiful than seeing two or three terriers standing their ground looking at each other and probably saying a few curse words and then walking away.  It’s spectacular.


Laura Reeves: It is.  And I’ll tell you I was a sporting dog girl, you know, that’s all I knew, until I showed this dog.  And the owner was reluctant, actually, to have me show the dog because she didn’t think I could deal with him because he was so hot.  And God love Dennis Springer, my rabbi, he assured her that I could do it.  And I managed, but what an amazing experience.  And I would love it if you would talk a little bit about teaching the proper way to spar a dog.  I mean, I know how I was taught.  It was Dennis who taught me but tell people, okay, so you are in the terrier ring with this dog.  This is how you do it properly.


Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Okay.  What I do is if I have a class of say Airedales and I will take two or three, maximum four, never more than four, and you’ve got to be aware of who is handling them.  If you have somebody who is obviously going to be a novice, be cognizant of that and maybe skip it.  But, if you can see that there are people who can control, and I tell this person, okay, you go stand over in this corner, and you go stand right here, and you go stand over here, and we can always get closer, not too close, take a step forward, and once they are close enough and they are locked onto each other, not literally, but they’ve made eye contact, and I say okay, that’s close enough.  Just let them look.  And then you put them away or you move them one at a time.  Do not ever move them together once they’re been looking at each other.  And then I’ll put those three or four back in line and bring another three or four out or whatever.  Or if I only have four in the ring then I’ll have them go move around the ring one at a time.  This is all on the video promoting for the Terrier Club of Michigan.


Laura Reeves: I’m definitely going to put a link for that.  I think that is so cool.


Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah.  And I think it’s done pretty well.  I have to get the link for you, because off the top of my head I don’t know it.


Laura Reeves: That’s okay.  Just email it to me and we’ll put it up on the website.


Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Okay.  Great.


Laura Reeves: So, one of the things that I think is interesting to me as an observation, I mean clearly Terriers are not my thing that I do.  I’ve shown a few.  I enjoy the group and love the Irish particularly.  I see an awful lot of people that I was told not to do, basically baiting their dogs to focus on them rather than focus on the environment around them.


Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Oh yeah.  The bait has gotten completely out of hand.  Completely out of hand.  I mean, I walked up to the table and they’re shoving food in their mouths.  I mean the only time bait should be used is on the down and back, when you’re coming back to the judge, and show the bait to get the expression.  This goes across the board.  I mean, all breeds.  And I once was showing a Cairn that I did a lot of winning with, and I was moving down and back, and there was a ring full of Bouviers next to us.  And I came back, and he spotted the Bouviers, and locked on them.  Oh, he looked gorgeous.  Our breed judge said no, have him look at me.  And I’m like oh, okay, but look at how wonderful he looks.  I didn’t say it, I said it to myself, and I got his attention and he looked at my bait and then I looked at the guy’s tiepin and he had a Doberman pin on.  And I thought well okay.  Now that’s a breed that should stand and probably bait but it gets frustrating, because they should be looking at their environment, but they want to own the whole place.


Laura Reeves: Right.  And I always loved, I can’t even remember now again who said this or where I read it, but to me defines a lot of the sparring, not just that you are seeing their confidence, but also how much better most of these dogs look standing on their own than when you are fussing with them.


Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Oh, absolutely.  For one thing, when you are baiting them, oftentimes you are baiting them heads up so that you are getting the wrong alignment in their neck and shoulders and they are leaning back or whatever.  They look so much better on their own.  I remember one time I was exhibiting in Lexington and Ken Murry had, I think it was an American Foxhound, in best in show lineup.  I was not in that lineup.  Unfortunately, I had not won, but I was packing up the van and there were some polo ponies in the distance.  And that Foxhound saw those polo ponies, I mean, my God, and I was, I don’t know, fifty feet away from the ring, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the dog.  He looked so great, standing there just looking at those polo ponies.  And it was just wonderful.  I don’t know if he ended up going best, you’ll have to ask Ken.


Laura Reeves: Okay, I will do that.  So, you were talking earlier when we were talking about sparring, you were talking about someone who might be a novice, but I think one of the things I would like you to address is this sort of popular notion that owner-handlers can’t compete, that the only people that are going to win today are professional handlers, and they get frustrated.  So, let’s talk about that, and let’s talk about ways that the owner-handler can be more competitive.


Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: I think the owner-handlers are doing great.  For one thing, especially like in terriers, nowadays with shows every day practically, I mean when I was handling, maybe there would be a Friday, Saturday, Sunday show.  We would get home Sunday night, we would wash up the dogs Monday, and then we would start grooming Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and leave Thursday or Friday for the show.  Nowadays, I don’t know when these handlers get time to get the dogs properly trimmed.  Where your owner – now, they often have jobs, but they also only usually have a couple of dogs that they are actually showing at one time, they might have other dogs they have to keep in shape, but I think often their dogs are in much better condition.  There is a gal in the East Coast, Leslie Jassits, who had this Sealy bitch that did some winning last year.  She did a beautiful job of trimming that Sealy, I don’t think anybody could trim a Sealy better, and there is this gal from Canada that had the Mini Schnauzer owner-handler and did extremely well.  And that dog was in beautiful condition.  So, I think owner-handlers can do it.  I get offended when people say they can’t because I think they are thinking that judges only put up professional handlers.  And, yeah, I’m sure there are those that don’t have the confidence in what they are doing, and they put up professional handlers, but I don’t think that is fair to say, that owner-handlers can’t do it.  I know they get discouraged, and I know the owner-handler competition is really popular, but I think it’s sad that we even had to do it, had to have that competition because I think they can do it.


Laura Reeves: Yeah.  As a matter of fact, I’ve met Leslie and seen that particular dog and she is immaculately put down.


Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Oh beautiful.  And the gal with the Miniature Schnauzer, I think her name is (inaudible) something, and you know there’s a gal in Nebraska with the Spinones.  She does a beautiful job.  And I think there are plenty of owner-handlers out there.  A lot of the owner-handlers aren’t really interested in campaigning to make them in the top ten.  It takes a lot of money and a lot of travel.  And the expenses, the shows and the travel and the hotel rooms.  So, a lot of the owner-handlers are more interested in breeding.  And thank God for that.


Laura Reeves: Yeah.  So, last question, things that you can think of that we as long-term members of the sport can do to share that knowledge, your recommendation to your peers, or if you will, or my peers, the people who have been at this for a while and maybe sometimes are a little short with the new person and they shouldn’t be.


Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Well and that’s a shame.  Make yourself available, for one thing.  The other thing is people aren’t coming up and asking for help anymore.  We have all these instant experts and they’re in it for five years and then they get out because they don’t go anywhere.  You know they know everything.  So, it’s a two-way street.  I think most people in our sport are more than willing to help people out.  But people have to be brave and go and ask.  I mean, I’m sure somebody could go up to Gabriel and say you know I really need help with trimming my whatever, and I’m sure Gabriel would, maybe not at that moment, but would setup a time and be more than willing to help, and I’m just picking Gabriel out of a hat.  I am sure many of the professionals and owner-handlers will help.  I mean, we do want the sport to succeed.  And I’m a big proponent of the Bench Shows and I’m sad to see them dying out.  Because I remember Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago were the three when I was in the sport and we would sit and just listen to people that had been around a lot longer than me, and go over dogs, and they would show you how to examine and what to look for, and you just don’t have that time anymore.  People are in and out of the ring and heck, half of them don’t even stay if they don’t win the six-to-nine puppy dog class.  They’re out of there.  They don’t even watch their own breed.  I used to get there so early in the morning and I’d show my Old English and then I’d go sit and watch other breeds and talk to people and I’m sure I bothered tons of them.

Laura Reeves: I know I did.  So…

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: I know!  I had this book with my Old English, and every dog, and every judge I showed to, and what I thought, for whatever that was worth, because I didn’t have many thoughts back then.  And I remember showing it to somebody who I admired and who had been in dogs a long time and they said man are you ever diligent.  How am I going to learn if I didn’t do that?

Laura Reeves: Right.  I had that same notebook.  It’s purple and green polka-dotted, three-ring binder.  I have it.  I swear to God.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: I have it in a little scrapbook I guess.  It’s not anything fancy like scrapbooks of today, but it’s just like a photo binder and I have that of every judge.  When I get home I will have to pull it out and look at it again.

Laura Reeves: I haven’t looked at it in a while.  I may have to dig that out just because you said that.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah.  It has names like Larry Downing, and Bob Waters, and Dennis Greavis, all of those guys.

Laura Reeves: I look back at some of those old photos and one of my very, very first photos with any purebred dog was a picture of me with one of my Wire Hair Pointers and Jenny Line was judging and, I’m talking about 1983 here, okay, so I mean…

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Oh, I have these pictures.  I had real long hair, like any girl growing up in the early ‘70s, and I remember getting it cut and I hated it and it permed and it was awful.  And I went home to mom and her housekeeper trimmed a little bit more, so it was so bad that I wore a scarf for like the first year.  And, so, I have all of these pictures of me showing my dog with these scarfs on my head.  My hair was so bad.  Oh…

Laura Reeves: That’s beautiful.  I love that.  Oh, yes.  All of the things that we do as young people that we look back and go dear Lord.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Oh, I know, I know.  Oh, to be 21 and stupid again.

Laura Reeves: No, I want to be 21 with all I know now.  That would be okay.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Yeah.  With my, with the body I had at 21.  That would be even better.

Laura Reeves: Yes, exactly. Oh, my gosh.  Alright.  Well, Peggy, thank you so much.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Oh, you’re welcome Laura.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

Laura Reeves: Absolutely.  You have a great day.

Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine: Okay, bye-bye.

Laura Reeves: Okay, crew.  We are all continually striving for expert level, right?  But, over at Royal Canin, expertly bred expertly fed isn’t just a tagline.  These guys obsess over purebred dogs, and the perfect nutrition for each one of them.  Royal Caninformulas are developed with your breed’s unique needs in mind for superior muscle tone, coat health, and digestion.  As breed experts, we know the right nutrition can unlock the magnificence in our dogs, and the best part is so do the Royal Canin folks.  And they are showing their support for purebred dogs every day, including supporting your favorite podcast.  So, checkout the Royal Canin Crown Partners Breeder Rewards program.  It is a major win for breeders.  You can visit my.royalcanin.com to sign up.  Membership benefits include 20% savings over in-store prices, quarterly rewards, free puppy kits, exclusive promotions, and a whole lot more.  Check it out, crew.

The Dog Show Superintendents Association is a proud supporter of PureDogTalk.  Our Dog Show Superintendents are the hardworking people who make the dog show function.  They are advocates for education and mentorship in the purebred dog fancy.  So, stop by the super’s desk at your next show.  Tell them how much you love PureDogTalk and give them a shout out for their support.  That is all for today.  Thank you for joining us on PureDogTalk, brought to you by the Aramedia Group, publisher of ShowSight Magazine, your home for purebred dogs. 

[Length: 30 minutes, 37 seconds]

Pure Dog Talk



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