184 – Merriam: Guts and Governance, the Bull Terrier, Breeders

“Guts and Governance” of purebred dogs, the Bull Terrier, and Breeders

Hon. David Merriam was given a White Bull Terrier in 1953. “Gigi” was the gift that keeps on giving, starting a 65-year love affair with the breed and purebred dogs.

When Merriam was given Gigi, he had some Collies. “They were not very good collies, conformation-wise,” he said. “Then I was given this bull terrier and she won quite a bit,” he added, in regard to why he’d chosen the Bull Terrier breed. “And winning is better than losing. They grow on you. You become very chauvinistic about them.”

Judging Similarities in Court or in the Ring

Merriam was a trial court judge in Southern California for 20 years and president of the Golden State Bull Terrier Club while still in law school.

“There’s a similarity in judging law cases and dog shows,” said Merriam, who presided over Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club in 2015. “Each has a standard. AKC has a standard for each breed. In the courts the standard is known as the law. In the courts you receive evidence… testimony or physical evidence. In a dog show the evidence is the dogs in front of you. What you see and feel and the application of the standard to those animals.”

History and Judging of Bull Terriers

The essence of the Bull Terrier is the head, Merriam noted. “It’s an egg-shaped head. It’s only commonly been found in the last 20 years or so. Heads have improved enormously. Alva Rosenberg said, ‘Close your eyes, put your hand on the head. It should feel like a velvet egg.’”

The breed was developed as the *white* bull terrier, Merriam said. “Those devoted to the White Bull Terrier thought the Colored dogs were mongrels,” he added. “It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the Colored Bull Terrier was imported to the US from England. There were huge fights within the bull terrier club and the American Kennel Club about recognition of the variety. “Colored (bull terrier) development was slow. It wasn’t until the ‘70s that the quality began to be developed,” he observed.

“It’s been a successful marriage,” Merriam said of the two varieties. He remarked on some problems associated with white bull terriers, including deafness and skin problems. Research by the BAER hearing test program showed that “(In) white to white (breedings), one-third of the litter would have some hearing deficiency. White to colored that went down to 6 percent.”

BTCA presented the information to breeders, who then found value in the Colored variety and began using them in breeding programs. “If you give competent breeders the tools and the information, they’ll help correct the situation,” Merriam said.

Guts and Governance

As a long-time AKC delegate and past Chairman of the Board of Directors, Merriam noted that the “guts” of the sport is at the level of the next dog show and the next breeding.

“The governance of it, whether in the delegate body or the Board of Directors, is of lesser interest to all the people here at the dog show,” Merriam said. “How many exhibitors or breeders read the minutes of the board meetings? They only become aware of those when a new regulation comes down.”

Calling himself a “traditionalist,” Merriam challenged some of the ideas and directions of the American Kennel Club.

“If I were king, I would divide the kennel club,” Merriam stated. “I would have the traditional part of conformation and field trials in one group and then I would have all of the other (companion events) in another group. … Each of the two organizations would have to support themselves.”

“The most important thing,” Merriam said in summary, “is that each breed has a coterie of outstanding breeders. They are what moves the breed ahead. Nothing that AKC does change that.”

We hope you enjoy this thought-provoking, challenging, and fascinating conversation with one of the legends of our sport.

183 — Solving the Mysteries of AKC Points and Divisions

Solving the Mysteries of AKC Points and Divisions

AKC releases a new point schedule every year in May to determine how many entries it takes to earn championship points in each breed. Intermittently, the “divisions” that address alignment of regions in which certain point schedules apply are adjusted as well. On May 16 this year, the new points schedule and a division realignment go into effect.

Alan Slay, AKC Director of Event Programs, is here to walk us through the process involved in determining what “makes a major” in every single breed and sex and region of the country each year.

Computers to the Rescue

Fortunately, computers do most of the hard work, Slay said. But the basic formula has remained the same since at least 1971, the oldest documentation he could find.

“So a software program goes and looks at each division, breed and sex,” Slay said. “… 15 Divisions, each breed, each of the sexes, you do that math, that’s a lot of looking. (It) individually looks at the shows that had competitors and then it sorts them and then uses those guidelines set by the board of directors to determine what the number of competitors should be required for each of those one, two, three, four and five points.”

The AKC Board of Directors’ guidelines, according to Slay, are that 95 percent of shows should have one point available, 18 percent of shows should have at least a three-point major on offer and 2 percent of shows should have a five-point major in each division, breed and sex.

Nationals NOT Included in Calculations

Slay noted that Parent Club National Specialties are NOT included in these calculations. He added that more recently ANY show within three days and 50 miles of a National Specialty also is not included in these averages.

Myself and others working on this saw some disparity of almost a penalty for allowing a National Specialty to come into your division the way the formulation used to work,” Slay said. “About four years ago, we went to the Board of Directors and said this is just not fair. For instance, you have a national specialty occurring on a Thursday, maybe Wednesday and Thursday. And you’d have a cluster over the weekend at the same site on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Well that Friday, Saturday, Sunday for that breed would have an inflated number of competitors compared to what it would normally have. And those all-breed or other specialties were counting toward the point schedule.”

New Divisions Bring Fairness to Exhibitors

Slay and his team also looked at fairness and equal distribution of shows when they created the first realignment of divisions in six years.

“This is an odd-looking division we created with Arizona and Colorado,” Slay said. “ … it would be nice to make a little square there (and) make a division out of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. But that is not fair to Utah and New Mexico.

“Utah and New Mexico … the people who live in those states would be greatly affected by the competitors in Arizona and Colorado. … it’s the fairest thing we could do because … Utah and New Mexico really belong in that division with Nebraska, New Mexico and Nevada, and South Dakota. They had similar size shows.”

I hope everyone takes a minute to listen to this excellent discussion with Mr. Slay and is able to gain a greater understanding of how our points and divisions are created. There’s no voodoo magic here!

And remember to stick around for Allison Foley’s Tip of the Week from the Leading Edge Dog Show Academy. Today Allison is talking about getting dogs past those things they hate, including toe nail trimming.

To reach Alan Slay on email, go to ALS@AKC.org … To access this information on an interactive PDF, click here AKCConformationPointsSchedulePodcastImages


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Pure Dog Talk is the voice of purebred dogs. We talk to the legends of the sport and give you the tips and tools to create an awesome life with your purebred dog. From showing 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!
LAURA REEVES: Welcome to pure dog talk. I am your host Laura Reeves and I have a very special guest for us today. Mr. Alan Slay is joining us from the American Kennel Club. Alan is the Director of Event Operations correct, Alan?
ALAN SLAY: Event Programs, but essentially the same.
LR: Event Programs. OK very good. And we’re coming up onto May when the point schedule changes every year – we all wait for it to see whether we’re going to get more or less or how are our majors going to work. And everybody is all excited. And sometimes there’s confusion about how that works and why things go the way they do. So Allen is here to help us understand that and I really appreciate your time.
AS: You’re welcome.
LR: Excellent. OK. So as I was mentioning, point schedules, divisions, all of this – this is very intense interest, right, to those of us that are showing our dogs and we’re always looking for, you know, the best advantage or where can I go to find that major. How does this work. So can you give us some of the sort of critical infrastructure that makes this happen. You’re the guy that does this, this is your baby if you will.
AS: I’m responsible for it yeah, I work closely each year with our technology team. The AKC technology services – ATS. And so there are really two components here. There’s the one is that each year we formulate the point schedule for the following year, and then traditionally about every five years we do an analysis of the composition of the divisions to try to make sure we have a fair and balanced division of states across the different divisions. And it just so happens this year was one of the years – we’d last done it in the point schedules released in 2012. And this year we did that realignment. So I’ll take you through each of those.
LR: That would be amazing!
AS: The overall process and then we can discuss more details and each one of them if you if you would like. Because I’ll make sure I understand how it worsk.
LR: I think it’s wonderful and listeners, just a note, I am still a dog breeder here at Pure Dog Talk and that is a bitty baby puppy you might hear in the background so forgive us. So go ahead Alan. I really think this is important for people to understand.
AS: Sure. So let’s talk about the, just the point schedule we do every year. And that is, our clock for formula that starts somewhere about mid January and because that is the time when we will have processed all the conformation events, the results, from the previous year. So one thing I want to point out is, is that while our point schedule begins usually in May -w e started somewhere on the second or third week of May – we try to pick a date where there are no or few events that for a string there at the point schedule is consistent for the string of events occurring at a site. The point schedule itself is based off the competition that was held in the previous calendar year. And I want to emphasize that is the competition because there are some misconceptions out there that we base it off of the total number of entries or the total number of shows where a breed could compete, or it’s the registration – none of that is true, just based purely off of the dogs that competed within a division, a breed, and a sex the previous year. So that’s what goes into the process for determining that point schedule.
AS: So sometime around the second week of January, once we process the results, what we’ll do is work with the technology services and we have some software programs that have been programmed to reflect the guidelines that have been set by the board of directors as to how to set the points the number of competitors required at the 1/2/3/4/5 point level and for a refresher for folks.
LR: Right cause I think this is new to a lot of people so if we can just kind of break that down just a little bit.
AS: I will and I’ll say that preparing for the talk, I’ve been on the AKC since 1996, so in my 20 years this has always been the same and I did a little research trying to find out, you know, when did this go into effect. As far back as we could find, 1971, and it was in effect then so-…
LR: Wow.
AS: You know it’s been in effect for a long time so there’s nothing new as far as the percentages at each of the point levels.
LR: But what I’m saying is I don’t think people understand that those percentages exist, right? Like, I’ve been in this my entire life and I didn’t know this, so I think this is – I want to put a big bold star around this listeners because this is good information.
AS: Sure. So in each division – I’m gonna read right off some information from our Web site – I think you’re going to include the information you provide associated with the link to this discussion. I’m gonnea read it just right off of that because I think that’s the clearest and easy way to do that. And that is for one point, ninety five percent of the shows where there was competition carry one or more points for dogs and bitches. Each one of these is done separately, each division, breed and sex.
LR: Which can I just say that’s a lot of dogs! That’s a lot of work! I mean you’re talking about 190 breeds, 50 states, 14 divisions and you have to do this for every single one – I just think it’s crazy.
AS: Well that’s what I’m saying, the software program actually has this information and it puts out our first cut of this before we then do some fine tuning to try to make sure that we benefit the exhibitors all that we can. And the way the software works it figures out the one point, the three points. Three points is as close as possible to 18 percent which should not exceed 20 percent of the shows in a division or to carry major points – that’s 3, 4, or 5. And the majors created by best of winners, best of breed, best of opposite, are not counted on this calculation and are effect bonus majors over and above the 18 percent. So the software will determine the one percent – the one point threshold for competitors, the three point threshold, and then the 2 point I said it half the difference between the 1 and 3 Point Break. Then the software begin to calculate the 5 point – the number of competitors required for five points – and that’s as close as possible to 2 percent of the shows already carry 5 points. And then the way we get the 4 point is to get the set at two thirds of the difference between the three and five point break. So a software program goes and looks out for each division, breed and sex. It looks that for each of those are you talking about like you said at each breed the 15 Division each of the sexes so you do that math as a lot of looking individually looks at the shows that had competitors, and then it sorts them and then uses those guidelines set by the board of directors to determine what the number of competitors should be required for each of those the 1/2/3/4/5 points. LR: Right
AS: Now one thing I want to point out is, is that when it’s looking at those shows and I call them candidate – that’s how I refer to them -these are shows that are candidates to be included in the point schedule formulation process. Once again there had to be competition and it was only regular classes. If I had three entries in the record classes and they were all absent, that show itself was not counted in the competition or if there were no issues. So that’s an important aspect there.
LR: And I think it’s important to note because I read this in some of your material, national specialties and regional specialties associated with nationals don’t bump your points schedule up. Is that a correct statement?
AS: It’s actually beyond that. Let me read that – I’d like to extrapolate a little bit …
LR: Yeah, that’d be great.
AS: Let me read here off the web site and then I’ll go a little bit further because it’s even further than what you just said there. Competitions offered by parent clubs are not included in the points schedule, so anything offered by the parent club doesn’t count. And that includes independent specialties as well as designated specialties.
LR: Wow OK.
AS: And this is the part that you were speaking of: Breed competition – notice I said breed competition, and I’ll loop back around that – held by any club, an all breed group or specialty, within plus or minus three days and 50 miles of the breeds parent club National Specialty are excluded from the formulation. Myself and others working on this saw some disparity of almost a penalty for allowing a National Specialty to come into your division the way the formulation used to work. About four years ago, we went to the board of directors and said this is just not fair. For instance you have a national specialty occurring on a Thursday, maybe a Wednesday and a Thursday, and you have a cluster over the weekend the same side on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – well that Friday/Saturday/Sunday for that breed would have an inflated number of competitors compared to what it would normally have, and those all breed or other specialties were counting toward the point schedule. And so that was almost a penalty for bringing in the national into your division.
LR: Yes.
AS: So we looked at that, we didn’t think that was fair to the exhibitor, and we successfully – the board directors completely agreed. So now we exclude any competitio – it doesn’t matter if it’s held by a local club, a specialty all-breed group, a designated – it doesn’t matter – any competition within plus or minus three days and 50 miles of the National does not count. That also help with things like Montgomery where there’s a lot Natinoals held up there. It took those out of the equation. So actually there are more majors being handed out than just the percentages there. And the last thing I’ll say is is that any events held in conjunction with the AKC National Championship are excluded. So all of the lead up events which is occurring currently in Orlando, even those events are at excluded because once again that would inflate the point schedule, make it more difficult for the rest of that division.
LR: Florida would be in a world of hurt.
AS: So the one thing I do want to point out is one thing when you mention a regional specialty, is there is some misconception out there that we don’t count regional specialties. Well maybe, maybe not. Once again let’s go back to what the board has agreed to there for their guidelines. If that regional specialty is held by the parent club absolutely it is not included in the points schedule formulation. If that regional specialty is held by any club -a local club or a regional club, however the parent club defines it – within plus or minus three days or 50 miles of their national specialty. You only get one National Specialty a year and, you know, some breeds have a National Specialty then a roving. Well they pick which one they want to consider to be their one National per year and that’s what we use. So any one between plus or minus three days or 50 miles, that’s not included. However, if there’s a regional specialty, you know, not within plus or minus three days or 50 miles of a national, and it’s not held by the parent club, those are included in the point schedule formulation.
LR: Right. OK. So I’m just thinking of, for example, this is – and I’m trying to help the listeners understand this and you can clarify if I’m wrong – for example say the Spinone Club of America doesn’t have independent local clubs. And so their parent club hosts regional specialties around different parts of the country and those are not National so those do count for those parts of the country for their point schedules. Is that accurate?
AS: Not if it’s held by the parent club. If it’s on the parent club’s name – no event held under the parent club’s name counts towards the point schedule formulation.
LR: Good. OK, so that’s clear. Nice. Very good. OK. So now we’ve got a handle on that and I think it’s important for exhibitors to understand that 95 percent of the shows are going to have one point and 18 percent of the shows in a division are going to have a three point or a major and only 2 percent of them are supposed to have a five point major – is that – just barebones.
AS: That’s correct. That’s correct. And the software program will then use that algorithm and give us a file of the proposed point schedule. And then we – and I will say this used to be done manually – it’s not anymore.
LR: I bet you’re happy about that, Alan.
AS: Yeah I am. Because you get some blurry eyes looking over here. You get to about that twelfth division and you know you want to treat everybody fairly but it used to be about a two day deal with a door closed. We’ve written a series of database queries that will show us some anomalies. For instance depending on the way competition was held, sometimes the software will put something out that will say something like two competitors for one point, four for two points, and four for three points. You can’t have a duplicate there so we’ll go and have that adjusted to make that two points down to three. So we run a series of queries to do that and a few other things. We’re running it through there to try to make sure we are as fair as we can be to the exhibitor because up until 2012, there used to be – the other thing I want to emphasize here about that point schedule formulation is, right now and since 2012 it has been based off just the previous calendar year. It used to be, prior to 2012, a rolling 3 year. And we saw that having problems because what was happening is, once again, if you had a large event come through your area – like a roving specialty, a large, you know, just a large event – you were kind of penalized for three years. You know because it was the average across that.
AS: Well that’s not how it is anymore. It’s only off the previous year. And also in there, there were some like we have some governors where we try to not have any division, or any division breed sex, go up by more than a certain percentage in a given year. So even if there’s something coming in there we try to soften that a little bit and that’s been, you know, we discussed that with the board. We try to make sure there’s a fair and balanced point schedule, but adhering to what the guidelines – what the board has directed us to do – we have to do that. That is our job – to implement and support the board policy.
LR: Well and I think too, part of this is you know everybody wants to finish their dog and they want to, and I know this is outside your purview, but for me it’s like well just because you’ve got a major – you know what I’m saying, that cheap major thing I think, is something we talk about in this sport as exhibitors and I think it’s good to know that the American Kennel Club is aiming to make sure that you know a show championship means something. Right. That’s what these points are designed to do.
AS: And they adjust. We’ve seen for the most part, we’ve seen – and it’s not across the board – but for the most part, the number of competitors has dropped through the number of years as the number of competitors has dropped. So the point schedule is actually doing its job, whether it’s going up or down because it’s reflecting what is happening in the sport, and trying to reflect that so that is fair as it can be to the exhibitors.
LR: Perfect. Ok so now talk to us about divisions. Now this division change that is happening this year, and it’s going to start in about a month, this is a new one and I was looking at it and thinking, “Well, that’s kind of, hmm.” So take us through that. How does that work for us?
AS: Well this started for us – I’ll just speak for us – I’ll just speak to this particular one – this was started in June of 2017. We started doing analysis on the divisions. Obviously one of the key things that makes up the division is geography. I mean it’s very obvious. We’re going to try to keep it so geography matters. You know, other than a single state division, a state should always have a shared border with at least one other state in the division. When we look at the divisions and the makeup we’re looking at the number of all-breed shows. We don’t take into account – because the specialties come and go more. At a macro level, we’re looking at the analysis on the distribution of – we’re looking at all – breed shows and we look at the number shows, the total entry, the average entry, and the standard deviation. I will say that the average entry is the key component there. We want it to be consistent as possible because with this many variations of divisions breeds and sexes across the nation in the pockets of breeders and especially breeds that are not as popular as some others from a showing point of view – a breeding point of view – there’s going to be anomalies. And so we have to really step back from a macro point of view and look at this and try to say well if we’ve got as much as we can to similar size shows across the division, it will trickle down and be as fair as it can be. So we spend a lot of time looking at that. I’ve got to do a lot of work and Excel and a lot of theories goes into the database.
LR: I’ll bet you do!
AS: I’m looking at trends to try to make it more fair and balanced and see what’s changed in the sport in the last five years – in this case six years – since the divisions were last realigned. And there were some things that jumped out at us and then there’s some things that data brought to our attention. Of course during that whole time exhibitors provide their feedback of some of the changes they would like to have in their divisions and we took those all into account as well. You know as part of that.
LR: Right. I’d like it if you could talk to that a little bit more and I know that maybe you guys don’t really necessarily want everybody yelling at you, but I think it’s important that people understand that there is a method in which if you have a particular observation that you can voice that opinion to the American Kennel Club. So can you give us just a little snippet of how that would work?
AS: I’ll use a couple here. One of them is is that Arizona was included with California in the last realignment and before that California had always been its own division. I wasn’t part of that formulation process and I’m sure the was a reason for that, but the more we looked at it, it was causing a lot of problems for a lot of breeds for both Californians and Arizonians, with that alignment. So it made sense to once again have California on its own and then move Arizona to another division. This is where I will say we struggled the most in the realignment.
LR: It was the one that caught my attention so I’m interested to hear how this went.
AS: And it’s because of the distribution of – once again I said we would try to have an even number of shows across a division. Well, one of the issues we have there – and this is an odd looking division we created with Arizona and Colorado – it looks really odd. But if you look at that, there’s a big difference between the exhibitors and the number of shows and the numbers between … you know if you look at … it’d be nice to make a little square there, oh we’re gonna make a division out of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. That is not fair to Utah and New Mexico You know, they do not have what I’ll call an exhibitor pattern and that really takes into account the size of the all-breed shows whic,h once again, is a basis for this.
LR: Got it.
AS: You know Utah and New Mexico are – the people who live in those states would be greatly affected by the competitors in Arizona and Colorado. And that’s an odd looking division with all around Arizona. But it’s the fairest thing we could do because, as we did, Utah and New Mexico really belongs in that division with Nebraska and New Mexico and Nevada and South Dakota. They had the similar size shows. And so that’s an example of one that was the one we had the most difficulty with.
LR: You know that makes so much more sense. You know living out here on the west coast and all my west coast people and we all drive all over ridiculous distances. But that explanation makes so much more sense. And it is absolutely on target based on what I know of – personally know – of the dog shows in Colorado and Arizona, much more active, more number of shows, bigger shows, versus New Mexico and Utah. That makes perfect sense to me now.
AS: Yeah because you know the easy thing for us to do would be just pretty much lay a grid and say OK we’re going to group all these together, but that would not be fair to the exhibitors. And I’ll bring another one to your attention, and one is as we move Tennessee. And we moved them into a division with Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi. They not only fit geographically, but once again, the average size of their shows fit much better than the shows that were in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and D.C. overall. That made a lot of sense to do that based off of, you know, looking at the shows. That’s an example of some of the things we looked at when doing this. So we started out in June or July and we finished it all up with approval of the board of directors – I believe it was in the October timeframe. I will say this last analysis of the division composition was the most complete and thorough that I know of being done here at the AKC in over 20 years I’ve been here. And once again we put that effort in because we want it to be as fair as we can to the exhibitors.
LR: Right. And so I want to loop back a minute to what we were talking about before. If someone notices something that slipped through the cracks in their particular breed, in their particular division, in terms of, wow it seems like we really shouldn’t have to have 15 Clumber Spaniels to make a major here in Oregon or something like that – is there a process, is there a thing that someone could do that they could bring this to somebody’s attention? How does that particular – I think communication sometimes is one of the areas between exhibitors and the American Kennel Club that gets a little lost. So how do we do that?
AS: Sure. Well it all comes to me to start with. So I will provide you my e-mail address here. And then I’ll let you provide it on the link and that’s ALS@akc.org
LR: Excellent. You’re a brave man Alan.
AS: Well no. The thing is, is that we do review it. We do review each one of them. Every time somebody brings something to me I have the queries that I can run and do the analysis and I show people – and I will tell you there are two things that usually happen and that is, is that you have somebody – it usually revolves around breeds in which there’s not a whole lot of events where the breeds are shown throughout the year in the division. So each division you’re going to have somewhere between about 60 and 180 opportunities to exhibit your dog.
AS: Now you have some situations where you have a breed that out of that 80-160 there’s only 10 events in that whole division for that year which there are any competitors.
LR: Yeah. I see that in my breed actually pretty regularly.
AS: Right. And so if we were just talking about Alabama/Arkansas/Louisiana/Mississippi/ Tennessee Division 14, that those 10 events, you know, and out of those 10 events there maybe only be three or four – there’s more than one or two competitors. If all those are happening in this case in Louisiana and you live 300 miles away and you’re busy that weekend, that may have been the only chance at your major in your division. That doesn’t mean you can’t cross another division but it usually revolves around this small breeds that we try to take a close look at that. And then you’ll have the situation where you have them even more popular breeds. I’ve received several phone calls this year of some more popular breeds and they’ll say there’s no way we should’ve went up by three or four competitors. There’s no way. And so then now run my query while we’re on the phone usually or I’ll get back with them – I’ll say, here it is. I’ll use an example – you had a hundred shows last year at which there were competitors. There were this number at 18 of them, this number or more, you know there’s 15 competitors more 18 and 18 of out of 100 is 18 percent. And then all list off the shows to the exhibitor. And they’ll go, “Oh that’s because that big closter or that big cluster.” If they count, they count – there’s no t hing I can do about that. I’m just transparent in that. That’s a good thing is is going through this process, I feel very comfortable that we are correctly implementing the board policy. Now, somebody may disagree of the board policy and those percentages. But I feel very comfortable that our system is doing the right thing as far as implementing board policy.
LR: Well I think it’s really important that people understand there is a human. It’s not voodoo magic. There’s no I have newt and tail of frog here. This is science-y.
AS: You know we don’t take this lightly at all. I’m the one that does talk to those exhibitors and it provides even a greater appreciation and understanding of the love they have for the sport, of all the things that they give up to participate in the sport, and how sometimes it’s hard. It’s really hard. You know like, and like to get majors, I will say that one thing is going to surprise some people, you know people say is harder than ever to get majors, and that’s a matter of perspective. But unfortunately, because of the decrease in the number of competitors, it has somewhat driven by when you have new breeds coming in they almost always come in at the minimum 2/3/4/5/6 for 1/2/3/4/5 points. With this new point schedule, 79% of the division breed/sex combinations, are at the minimum. Now they cannot go any lower. They are at the minimum of 2/3/4/5/6.
LR: 79%. Wow.
AS: 10 years ago, that was at 51% – about half. So for 79 % of the overall situations, you’re at the minimum.
LR: That’s actually kind of an incredible number that I had not heard before and that is interesting.
AS: So from a macro view it’s easier than ever to get majors. For the person like I talked about who has that breed where only 10 are going to show up and there’s really only going to be a major because those smaller breeds too are also very effectively using their communication networks and social media to say hey we’re going to get together and we’re all going to go to these events this year. You know that may be their only chance. So for those people it is hard. You know it is as hard or harder than ever and you do whatever they can to stay in the sport. And I get even a greater appreciation when reviewing the point schedule with those people who have questions about it.
LR: Excellent. Well Alan I really, really appreciate your time and your insight and your thoughtfulness on this and I will make sure listeners that you have the information if few will have some charts and we’ll have some contact information. So I think this has been a really good opportunity for people to really kind of dial into how this happens and that it isn’t voodoo magic. So I appreciate that a lot.
AS: Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

LR: All right crew we are back with Allison Foley from the Leading Edge Dog Show Academy and she has her tip of the week for us. Welcome Allison.
ALLISON FOLEY: Hi Laura. How are you today.
LR: I’m great. How are you.
AF: I’m good thanks.
LR: Excellent. So tell us what is today’s tip.
AF: So we we’re at Poodle Club of America and somebody said I have a tip of the week for you and I said ok. And it was. How about explaining some of the tips and tricks you use to get a dog over something that they hate. So something that you have to do to them all the time – grooming, bathing, nails or something. And how do you get them through it or over it. So it’s not always such a hate relationship.
LR: I like it.
AF: Right. So I thought that I’m probably going to do two or three of these but I’m going to start with the obvious one which is toenails because so many people have dogs or they come to me and they say my dog just hates getting its nails clipped, or it’s like such a struggle to get their nails clipped. So here you go.
AF: So I was born and raised with Afghan Hounds and we all know, or if you don’t, Afghans are notorious for hating their feet being touched never mind their nails being done. So one of the first things that I was taught and something that I always always remember is first of all it’s like when you go to the dentist and you’re getting some dental work done and it requires freezing right? So the dentist says like this is gonna pinch but they don’t really show you that needle like coming down onto your face right. And if do like it’s really, really scary. You never see the needle – just a little bit of pressure they try to distract you by maybe like pinching your cheek or stinging your lips or something.
AF: And I used that approach for toenails so my dogs never see the toenail clippers or the grinder coming really, and you know if it’s a dog that actually has a hairy foot like an Afghan or Havanese or a Shitzu or something like that. First of all I’m not really going to grind those nails, so what I do is I keep the toenail clippers beside me and when I’m drying their foot I just do the toenails on that foot because first of all the blow dryer’s pushing all the hair away from the toenail and I can get in there easier with the nail clippers without the hair getting in the way. And you know you’ve done three nails before they really realize what you’re doing and do the fourth and then maybe they’re getting upset. But now you just dry them for another 15-20 minutes till you get to the next foot. Right.
LR: I like that.
AF: I’ve always done that. And you know I’ve had people watch me do it like at a show or something and they’ll be like oh that makes life so much easier. And I’m like, yeah. Like in so many ways right. And so I will use the same approach for other breeds right. Like instead of making it a big deal that right before I start grooming them I do their nails or at the very end of grooming them I do their nails. I just kind of do it as I go along right. So if I’m drying a foot, like even on a Springer or a Poodle, especially if it’s a dog I know that anticipates it and gets upset about it I’ll just do the nails then.
AF: And again a lot of times especially, you start by holding the front foot behind the dog – not in front of the dog. And a lot of times they don’t see it. And again it’s like the third or fourth nail before they even realize what you’re doing. And I find that that really, really helps. So I guess my summary of that is, don’t anticipate it because dogs don’t want to let us down. Right. So if we come at them, you know like OK now it’s time to do your nails kind of like the dentist saying you know put this big needle in your face, and it’s going to hurt twice as much as we’re thinking about it. It’s like when somebody rips the bandaid off. Just get it over quickly. So try to do it in a manner that the dog isn’t anticipating it and you’re maybe not doing all 16 plus nails at once. Right. Maybe I’ll just do four and then 20 minutes of relaxing grooming time and then four more nails so that’s my tip of the week. like.
LR: I like it. I use a similar method. I always start with the back feet right becasue for whatever reason is it you know like the blinders on the horse they can’t see you coming it’s not as dramatic right. So that’s a good one. Thank you so much Alison. And listeners don’t forget your Pure Dog Talk 25 when you check out of one of your Leading Edge Dog Show Academy courses gives you a 25% discount and you can have a cup of coffee on Alison and I.
AF: Sounds great to me.
LR: Excellent thanks Allison.
AF: No problem.

The Dog Show Superintendents Association is a proud supporter of Pure Dog Talk. Our dog shows superintendents are the hard-working 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 Pure Dog Talk and give them a shout out for their support. That’s all for today. Thank you for joining us on Pure Dog Talk.

182 – Love the Breeds: Clumber Spaniel Roundtable

Love the Breeds: Clumber Spaniel Roundtable

Clumber Spaniels are not for everyone, these three breeders say, but for those who love them, they’ll never have another breed. Shedding, snoring, and slobbering aside, they agree that the dedication and humor of the Clumber Spaniel is what endears them to their owners.

You can come home from work after having a bad day and you open up the door and here’s this ball of fuzz with a toy in their mouth and their butt’s going everywhere. Not to give you the toy, just to show you the toy,” said breeder-judge Jan Sutherland.

Meeting a Rare Breed

With only an estimated 3,000 dogs in the U.S., the breeders strongly recommend prospective owners go to a national specialty as well as meet dogs in their home environments, so they can experience “love mauling” in person.

Attend a national specialty before you even make the plunge,” breeder judge Jim Fankhauser said. “Look at the extent of what’s out there before you jump in and make that commitment.”

Excellent Hunting Dogs

A very old flushing spaniel named Clumber Park in Sherwood Forest in England, the breed was developed to push through low hedges in search of game. They remain determined, a methodical hunting dog that works close to the hunter. Breeder Dr.

Roe Froman, DVM describes them as the “Humvee” of spaniels.

“Find it, flush it, fetch it,” Froman said of the breed’s job. “I love hunting with Clumber Spaniels. I don’t know how many hunt test legs we’ve put on our dogs. Many, many, many for the 20 years we’ve been doing this. It is the most fun I think we can have with our dogs. We love it. They love it. I love it.”

While a Clumber’s antics are charming, and they are deeply devoted to their people, breeders agree that new owners should be aware of potential health concerns and idiosyncrasies.

Health Issues to Consider

Clumbers are notorious for eating foreign objects. Froman said it is the number one health risk in her experience. The discussion included who had the most foreign body removal surgeries. More than one had stories of dogs opening up six and seven times to take out blankets, socks, rocks, towels, plastic, toys, etc.

Potential disease risks include neck and back problems common to long-bodied dogs, autoimmune-mediated hemolytic anemia, and an enzyme deficiency called PDP1.

So, if you’re going to have a Clumber or multiple Clumbers,” Froman said, “pet insurance is a really good thing to think about. they’re worth every penny of it, but they are not an inexpensive breed either. So, don’t think you have to have be rich to have a dog but you have to be responsible. You have to know those things might occur.

Judging the Clumber in the Show Ring

Clumbers in the show ring have become more successful in recent years, but the unique proportions of the Clumber, described as “long, low and substantial,” can be challenging for conformation judges to asses properly. The standard describes the dog as “9 tall to 11 long measured from the withers to the base of the tail.” This is a much longer dog than most judges are accustomed to seeing.

It’s the training, in a sense, of a lot of the new judges that are coming into the breed,” said Fankhauser, “because they see rectangular, but it’s rectangular from, as Laura mentioned before, point of shoulder to buttocks. It’s not rectangular as we measure. So, you have to get them to retrain their eye to long enough.You’re never going to find one too long.”

We hope you enjoy today’s podcast sharing the love of a special breed. You can find more information at http://www.clumbers.org/


181 – Dog Show Judges, Family and Welcoming Exhibitors

Dog Show Judges, Family and Welcoming Exhibitors

Dog show judges, their knowledge and skill level are a constant topic of conversation in purebred dogs. This isn’t a new discussion. From the days when new judges were hand-picked by one of the “in crowd” to today’s more egalitarian system, the role of adjudicating in a subjective sport has routinely been akin to wearing a bulls-eye at a firing range.

Dog Show Judges Approval Always a Challenge

AKC Vice President of dog show judges, Tim Thomas, wasn’t born into the sport. He rose through the ranks as an owner, exhibitor, club member, breeder, handler and eventually AKC employee. His job today revolves around the always lively debate about how best to select, educate and promote judges for the conformation ring.

“… the process (by which) we approve judges is always going to be controversial,” Thomas said. “The last system was horrible, the current one is the worst ever and the next one will be the greatest one ever – that’s always the mindset.”

Thomas advocates that great dog people are born, not made.

“… the reality is, in anything, you’re going to have a broad spectrum of skill sets,” Thomas added. “You’re going to have from the most excellent, to those who are challenged and you’re going to have a whole lot in the middle. And that’s with any field and with any skill set. And we have to recognize it’s true in our judging community, in our dog show world too.”

Educating new judges and assessing existing judges is all part of the process, Thomas noted, so that exhibitors feel they are being judged fairly and haven’t wasted their $30 entry fee.

“…no matter what the process that the AKC puts in place to approve its judges,” Thomas added, “there will be individuals who will try to find a way around or look for the shortest path and there will be those that will prepare until they feel comfortable that they’re ready the judge a breed.”

Thomas strongly supports the recently re-established process of having Executive Field Representatives observe judges and discuss the entry with them to help ensure a nuanced understanding of breed standards and judging procedures.

Drawing on his extensive background in the sport, Thomas shared a deeply personal story about his favorite judge of all time. (No spoiler alert! You’ll have to listen to find out who it is… ) And why the “dog show family” is so important to the fabric of the sport.

And he shares this MOST important observation:

“…(O)ne thing that I think that we have to implore to all of us and whether it’s the way that we act at shows, to the way we conduct ourselves in social media platforms, that we have a bad habit of eating our young,” Thomas said. “..(I)t’s very easy to point the finger and blame to everyone else. But I think all of us are responsible for the way that we conduct ourselves, to have ownership in that if we want our sport to have longevity, we have to make a conscious effort to support those who are new into it. And that’s treat them with respect and nurturing them and mentoring them and not just as point makers.”

For more information about the AKC Conformation Judging Approval process, visit: http://www.akc.org/sports/conformation/judging-information/


179 — Non Profit Foundations Benefit our Breeds

Non Profit Foundations Benefit our Breeds

The Clumber Spaniel Health Foundation, created by members of the Clumber Spaniel Club of America, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for health research in their beloved breed. A low registration breed with a relatively small gene pool, the breeders were making progress on the breed’s health issues but wanted to do more.

It Is Our Responsibility to Act

“While there is no doubt our breed has come a long way in the last 25 years,” CSHF President Jen Amundsen notes on the organization’s website, “health issues such as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, disc disease, cardiomyopathy, and hemangiosarcoma are taking many of our Clumbers much too early in life. It is our responsibility to act.”

Dr. Roe Froman, DVM referenced the Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” as her rallying cry in creating the group that formed the Foundation.

This group has, in fact, changed their world. The CSCA, with a membership of roughly 300, has raised over $100,000 for the Foundation in the last 10 years. The DNA bank Froman created also helped identify gene markers and DNA testing for PDP1, a very specific neurological disease, that is now virtually eliminated in the breed.

CSHF pools its resources through the AKC’s Canine Health Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation, and others, to support research being done on diseases of specific importance to the Clumber Spaniel.

Amundsen, an attorney who specializes in work that affects dog owners, provides an excellent tutorial in this episode about the actual how and why of creating a 501c3 non-profit organization for dog clubs. Groups seeking non-profit status for fundraising on health research, rescue, education, or any similar venture, will value her suggestions.

While some of the more populous breeds’ parent clubs have already created Foundations to address some of these topics, Amundsen and Froman give hope, encouragement, and direction to members of smaller clubs for ways in which they can create a positive impact for their breeds

Don’t miss Allison Foley’s Tip of the Week from the Leading Edge Dog Show Academy on flying with your dog in a cabin and how to get through airport screening safely and easily with your pet in a carry-on bag.


  • http://www.clumberhealth.org
  • https://www.facebook.com/dogsavvylawyer/
  • http://leadingedge-dog-show-academy.teachable.com/courses

178 — Bergit Coady Kabel: “Groomed to Perfection”

A Legend in the Terrier Ring

Bergit Coady Kabel with a West Highland White Terrier in years gone by.

The 2012 Winkie Award for Best Professional Handler, said it best: “A legend in the Terrier ring, Bergit Coady Kabel’s dogs are always groomed to perfection and flawlessly presented. Always polite and professional, she is totally dedicated to her dogs.”

Hard Work and Dedication

Bergit was someone I admired from afar for my entire handling career. I didn’t get to see her often, as our paths rarely crossed in the particular shows we attended. Every time I saw her, I was impressed by her immaculate charges and her unfailing smile.

I talk with a lot of folks for the podcast who have achieved the highest levels of success in purebred dogs. And I consistently hear the same themes. Hard work. Dedication. And an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Bergit is a leading voice in the chorus.

Responsibility Gave Joy

Bergit tells the story in today’s podcast about being 13 years old and excited beyond words to have been taught by her earliest mentor how “to clean teeth, bathe dogs, express anal glands, and clean ears. … and the happiest kid you could have found.”

Let that sink in for a minute. Here is a kid who was *thrilled* to do anal glands because “Finally I knew a few things to do with dogs.”

Many successful handlers apprenticed for Bergit over the years. “A few assistants that wanted to do this by the clock, needless to say, did not work out,” she noted.

After a recent illness, Bergit is recovered and ready to take on judging with that same focus and intensity.

Focusing on Judging

“After 50 successful years of handling, I feel I can try to give back a little to a sport that has given me so much,” Bergit said. “I know judging will present different challenges and I will educate myself every step of the way. Will I like it better than handling? Never. I loved every minute of my handling career.

“…my son Ryan said to me. He is fully aware of my love for handling. He said, ‘You know, you are very lucky that you can go into judging. There’s a whole big world and big dog family. So you can see your friends again.’ He does mortgages and he said, ‘When I’m done there is no mortgage family waiting for me.’”

Bergit’s concrete advice on reaching the pinnacle of perfection in trimming dogs is invaluable. And we start a new feature on the show “All Time Favorites Best in Show Lineup.” Listen now to hear which dogs she would have in that ring and who would win!

Read Full Transcript

Laura: Welcome to pure dog talk, I’m your host, Laura Reeves, and I am joined by a member of our sport who I have long had mad respect for and I think she just brings such incredible knowledge to the game of purebred dogs. So I would like to welcome Bergit Coady Kabel to our conversation because I think you guys are going to really, really enjoy this one. So thank you. Bergit. How are you today?

Bergit: Really good, thank you. Very good. Excellent.

Laura: So we have a thing here on pure dog talk that we ask our guests to give us the 411, right? The who, what, when, where, why, how, how did you get started? How did you get involved in dogs? You’ve been at this for a lifetime now, right?

Bergit: Yes, definitely. Yes. I will have to tell you how it all started. When I was five years old, my family moved from southern Germany to downtown Hamburg. Soon after that, my earliest recollection is this, and a bit old neighbor girl was able to walk a wire Fox terrier for friends. One day she let me hold the leash. I was so thrilled and could not wait to tell my mom. You would have thought I won a box of toys. I have always been crazy about dogs. Maybe got the gene from my grandmother. She loved animals. A few blocks away from where we lived in Hamburg was a grooming shop owned and operated by Mr and Mrs Buchhaltz, who were excellent dog people and also show people. They owned a Mini and a Toy Poodle, an Irish Terrier and a Scottish Terrier. For a long time I was forever trying to figure out how I could get to know them. Remember I was only a young kid then, and the dog world was not like it is today. My break came when the Buchhaltz’s daughter, who was in the same class as my younger brother, came into the classroom and asked for her parents. They were looking for a babysitter for the two year old sister. Bingo. I was it.

Bergit: I babysat… and every minute, after my job was done, I was spending time with the dogs. I was a dog walker at first and I kept telling the Buchhaltz to please teach me grooming. I was fascinated by what all the employees could create. So after awhile Mr Buchhaltz decided he had to do something with me since I was always around. The first things he taught me was — this is no kidding — to clean teeth. bathe dogs, express anal glands and clean ears.

Laura: And you were how old Bergit?

Bergit: I was 13 at the time. And the happiest kid you could have found. Finally I knew a few things to do with dogs. At that point they also started to take me to some dog shows, you know, later on in life, much later on in life. I kept thinking back to this and I was thinking maybe Mr Buchhaltz thought, you know, if I let her do all of these things…we’ll get rid of her! But it didn’t happen. By the time I left school, I agreed to a three year apprenticeship with the Buchhaltz. My parents were devastated. My mother’s dream was for me to be a super secretary like she was, but sitting still has never been easy for me. So at this point, the Buchhaltz did not really need a fourth girl.. the three they had were excellent. So they asked if I would like to go to England to work in a well known Scottish Terrier Kennel “Riander” for Mrs Elizabeth Meyer. They took me with them to Crufts and we were introduced and I looked at all the Scotties like many people would do and said, how do you know which one is which one? So this was the basic beginning to my fabulous life into dogs. I spent two years in the UK and then one year at the Buchhaltz grooming shop. They agreed to the second year if I agreed to no time or days off for that. year. That was fine. I didn’t care.

Bergit: So basically my most important mentors besides the Buchhaltz was Mrs Meyer of Riander fame. To this day, I refer to something I was taught by her daily and we don’t even own our kennel anymore. There are two most important elements that I live by. Mrs Meyer said, number one, you have to be able to take care of yourself first before you can take care of someone else or something else. Second, when taking care of dogs, you yourself have to know what goes into a dog and what comes out of a dog, so you have to look at each one every day. From her I learned how to put down a Scottish terrier, and once a month she insisted to drive me to a well known Westie breeder who taught me how to trim Westies I would spend all day at her place. Now comes the question of how did you come to the United States? Well, spending two years at the Riander Kennel in England, I met many American Scottish Terrier breeders that came to visit the Kennel. One day, Betty Malinka of Sandoone Scottish Terriers, visited and asked if I would like to come for one year to work for her in Gary, Indiana. I agreed. End of history. This year, March 12, was my 50th anniversary of arriving at Chicago O’hare.
Laura: That is pretty amazing. Bergit. I’m sorry. That kind of made me a little choked up for a minute.
Bergit: Yeah. Yeah. That’s amazing. Working for Betty was fun. She took me to a lot of shows and also I met a lot of people and that’s how I met Clay Cody.

Laura: Yes.

Bergit: We started with our limited experience but taught ourselves a lot by watching top handlers at the time. Yes, we were fortunate to have some great dog people apprentice under us… and we are still very proud of them. Again, trimming you can teach, conditioning as well, but you have to have a certain feeling for dogs. If you had assistants that wanted to do this by the clock, needless to say, that did not work out.

Laura: No,

Bergit: We always started from scratch. If a dog needed a new coat, it was stripped down… in 10 to 12 weeks later you started to show it. It takes that long on any strip breed to get the coat into show length.

Laura: Yeah.

Bergit: In the meantime, you will take care of furnishings and everything else on the dog, exercise and fresh air are of great importance… and having had a super kennel with 58 runs in southern California for 40 years was more than ideal. We also had a set of runs where you could get a profile view of the dog from the dog kitchen, and that was enlightening and very useful. All of the above we brought to the attention of all of our assistants. Your question about habits to condition and groom a dog, is difficult to answer. A dog has to feel you like him. That’s the start of everything. Then you start by putting him on the table every day, often just for a little while because once a dog is stripped, you have four to six weeks before you do what we call a defuzz, which is the same as a cleanup, but furnishings need to be washed every two to three days and blow dried.

Bergit: The dog gets used to your hands and where you put them. Be consistent in making the same movements. Always be peaceful. Don’t do any of this if you need to rush. By the time you need to put a final show trim on the dog, he should be able to stand on the table perfectly relaxed and display confidence. Anyone with love for dogs can do this — Owner-Handlers or Handlers. The secret ingredient, as you call it, to a perfectly trimmed dog, is looking at it as many times as it takes on the ground, after you finished trimming it in front of a mirror, of course on the table. Then on the ground, someone has to walk the dog for you so that you can see him in profile as well as up and down. Whatever you need to correct… then you correct it, but you can never take a dog off the table even though it looks perfect and think that that’s how it’s going to look. Because once the dog shakes or moves differently, you can have a completely different picture.

Bergit: So this is of course more work and a lot of people’s excuse is they don’t have somebody that can walk the dog, BUT you can always, if you get to the dog show early, find somebody that would do it for you, and even if they don’t walk it correctly or perfectly like you would, you can still see certain things. The other thing that a lot of people don’t do is to take a dog for a regular walk. I don’t mean at a dog show. I mean just down the street to look and hear and see strange things. Always talk to your dog and pet him in between. You will bond nicely. You have to have good work ethics, a lot of self discipline and most of all a passion for this whole dog show scene in order to make it work.

Laura: I would agree with that.

Bergit: After all. Then you asked me about judging.

Laura: YES. This is a new journey that you’re taking on, right? Just getting started, yes?

Bergit: Right, after 50 successful years of handling, I feel I can try to give back a little to a sport that has given me so much. I know judging will present different challenges and I will educate myself every step of the way. Will I like it better than handling? Never. I loved every minute of my handling career. To end this interview, I would love to tell you what my son Ryan said to me. He is fully aware of my love for handling. He said, you know, you are very lucky that you can go into judging. There is a whole big world and big dog family. Most of all, you know each other. So you can see your friends again. He does mortgages and he said when I’m done, there is no mortgage family waiting for me.

Laura: I love that. It’s totally the truth, Bergit.

Bergit: It’s totally the truth.

Laura: You know, I just got done interviewing Lorraine Boutwell for example, and she talks a lot about this and a lot of the people I talk to about this, they started in dogs either as breeders or as breeders and then handlers or what have you… and continued judging and I think so much of it is because this is your family. Right?

Bergit: Right. Right. And I mean, you have no idea. I mean when I got sick, I mean I still have all the cards and all the stuff and I mean it was incredible. You know, I was just truly overjoyed and now everybody that sees me at a dog you know, goes crazy and is happy for me

Laura: like I did.

Bergit: You know, I’ve always tried to help everybody. Because people tend to dislike you when you win a lot, but you know, that’s never affected me. You know, I’ve always given credit to where credit is due and you know, I think people remember that. You know.

Bergit: I think so too. So two more things. Your best advice… especially for the people that are getting started. We have lots of people who listen to this podcast who are less than five years, for example, with purebred dogs. What is your best advice for these folks when they’re getting started? Showing their dog, grooming their dog, whatever it is.

Bergit: Definitely to get the best rapport going with your dog. That means you take the dog for a walk just as a pet. You pet it, you talk to it. You make sure it learns to stand on the table perfectly still so that you can groom it. Whatever dog it is… in order to groom it you can’t be fighting with it. That you can’t be every time making excuses, for it or all these things. But if a dog knows that you want this from him, you give him so much. To my mind, the dog can also give something back to you and they’ll figure it out. I mean it doesn’t matter what we dealt with many different bleed, you know, so you have to be patient and then when you need help you try and get helpful my hand low or if you watch somebody at a dog show that you think could give you ideas, you approach that person at the end of the day or when there’s a break, obviously not while they’re showing a dog, you know, most people will help you and that’s how you really keep going. And if you run into somebody that won’t help you, don’t be discouraged and go to the next person that you think could do it for you.

Laura: Yeah, and I think that that’s so true. And one of the things that has kept me going, I mean every time I handle a new breed… I go ask someone. That’s just a thing I do and I think that if you just are willing to ask, people are always willing to help, somebody will help you.

Bergit: Yeah. I mean look at it. A few years ago somebody offered us a Komondor. I had finished two Wheatens for them in 1987. They said to me, do you want to show a Komondor? And I said yes. I said, I don’t know much about them, most people don’t, but I said Bill McFadden knows and I’ve seen him show one. And I said I will talk to him and I will get all the information and I will do everything he tells me. So I got it finished. And of course you have to be friends with people in this breed because there’s so few of them that you have to know when there will be a major, you know. And we got it done. But it was really interesting, you know, I mean it was great to do it differently like that.

Laura: I did a Briard, I mean completely outside my comfort zone. And it was great fun, I really enjoyed it because you get that chance, right, to learn something new.

Bergit: Yeah. Yeah. And the same with the Black Russian. I got a Black Russian finished… also with the help. This is when the kind of first started, you know, also with the help of key people and you know, I’ve never forgotten the people that have helped me, you know, and they get a Christmas card every year. I mean I’m a great Christmas card writer. I’m sorry. I like to do that. You have to do these things, you know.

Laura: Yes, absolutely. Okay, so then listeners, you guys are gonna love this. We’re going to add this as a new feature for all of the interviews that we do with some of our great legends of the sport and Bergit gets to be our test case. So Bergit? Now you have 50 years in the sport in the United States. So I’m asking you in your mind, and this is a game we play as handlers, right? Like, I’ve always done this. So, in your mind, the greatest best in show lineup of all time… of dogs that you have personally seen. Ready, Go!

Bergit: I would say for the Hound Group – Pepsi, the Afghan Hound. For the herding group… Manhattan, the German shepherd. Non-Sporting would definitely be London, Standard Poodle, black Standard Poodle. Terrier… Coco the Norfolk.

Laura: Wow. That says a lot coming from you. Wow!

Bergit: Yup. Yup. Working… and that would probably win my best in show right there, Matisse, the Portuguese water dog.

Laura: Okay…Wow.

Bergit: Toy…John Oultan’s Papillon, Kirby,

Laura: Beautiful.

Bergit: Sporting… the Black Cocker of Michael Pitts — Beckham.

Laura: Those are some beautiful, beautiful choices and I think since I saw this in somebody else’s social media and I said, it tells so much about what you value as a judge, as a handler or what have you, what you see in that best in show lineup. I just think it is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Plus it makes us think about cool little dogs. Awesome. Alright, well Bergit, thank you so much for your time. It was wonderful to see you at the dog show a few weeks ago. I am thrilled to see you back and I wish you the very, very best in your judging career. You will be outstanding.

Bergit: Thank you so much. I appreciate that. Thank you. Take care. Okay..bye-bye.

175 — Tibetan Mastiff History, Lore and Modern Living

Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff History, Lore and Modern Living

No one knows where they came from,” said Sabrina Novarra, one of the original Tibetan Mastiff breeders in the U.S. “The myth of the old monks of Tibet say that snow leopards bred with wolves. Now, we know that’s not true. But, we cannot trace the ancestry. They are the oldest large breed in existence.

Novarra acquired her first Tibetan Mastiff in 1987 and worked to help establish the breed with the American Kennel Club, where it was recognized in 2007.

Low key breed is long-lived but not easy to train

She said this ancient breed is relatively healthy and long-lived, but, while generally low key, they are not particularly biddable.

“This is a landrace breed,” Novarra said. “… basically, a breed that has evolved itself as opposed to us evolving it. They are self-thinkers. They are not easily trained. You learn after you’ve had them as long as I have, that you make them think it’s their idea to be trained.”

In Tibet the dogs developed as family and flock guardians who were tied during the day and roamed the village at night as protection. They still bark at night if they are outdoors, as that was their job in ancient times.

This is not a dog if you want to do agility and obedience and take 300-mile hikes, this is not the dog for you … they’re very lazy,” Novarra said. She did note that she accomplished an obedience title on one of her older girls.

The dogs are very large and powerful and need significant amounts of socializing, according to breeders.

Tibetan mastiffs need to see everything twice,” said Dan Nechemias, owner of the 2018 National Specialty Best of Breed winner. “Just because they saw a red basketball doesn’t mean that they’ll accept a yellow basketball. They were bred for 2000 years to be suspicious of absolutely everything but their family. So, everything that they see in their space — which is their entire visual field — is a threat until they decide it’s otherwise.”

Nechemias, who purchased his first Tibetan Mastiff in 2001, adds that, like many of the working and guardian breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff is very discerning about people they meet.

“… Tibetan Mastiffs are wary of people that are determined to meet them,” Nechemias said. “So what happens is the person’s just really working hard. They’re staring at the dog — you should never stare down an Asian breed much less a Tibetan Mastiff — they’re in their face. If you ask a Tibetan Mastiff permission to touch it, it will wonder why you’re asking it permission. They’re an incredibly sensitive breed and then they say well this person’s asking me permission they must not be OK.”

173 – Dreamland Chow Chows “Show Ring is Mirror of the Whelping Box”

Chow Chow Breeder/Handler Shares His Story

Michael & Linda Brantley were AKC’s Non-Sporting Breeders of The Year in 2013 for their Dreamland Chow Chows. Michael is a professional handler, member of the Professional Handlers Association, and has shown top ranked, multiple Best in Show winners in numerous breeds.

Breeding is the Art

“Still, the breeding is very important to me,” Brantley said, “probably more so than the handling. The handling is more the game, but the breeding is the art.”

While Michael says he’s never actually counted, Dreamland Chow Chows have produced more than 200 champions in last 40-plus years.

Brantley’s folks started in Pekingese and were breeding and showing them when he was born. His family acquired their first Chow Chow when Michael was in grade school and never looked back.

The first time Brantley was paid to show a dog, he was thrilled to realize he could “support his habit” with handling.

I’ve been handling full-time for 40 something years,” Brantley said. “So that ended up (going) from a hobby to a career.”

To this day, handling and breeding, for Brantley, work hand in glove.

I think the handling of the other breeds has really helped me understand my breed better,” Brantley said. “It helped me understand structure and function tremendously. More than if I had just stuck with my breed and not sat around and watched these other dogs show or learn the standards of them before I showed the dogs. So, it’s been a double edged thing there where it’s taught me a lot.”

But the hobby, the breeding piece, remains the most compelling for Brantley.

“The show ring is just a mirror of the whelping box,” Brantley observed.

“… maybe 20-25 percent of the dogs that we breed will end up in the show ring,” he added. “Maybe. So, the rest of those dogs are going to go as companions to people. And in a breed that is very strong willed, very independent like Chow’s are, like our Tibetan Mastiffs are as well, it’s extremely important to have that proper temperament to where they end up as being great pets for somebody.

They think for themselves. They’re happy you’re there, but they would rather go out by themselves. So, you’ve got to learn how to deal with that and it’s not something you learn overnight and it’s something that you’ve got to figure out.”

I hope you enjoy this great Talk with a man who brings a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.

And don’t forget to stick around for Allison Foley’s Tip of the Week on how to manage the male dog’s performance when bitches in season are in the ring.

128 – Doug Ljungren is Up to Tricks…Trick Dogs|AKC VP of Sports and Performance

Doug Ljungren, Vice President of Sports and Events at the American Kennel Club

Trick dogs. Trick dogs? Seriously? Whose bright idea was that?

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

A hard core horseback pointing breed field trial guy with multiple national field champions and dual champions to his credit, that’s who.

Doug Ljungren and AKC’s new tricks

Doug Ljungren is the champion of a number of new, non-traditional and wildly popular performance events that have come on line in the last few years.

A highly successful breeder, owner and amateur handler of German Wirehaired Pointers in the field (and in the show ring), Ljungren believes that bringing new people into the sport through non-traditional venues is a long-term win for the purebred dog fancy as a whole.

The human-dog relationship is changing,” Ljungren says. “It has evolved over time. It will continue to evolve. The demographics will evolve. There is no reason to think that dog sports all have to be based on historical function.”

He’s referring here to the “traditional” performance sports that are “based on preserving and enhancing the traits necessary for a dog to perform the function for which it was developed.”

Decline of Hunting Licenses

“The total number of hunting licenses peaked in mid-’80s in this country,” Ljungren notes. “There’s just less people doing that sport now. We’ll still maintain (the traditional performance events) because people are passionate about it. But in terms of growing the sport, it’s just not going to be much of a growth area.”

So, if people (by the way, dog ownership is at an all time high) aren’t going hunting or herding or dispatching rodents with their dogs, what do they want to do? That was Ljungren’s question.

My belief is that some of the changes in society affecting the dog-owner relationship, the humanization of dogs, has an impact,” he adds. “How we spend our time is changing in relation to the internet. We find people are less inclined to join any kind of youth or sports league.”

So his team set out to develop sports that fit the dog owners of today.

“We have to attract people somehow,” Ljungren notes. “Hopefully they transition in the future.”

AKC Transistion Paths – Always More To Do and Learn

One of the things AKC is researching is transition paths. For example, if a new owner starts with their dog in a CGC course, they’re likely to go on to tricks titling.

He notes that tomorrow’s breeders have to start somewhere. If they start with CGC or tricks, what’s next, rally? Obedience? Agility? Even conformation.

“Breeders — hobby breeders — that’s something you consider doing when you get serious,” Ljungren notes. The new performance events allow AKC to develop a relationship with owners, who are likely to transition over time and engage in other events.

“I think that breeding is a logical conclusion of attracting and transitioning people,” Ljungren says.

Scent Work

One of the newest events Ljungren is excited about is scent work.

“It’s very popular. It’s a full meal deal as far as a sport goes,” Ljungren adds. “Clubs are licensed, judges are licensed.” The programming and planning has been going on for nine months and the first trial was held in September 2017.

Most people know dogs smell better than we do…. Intuitively it’s of interest to almost any dog owner…. At our first event we had entries of everything from toy breeds to a Scottish Deerhound.”

The scent work program is structured in levels and isn’t a “training intensive” front end sport, Ljungren adds. “People are fascinated to see the dog’s sense of smell telling the story to them.”

Great Event for a Club

From club’s point of view this is a great event that can be held in pieces. Clubs can choose to offer only the classes they can realistically accommodate.

Trick Titles

Tricks are NOT just for kids. The tricks titles, started this spring, offers four levels and works through the CGC evaluator program. The next level planned will involve a full developed skit, with a theme and a story line, to be evaluated by the director of the CGC program.

Ljungren notes the entertainment value of these dog-handler teams is of value to clubs who hope to encourage the public to attend their dog shows in the future.

Fast CAT

Another popular event, Fast CAT, is essentially a timed 100 yard dash. The funny part was AKC originally recorded the Top 20 qualifiers in each breed by the nearest Mile Per Hour. Ljungren chuckles as he notes, that wasn’t good enough! Folks didn’t want to be tied. So now the event is ranked by times to the nearest 100th MPH.

“If you give people something they want to do, it’s hard for them to hate you,” was the comment to Ljungren from Patti Strand, NAIA Executive Director. “You are making my work against the Animal Rights Extremists easier.”

Hear more of my conversation with Doug Ljungren in today’s podcast on Pure Dog Talk.

Doug Ljungren

108 – Bill Ellis and Junior Showmanship: How Junior Showmanship Prepares You For Life Outside the Ring

Bill Ellis Junior Showmanship

bill ellis junior showmanship

Bill Ellis,  once a former junior showmanship competitor, is currently Communications Coordinator for the American Kennel Club.

Bill talks with Laura Reeves of fond memories and how what he learned through Junior Showmanship prepared him for life outside the ring.

Laura Reeves

I have always believed that Junior Showmanship and a childhood spent raised in and around the sport of purebred dogs is invaluable in many diverse ways.

After all, Mom enrolled me in dog care 4-H in fourth grade because I was “shy and retiring and lacked people skills”… Forty years later, who I am is due, in large part, to what I learned there and by continuing on into the sport of purebred dogs. Literally, my best friend in third grade was the school librarian. I was the only eight year old kid who knew the entire Dewey Decimal system by heart since I spent most every recess and lunchtime shelving books with Mrs. Young.

While I’m still the head bookworm at heart, I learned how to cope, how to get along, how to lead as well as follow, how to manage time, take responsibility, have a thick skin for criticism (a *definite* requirement in journalism and the dog show world), how to make friends, etc ad nauseam. I have an expensive college degree that broadened my exposure to the outside world, but I would never have survived it without the years spent with dogs learning how to be “human.”

Bill Ellis and other former Junior Handler’s skills

When I interviewed Bill Ellis on this topic, it struck me that all of these “transportable skills” as the human resources people like to call them, are not unique to me. So I reached out to the fancy for their thoughts on the topic. Turns out, as usual, I didn’t even know the half of it!

From special education teachers to emergency managers, from researchers to factory workers, from lawyers to stay at home moms, the uniting theme is the work ethic, compassion, confidence, grace under pressure, skillful multitasking and so much more that young people acquire in this sport.

Thanks to former juniors and assistants

Tremendous thanks to the dozens of former juniors and assistants who responded to my inquiry. I’m including a great many of their stories, comments and observations here. Mostly because so many of them were so intense, specific and concrete.

Meanwhile, for all of you out there who think Junior Showmanship is nothing more than a training ground for future professional handlers, think again. This part of the dog fancy is busy training up an entire miniature work force of individuals with determination, punctuality and perseverance that are sadly lacking in too many youngsters outside our world.


Former Junior Handlers and/or Assistants: Where Are They Now?

Heather Hale:

My introduction to the sport came via none other than Cie Harris and her giant Irish Wolfhounds in the mid 90’s. I wish I could say what drew me into the sport beyond being a preteen girl who didn’t have the first clue as to how to dress to impress boys and virtually no real social life, so naturally going to dog shows and engrossing myself could do nothing to further ruin my already stellar reputation right?

Somewhere along the way, I convinced my parents to let me tag along and “help” Cie at a dog show. From the first instant I was hooked. I loved this exciting and crazy world, the smell, the odd way people dressed and ran, but most of all I loved the dogs. I loved the sizes and shapes and their natural ability to love and want to please their masters. I didn’t  have the first clue that I would be entering what has become a mild obsession for me my entire life.

Then I met you, Laura Reeves, a professional handler and quite possibly the scariest and nicest woman I had ever met. You didn’t need anyone, a man, children, or close friends to sit and have coffee with and gossip about other friends. I was all at once stunned and intrigued, certainly if you could have that kind of confidence and push around a 150 lb Irish Wolfhound, then there was something to be learned from you.

My fear was matched equally by my respect for you and you began to teach me about everything that is dog shows; waking up at 6 am to walk and bathe dogs, schlepping crates that were bigger than me “the proper way”, how to properly strip a coat, how to load a Dodge van (something out of Tetris), how to not get a run in my panty hose (because we were down to the last pair), the importance of good flat shoes and pockets in your show clothes, and  how to set up x-pens, grooming tables, mats, and every other sort of equipment (and do it quickly), but the most important thing I learned was that the dogs’ safety and comfort were paramount. These dogs not only trusted us to do the right thing, but they loved us and counted on us every minute. They performed for us, and played with us when it was over. I learned that it was the most thankless job I would ever have, but also the most rewarding one.

I am not sure I will ever match the feeling I had when Ric Byrd gave me Best Junior from the Open Junior class, beating Candace with the Dalmatian, or having a crush on Jorge who showed a Beagle in juniors.

So many lessons learned. I am now in wine sales, (which is arguably the best career in existence) but to be in any sales one must possess a certain level of confidence, certainly hard work, and the innate ability to connect to people you barely know. I am certain that my early years in dog shows gave me these qualities. I am married, I have 2 wonderful children, but I also know that I am capable of handling a 150 lb dog.

I have a love for dog shows that will never go away. When I was going through a somewhat messy divorce I did what any dog show enthusiast would do; I flew to Texas, bought a Beagle puppy, brought him home, bought a motorhome and spent a year showing him. It was the time of my life. He became a champion in less than 6 months, and the two times a judge put him BOB from the 12-18 month class we took back to back G4s. If I hadn’t met my husband and if Jake had filled out and didn’t look like a Beagle bitch instead of a dog, I would have continued to show him. But alas, my life went a different wonderful way.

I still think that someday I will find myself back in the ring, hopefully this time it will be with my husband after our kids have grown and we are doing it for fun because that is what dog shows have always been to me. A source of good memories and lots of fun. I miss the “dog show world” and a part of me is always envious to see those still in the sport, but I don’t think I have seen my last show ring. Or at least I hope not.

PS I chose wine sales because I get paid to drink wine, and who the hell wouldn’t want to do that? I have a bachelors degree in Civil Engineering, but quickly found that I am not a desk person and I multi task way too well to try and fill 8 hours behind a desk. Also could be attributed to my first job as an assistant. Nothing says multi tasking better than that!


Natalie Grochowski

I came from a non dog family but showed an English Cocker in juniors, aging out in 2010. I worked for Kellie Fitzgerald and Chris Berg from 2008 and onward for several summers and occasionally through college when I could. I now work in Federal Management Consulting, particularly in program management activities for agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.

Kellie and Chris were huge mentors to me and always encouraged me to get an education outside dogs- that I could always come back to dog shows if I wanted to. Working for them has honestly shaped my life in so many ways, most notable the work ethic it takes to be successful in dogs translated to my education and now my work life. Working for them honed my attention to detail, appreciation for the amount of behind the scenes work that goes into any successful product (dog, or client presentation etc.), and most importantly to never cut corners – that if anything is worth doing, it is worth learning the right way. One of the reasons I wanted to work for them was because I always admired Kellie’s sporting dog grooming and wanted to learn how to do it well too – the importance of giving even the smallest tasks your all had always stuck with me since the first time she said it and it has helped tremendously in my job. The idea of mentorship and finding lessons out of every interaction has also brought me leaps and bounds in my work life. I learned so much by listening at dinner to so many great dog people, and the idea of being a good listener (as opposed to pretending to be an expert on Day 1) is still with me today.

I didn’t pursue a career in dogs because I wanted the flexibility to show my dogs and have my own breeding program and do shows on my own time. I was worried that if I did this as my profession, I would burn out and resent it, but if I did this as my release and hobby – I’d stay motivated and passionate about learning and being involved. If I feel frustrated with dog shows or anything, having a life outside dogs allows me to step away and then come back when I am ready (I always do!) and see things with a fresh and renewed perspective which I think has kept me excited and in love with the sport.

Coming full circle- I actually am in the process of getting my junior showmanship license and can’t wait to give back to the sport. I am getting ready to marry a non dog show person (after vetting him at the dog show of course) and he keeps me grounded while totally supporting my passion as well. I got my first show dog since college about a year ago and am excited to learn about my new breed. To be honest, there are days where I listen to your podcast on my drive to work or on my lunch break and wonder if I made the right decision- but it is also through your podcast that has inspired me to get more and more involved with dogs at different levels and opened my eyes to the different possibilities within dogs to make a difference.


Demery Paladichuk

“I spent my teenage years working as an assistant for Randy Schepper, Kevin & Diane Chestnut, and most notably Shea and Tiff (Skinner) who I still have a very close relationship with to this day (and love like family). I spent all this time with a specific plan in my head: go to college, get my degree in business (as the “back up plan” everyone talks about), and return to dog shows.

I knew I wanted to go to college, and I don’t know if Shea and Tiff, and especially Don Rogers would have been very happy with me if I hadn’t! He especially told me to go every chance he got. So I went to WWU, took some classes, hated the business ones, made friends, and started volunteering. It broke me out of the dog show bubble I had been immersed in and opened my eyes to what all else was out there.

I started doing a lot of thinking about what I wanted my life to look like 5, 10, 20, 50 years from now, and what I wanted my life to mean. As much as I loved, and still love dog shows, at the end of the day (to me), it’s running around the ring with a dog. To me, dog shows are fun, but don’t provide me with a purpose in life.

I personally couldn’t justify knowing that there are human beings suffering, dying completely preventable deaths, and with an education I could make a difference in their lives. How do you compare that to a dog show? So in a few months I’ll be a nurse practitioner, and even better, will have a reliable job with a great salary, job security, benefits, PTO, and weekends off… which are all things you don’t exactly have being a professional handler.

With that being said, dog shows will always have a place in my heart. And I have absolutely nothing against professional handlers, it’s just not how I ultimately wanted my life to look. I’m now a regular status all-breed juniors judge. I’m super excited to finally be (almost!!) done with school as it means I can get more involved in dog shows again, and I’m lucky to co-own some beautiful puppies with Kim Bullard as well as two well-known springer breeders who I’ve already learned a lot from and can’t wait to keep learning from. I will hopefully be getting my own puppy within the next year and will start my breeding program (most likely in collaboration with Kim Bullard) from then on. In terms of skills I’ve carried on from dog shows, there are so many.

Most importantly, I think that working for a professional handler teaches assistants customer service, and not in the “the customer is always right” kind of way. More of how to handle situations that aren’t always pretty, how to interact professionally, how to always treat others with respect, and taking responsibility for your actions.”


Matt Grimes

I got my first show basenji when I was 10 years old from Katie Campbell. I was brand new to the whole dog show thing and when we purchased our first basenji my Mom asked if I would show her. After about a year, showing her with Katie and Mary k, they introduced me to their friend Laura. Laura needed an extra hand one weekend and from there on forward I worked for Laura for about 6 years.

I traveled every weekend through the summer and even during the slower time of the season with Laura. I think I have been to every county fairgrounds in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. I learned a lot of life skills from her. Laura helped me build the foundation of sportsmanship, work ethic, professionalism, and taught me the importance of building professional relationships.

Upon graduating high school, I had the honor to serve in the Marine Corps Infantry from 2004-2008. Currently, I am a supervisor at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The life experiences presented to me during my time showing dogs and the people I have had the opportunity to meet, has played a major impact in my successes today!

matt grimes junior showmanship

Alexia Rodriguez

“Growing up I had very low self-esteem. I was extremely shy and had a hard time interacting with other kids that were my age. As an only child, I always had difficulty connecting with my peers. Junior showmanship gave me something to connect to other kids with. It broke the ice, so to speak, so that I had something to talk about with other people. The more I learned about dogs, the more comfortable I felt talking about them.

Right now I work for a software company doing technical support and some light coding. I guess I didn’t really choose this profession but I’ve always been good with problem solving. My original profession was in Day Spa and salon management.

I am still heavily involved in dogs. I currently breed, show and compete in IPO and Rally with my Cane Corso and Lowchen. I also just received provisional judging status for Japanese Chin and Corso and am really enjoying my foray into this next chapter in the sport.

Training my dog, going to dog shows and being rewarded with a win or praise from my peers, boosted my self-confidence and gave me something to work towards.  I did not grow up in a dog show home.  Instead, I got involved because of a flyer at school that advertised an “AKC fun Match”.  My mother supported me in my wish to try out dog shows and would cart me around to various shows. From the dog show world, I also found a profound sense of “family” which, for an only child growing up with a single mom, was instrumental to help boost my self-esteem.”


Maryke Nau

“Everything I am is because of the sport of dogs. I learned that I love teaching from 4H and handling class, so i made it my job. (Having skills at training dogs is VERY applicable to teenagers too!)

The biggest thing I learned was how to have a goal and make steps towards it. To know when to back track and try something else. To know when to change goals completely. To know what is in your power and what isn’t and accept that. I learned how to compete and be defeated. I’ve learned to constantly evolve and never settle for complacency, which has been endlessly beneficial is becoming a leader at my career.

I love dogs, and do the same whether I show every week or once in a year, but the connection with them when we go in the ring is unparalleled. If I never showed another dog I wouldn’t be sad but I would miss the people. The people I have known the longest outside of family are from dog shows. We have seen each other go through many phases of life and are always excited to see each other, mostly. I have learned to fight and make up. I learned about relationships. A lot. A lot about long and short term relationships.”


Rémy Smith-Lewis

For me dogs taught me so much respect and responsibility. The same things I use today in my role at Google and the past companies I have worked at.


Ann Foley Lindstrom

Former Junior and assistant, now a teacher.

Involvement/Why I didn’t become a handler

I started at 13 in Obedience, bought my first show dog, a lovely Belgian Tervuren, at 16. My dog was an absolutely terrible hell beast and regularly embarrassed me in the ring. I did not do well in Juniors. It’s hard to look good when your dog is kangaroo hopping. I worked my butt off with her and learned a lot. I became involved in agility and herding. I traveled a little bit with Sheltie handler, Judy Stachowski. I had a blast and enjoyed every moment of it.

I planned on being a professional handler. I had kennel plans all drawn up. I was going to teach for a few years and save my money to buy a house and build a kennel. I guess 19 year old me didn’t realize how little teachers made, but weekends and summers are off, right? Perfect for shows!

I drove 15 hours from Chicago to Atlanta for a dog show. I was walking back to the car and looked at a row of RVs with x-pens and dogs. At each RV, tarps haphazardly covered the x-pens to protect the dogs from the ongoing drizzle while handlers had dogs up on tables, fighting with the humidity and dampness. Everyone looked miserable at that moment. I stopped and thought, “What am I doing here? Is this what I want?”  Showing is fun, dogs are amazing, the people are great. But hauling stuff in and out every weekend, or getting worked up over mud, or the general franticness of it all… it just hit me that this wasn’t what I wanted as a long term career.

Current involvement

I’m still involved in dogs at age 35 and I am still a teacher. I still do conformation and I’ve done varied amounts of obedience/rally, agility, and herding. I maintain the herding statistics for the ABTC. My children are beginning to do Juniors and we’re getting to a point where I can share this great hobby with them. My lovely girl Tipsy won BISS from the Veteran’s class, and the very next weekend she piloted my 3 year old son around the ring for his first time in a Pee-Wee Juniors class (UKC). Sharing our lives with dogs is what this is all about.

Current job

I am a teacher for at-risk high school students.  I have no doubt that my experience with dogs has greatly impacted my success as a teacher.  I primarily do intervention work to get students back on track. This is basically the equivalent of convincing a terrier to do obedience. Where many people would throw their hands up in the air, I roll up my sleeves and double down. I spend a lot of time figuring out what motivates students and slowly shaping positive behaviors.

One time I was in a meeting with several administrators, counselors, and teachers regarding a student’s poor performance. I used the phrase “back chain” to describe how I was reteaching material, and I momentarily panicked because I couldn’t remember if that term was used only for dogs. Fortunately most terms used in dog training and behavior are used in teaching humans, so I ended up looking good.  My experience with dogs and training gave me tremendous insight into working with teenagers, not just the learning and teaching component, but also patience, compassion, and an appreciation of effort.


Margaret Shelley

“I worked for Doug and Mandy Carlson for 3 years in high school and Janice Hayes for 2 summers in High School and starting college. I also helped Michael Shepherd a few times as well.

I am currently working as a Corporate Sales Manager for Main Event. I choose that route because it was more money and had weekends off. I loved being an assistant and I would have stayed, but Dottie James made me go to college (I didn’t finish but I was able to land a great a job and haven’t had a need to go back yet).

The skills I learned from being an assistant is how to handle clients which I use daily, how to build relationships with clients or other professionals. Also I learned at a young age how to interact with adults which has been so beneficial as a young professional.

I’m not in dogs but it’s something I will be back in once I get a home and my social life slows down enough for me to have time for a puppy to show.

I tell people all the time that being in Juniors and working for the handlers I did taught me way more than I learned in school. It taught me social skills, how to hold yourself together if something doesn’t go your way (like losing a big juniors class), how to keep track of finances and expenses, the importance of being up to date on billing your clients (I do that all the time now), and also how to run a business.”


Moriah Hubbell

“I brought myself into the dog world at 13, when I purchased my first show puppy (Samoyed.)  My parents and family had no knowledge of the sport, so I was fully guiding the train.  I trained my puppy and took her to my first show at 6 months old.  It was hard and we got no where at first.  Juniors was impeccably challenging, having no formal training in how to handle.  I learned, though, and my puppy learned.  Throughout our nearly five year journey with juniors, I learned more than I could ever express.

I learned how to win graciously and loose gracefully. I learned that just because you come in behind the curve, doesn’t mean you can’t climb to the top. I learned that dogs are my passion and my dream, but that my relationship with them is more important than any win.

For a time, I worked as a handling assistant. It was temporary, but it confirmed my thoughts that professional handling wasn’t for me. I wanted some of my weekends to go hiking with my dogs, my week days to work a 9-5, and my love for showing to remain a hobby and a passion rather than a career. I wanted to show and breed my dogs, and for that to be my focus.

So, I decided to go to college for Marketing. Random choice, right? Not really. I know that my skills with dogs will benefit my marketing career and that my marketing career will benefit my endeavors with dogs. I’m happy with the decision I made and I am forever grateful of the lessons junior handling taught me, it’s something I encourage the children that I teach to take part in and it’s something I hope my own kids will take part in one day.”



Sarah Beaird

“I did Juniors and 4-H growing up. I loved being in the ring and as an adult, it was always my goal to get back there. I love animals and when I got hired at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha I thought I was starting my dream job. There were many things that I loved, but I  noticed that when I got home I wanted space from my own animals…. and that became unacceptable to me. Giving my energy to my own animals should come first. They are the most important.

After moving back to Oregon, I spent a few years running dog obedience classes, and once again working with animals became a chore.  It wasn’t fun. However, when I took a break from it I had a group of people who had been in my classes before and had new dogs and wanted me to do a class. I suggested we just meet once a week to “work dogs”. It was still almost exactly what I had done in my formal classes, except no money was involved and we usually ended by sitting down and sharing whatever snacks and wine each of us had brought, and it was lovely.

So — that works for me. I’m always happy to take another dog into the ring as long as it doesn’t conflict with my own. I’m happy to take another dog to a show with me if I’m going, but I don’t want any money, and therefore no expectations so I don’t have to feel the stress that I’m  “working”. Showing dogs is a fun hobby for me. I want it to stay fun, and when money starts to exchange hands, it becomes a chore and I would feel obligated to put the client dog above my own, and I would resent myself for that.

Also, regardless how my dog does in the ring, I always have other goals set for  myself for the day/weekend that often have zero to do with ribbon color.  My real job has nothing to do with animals, so I miss them during the day and can’t wait to see them and spend time with them when I’m home. For me, a life full of animals does not mean a career working with animals. I get more, and my own lovely creatures do too, if I have the balance of a job that doesn’t have anything to do with working with animals.”


Kelly Schur

2nd generation breeder owner handler, former junior handler – currently a special education teacher

I was an assistant to several professional handlers throughout junior showmanship and following aging out. I loved learning about new breeds, getting my hands on different dogs, and the camaraderie and relationships that were built. Some of my favorite memories are from experiences as an assistant.

However, after several weeks on the road where we only had a one or two-day turnaround and traversing a dozen states in less than a month, I realized that it just wasn’t a life for me. I wanted something more stable and consistent.

Time in dogs and dog shows set me up for success as a sped teacher. I learned patience, attention to detail, and how to establish, maintain, and strengthen relationships, especially with those who are not necessarily open to the relationship to begin with.

I chose it because I wanted a profession that would be a challenge but in which I felt I could make a difference. I participated in a therapy dog program with my old juniors dog and first group winning special, and I saw what a difference people could make in children with special needs. My ultimate goal is to explore animal related therapies and develop a program to work with our beloved purposefully bred dogs to improve school life for students (and staff)!

I still handle as a hobby, breed Pugs under the Brenich prefix with my mom, and have expanded to duck Tollers – field and conformation… I participate in conformation, field (hunt tests/hunting), rally, obedience, and am trying other sports (barn hunt, nose work, lure coursing, dock diving).

Kelly Schur Junior Showmanship


Kris Wiltse

“I learned that winning isn’t everything and when you lose you don’t really lose anything you gain knowledge of what needs to be worked on. I learn patience working with the puppies and that you just have to keep trying till you figure out what works just like with dogs, not every child is the same. I learned how to manage time. Having to be at a certain ring with a bathed and groomed dog to having to have the kid brush teeth dress for bed and in bed by a certain time or to school bus.

Teaching dogs is VERY SIMILAR to teaching children you have to praise the good and depending on child/dog either discipline or ignore the bad. I think the most important 2 things were to put the dog away and walk away when I got frustrated. And two I learned respect. I learned to respect the fact that this dog or person is alive and has feelings and doesn’t always understand why I do what I’m doing and to respect the fact that they may not want to do that right then and thats ok.”



Kim Bullard

“I started in 4-H. My 4-H leader talked my parents and I into trying Junior showmanship. I worked for a few handlers during my Juniors career then for several years following with the idea of becoming a handler.

I remember one weekend on the Montana circuit we had a family emergency and I felt helpless being so far away. I realized that traveling every weekend just wasn’t something I wanted to do any longer.

I still miss it on occasion, but also fully enjoy being able to show my dogs on the weekends I want to. I am still very much involved with AKC, breeding and showing English Springer Spaniels and co-breeding Golden retrievers with a  friend whom I’ve been showing dogs with for over 10 years. I’ve mentored a few juniors and am also a member of several of my breed clubs and the Whidbey Island Kennel Club which I am on the Juniors committee and we host an event for the Junior handlers at our show every year. I was (and still am) quite a shy person and dogs helped me break out of my shell a bit being around so many likeminded people.”


Taylor Marshall

“I was a Jr from ages 12-18, also assisted for Helen (George) roughly the last three years.

While I would’ve loved to go the pro route, my parents wanted me to have a fallback option so off to college I went. During those years I moved out, met my fiancé and had to get a job to pay my bills. I lucked into the job I have now (it’s not related to my degree and I got it before I graduated).

Specifically, my time management skills and multitasking skills have carried through. I think the biggest skill set that has benefitted me the most in my job is handling things under pressure. Whether it’s numerous clients, working on several jobs at a time, meeting quick deadlines, etc. it’s still nothing compared to having  numerous dogs/breeds in the ring at a single time. Being able to focus on completing a single task while not worrying (but also not forgetting) about other tasks is one of my strongest advantages in my field.

Another thing I notice that carried is confidence. I’m by no means a people person but I have confidence in my job and can talk to people in that setting. (But not at parties or anywhere else lol)”



Sarah Tulla-Marie Stenberg

“Former assistant/lifetime dog show enthusiast. I started young, literally almost born at Enumclaw dog show. First time in the ring was when I was three with a Chinese Crested.

I worked for many high end professionals, lived and breathed dog shows. Became pregnant, and that changed all of my priorities. I realized I couldn’t afford a living with a handlers wage, so I started school. The intense work ethic I learned from being an assistant was what drove me through college and now nearly finishing my bachelors.

I am currently a successful business owner, mother, and homeowner. I still think about going and doing hobby showing. I really want to show a single dog and special that dog. I currently work a bloodhound in search and rescue.”


Paul Chen

“In my early teens, as a junior handler, I really wanted to be a professional handler. Then I worked a few months for one including the old “Cal-Ore Death March”. After that I decided I wanted a real life, a decent income, some weekends off, to be able to date, to sleep in my own bed, and to breed/show my own dogs. I have been showing/breeding dogs for 53 years now, have over 60 champions and am an AKC judge for my own breeds. And have been with the same wonderful man (non-doggy) for 43 years.”



Alexzandra Erb

“I really wanted to be a handler when I was a junior but then I decided I felt more joy as a breeder/handler. I love being in the whelping box and from there going to the show ring. I also found that there is a world with a family that needs me more than the show ring weekend after weekend.

My family always appreciated me no matter what I won or came home with…when I was showing for others I didn’t like my worth being dependent on a win or a ribbon. Also I work for a vet clinic and having a job like that you can’t be off all the time.”



Hillary Arnaud

“I started out showing in 4-H in my teens. I then progressed to showing in AKC right away and after a couple years I worked for many of the nation’s top handlers on the West coast for about 5 years to learn about what it takes to show and groom. I always knew that breeding and showing my own dogs was my passion.

I graduate as an RN in one year, and until then, I will continue to focus on my studies, enjoy time with my children and put showing on the back burner. I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare, helping others. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to do that now.

I commend those who stay in it (as handlers), but I believe that without aspiring breeders, the sport would die. You need a little bit of both, and unless you commit to learning and applying for years before labeling yourself as a handler, it’s not right.

I feel that my time in dogs has helped me learn what priorities I wanted in my life since I always knew I wanted a family. I also feel that it taught me the value of hard work (and trust me, assisting is not easy by any means!) as well as dedication, being teachable, and having an open mind.”



Bridget Ratcliffe

“I started in dog shows when I was 9 with my pet papillon. I got hooked from the start since it was something fun to do with my dog! Currently I’m about to start my 2nd year at a Statistics PhD program. I don’t really participate in shows much anymore. As for specific skills I gained through dog shows, the ones that come immediately to mind are time management, the ability to talk comfortably with adults/people in charge (even from a young age), helping others in a person-specific way (I used to help teach handing classes as a junior and it really helped me learn how to talk and explain things when helping people) and also the mentality of “expect the worst, hope and try for the best”, so when things go wrong etc it doesn’t seem as big a deal.



Tammy Lewis Walker

“I started when I was 10 in 4-H and 2 years later got my first Akc show dog. A Mini poodle with an attitude and a following. I trained mainly obedience and also did showmanship. There was no rally, no agility, no pre-novice. Your first class in obedience was novice, and after your first title, you competed with all the others!

I learned to work with people in all age, education, economic, and gender preferences. I learned that a pro taking their time to help a newbie is an amazing thing. I now do mainly obedience and rally but do several other sports too. I always try to help someone who needs help with training or grooming and even in my non dog ventures, I help where I can. The value of mentoring in any aspect of any job is so important!”


Megan Ericson

“Did both junior handling and worked under a professional. My time showing taught me invaluable time management skills, working quickly and efficiently, under pressure and with a deadline, and good communication skills. It also gave me a thick skin, and taught me how to accept constructive criticism. I worked for 10 years as a cook and it gave me the tools I needed to be successful in that environment. I now work in a grooming salon, so the grooming skills have definitely given me a leg up.”



Mara Spicer

“I went into public safety working as a 911 dispatcher. I was able to use so many of my skills learned from the pros. From time management, to working under pressure, to handling yourself like a professional no matter what.”


Jess Blatt

“I started showing in juniors before I was 10 at matches. As soon as I turned 10, I was showing in juniors at shows. My mom has been breeding Shar-Pei for 25+ years, I traveled with and assisted different handlers, I showed everything and anything I could. When I turned 17 and met my husband, I decided dog shows weren’t everything. We had children, I work at a hospital, and I go to dog shows sparingly as my daughters like showing my mom’s dogs but they generally go with her and they’re more involved with showing their rabbits, livestock and horses.

I’ve learned that once you can pick out a good animal of any species, it carries through to different species and same goes for showing them (except rabbits which is a whole different ball game from showing any species!) I’m thankful for all the places I’ve traveled and people I’ve met. And I think the biggest thing I’ve gained from showing dogs, I can pack a vehicle like none other! And I have no issues working til 3AM, sleeping for 2 hours and driving 3 hours to a rabbit show with van packed full of rabbits and 4 kids. I also developed a love for coffee at a young age.”


Jordin Wallis

“I have been in dogs since 2004 when I started showing in juniors as well as at the breed level. The quote I would choose to best describe my profession now and my experience in handling dogs is “structure dictates function.”

I have always had this quote ingrained in my mind when showing and working in my current field. I am currently a Surgical TA at VCA NWVS working with an orthopedic surgeon. When looking at orthopedic patients we are looking at their gait and how their limbs work with one another.

Gait is extremely important for a dog to perform its job as well as just to be a normal dog. When I view the conformation side of movement I see the same thing. How their limbs work with one another and how that gait moves them across the ring. The form of the dog always follows its function in all aspects whether it be a working dog, show dog, or just a fantastic family pet. The dog show community should always follow this Motto to continue to improve the breeding stock of today’s generation.”



Jacqueline Zwirn

“I grew up in the RV, at the shows. As a toddler I was in the expens ringside while my mom was in the ring.

I toyed with the idea of becoming Pro–but life dictated otherwise. I love being on the road and in the ring.

What I learned from my experience as a child in the ring and on the road was candor, respect, sportsmanship and to strive for excellence.

If you aren’t going to do it right, with ethics, don’t do it at all.”

Zwirn Junior Showmanship

Brittany Updyke

“So I showed in juniors and in the breed rings for about 7 years. My mom and I would rather to the shows after I got home from school. I worked for Laura and Robin for 2 summers as their assistant. Showing dogs taught me so many life lessons and I am forever grateful for the experiences I was able to receive. When I moved to Texas 3 years ago, I brought my last juniors dog with me. Everyone always says, a dogs love is unconditional, but I feel that having a dog that you’ve shown in juniors is something even a little more special. You come to realize that you are a team and I truly couldn’t imagine life with my “pet”.

Along the journey, I’ve also made life long friends. In fact, I just got married in May and 2 out of my 4 bridesmaids were people I’ve met from showing dogs. I currently work as a registered nurse and I think most of my time management skills come from showing dogs. Being able to balance work life and home life is something that is so important and I contribute those lessons to being able to travel during my younger years as an assistant, in juniors, while going to school and keeping a social life outside on top of it all.”


Taylor Ault

“I didn’t grow up in dogs. I started with my first dog when I was twelve doing rally and agility then started in the conformation ring a couple years later. I worked for a couple breeders and handlers and loved it but definitely did not want to do it full time.

I got my Bachelors in Animal Science and I am now starting my Masters in Animal Reproductive Physiology. I still love handling dogs on the side when I can for some friends. When I have the time (and money!) after I finish school I want my own show dogs and eventually breed. I think dog shows are a wonderful way to teach life lessons, especially to juniors, about hard work, dedication, and responsibility. But I credit my work with dogs for getting me where I am today in school and I absolutely love it!”


Aimee Bruening

“Former junior handler AND assistant here! I chose not to go the professional handler route because in college I joined Air Force ROTC and decided to pursue that as a career instead. I absolutely loved my time as an assistant though, and it’s definitely helped me succeed in ROTC.

Time management, attention to detail, communicating clearly and precisely, working under pressure and most importantly a sense of urgency – all beneficial skills that apply to both professions! I’m still involved in the world of dogs, but it’s been put on the back burner while I finish my degree. I still help as an assistant from time to time when I can, and I’m currently planning on getting a new show prospect sometime in the spring so I’ll become more involved in the show community again.”


Riley DeVos Mars

“I decided to go to college for Elementary Education and now teach 3-4 grade Special Education. I still show dogs and have branched out to try hunt tests and rally/obedience as well. Dog shows have definitely benefited me in my current job – one of my Rottweilers is our school therapy dog. When talking to the school board, I was able to highlight her OFA health test results, her stable temperament, and her ability to handle new situations from showing.”

Riley Mars Junior showmanship


From Cassie Noe

“I got burnt out. I was working every weekend and it got to the point where the weekends off or weekends at home with the house dogs is what I was looking forward to more than working. I decided to move home and pursue my education and career. I found that working and helping people was a lot more rewarding and also a lot less physically exhausting.

I stayed involved with showing because I still love the companionship of the animals and the feeling of piloting a dog to some exciting wind and also seeing the happiness on the owners faces when their precious pet won a ribbon. Eventually after the loss of my mother I decided I needed a break from shows entirely to ground myself and find my happiness and focus on my growing career, house, and wedding.”


From Kat Smith

“My family had purebred poodles growing up but not show or competition dogs. I did a year in 4H and got hooked and wanted a show dog, my parents said no more dogs. I found a local dog show and convinced them that if I could find a dog to show that didn’t live here, that I could show it. Much to their surprise, I found some awesome breeders who were willing to sign me on a dog Juniors!

I worked for pros over the summer and had awesome breeder mentors. When I aged out of Juniors, people kept asking me to show their dogs, so I was an agent for a few years so I could keep showing dogs until I was out of college and really in a position to buy one. I finally did a few years ago, and am many titles and a few litters in as a hobby breeder and competitor.

Working for a handler and as an agent, I realized that I get so much more out of working with and competing with my own dogs than anyone else’s. So I enjoy my day job, working in communications & marketing, having a small-scale breeding program where I can train, groom, and show my own dogs to their maximum potential. I also get to spend my dog show days mostly enjoying time with dogs and friends than running around. Plus, boy if you bring a litter of puppies to the office they get a lot of socialization and you get a lot of bonus points!”


From Jennifer Scattini Nowell

“I am a 2nd generation breeder/owner/handler. I started training my own juniors dog at age 8, showed in the breed ring at age 9, and jrs at age 10. While I worked for a few handlers off and on, I pretty quickly decided being a pro wasn’t for me, mostly because I’m grooming inept. I also enjoy the freedom my job gives me. I have a B.S. in Ecology and Systematic Biology and I work on a commercially caught rockfish and flatfish study in CA.

I am still involved in the dog show world, albeit on the periphery now. I am a member of the local kennel club and I teach a conformation handling class. I find it rewarding to help people with their craft. I owe a lot to my personal mentors, so I try to give back where I can. I’m hoping to get back on the ring with a dog of my own eventually. Maybe my son will be interested, too.

The biggest life skills I took away from my juniors years were all about sportsmanship. Be a good loser, but always, always be a gracious winner. Help new folks find their way, and for Pete’s sake, give your dog the love he/she deserves!”

From Andrea Albin

“Three years as an assistant, four years in juniors showing Goldens and English Cockers, and over a decade in agility. Now, I’m the Digital Marketing Manager and Graphic Design Specialist at the Sports Car Club of America, the country’s largest amateur motorsports organization. Dog shows helped me develop determination and individual responsibility. I also found that participating in AKC events allowed me to observe an organization that operates within similar business models as my current employer.”

From Michelle Nolan

“I started working for professionals from 12-17 yoa. I decided I wanted to take a break from dog shows and focus on being a teenager. As fate would have it, I continued to work with dogs as I was hired to work at a doggy daycare and did so for four years. After that point, I moved to Santa Cruz and studied political science. I then worked/managed a dog walking company for 3 years.

This March, I embarked on a new adventure. I started my own dog walking/daycare/ overnight service here in Santa Cruz. I never envisioned working for myself or with dogs. I tried to push away from it many times in my short life but something kept drawing me back to it.

At this point in my life, I’m not pursuing dog shows and have no desire at this time to be apart of that realm. However, I without a doubt, would not have the dog or people sense without my experience working along dog enthusiasts and professionals. I believe the main skill set I acquired from dog shows is my understanding of different breeds. I didn’t realize that this was a skill and helps me understand my pack of dogs better. For example looking at a Husky or an Australian Shepherd and knowing what they were bred to do and how those unique qualities are reflected in their personalities and behaviors. I guess reading all of those dog breed books as a kid and spending countless hours at the side of show rings really helped me out there!”

From Erin L McClurg

“The paycheck wasn’t consistent.  I had to rely on people with good dogs to hire me.  For the amount of work I didn’t feel the amount of return was worth it- but most of all- I did not want showing dogs to be a “have to”.  It’s a passion and love in my heart.

One mentor told me to go to college so I didn’t have to rely on dogs forever.  I attended Texas A&M and did my BS in animal science production industry and my MS in animal science with an emphasis on ruminant nutrition.

I’ve taught vet tech courses at the collegiate level but for most of my career I have been in sales of dog food. I am able to share specific cases in which I may have changed food and how it worked. Experience from breeding, puppies, adults and seniors.

Yes, I am still involved. Labradors first and foremost. I have had borders and schnauzers as well.”

From Kara Lynn Gossage

“I grew up in Collies ( Rough & Smooth), my mom had been involved since she was 15. I handled in the breed ring as a child and then when I became old enough for juniors my mother bought me a miniature pinscher for easier handling. I was in juniors from 10-18.

I have a Bachelors in Biology, emphasis on animal behavior and a minor in psychology. I handled a little for close friends during college and campaigned a few specials. I started working with PetSmart in 2008 and worked my way up the corporate ladder, now overseeing the Central IL- Kentucky region of salon services teaching new groomers in academy. I took a hiatus to have children, but am currently getting back into that game and looking to expand breeds and become a junior judge. I also compete nationally on PetSmart’s Competitive Groom Team.

My experiences growing up in the dog show world and working with breeders, professional handlers, and other younger handlers have been the foundation of my success in my career. I have become well-versed in multiple breed knowledge, handling, grooming, and products. I can honestly say I love what I’ve grown up doing, it fits me well.”