617 – Breed Type First: Mary Dukes on Judging Dogs

Breed Type First: Mary Dukes on Judging Dogs

Mary Dukes in her handling days heyday.

Legendary handler, rep and now judge Mary Dukes continues her conversation with host Laura Reeves. Today they talk about judging, handling and all-time favorite dogs.

“I’m a type-first girl all the way,” Dukes said, quoting the notable Anne Rogers Clark common wisdom to sort first on type and then reward the soundest of the typical dogs. “I’m forgiving of leg faults, especially on the down and back. As long as it doesn’t offend me, it’s probably good enough.

“I do firmly believe this. A good judge can see right through a poor handling job. Sometimes it’s frustrating. I watched a breed in Orlando. It wasn’t a hound breed but a breed that I’m very familiar with and it was so frustrating because it’s an owner -handled breed for the most part and the best dogs in there were being tragically handled. It was so frustrating because there was a dog in there that’s beautiful and every time the judge looked at him (the handler) wasn’t even trying to do anything with him. His legs were everywhere. You know, all she was doing was feeding him basically.

“And I thought, God, if you could just rack him up once, just rack him up once and pull him up over his front and break him over, (the judge) just needs to see it once.

“I might be the one that will turn into Frank Sabella. I mean, not in terms of swapping dogs or anything, because he did that to me a million times, but I know he got in trouble for it. But in terms of, ‘Here’s what I want you to do. Can you go from this corner to that corner on a loose lead? Can you do that?’ If they give me five steps, we’re golden.

“At the end of the day, it’s putting up the best dog.”

Pro tip: Pacing

“It’s all about throwing them off balance when you take the first step. I always like to go into them because they learn pretty quick. A lot of people they jerk (the dog) and then ‘let’s go.’ Well, then the dog starts anticipating that. I just would turn them into me and then just bump them. Just bump their shoulder as you start your down and back.”

Ch. Aroi Talk of the Blues, ‘Punky’, shown with handler Corky Vroom. Judge Anne Rogers Clark “discovered” Punky in 1975, when she made her Best of Breed from the Puppy class at the Greyhound Club of America specialty in Santa Barbara. Punky was the Top Dog of all breeds in 1976.

Mary’s fantasy best in show line up would be judged by Michelle Billings. It would feature Mick, the Kerry Blue who shows up in most judges’ all-time best line ups, but many of her other choices are more esoteric and focused on dogs she knew personally. From Iron Eyes, the Bouvier to Scarlett Ribbons, the Italian Greyhound. Listen in to hear her personal choice for Best in Show.

616 – Mary Dukes: An Evolution from Owner to Professional to Rep to Judge

Mary Dukes: An Evolution from Owner to Professional to Rep to Judge

Host Laura Reeves is joined by Mary Dukes, legendary Whippet breeder, professional handler, AKC Executive Field Representative and now judge.

A 1991 advertisement for Dukes’ handling services.

Dukes has spent a lifetime involved in working with animals. From showing horses to training elephants to showing dogs. Her work with the zoo animals instilled in her an absolute dedication to animal husbandry.

NO Dirty Dogs

“There are no shortcuts in animal care. Period,” Dukes said. “In zoo animals, you have to be even more on top of it because wild animals don’t have a tell that they’re sick. In the wild, any tell that they are sick or injured is going to make them dead. So they are really good at masking that. If you are sloppy or dirty or messy there is no room for you in the animal business.

“I’ll put this on blast right now, if someone walks into my ring with a dirty dog, we’re going to have a problem. There is no excuse to show a dirty dog. I won’t hold it against the dog, but the handler might get an earful.”

AKC Registered Handler Program

Dukes was an early member of the AKC Registered Handler Program. As a rep, Dukes was a coordinator of the RHP. She joined RHP because they demanded insurance, inspections, so “I wanted to put my money where my mouth was.”

RHP is not a guarantee the handler is going to win with your dog, Dukes said.

“The whole point of the program is so the people have a place to start looking where we had done some of the ground work for you. You know they (they handlers) are insured. You know their vehicle is inspected for safety and cleanliness. You know their kennel has been inspected by AKC kennel inspectors. You know they’ve signed a code of ethics.

“RHP members have to have a contract. They have to bill in a timely fashion. The bill has to be itemized. A lot of the trouble you see, most of it is because the expectations weren’t clear. If you have a contract, it’s

Dukes is still actively involved with horses. Her vacations frequently involve riding in exotic locales.

right there in black and white.

Safe Sport

“One of the newest requirements is SafeSport. All RHP members have to take the training as a condition of membership.

“Safe Sport is a congressionally mandated program for every Olympic sport.

“There’s been a lot of abuses in every sport. Basically, Safe Sport is making you aware of what to look for. If you see a situation that you suspect might be something, it gives you tools. Because we aren’t an Olympic sport, we don’t have access to the mechanics of the national organization.

“It automatically makes everyone (who’s had the training) mandatory reporters. If you put it out in the open more, it’s harder for someone to creep around. I would like to see it spread out to judges, especially juniors judges.”

Join us next week for part two of this fantastic conversation. Learn what Dukes is looking for in a dog and hear about her fantasy Best in Show lineup.