159 – Dana Cline: 2018 Judge of the Year


AKC judge and Great Dane breeder, Dana Cline, was voted by the purebred dog fancy as Judge of the Year in the Dog News/Purina awards announced Feb. 10, 2018.


Cline fell in love with his breed as a child “when the Great Dane was taller than I was.”

As a young boy, gardening and fishing were his past times and he wasn’t sure dogs were something he wanted in his life. Then his step dad took him to see a litter of Great Danes.

“These two incredible creatures came trotting out of this back yard,” Cline said. “My life changed in that moment.

“We brought home a puppy. It wasn’t necessarily a show dog but I pretended like he was. I did 4-H with him. We practiced and I got better dogs. I was probably 11 or 12 years old. I’ve loved them ever since.

“4-H was so important as a young boy. (It) gave me the confidence to think I could go out and do something with this dog.”

Cline credits Ray Cataldi of Rojon Great Danes with having the most influence on him as a boy. Edd Bivin, Michelle Billings and Frank Sabella form the powerful trifecta that encouraged, mentored and supported Cline’s dreams of “having fabulous Great Danes.”

His passion for the beauty of his breed and the purebred dog world drove him early on to success handling Great Danes and eventually all-breeds for about 20 years.



Cline feels that one of the most important lessons from his mentors is that “type is essential.”

“(In Great Danes) a dog has to be beautiful. It has to stimulate your senses. Otherwise I don’t find value in them,” Cline opined. “I feel that the artistic expression and technical merit is where you begin to judge. A Great Dane, without a proper head, will never achieve greatness.

Movement is only a tie breaker. I absolutely want them to be beautiful in motion, but it doesn’t define them. The Great Dane must fill your senses and must stimulate you in its beauty. Its purpose is absolutely in its beauty. That’s just what I’m committed to.”

He also acknowledges that this same standard applies differently in different breeds.

“(For example) the Brittany is different. The standard describes a medium sized dog and fancy is not encouraged. Each breed needs to be judged on its standard,” Cline said.


Judging dogs, for Cline, extends this understanding of looking for the “hallmarks of the breed.”

“A judge has to open themselves to accept the limitations and expectations of the breed specific things,” Cline said. “(I use examples of) the Doberman and Great Dane. (Some) judges have expectations of a Great Dane that aren’t realistic. They don’t always stop square and perfect. A Doberman is watchful and aware of its surroundings. You should expect that from them. (You have to be) willing to accept that performances are not all the same based upon the nature of the breed. I can’t expect a Tibetan Mastiff to stand there and use his ears for a piece of liver. It’s not what the breed does. You cannot add showmanship as bonus (to a dog in the ring) unless they have the other elements to go with it.

“I tolerate misbehavior. They’re dogs. If the dog gives an adequate performance for you to judge it, for me, it still can be the winner. One of the lesson Mrs. Billings always taught me was to ‘make the best dog win, within reason.’”


On the question of level playing fields and the OH vs PH debate, Cline is very emphatic.

“There’s a clear path for (owner handlers) to be successful,” Cline said. “You have to want it enough. Hang in there. Keep the bar high. I came up through the ranks, not a real wealthy young man who had to spend every dime he had to be successful. I’m one of those stories that those folks should look at and say he did it. It can be done. I’m living proof.

“You don’t achieve high levels of success in anything without determined effort. I truly believe that it’s possible for anybody. It may not happen as often for one as another. But that does not exclude a person that works really hard and does it right. Especially in our sport. Everything is possible.

“There aren’t many sports that allow a 12 year old child to compete directly with a 35 year old professional in the sport. That alone is an opportunity to hobnob with those people all day long. There’s not a better opportunity if you are willing to learn. There are always people to learn from. You have to be willing to take advantage of it. That doesn’t mean go home after you lose your class of two dogs. Politics plays a very small part.


“I think the owner handler should reach for the top. Never think they can’t get there. Every person that walks in the door at 8 a.m. should be able to dream that they could be a Best In Show winner today. If anything interferes with that dream, there is something wrong with the dog show. My dream was always to go Best In Show, but I’m ok if I win my class.”

“The sport has certainly changed,” Cline noted. “There are those of us that lived in a time when the sport was greatness. Big kennels, big breeders, the opportunities were just endless. We have to try and share that with people. It’s not the same as living it, but something to bring forward.”

“It’s how important it is to you and much you’re willing to give, how much you’re willing to put into it. I can’t think of anything else that would drive anyone to do this crazy sport. Just a whole lot of passion.”

“That (passion) is what drove me from the very minute I stepped out of the car and saw those dogs (as a kid).”



Allison Foley of Leading Edge Academy is back with tips on what to watch for, and how to care properly for your dog’s feet in hot and cold conditions.


Allison Foley’s Leading Edge Dog Academy offers 25% off courses for Pure Dog Talk listeners.  Just use the code PureDogTalk25.

144 – Stars in Orlando|Jason Taylor and Jerry O’Connell

Orlando Starts Jason Taylor and Jerry O'Connell

Jason Taylor and Jerry O’Connell – Stars in Orlando

Jason Taylor is the face you rarely see behind the scenes of the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin. Taylor, an Afghan Hound breeder who worked for Eukanuba before the show even existed, is a constant through the year’s 18 year history.CROWN_CHAMPIONSHIP_LOGO

“I think the thing we got right early on,” Taylor said, “was the focus on celebrating breeds and breeders. It’s why we have the Bred By Exhibitor competition that continues to today. The other thing is, there are no tiny rings at the AKC National Championship. We believe you need to be able to see dogs move. At least for this show, this is the way it’s gonna be.”

Assistant Show Chairman – Jason Taylor

Taylor’s official title is Assistant Show Chairman and National PRO Sales Director for Royal Canin. He also is the force behind this year’s hugely successful roll out of the puppy/junior sweepstakes event on the Friday of the National Championship events weekend.

“We liked the idea of introducing a moment celebrating the future stars,” Taylor said. “When I sat down and drafted the event, working with Gina DiNardo, we thought if we could get 500 puppies it would be a success. It was beyond any dream that we got 1200 entries!”

Taylor admits the team had concerns, with a focus on dogs first, that the “big, busy week” would overwhelm the young dogs. But he notes that exhibitors were mindful of the puppies’ needs and careful with them.

The wild schedule of that Friday in the weekend is one Taylor also went into aware of the potential issues. “But we think of these as good problems to have,” Taylor said, observing the record-breaking entry for the event. Friday features the National Owner-Handled Series, 30 specialties, including several nationals and two group shows. Adding the Puppy/Junior event was additional pressure on the schedule.

“On paper it looked like conflicts,” Taylor said. He even joked about the building-wide “brown out” that effectively juggled the schedule enough to squeak through with fewer head to head conflicts than expected. “We learned a lot,” Taylor said. “There are some tweaks we can make to relieve the schedule.”

Taylor’s Wisdom for Show-Giving Clubs

And, just for Pure Dog Talk listeners, Taylor offered the benefit of his wisdom as applicable to all show-giving clubs.

“The AKC National Championship is unique,” Taylor observed. “But the principles are the same. You have to concentrate on revenue, but it can’t solely be from entries. Clubs have to get creative and think outside the box.

“And they need to be absolutely maniacal about expenses. Make sure the money you spend is in the right places. That it’s going to show up.

“Clubs need to generate awareness. Too many clubs don’t know how. There are newspapers, blogs, podcasts. There are individuals in every market who are into dog things. Facebook pages are critical. Clubs need to reach out to the community. Even if folks are not dog show people, they’ll come out for dog stuff. The more people who attend a show, the happier the vendors are and so on.

“Dog shows are hard (for the general public). Most of the activity is at 8 a.m. and slows down through the day. For most families, their day happens in the opposite way. Having things for people to do, to get involved with, is vital.”

Jerry O’Connell Co-Host’s on Animal Planet

After our talk with Taylor, Laura had a few minutes to catch up with the show’s newest co-host, Jerry O’Connell, known for his work on the film Stand By Me and Crossing Jordan.

Jerry O'Connell and Laura Reeves

Jerry O’Connell and Laura Reeves

Listen in to our up close and personal visit with O’Connell.  Hear his exclamations that the dogs are adorable and well-behaved, his experience with being groomed at the dog show, his commentary on where women store their bait and more.

“I’m the guy they bring in to ask the questions the people at home want to ask,” O’Connell noted. “It’s impossible not to smile walking across that floor.”