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.

503 – Examining the History of Sighthounds with Bo Bengtson

Examining the History of Sighthounds with Bo Bengtson

Bo Bengtson, author, publisher and Whippet breeder, attended his first dog show in 1958 in his native Sweden. He joins host Laura Reeves for a deep dive into the intricacies of sighthounds.

“It was, right away, like lightning struck,” Bengtson said. “I was 14 years old and I just knew right away that this was what I wanted to devote my life to. It was really fascinating. It was, as someone once said, a combination of zoo and circus and theater …

A passion for sighthounds

“You have to know a little bit about coursing if you’re involved in sighthounds. They have remained the same for thousands of years, the basic type. They weren’t breeds early on but different types of sighthounds. if you look at the early description of coursing which is the pursuit of game with sighthounds … that is a sport that’s now these days illegal in most of US… It’s been superseded by lure coursing, which is an artificial form of coursing.

“Hunters Homeward Bound,” 10th Century AD. Courtesy of Bo Bengston.

“(Sighthounds developed) before firearms basically, when the only way you had to hunt was through the dogs and whatever they could course and kill was basically today’s dinner. Firearms made sighthounds very much superfluous. And I think the sport then became very much a status symbol. (Sighthounds) are of course aesthetically pleasing and so many rich people and aristocratic people preferred to hunt with sighthounds, not because of need but because it was a beautiful spectacle and pretty expensive spectacle too. In various parts of the world, Queen Elizabeth I was very fond of coursing. In Russia they coursed with Borzoi. And in the Far East there were Salukis.

What IS a Sighthound?

“There is no official definition of what a sighthound is. So there is a great disagreement about what breeds actually count as sighthounds. You can count as few as four or five as pure sighthounds and as many as 40 as “sighthound related” or different types of breeds we don’t know in this country. Some we wouldn’t define as breeds but more as types.

(Listen to fascinating conversations about the Caravan Hounds of India here and here.)

History of sighthound development

“I think we have to go back again a couple of thousand years because there have probably always been different sizes of greyhounds. Greyhound types. The big ones which were the ancestor of the modern greyhound. And we have the different, smaller ones that were ancestors of whippet and the Italian greyhounds. I think that Whippets, although they weren’t  described as a breed until late 1800s, they have certainly been around much longer. Catherine the Great of Russia had little English greyhounds she called them. And they were very important to her. She nursed them herself and they slept on a pink couch in her bedroom. But whether they’re Italian greyhounds, whether they were whippet, who knows. I mean they were very small and whether Italian greyhounds or whippets, it is kind of irrelevant these days.

“The Greyhound and the Saluki are sort of the “ur” sighthound, what sighthounds are supposed to be like. … if you take one step away from Saluki you get the Afghan Hound, which is a little more powerful. If you take several steps away from the Greyhound, you get the Ibizan Hound and you get the Portuguese Podengo and that kind of thing.”

Listen to the full episode for more detailed insights into all things sighthound.

359 – “Space Whippet,” Insta Celeb, Provides Social Media Tips

“Space Whippet,” Insta Celeb, Provides Social Media Tips

Beth Gordon acquired a race-bred whippet after her mixed breed rescue developed IVDD (intervertebral disc disease). Kuiper the Space Whippet’s rise to fame on social media provides a blueprint for others to follow in promoting purebred dogs.

“I wanted a healthy dog I could do sports with. It’s ok to not want a project. We’ve spent as much as my college education on our older dog with health issues. I just didn’t want to have to do that again,” Gordon said.

“I decided we needed better influencers on this new-fangled thing called Instagram, Gordon said.” She wanted to do something that was informative, not just fluffy. A “space tree” in Salem, Oregon was the idea for the launch of Kuiper the Science Dog, Space Whippet.

In just a couple years, Gordon and Kuiper have acquired more than 150,000 Instagram followers and been to Kennedy Space Center for a photo shoot for the account.

Utterly shameless self-promotion makes all the difference, Gordon said. “Business cards cost $20 and people love to get them.”

“Even though the account name is space whippet, I get a lot of questions about his breed,” Gordon said. “I think it’s a good opportunity. The way you increase representation for anything is by showing it to people, not making a big deal out of it.

“When you’ve been fed this line there are so many rescue dogs, why don’t you have a rescue dog? My answer is that purebred dogs are not fungible with rescue dogs. If my choice was another rescue dog or no dog, I just wouldn’t get a dog. If you have specific things you want to do, you’re much better to get a breed designed for that.

“The general public doesn’t know there are so many things you can do with your dog. May not consider their dog trainable. Increasing awareness of the sports they can do is so important. Purebred dogs are not just for beauty, dogs are functional,” Gordon said.