Clubs & Breeds

132|Story Behind When Hollywood Called, and Philadelphia Said No|Wayne Ferguson on Pure Dog Talk

Philadelphia Wayne Ferguson

How the Kennel Club of Philadelphia "Made It" in Hollywood

History and Hollywood - National Dog Show

The National Dog Show, broadcast on Thanksgiving Day, is brought to you by NBC Sports and Purina… and a whole lot of work and organization by Wayne Ferguson, president of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, and his show committee.

Ferguson shares his tips to help local kennel clubs acquire sponsors and how a Hollywood parody dramatically changed the trajectory of a historic all breed club.


Wayne Ferguson

Wayne Ferguson - Courtesy of Kennel Club of Philadelphia


Story of the Hollywood Call

The phone call from Jon Miller at NBC Sports to talk about televising the Kennel Club of Philadelphia show promised a welcome infusion of revenue, but Ferguson initially turned down the request.


They originally wanted to do it as a parody, just like the Best in Show movie,” Ferguson said. “I told them, we just can’t do that. We take our dog show very seriously.” Fortunately the NBC crew agreed to his terms and the rest, as they say, is history.


Story of Wayne Ferguson

Wayne Ferguson, president and announcer for the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, began his journey is purebred dogs in childhood. His father founded the Middlesex, New Jersey SPCA and young Wayne helped his dad run the “one man show” that was the animal shelter of the era.

He acquired his first Saint Bernard as a rescue while investigating a complaint for the SPCA. In his early 20s, working at a bank, Ferguson found a young female Saint tied in the basement of an abandoned home, standing in half a foot of water.

She was wagging her tail at the sight of me,” he recalls. “Can you imagine the trust in humans after being treated like that.” He promptly loaded her into his car and took her home.

Thus began a lifetime love affair with Saint Bernards which he developed into a longtime and successful breeding program.

Story of Cherrybrook Supplies

His involvement with the purebred dog fancy dating back to the 1940s and ‘50s, led him to observe, in 1969, that show dog handlers needed easy access to products and tools to help them do their jobs. Ferguson established Cherrybrook pet supplies, originally selling the products from the back of his station wagon. He eventually built the business into an international supplier of premium dog show products.

Philadelphia in Jeopardy

An initial invitation to an all-breed club meeting morphed over the years into his current position with Kennel Club of Philadelphia.  Twenty years ago, Ferguson confides, his club was facing all of the same sorts of struggles and constraints familiar to most all-breed clubs across the country. A weak treasury and an expensive venue were causing significant concern for one of the longest running dog shows in the country.

Ferguson notes it’s important for local clubs to not wait for gifts to fall from the sky. “You have to go out and beat the bushes,” he noted. “Dog food companies aren’t as free with their funding as they used to be.

Find local businesses and show them a way” they can fit into the show’s promotion. His observation that too many kennel club members don’t want to do any fundraising work is all too familiar.

They want to show their dogs. Or maybe make lunch for the judges. But club members need to understand the importance of stepping up to the task,” he says.

Hire the Best Judges and Plenty of Them

"Nothing beats good leadership who know how to save money and spend money wisely,” Ferguson counsels. He continues on the theme of “penny wise, pound foolish” to recommend hiring high quality judges, even if they cost more, because they will draw an entry. And to hire more judges than are absolutely necessary, because that is what enables judges the time and relaxed schedule to interact with the exhibitors.

It’s predicated on budget, of course,” Ferguson observes. “But if you can hire extra judges, do that. It makes a difference.”

Wayne Ferguson - President of Morris and Essex Kennel Club

The resurrection of the famed Morris and Essex dog show takes Ferguson’s feeling about hiring plenty of judges to the extreme. Ferguson, who is president and show chair for M&E, believes he is bringing history forward with this grand event held every five years on the historic grounds of the Rockefeller Dodge estate. They hire more than 80 judges for 27 rings.

In an interview on the Morris and Essex Kennel Club website, talking about the M&E experience, Ferguson says:

We stop the judging at twelve noon and everybody has lunch - judges, handlers, exhibitors, spectators - and it works. Superintendents run the shows but clubs need to run deeper into their judging panels. Clubs should have judges doing one, two or three breeds, not dozens, and then when the judges are finished they have done only a couple of hours of judging, can spend time talking with and educating exhibitors, and will have time for pleasantries during pictures.

Particularly if we want our sport to grow - it's important for the judge to speak to the novice handler and share what was good or what could be improved in the dog they showed that day.

Education over Politics

“Also, I believe that if a show chairman believes a judge might have a political reason for accepting an assignment, the show chairman shouldn't ask him or her in the first place.”

Historical Philadelphia - Benched is Best

In keeping with the historical and traditional, one of the most notable aspects of the actual Kennel Club of Philadelphia show is that it is benched. One of only three remaining benched shows in the U.S., Ferguson believes the format is critical for spectators and for exhibitors.

Benched shows are great because all of the dogs in a breed are together,” Ferguson shares. “It’s wonderful for the public because you can find all of the dogs of the breed you want to see. (With benched shows) we used to take the time to interact. We were forced to stay, forced to talk to people, forced to learn more about our breed or another breed. It doesn’t happen when you can escape and run away (as in an unbenched show). The con is if you don’t like to talk to people and you think you know it all about your breed, you’re stuck there staring at the floor. We’re proud of our heritage. Benched shows shaped the sport.”

Hear all of this fabulous conversation with Wayne Ferguson on today’s episode.


The National Dog Show, hosted by David Frei and John O’Hurley, airs Thanksgiving Day from noon to 2 p.m. in all time zones.

For all of our listeners who are competing in Philadelphia this weekend, best of luck, and make sure you post *spoiler alert* before any social media shares!

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

Doug Ljungren

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

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119 – Heroic Newfoundland Dogs: Water Rescue with Lou Ann Lenner and Sue Raney

Newfoundland Dog - Katherine Payne Photography

Heroic Newfoundland Dogs - Saviors of Seafarer and Fishermen

Every Christmas season brings to memory the heroic rescue of the 90 passengers and crew of the S.S. Ethie by a stalwart Newfoundland...It was more than 50 years ago, during a blizzard, that the Ethie was wrecked off the coast of Bonne Bay, Newfoundland. No boat could be launched on that stony shore during such a raging storm. There were more than 100 souls utterly helpless within sight of land.

All of them would have been lost and many would have been mourning families that Christmas, had not a Newfoundland and its owner appeared on the nearby shore. The dog went to the rescue upon an order from its master. The Newfoundland swam out through a sea in which no man could possibly have survived. The powerful dog made it to the ship and carried a lifeline back to shore. With this a buoy was rigged and all hands saved. Among the rescued passengers from the Ethie was an infant in a mail bag."  From The New Complete Newfoundland, Margaret Booth Chern, 1975

Developed in the eponymous islands off the east coast of Canada, the Newfoundland is an outstanding water dog. The dogs worked on fishing boats in the rugged, icy, stormy seas around their home island. While exact details of the progenitors of the breed are lost to history, written descriptions and paintings date back to the 1700s. Famed poet Emily Dickinson owned a Newfoundland and, of course, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer painted the breed frequently. In fact, the black and white color of the dog is known as a “Landseer” Newfoundland. The Newfoundland Club of America website has an entire page devoted to his work,

Newfoundland Dog - Katherine Payne Photography

Newfoundland Dog - Katherine Payne Photography

"Seamen" the Newfoundland Dog of Capt. Meriweather Lewis

Amongst the breed’s most well-known individuals is Seaman, Captain Meriweather Lewis’ dog, who accompanied President Thomas Jefferson’s exploration group during their rugged, three-year journey across what is now the United States in the early 1800s. Seaman was mentioned repeatedly in the journals of the Expedition, including saving the camp from a rampaging buffalo and retrieving game shot or wounded by the expedition’s hunters.

Today, the breed serves as a living embodiment of the culture of ships and fishing villages in Newfoundland. Proper coat and soundness are critical.

Lou Ann Lenner - Sun Valley Newfoundland Dogs

Our first guest Lou Ann Lenner, Sun Valley Newfoundlands, is a breeder of National and Regional specialty winners since 1977, with four generations of homebred ROM dogs.

According to Lou Ann, she always has bred to type, line breeding consistently, incorporating primarily Pouch Cove blood lines. Health can be a challenge as are the cycles in the quality of the breed. Long term breeders *recognize* when quality is slipping and “step up” to get the breed back on track.

Maintaining type while managing health issues in the breed, specifically orthopedic problems associated with giant breed dogs and cardiac concerns, is a primary concern. Lou Ann keeps only bitches in her kennel and reaches out for stud dogs to incorporate into the breeding program. Her top three qualities to when seeking a stud dog are balance, soundness and a complementary pedigree.

She observes that the best home for a Newfoundland is someone who is committed to grooming and familiar with breed. On a personal note, she only places puppies with owners who have someone to be home with the dog consistently.

Lou Ann strongly recommends learning about what’s behind your dog in terms of dogs in a pedigree, and honestly sharing what you know with new folks.

Sue Raney - Sweetbay Newfoundland Dogs and Water Rescue Work

Sue Raney, our second guest, is a Newfoundland fancier who has spent 25 years working dogs in water rescue work.

“The dogs have an amazing ability to be companions in water in a way no other breed does. They are just joyful to be around,” Sue said.

She notes that in a form follows function capacity, a dog’s effortless, fluid motion in the ring, translates to a powerful swimming stroke in the water. She also reminds people that the correct coat protects the dog in its native frigid water. The standard describes the coat as “flat, water-resistant, double coat that tends to fall back into place when rubbed against the nap. The outer coat is coarse, moderately long, and full, either straight or with a wave. The undercoat is soft and dense,…”

Titles with Meaning

The fascinating work the dogs do to earn titles through the national breed club include water rescue exercises that demonstrate the breed’s heritage…. saving people, and saving “things” that have fallen overboard.

Sue says she encourages owners to become involved with regional breed clubs. Her enthusiasm for the work these dogs do is infectious!

Grooming Tip Of the Week with Allison Foley

Right Tools for the Job - Brushes

  1. Brushes: Pin brushes are different lengths.  Think about what you are doing - longer the hair, the longer the pin.
  2. Take good care of your brushes - preserve the pins.  Bent or broken pins rip or break hair.  Keep brush in a box to protect it.
  3. Don't put them in the top of your tack box and close the lid!
  4. Keep clean hair and product brushes separate. Mark your brush so you don't put product residue onto clean coat.

Grooming and Handling Courses Available from Leading Edge Dog Academy with Top Handler Allison Foley.

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112 – A New Perspective on Westminster Kennel Club: Gail Miller Bisher – Director of Communications

Gail Miller Bisher

A new public perspective and perhaps public outreach opportunity is offered by Gail Miller Bisher, the Director of Communications for Westminster Kennel Club, in this episode of Pure Dog Talk.

Winning Westminster Dog Show, or affectionately known as, the Garden, has been the dream of many breeders and exhibitors.  Any change to the perceived purity of the "Garden" may be met with resistance from the sport.

But as we listen to Gail Bisher, consider this... Westminster has the public's eyes and ears.  Who better than Westminster to be the positive voice, to bring heartwarming stories of the love and dedication of our purebred dogs and fanciers.

While the Garden will always be... the Garden, maybe the show of shows has a greater role to play.

Greener Pastures for the Garden - Westminster Kennel Club

Here are a few highlights for 2018:

  • $10,000 Scholarship for Best Junior Handler
  • $10,000 Scholarship for Agility
  • $10,000 Scholarship for Obedience
  • Art Contest - $15,000 total ($5,000 each) - to be awarded to 3 Parent Breed Clubs for Rescue


Gail Miller Bisher - Westminster Kennel Club - Director of Communications

Gail Miller Bisher (pronounced By-sher) is a second-generation dog person with more than 35 years of experience in the sport as a handler, breeder, trainer, writer and spokesperson.

As with many exhibitors in the sport, her experience started as a family affair. Bisher was a team with her parents. While they handled most of the breeding (and her mother was a parent club president for many years) Gail did the grooming, training, conditioning and handling. In addition to conformation, she has earned titles on dogs in obedience, rally, advanced CGC and earthdog.

Bisher handled her first dog to its championship when she was just 12 years old. From her WD win at the first BCCA Specialty in 1979, she continued to handle her dogs and clients’ dogs to National Specialty BOB and BOS and All-Breed Best in Show wins, numerous top ranked positions and Junior Showmanship history. Gail was the first junior handler to qualify for the Westminster Kennel Club’s Junior Showmanship competition with a Beardie and the first to place, capturing second.

Since 1988 she has been judging regional specialties and supported entries and now is an AKC-licensed judge of Bearded Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs and Junior Showmanship competition. In 2015 she judged the BCCA National Specialty. Although time does not allow for much other than a limited number of judging assignments while raising her daughter, Gail has stayed involved by earning four titles each on both of her miniature dachshunds, who recently passed away.

Her club work includes serving the BCCA as a former breed columnist and club-approved breed mentor, specialty conformation chairperson and she is currently the club historian. Additionally, she is a member of the Dachshund Club of America, Morris & Essex, Greenwich Kennel Club and the Dog Writers Association of America.

She has nearly 10 years of experience directing the marketing, brand development and public relations for the American Kennel Club and In 2003 AKC hired her to be an on-air spokesperson appearing on national media outlets to promote the sport and purebred dogs.

Bisher credits her Junior Showmanship experience for creating the foundation for a successful professional career where she has gained recognition in advertising, marketing and the public relations industries. She is a Clio and Mobius Award winning broadcast producer with 12 years of experience in the advertising industry; has managed licensing programs to LIMA awards and produced a TV PSA that was featured on America’s Funniest Commercials. Additionally, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, has earned a Master of Arts degree in Communications and created the Super Fit Fido Club to educate pet dog owners about the importance of canine fitness.

Gail Bisher

Gail Bisher - Westminster Kennel Club - 2nd Place in Juniors


Gail Bisher - Westminster Kennel Club Jr Finals

Gail Bisher - Westminster Kennel Club Jr Finals


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105 – Where have All The Kennel Clubs Gone…

kennel clubs

Where Have All the Kennel Clubs Gone...

As Eugene Kennel Club disbands after their final 2017 show, we ask... how many more kennel clubs will go away...

Have we lost the purpose of kennel clubs?

Are kennel clubs just for "putting on shows"?

Should kennel clubs be or regain their position as a local service and educational organization?

Listener Sheri Graner Ray recently made the following observation.

Where are our clubs today? They are the front line for talking to the public! Yet how many puppy matches have you seen outside of a show site in the past five years? We used to hold matches twice a year (sometimes more, if we had a bunch of puppies coming up) and held them in public parks and such where the general public could come and watch. (and maybe try entering their family pet.) This made a great opportunity to talk to people and educate them about purebreds.

When Kennel Clubs Were Public Education

We used to hold public education events (the "Bark in the Park") and usually paired with a fun run of some sort. Heck, one year we even held it in a big shopping mall, essentially a "meet the breed" for a different breed every two hours. Great opportunity to talk to the public about dogs.

Today our club membership is dwindling and the members there are aging. They get together to put their shows together and that's about it. And yet today with the continuing threat of the animal rights making owning a purebred "unethical".. we need our clubs more than ever! Let's get back to being kennel clubs for the public!!!!!!

AKC is You!

It bugs me when people cry "Oh the AKC isn't doing anything"... I got news for you.. the AKC is a club made up of clubs.. not people.. WE have to do it!”

Many all breed kennel clubs do, in fact, offer outreach programs to the community. “Reading with Rover” programs, CGC and Puppy STAR testing opportunities, obedience classes, Responsible Dog Ownership days and Meet the Breeds are amongst the various services offered even in the small local club to which I belong.

But the struggle to do more with fewer, older bodies is real. So, here are some action items for you and/or your club to help make a difference in your community.

How To Keep a Kennel Club Going

Actively recruit new and young members.

  • Develop a relationship with the local 4-H dog club if one exists. Create one if it doesn’t. 4-H is a tremendous incubator for purebred dogs and the AKC. Children learn from AKC provided materials, participate in local country fairs and have the chance to interact with purebred dogs through dog breed ID if nothing else.
  • Offer free membership to junior members and give them age-appropriate responsibility within the club. They could be tasked with creating a fund-raiser for the scholarship program. Low-cost nail trims or dog baths at a locally owned pet supplies store is just one possibility.
  • If your club doesn’t have a scholarship program, start one. The most excitement you see from the junior showmanship crowd is when there is scholarship money on offer as a prize for the weekend. Advertise heavily that junior club members are eligible for special education scholarships available only to them.
  • Create a relationship with area schools whether it is a Reading to Rover type program, the AKC’s Canine Ambassador program that sends club members and dogs to schools to teach children about animal welfare and animal safety or major school assembly for RDO day. Kids love dogs. The only thing they like better is an excuse to get out of class for an hour! Purebred dogs and the history they represent are tailor-made for this sort of project. My college internship was exactly the description of the Canine Ambassador program. My traveling companion for the schools was a Clumber Spaniel. The kids LOVED hearing that the breed was named for Clumber Park in Sherwood Forest in England … Where Robin Hood lived!
  • Guaranteed, there are purebred dog owners in your community who are not members of the club. Why not? Seek these people out and invite them to join! Make a point of encouraging all members to participate in club meetings by making these informal, brief and more about a social aspect. Host fun days, fun matches, barbecues or pool parties. Build a *community* of dog lovers. Be sure that the foundation of the group is the mutual love for dogs. People do not bond over Roberts Rules of Order. They join forces because their dogs are friends! There is work that has to be done, without doubt. Aside from major decisions of the group, delegate the work to smaller committees who offer short, concise written reports that are included in the minutes.

Find and Join a Kennel Club

If you already own a purebred dog or are thinking of acquiring one, search out the nearest all breed kennel club. I can assure you, club members will welcome you with open arms (or, in some cases like a starving person at the sight of a bread crumb.)

The process of joining a new group of any kind has some basic rules.


  • Offer to help and follow through.
  • Volunteer to bring food to whatever gathering might be in the offing. A common denominator in every. single. dog club? Free food wins hearts and minds.
  • Save up your ideas until you get a feel for the structure of the group.
  • If you have a plan or a suggestion or a bright idea, throw it out there ONLY if you are willing to organize and staff the project yourself. Making work for others is a non-starter.
  • Bring a friend. Or two. The only thing better than food at a dog club is more people.


  • Be a Debbie Downer. Insisting that a suggestion won’t work or will be a disaster will either set you up to fail if it succeeds or become a self-fulfilling prophecy if it doesn’t. Don’t be “that one” person. Don’t like the idea? Don’t participate. But don’t rain on other people’s parades.
  • Expect to start at the top. Start with floor sweeping and coffee making. Ring stewarding and picking up poopie and crawling around on your knees marking off grooming spaces. Earn the respect you think you deserve.
  • Think that joining the club is your ticket to a big ribbon at the dog show. This isn’t about you. It’s about serving the community. It’s one weekend a year that you pay forward for all of those other shows you attend.
  • Complain that nobody listens to you. See number two above.
  • Feed the personality conflicts. They happen any time you have more than two people in the same room. Make a point of not picking a “side” in whatever squabble might be ongoing.

Why Kennel Clubs are Not Just About Shows

Our all breed kennel clubs are the front lines in the ongoing battles being waged daily to ensure purebred dogs and our right to own them and breed them responsibly are preserved in to perpetuity. We can complain and fret and point fingers. Or we can get down in the trenches and join the fight. Those are legitimately the only two options. And option one isn’t going to get us very far.

Great Resources

If you want to learn more about different facets of putting on successful dog events and building strong clubs, you can follow up today’s episode by listening to:

Episode 32 with Seattle Kennel Club’s Katie Campbell

Episode 38 with the inimitable BettyAnne Stenmark of DelValle Kennel Club fame

Episode 47 with Kim Meredith Cavanna,  hostess with the mostest of the always popular Woofstock.

Today's Show with Laura Reeves

Our dog show community was rocked recently, with the announcement that the board of  Eugene Kennel Club had voted to dissolve the club following its 2017 show in September.eugene kennel club

This was literally a visceral shock to our collective system, particularly for Pacific Northwest exhibitors. The club held its first “point” show in 1948. For **69** years, generations of fanciers have attended these shows. When my family started showing dogs in the early ‘80s, Eugene Kennel Club was part of the infamous CalOre circuit of shows that moved every day or two to a new location in a big circle from Northern California to Eastern Oregon and back down the I5 corridor, stopping in my home town, Roseburg, at the very end of the march.

The Beginning of Cluster Dog Shows

Just a side note, for newer exhibitors who complain about long, hard show weeks in major locations (think Florida in January or the Houston shows in July), keep in mind that back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, moving every day or two was the norm. Think set up and break down *every day* for a week or more instead of just once. The introduction of “cluster shows” and large events in one place was designed to actually make life easier for exhibitors.

Kennel Club Service to the Community?

While it certainly has done that, I do wonder if at some point we’ve lost the opportunity to serve local communities and for the public outreach that was created when the “dog show came to town.” But, that’s another topic for another day.

I’m not interested in dissecting the inner workings of a particular club. But I think *everyone* needs to hear this story. Because the fact is, this sad result is not particularly shocking in reality. The gut check here is that the average age of the membership in many, if not actually MOST, all breed kennel clubs is well north of 65. I’ll be 50 next year and I’m FAR and away the youngest active member of my all breed club. Chatting with other folks in other clubs brings the same conclusion across the board and across the country.

Kennel Clubs Puttin' On The Show

Dog shows don’t just magically happen with a twitch of someone’s nose. Members of the hosting clubs work HARD, often all year long, to provide you and your friends and competitors with the *opportunity* to earn championship points, ranking points, big ribbons and bragging rights. These folks are without exception, volunteers. They handle exhibitor complaints, manage personality conflicts in their group, dedicate long hours at planning meetings, and at the show, for no better reason than to give back to the sport and their community. As this news proves, they don’t actually **have** to do that!

Eugene Kennel Club and Future of Kennel Clubs

When the Eugene Kennel Club news broke, I had a number of folks contact me looking for advice about joining a local club. How to go about it, what could they do being new to the sport, how hard was it, which club to join, like that. I also heard from club members around the country begging for more active members.

So, since this isn’t really, I thought I’d put together a list of five tips for joining and succeeding in an all-breed club. AND five more for current club leadership about how to attract new members and *retain* and encourage more involvement from your existing membership. This is aimed at all-breed kennel clubs, but these are pretty common areas of conflict or concern in specialty clubs, performance clubs and pretty much anywhere two or more people join together to try and accomplish something worthwhile.

Joining an All Breed Club

WHY should I join? Because if you enjoy showing dogs. Because the only way that happens is if people do the work. And we’re running out of people to do the work! If you want to enjoy the benefits of other people’s labor, you need to pay it forward with some labor of your own. By the way, professional handler peeps, I’m talking to YOU too. If you can’t afford to miss one weekend a year you might need to rethink your business plan.

How to Join a Kennel Club

HOW do I go about it? Think about the dog shows near you. Think about the folks you’ve met at those shows. Is there even a kennel club in your town? Google it! Most of them have at minimum a social media or bare bones website. Find a handling class or an obedience class or the secretary’s name. Meet some of the members at the class or at the local dog show. Is there a club a bit further away that hosts a show you particularly like? Join them in building a great event. Any club I’ve ever encountered will invite guests. Go to the membership meeting and wait for it, *meet people*! Talk to folks, ask questions and offer up some of your enthusiasm or confusion! Offer to bring cookies to the next meeting. There will be an application process. It is generally relatively pro forma. I know there are clubs out there that are persnickety about who joins. Guess what. For each one of those, there are 20 clubs who are *desperate* for strong backs, committed faces and a chance to share the labor.

What Can I Do?

WHAT can *I* do? The All breed club isn’t just a dog show. And a dog show isn’t JUST a show chair or judges committee. All breed clubs need folks to help organize speakers and topics for meetings. They need secretaries and treasurers and board members. They need a legislative liaison, a community PR person, somebody to run Responsible Dog Owner days, parade participation and  ANY chance to reach out to the public. They need somebody to unlock the building for handling or obedience class or whatever it is. They need somebody to organize and restock the club trailer and take it places. There are literally dozens of jobs small and large that are often handled by a group of about 6-8 people (if they’re lucky). Show up and ask what you can do to help. Serve on a committee to learn about a particular area and do the grunt work. Just like learning how to show dogs, you rarely get to start at the top of the ladder! Shows need folks to be in charge of flowers and grounds maintenance and catalog sales and announcing and ring stewards and judges hospitality and trophies and parking and grooming and… You get the idea.

Where is the best kennel club to join?

If you are blessed with a variety of local options, join more than one club! Or visit with club members from each and get a feel for the vibe of the club. Choose the group that most closely meets your personality. Some clubs are relaxed, some are formal, some are lots of fun and some are very intense. Pick what works best for you. Or, take pity and choose a club that is desperately short handed.

When I get there, what should I do?

Work! Don’t start the conversation with this is how we need to change the world. The more you put in your time, fulfill the commitments you make, make friends with the other members, the more liable you are to earn respect and the opportunity to do more. If you have an idea for a special project, offer it up along with how YOU personally will do the work. And then, DO THE WORK! There is nothing more frustrating than someone who bails at the last minute.

Club Membership Recruitment and Retention

WHO should we “let in”? If you want my opinion, pretty much anybody with a dog! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Our future ability to own and show and breed dogs depends on our success right now on reaching JQ Public with an inclusive, welcoming, uplifting message about the truly great gifts of purebred dogs. Being secretive, jaded and hiding behind closed doors might or might not protect you from the attention of the AR extremists, but it certainly isn’t going to bring any more people into the world of purebred dog shows and events.


HOW do we encourage participation from new/inactive members? Give people a job and let them, for pete’s sake, DO it. Quit micromanaging everything. Obviously, provide support and resources, perhaps *gentle* guidance, but if someone is doing the job don’t nickel and dime them to death. One guaranteed way to lose active club members is to be unpleasant to someone who is *volunteering* to do a job!


WHEN is it time to “pass the torch”? The healthiest clubs I talked to share their positions regularly. And they continually “cross-train” their members on different positions, just like successful businesses do.


WHAT are the remedies or preventions for “burnout”? The above suggestions are a great place to start. Show appreciation to your most active members. Small gifts, tokens of gratitude, a simple standing ovation at a club meeting. Quit worrying that YOU aren’t getting the recognition and focus the attention on other people.


“WHY can’t we all just get along?” Wellll, on this one I wish I had better answers. Personality clashes, interpersonal competition, misunderstandings…. the list is as long as your arm. I’ve been a worker bee, a national club president and everything in between. There’s always “that one person”. There’s always “well, there was the time so and so did such and such to whomsoever”. The best solution I have ever found is direct, personal communication. In person is best, the telephone is next. Email, text and social media are almost guaranteed to create a disaster if they are your only or primary means of communication. Say I’m sorry. Say thank you. Ask for clarification of a statement before you take it in a negative way. It’s all pretty much basic level stuff. Why and how that so frequently gets lost in translation in dog clubs is simply beyond my ability to comprehend. We all have the same objective. My new favorite phrase is this… “Working together to push the elephant up the mountain.” It’s a great image and an even better goal.


If you want to learn more on different facets of putting on successful dog events and building strong clubs, you can follow up today’s episode by listening to episode 32 with Seattle Kennel Club’s Katie Campbell, episode 38 with the inimitable BettyAnne Stenmark of DelValle Kennel Club fame and episode 47 with Kim Meredith Cavanna hostess with the mostest of the always popular Woofstock. Links to these and more resources are in the show notes on the website.


This has been YOUR *listener supported* Pure Dog Talk!

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103 – Ed Thomason Tips for the Owner Handler – From a Breeder Owner Handler Turned Professional Dog Handler

Ed Thomason

Ed Thomason Tips for the Owner Handler - from an Owner Handler Turned Professional Dog Handler

Ed Thomason was a Breeder and Owner Handler before he became a Professional Dog Handler.  A passionate advocate for the "bully breeds", Ed and his wife, Karen, breed American Staffordshire Terriers under the Alpine Falls kennel name.

He shares his best tips and encouragement for owner handlers.

The definition of rising through the ranks, Ed started in dogs at UKC shows and counts Laurie Jordan-Fenner as his primary mentor, whom he met while attending a handling class she taught near him.

Ed Thomason

Ed Thomason's Advice for Owner Handler Competitors

— Put you and Michael Andretti in a Ferrari, the experienced race car driver will run the lap the fastest. That’s a product of experience. You have to do the work.

— Quit worrying about everybody else in the ring and focus on your dog.

— Don’t make excuses. It starts with you.

— The most successful owner handlers are masters at what they do. They’re there to win.

— The best dogs in the world can make themselves look horrible.

— Judges see your dogs outside the ring. Make them always look their best, even when NOT in the ring.

— Breeders are the backbone of the sport. Professional handlers need to remember that.

— Handlers need to accept responsibility. Need to maintain communication. We all need to unite to ensure the future of the sport.

— Raise our game by helping others raise theirs.

— Offer more handler clinics for adults.

— Additional activities are what drive exhibitors to the dog show.

— Success drives happiness.

— Don’t get discouraged quickly. Ask a lot of questions.

— There is nothing that compares to the joy of succeeding in your goal of finishing your own dog.

Ed Thomason American Staffordshire Terriers

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101- Saint Bernards of Stoan and Lasqueti Island with Joan Zielinski

Saint Bernards

Saint Bernards of Lasqueti Island - Stoan Saint Bernards with Joan Zielinski

Joan Zielinski, AKC Judge and Breeder of Merit, and Breeder of Stoans Saint Bernards, speaks with Laura Reeves about raising Saint Bernards.

saint bernards

Joan Zielinski's Stoan Saint Bernards

Saint Bernards from the Stoan Perspective by Stan Zielinski

Available through Alpine Publications, Stan Zielinski discusses Saint Bernard puppies, faults, temperament, movement, size, conformation, and just about every aspect of Saint structure.

Saint Bernards of Lasqueti Island

The Saint Bernards of Lasqueti Island, British Columbia, bred by Tikki Smith, are mentioned by Joan Zielinski, in her podcast, as she describes the famous Saint Bernards of Sanctuary Woods bred by the legendary Bea Knight. So we caught up with Tikki Smith and professional handler, Marty Glover, to talk about what makes these dogs unique.

Pure Dog Talk:

Provide some background of your introduction to the breed, why you chose Saint Bernards and what brought you to where you are today.

Saint Bernards Lasqueti Island - Tikki Smith:

I got my first St Bernard when I was 16 years old. I had no previous purebred dog experience. I just wanted a large dog and was interested in a Newfoundland or a St Bernard.

There happened to be a St Bernard breeder not to far from me so I went and visited the kennel and fell in love with the breed. I had never seen a Saint in the fur till then. I waited for over a year for a puppy and after no puppies because available I was offered a young female that was "show quality" and the breeder's said I could have her if I would co-own her, and raise and share a litter with them.

At that point I would have probably agreed to anything! She had a litter of 10 puppies and I kept two. Then 6 months later the breeders invited me and my two puppies along to the 1997 National Specialty Show held in Colorado. I went and was introduced to showing and the purebred world. I have never looked back since!!


Give us an idea of the set up and daily life of your dogs.


Now, 20 years since my first litter of Saint puppies, I have my very own kennel to be proud of.

I generally keep around 35 Saints. I have 5 acres of rough terrain fenced for them to run and play in. They also have a 60ft x 20ft kennel building beside our house. The kennel has 7, 20ft x 8ft  fully covered runs each with indoor/outdoor area and self-water dishes. The Saints generally only use the kennel area for sleeping in or if I am out.

Their daily routine starts in the morning when I let everyone out and clean their runs. If anyone is in season they are of course left in the kennel but otherwise males and females and puppies 4+ month old run together while I am home. If I go out I will kennel up three quarters of them for safety while I am out. Then when I get home I let them out again.

At night I bring in 6 Saints per kennel in no particular order and they all eat together. I lock them in for the night to minimize nocturnal barking and also to keep them out of the rain at night especially in the winter months.

I have a separate puppy house and large fenced area for raising puppies up to 4 months of age after which point they join the group. The Saints have full view of our home and comings and goings of the family, yard and driveway. They are a part of the family and I often take them for walks in their huge fences in area. They love to follow me wherever I go!


Your breeding, whelping and rearing protocols are both ancient and revolutionary in today’s world. Can you describe the process, methods, goals and results?


A bit about rearing. Because of my rural location, with a 1 hour ferry crossing only available 5 days a week with a limited number of crossing  (2 or 3 a day when weather is permitting), I have had to (with the help of my vet) learn how to take care of most emergency situations the best I can.

This also means I do not take great measures to get my bitches pregnant. If they can't conceive naturally then she just doesn't have puppies. Also getting a c-section is difficult with our location so if a bitch needs a c-section then I do not breed that bitch again. I never schedule a c-section for singletons which have a high risk for being stillborns. It's hard loosing puppies, but I remind myself that too much intervention can eventually lead to a breed who needs help in what should be a natural process.

Once the puppies are born I do everything I can to save all the puppies. Most important  for newborns is to keep them warm and dry and well fed and make sure Mum doesn't accidentally sit on them. Since my Saints are raised in a group environment, they often come in season at the same time which leads to litters being born around the same time. When this happens my bitches share each others’ litters.

I sleep right beside my new moms and litters and let them do as much of the natural mothering instincts as possible. I offer supplemental feedings and rotate puppies if it's a large litter but I always work closely with each mother so she can raise her litter successfully.

I breed litters for myself which means I am breeding to keep a puppy or two from each litter to continue on in the next generation. My goal is to improve on each generation and as long as I see progress, I feel it was a success.


Specifically can you talk about the relationship between the free ranging pack environment in which the dogs live and their structural health and longevity?


My Saints seem to benefit greatly from their natural environment and seem to be able to adjust quickly to new situations and environmental changes like going to a dog show. My Saints are raised with plenty of outdoor time in a very stimulating group environment which gives them a well rounded calm attitude. I spend lots of time   with them and take the lead roll so they all look up to me and respect their human for guidance and understanding. This seems to provide a strong  foundation for future bonding with other people or families. If I ever place one of my adult I am always amazed how quickly they  adjust to a completely different home environment with relative ease.

I have always raised my Saints in the same environment so it's hard form me to know exactly how they would development in a different environment. I have however seen very different expected outcomes from puppies I have bred but not raised. Sometimes the difference is so shocking it's unbelievable!

This has led me to believe that environment plays a HUGE roll in their ability to reach their full potential, physically and emotionally. For example here I never see cow-hocked puppies, ever! I do see it though in puppies I have bred but not raised especially if those  puppy's are raised as couch potatoes living inside with non or hardly any  outdoor time.

If puppies are fed puppy food this also seems to add to the issue. I always feed my puppies adult food from day one. I strongly believe Saint Bernard puppies should spend as much time as possible outside on good solid footing with plenty of exercise for the first year of their life to see them reach their full potential.


Your thoughts on line breeding vs outcrossing?


I have never bred to a complete outcross. If I am going to work with an outcross, I prefer the dog to at most to be a half or better a quarter outcross himself. I prefer to stick with the bloodlines I am familiar with and believe line breeding is the only way to build a bloodline that can reproduce itself consistently. My goal for each litter is to improve on each generation. My goal for my breeding program is to create a strong foundation of healthy, sound, good moving dogs with excellent temperaments in a bloodline not just in one individual dog. I wanted to create a strong foundation behind my dogs, not just the next big winner. Basically I wanted a great dog with a pedigree!!! This meant I had to spend 4 or 5 generation just building up a strong pedigree and avoiding out crossing here or there or breeding to the next big winner in hopes of just getting one outstanding puppy.


Marty, as a handler, what unique attributes (temperament, physical soundness, etc) do the Lasquite dogs bring you vs dogs bred/whelped/raised in a more “traditional” modern environment.

Saint Bernards of Lasquite Island

Am GCh Lasquite's Denver v Lucas going Best of Breed at the 2012 SBCA National. He has 11 BOB wins and a Group 3rd.

Marty Glover - Professional Handler:

Tikki and I usually bring older dogs, 2-5 years old, off the island and show. The outside environment that the island provides gives the saints every thing they need to grow up sound and correct in muscle and conditioning. A Saint Bernard should be athletic and well built. The terrain on the island provides that. I've never seen a hocky or out of condition Saint on the island. As a saint puppy grows, the island life of woods, massive rocks and romping through forests are key in developing a big, sturdy working dog. This enables them, as adults, to perform the functions of their breed.


Can you compare the Lasquite dogs in development to those of the legendary Bea Knight of Sanctuary Woods fame?


Sanctuary woods was before my time in this wonderful breed. I have gone through countless pictures and even some videos of the kennel. Big kennels don't really exist today. Lasquite and Sanctuary Woods are very similar in the fact of surroundings and breeding from your gene pool. You can look at any Sanctuary Woods pictures and Lasquite and you defiantly recognize "the look.” I often call it free range lol. I think it's best the dogs all live in harmony and get along. After all, that's the true temperament of what a Saint Bernard should be .


What recommendations would you offer other breeders of giant breeds who aren’t blessed with the unique environment provided by Lasquite Island. Not all of us have an island preserve at our disposal! lol What lessons can we apply in other settings?


I strongly urge anyone with Saint puppies, that the outdoor environment is best. Raising a big working dog like a Saint in the house, on slick floors is the worst thing you can do.

I'm a firm believer all puppies and young adults are outside. Also, we need to let our puppies be part of the gang and hang with adults and other puppies. When raised with a group they discover their pecking order and where they fit.

99 – Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers and Mother Daughter Bonds: Cindy Vogels Part 2

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers

Cindy Vogels: Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers and Mother Daughter Bonds

Cindy Vogels, Part 2, continues with a discussion with Laura Reeves and the mother-daughter dog show bonds.

Mother Daughter

Cindy and her mother, Jackie Gottlieb, traveled, showed, bred and whelped dogs together.  Jackie only stopped showing the Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers at the young age of 89.

Nothing strengthens the bond like heading down I-70 for the Montgomery show, only to discover the hours long drive was in the WRONG DIRECTION.

Laura Reeves' bred Clumber Spaniels with her mother, and the whelping box time and passionate pedigree discussions left lasting memories.

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers

Cindy and Jackies kennel prefix is Andover and Ch. Andover Song and Dance Man won group at the garden and still has unbroken records.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier breeders are a good group of people,, who in 20 years brought the breed forward both to the public and to the breed standard.

One of 3 Irish barn dog breeds on the farm, with the Irish and Kerry Blue Terriers.  The Soft Coated is a terrier, tough enough that they had to take a badgers down.

Kidney Disease in the Terriers

Recently, kidney disease with a late onset has decimated the breed. While a test has recently been developed, there is still no DNA or genetic marker(s) for prevention.

Breeders are struggling to import and fight for the Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers diversity against the disease.

Cindy Vogels

Cindy Vogels

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89 – Italian Greyhounds and Lilian Barber: From the Holocaust to La Scala Italian Greyhounds

Italian Greyhounds

Italian Greyhounds and Lilian Barber

Lilian Barber is the breeder of La Scala Italian Greyhounds, an AKC Judge, and author of the "bible" on Italian Greyhounds.

La Scala Italian Greyhounds

An avid opera lover, La Scala pays homage to Italy and the art of opera.  Her website is a treasure of Italian Greyhound history and photographs.

Italian Greyhounds

Lilian Barber the Author

Past President of the Italian Greyhound Club of America and columnist for the AKC Gazette since 1975, Lilian has authored 4 books on Italian Greyhounds.

Buy Lilian's Books... if you can

Several are out of print, but if you can get one, we suggest you do it now.  The links are below.

Italian Greyhounds
Am. Ch. La Scala Primadonna do Reino

Considered to be 'the bible' for the IG lover, this detailed and informative book is written by a Breeder/Judge with ties to the IGCA. Profusely illustrated with black and white photographs, this wonderful reference is divided into five sections:
Section One: An Italian Greyhound Primer
Section Two: Health and Welfare of your IG
Section Three: The IG as Show Dog
Section Four: The IG as a Performance Dog
Section Five: Advanced IG Ownership
A must-have for the library of every serious Italian Greyhound fan.

La Scala

88 – Wire Coated Breeds and How to Work With Them

Laura Reeves

Working with Wire Coated Breeds

Let's Talk Stripping!

Hand stripping that is! But before we tackle wire coated breeds, start out by revisiting episode 73, back to basics grooming.  This will give you a good foundation to move forward with working on your wire coated breed.

All coat types need specific grooming in order to keep the dog in top condition. Show dog or couch dog, they all need to be clean, brushed and maintained so they stay happy and healthy.

Show dogs with wire coats are hand stripped (either with bare fingers or using a stripping knife) in order to remove dead coat, create a shape and tidiness to the dog’s outline and maintain the proper coat texture for each breed.

Breed Specific Considerations

With few exceptions, the terrier breeds and their owners and handlers are the stars of the strippers. Each breed has a very specific pattern to be applied to the dog and within each breed there are *superstars* who have elevated the trim to a work of art. Names like Gabriel Rangel, Maripi Wooldridge, Bill McFadden, Tracey Szaras, Leonardo Garcini and more in terms of the current handlers, in addition to legends like George Ward, Ric Chashoudian, Clay Coady, Birgette Coady and so many more first rate dog people spring to mind when we think of the great terrier people and their stunning charges.

Toy dogs including the Brussels Griffon and Affenpinscher, as well as standard and giant schnauzers in the working group, are also very specifically patterned and detailed.

In the Sporting group wire coated breeds including GWP, WPG, Spinone and WireVizsla require maintenance with a more natural finished look than is required for the terrier breeds.

Irish Wolfhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, PBGV, and Wire coated Ibizan hounds call for minimal grooming, while Wire Dachshunds are a bit more stylized.

The new Herding breed, the Berger Picard is also a very low maintenance wire coat, but does need hand stripping of ear fringe and raking of the body coat.

Hand stripping basics apply to all of these breeds, but knowing your specific breed’s requirements, norms, shape, standard and coat type is essential to turning out a beautiful finished product. For example, a Spinone trimmed like a giant schnauzer is going to be seriously faulted for applying a “pattern” to the dog…

Hand Stripping

Pulling a dog’s hair, always in the direction it grows. Wire coated dogs have what’s called a “releasing hair follicle.” In nature, the dog’s work would cause it to catch the coat in weeds and sticks, and the hair would simply pull out relatively painlessly rather than get tangled as a longer, silkier hair type would.

Proper technique for hand stripping is to be sure each hair is firmly grasped either between thumb and the side of the forefinger or thumb and blade and pulled *straight* back in the direction of the growth. This can get tricky around the bum and at the sides of the neck where the hair grows in different directions. Do NOT pull *up,* away from the dog or against the grain of the hair. Your hand should follow the line of the dog’s body, with your wrist kept straight in order to avoid breaking the coat. If using a stripping knife, be sure the blade is used only for a better grip. If you cut or break the coat, you’ve accomplished the same thing as shaving the dog.

Be sure, as you are pulling coat, to hold the skin in front of where you are pulling to keep it taut and minimize any discomfort for the dog.

Well, then what is Raking?

In certain instances, you may want to rake out undercoat to help create the desired shape (remove bulk at the shoulders, over the loin or the base of the tail for example). In this instance, you can use a *dull* stripping knife laid essentially flat against the dog and simply “rake” or comb along the coat in the direction the hair grows. Done properly you will see only the soft, fluffy undercoat show up in the “teeth” of the knife. If you see hard coat in the knife or if no under coat is removed, your technique needs some work.

You can also use the Mars Coat King in various tooth widths for this task, although the caveat of keeping your wrist absolutely still so as to not break coat is even more imperative. The coat king is an amazing tool for breezing through a dog with heavy undercoat, but beware of damaging the top coat.

Strippers Tools of the Trade

Most professionals won’t use a new stripping knife and trust only tools they’ve had for years. Stripping blades, when first acquired, can be dulled by rubbing on a hard surface. A good tip for newer groomers is to use a Dr. Scholls (or similar) callous remover (kind of like a smooth pumice stone) to learn how to pull hair without bending your wrist or breaking coat. The stripping stones made by Chris Christensen and others offer the same advantage.

Another trick is to use the rubber “finger tips” sometimes used in offices for flipping through paper and/or harsh coat grooming chalk which gives a better grip to the hair. If a dog has particularly sensitive skin I’ve used the R7 ear powder which contains a bit of a numbing agent.

Finding the perfect stripping knife for your own hand, type of work and consistency of use is very personal. I use a 20 year old Pearson fine for flatwork and a standard run of the mill cheapo coarse blade for work on body coats. If I’m working on a dog with softer coat that I’m worried about breaking, I’ll even turn the knife over and use the flat edge. Some folks I know wrap the teeth in athletic tape. I only use my fingers when working on furnishings as the hair is so easy to break.


After pulling coat on a dog, remember those hair follicles are open and susceptible to infection if not properly maintained. I dampen the dog all over with a lightly diluted (10:1) mixture of Listerine and water. This serves as a disinfectant without softening the coat. Then rub the coat firmly, in the direction it lies, with a rolled towel. Blot or squeeze dry the furnishings, don’t scrub.

Routine for Wire Coated Breeds

The frequency with which you need to work a dog’s coat depends on that original assessment you made of the dog’s coat and what you see as the dog grows coat between grooming sessions. A rule of thumb is a jacket needs to be “topped,” in other words the long hairs pulled to maintain shape, weekly. Flatwork, depending on the breed and how precise the work needs to be, might need to be touched up every couple days. Generally furnishings are pulled every couple weeks. Keep in mind that even individuals within a breed will differ. One German Wirehaired Pointer pulled down tight to start new coat growth might look good in a couple weeks. Another it might be a couple months. Learn your individual dog before you “pull it to the skin” a couple weeks before the show!

Rolling the Coat

This is common practice with terriers and any other of the more stylized breeds. This means that on a regular basis, generally once a week, you comb up the coat on the jacket and pull just the longest hairs. This will keep the coat in good bloom — in other words looking shiny and healthy — as well as maintaining the proper shape for the show ring.

Flat Work

This is the terrier terminology for all of the coat on the head, ears and throat. Breed specific diagrams and instruction will tell you how “tight” the flatwork should be. Again, what is required for an Airedale would be a disaster on a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Know what your breed standard says about grooming and talk to the master breeders and handlers to gain an understanding of the final picture you want to create and how to do it.


This includes legs, beard and underline. To keep the coat in top condition, this hair needs to be pulled regularly also. Remember, the more you pull, the more and better coat will grow back. In many cases, the furnishings on many breeds are softer coat and require special care not to break the hair. Generally furnishings are pulled or “topped” at a less frequent interval than is needed for flat work and jackets, but that is a rule of thumb, not written in stone. Again, seek the advice of a talented mentor in your chosen breed.

A special note on beards. All bearded dogs have hair that grows along the lower jaw in the fold of the lip. This is like a drainage area for saliva. It is often stained and can encourage yeast and or bacteria growth. This hair should be pulled (beware, this is one area that is not at all comfortable for the dog) or thinning sheared away, depending on the requirements of your breed. Keeping this cleaned up will make for a much better looking — and smelling! — beard.


The jacket or body coat of wire coated breeds is bathed rarely. In many cases only once or twice a month. The furnishings are bathed and conditioned routinely in order to promote growth and minimize breakage. For full baths, everyone has a favorite product, mine is #1 all systems crisp coat shampoo. Check with your breeder or mentor about theirs.

Last words on Wire Coated Breeds from Laura

Learning to handstrip a coat well and properly takes lots of practice and years to refine skills. My best recommendation for success is to find a GWP breeder or handler of wire coated dogs who is willing to give you hands on supervision and direction.

Good luck and good wins!

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