Elliott Weiss is Looking for the Dog that Makes the Picture
In 1956, Elliott Weiss attended his very first dog show, Westminster Kennel Club, as part of an art class project.
Weiss spent 24 years as a top professional handler from 1969 through 1993. Among his big accomplishments, he handled the Irish Setter, Ch. Meadowlark’s Anticipation, to a Sporting Group win at Westminster in 1984. He started judging in 1994 and has judged all over the world. A native New Yorker, he now lives in Eagle, Idaho. His initial breed was Cocker Spaniels.
Make the Picture
“I want to please my eye,” Weiss said. “The first thing I’m looking for is a picture. I have a picture in my mind of every breed I judge.”
Weiss also noted that too many people bait the dog in such a way that their hands are in the way of the judge seeing the dog’s expression.
Amateur vs Professional
The Owner Handler-Professional Handler battle is nothing new, Weiss observed, it has been a big thing forever. “If you look back, there are always top winning owner handlers. The cream always comes to the top,” he said. “I think of Walter Goodman, Pat Craige (Trotter)… Sunny Shay.”
Mentor the Future
“I think we don’t do enough for junior handlers,” Weiss said. “We need to teach them conformation, have them join clubs, offer Junior workshops. I think we should start thinking how we can increase the sport in 5-10 years, not tomorrow.”
That ONE Dog
After 60 plus years in the sport, the dog who stands out, to this day, in Weiss’ mind is George Alston’s English Foxhound, Winslow (Ch Mr Stewar’s Cheshire Winslow, hound group winner in 1984). “I watched this dog walk into the ring and I froze. I put down my brush and just looked at him. Everything flowed into the next piece.”
Watch Weiss judge Best in Show at the nation’s largest dog show on national television. AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin will be broadcast New Year’s Day, at 6 p.m. ET/PT on Animal Planet.
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.
“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.
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.”