Page 53 - Top Notch Toys September 2019
P. 53

                            “WORKING FOR A HANDLER WILL TEACH THE CARE AND GROOMING OF MULTIPLE DOGS,
but it doesn’t teach breeding.”
people who pay you money to do a job, but it doesn’t teach breeding.
I feel like a broken record—BREED- ING, BREEDING, BREEDING—not exhibiting is what we need young peo- ple to learn. Instead of being focused on going to every show, they need to stay behind and help whelp litters or take care of puppies. They need to be- come involved in the decision-making process for choosing a stud dog, or de- ciding which bitches should be bred, and which can be placed. They need to learn genetics and biology—not just showing dogs. They need to learn the value and reward for doing some- thing that produces the dogs we want to send to dog shows regardless of whether or not they get shown or win. The kids in 4-H all raise their own an- imals. When they win at the fairs it’s because they helped to breed and care for beautiful animals. It’s a lifestyle and work they enjoy. The kids in FFA are the same—the biology and study of animals and genetics, and health is- sues are being taught in school. They are encouraged to work for kennels, groomers and vets—not show people. Both of these organizations encour- age volunteering. Our all-breed club has used volunteers from both or- ganizations at our annual dog show, and they are always grateful for the opportunity to help. These FFA and 4-H kids are learning the basics of an animal husbandry trade, not just get- ting a taste of winning. Their reward is producing beautiful well-bred dogs that can compete, but do not have to for value. Their reward is learning about structure, movement, health, nutrition and biology and applying that knowledge in a real-life setting. They are eager to learn, not just win. The animals, not the ribbons, are their primary reward. They are proud
of their dogs, pigs, goats and cows even if they don’t win a blue ribbon at the annual fairs. They know there will be another county and state fair next year, and they are ready to apply more learning to try for a blue ribbon the next year.
I think junior handlers (maybe all handlers) today just enjoy winning re- gardless of the quality or origin of the dog on the end of their lead. It’s what we’ve taught them. We’ve all become slaves to the Vince Lombardi man- tra, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing!” You get more clients when you win. You get more money when you win. You get more respect from peers when you win. You get no- ticed by judges more when you win. You get more influence and power when you win. You start to win more when you win.
I think we need to get out of the mind- set that winning at a show is the “re- ward”, and somehow transition to the reward being understanding, raising and breeding beautiful purpose-bred dogs that meet the standard for their breed—win or lose. Get back to our roots. Pull dog shows back from the sports-like competition that is ruin- ing them to the animal husbandry roots of determining the quality of breeding stock.
I have learned that when I explain how judging works to novice specta- tors watching a show, they suddenly have a lot more respect for what they are watching. It’s not just a beauty contest, it’s a livestock evaluation of form and function. They relate it to the livestock shows at fairs, and sud- denly there is a newfound level of respect for what it takes to breed the dogs that can compete not against each other, but against a written stan- dard of perfection for each breed.
They start asking about how long those standards are, and how much detail is in each one. As this informa- tion sinks in they begin to realize how much information judges must know, and their respect level goes up again. If you can relate the importance of health and structure, and how that re- lates to the breeding of good purebred dogs, the spectators’ respect for the complexity of what they are watching increases again. They don’t under- stand exactly how a judge compares a Beagle to an Afghan, but they un- derstand perfectly when you tell them that the beagle they see in the ring is as close to a perfect beagle as they will see, but the Afghan needs a few differ- ent characteristics to be considered a great Afghan.
In a perfect world the AKC would have enough money, people and liter- ature to supply all FFA and 4-H pro- grams with study materials. They’d have a department dedicated to reaching out to the kids who want to learn animal husbandry. That would surely encourage these kids who are already showing a love for owning and breeding dogs to look to a place like the AKC to guide them into our world. And in that perfect world we would have a trade school or academy (or several) to help teach them how to move from studying to applying their knowledge as apprentice purebred breeders. And that academy would have curriculums, teaching positions and honorary professorships for our aging breeders and judges to transi- tion into. Then we would have Junior Breeders, not just Junior Handlers, and our existence, and the future of our dogs—not just dog shows—would be assured.
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