In Breeding and Showing Dogs, Are You Making Progress or Spinning Wheels?

Recently a friend and I were going through old issues of Dog World magazine. She is collecting the Bull Terrier articles from these as a potential basis for a book. In looking through the old articles, we were both fascinated by the personable and sometimes enlightening view into the perspective of some of the foremost people in our breed in the 1960s and ’70s.

In one of Raymond Oppenheimer’s articles, two comments struck me especially:

“I know people who have played golf, tennis, or cricket for a long time and have never played them anything but badly, and this has applied equally to judging,” 

“The length of time one has spent doing something is in no way necessarily related to how well one does it; indeed, very often the contrary is the case.”

—R.H. Oppenheimer, Dog World, October 17, 1975.

In the past, David and I have said that in all walks of life, “some have 30 years experience, while others have one-year experience 30 times over”—and in dogs that may be OK, if those individuals take good care of their dogs and are enjoying the events and the process.

However, understanding the past and making real progress are so important to the changing nature of life that they are critical components in success. The goals for most breeders should include learning, progressing, and breeding better, mentally and physically healthier dogs. The goals for exhibitors should include training, learning about grooming, and becoming a proficient handler. The goals for judges should include being thoroughly familiar with the breed standard and constantly trying to improve their understanding of breed type.

Life is a continual process of learning and growing. Knowing the history of the breed and the perspectives of the past while working with modern technology and health advancements are part of the recipe for success.

Another component in succeeding as a breeder, handler, or judge is persistence in regard to learning, and broadening one’s approach to the varying important factors in what one is trying to achieve—whether it be handling, breeding, or judging.

The good news is that it is never too late. Anyone feeling overcome by lack of success in these areas really just needs to look around for opportunities to learn and improve. It takes effort, time, and ingenuity.

Most in our society tend to think in terms of immediate reward. This is usually not the best for things that really matter. Those who haven’t set resolutions for this new year might want to consider self-evaluation and methods for making themselves (whether in terms of handling, breeding, or judging) and their beloved dogs more successful in whatever competition (conformation, companion, or performance events). Positive persistence pays!

C.A., Bull Terrier Club of America (February 2015 AKC Gazette)