Whether it’s learning pedigrees, wrapping your head around difficult breed standards, or staying on top of important medical issues that can adversely affect our beloved show dogs, achieving success in our sport demands that we remain lifelong students. We pore over a wealth of data and try to make the wisest, most objective decisions possible. Yet emotion creeps in and tempts us at every pass to veer from our course. We can probably all remember detours we took at our peril, when we could not keep emotion in check. Sadly, some people in the sport seem to lurch from crisis to crisis, forever making questionable decisions that undermine their efforts.
Here are three classic cases in which responding emotionally can set us back.
Keeping the Singleton, No Matter Its Quality
Decades ago, before reproductive wizardry became commonplace, practical breeders would look at a bitch that could not conceive naturally, and wisely place her in a pet home, understanding that she was not brood-bitch material. Today, because we have such medical advances as transcervical insemination, there are breeders who will move heaven and earth to get a litter from a bitch. As opposed to the large breeding kennels of yesteryear, many of today’s breeder-exhibitors keep just a handful of dogs in their homes. If money is no object, the bitch will be inseminated using whatever cutting-edge medical technique the reproductive specialists have at their disposal. In due course, the bitch delivers a singleton puppy by cesarean section. It may not be the color or sex we were hoping for, and the puppy’s quality may not be top-drawer, but invariably it will be kept because of the emotional and financial investment that have been made. If the puppy is a bitch, she may be the second generation of poor producers that a sentimental fancier is saddled with. Breeders advance only when they have easy, fertile brood bitches that produce generous litters, allowing comparisons of puppies and steady improvement over time.
Agreeing to the Co-ownership You Knew Was a Mistake
You are running on two male show-prospect puppies and can’t decide which one to keep. A lovely family is waiting for a dog from you and would be thrilled to have either one, but they’ve made it clear they can’t commit to keeping up a show coat. You think the puppies are too good to sell as pets. An up-and-coming exhibitor has expressed interest in having one of the puppies. Your friends find this exhibitor to be abrasive, but you think they might just be jealous of her early show-ring success. You draw up a co-ownership agreement, and she starts nitpicking, wanting this, that, and the other clause tweaked. You find that mildly annoying, but she does have beautiful hands and shows a dog to perfection. She says she is so excited to get one of your dogs and is already sending you emails about big circuits across the nation that she plans to enter. So you proceed with the co-ownership. And then it starts. Texts at all hours dissecting the dog. Plans to breed him to bitches you wouldn’t approve. At the first show she has entered him in, he arrives unbathed and untrained, and then she hands him off to a ringside exhibitor because she is showing another of her dogs. You realize it would have been so much less stressful to have sold him to the nice, uncomplicated family.
Volunteering Friends to Your Show Committee
You have a friend who has just started a catering business and another who is a very talented photographer and put together a killer ad for you. Wanting to drum up some work for them, you innocently put their names forward at your kennel club’s show committee planning meeting. You have not seen either of them perform in a high-stress work situation. At the show, your friend the caterer has a meltdown because her luncheon menu was much too fussy for the judges and stewards who are on the clock, and need to eat and run. She is hours behind, and you finally grab an apron to help her in the hospitality room, to appease the show chairman. Meanwhile, your photographer friend is taking artsy pictures of the winning dogs, but no one told him what he calls “the tacky old signage” is all important in the photos, as is the judge! He says, “it was a fun gig,” but he has been in no hurry to get people their win photos. Disgruntled exhibitors are phoning and emailing you weeks after the show, while your friend’s voice mailbox remains full, and he has taken a holiday. You consider googling the witness protection program.
Dog-show jobs have their own particular skill set. Serving up a chic luncheon to make Martha Stewart proud is not what judges expect, and would be a challenge in the no-frills kitchens to be found at most fairgrounds. Show photographers are expected to be punctual, with quick turnaround time, to keep the show’s exhibitors happy. Volunteering friends who turn out to be a bad fit will reflect badly on you, so think twice before putting their names forward.
Allan Reznik has been an Afghan Hound fancier since the early 1970s and also owns and exhibits Tibetan Spaniels. He is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster, who has served as editor-in-chief of several national dog publications. He appears regularly on radio and TV discussing all aspects of responsible animal ownership. Allan is an AKC permit judge of Afghan Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Tibetan Spaniels.