On show days, Clapton stalks points.
The Standard Poodle champion is a seasoned competitor, knowing when to move out and when to freeze like a majestic statue.
Out of the ring, Clapton continues his hunt, but for birds at field competitions where his talents have taken him to the top level.
Clapton recently became the first – and only – conformation Grand Champion Poodle to hold a Master Hunter title.
“He’s met and surpassed our goals we set for him,” said his owner and breeder Angie Louter of Georgia. “He truly is the epitome of a Standard Poodle.”
Six-year-old Clapton, handled by Jody Garcini, finished his Grand Championship on Nov. 12, 2021, by going Select Dog at the Poodle Club of Alabama specialty. He celebrated the next day by qualifying at a Masters Upland Game hunt test.
Clapton holds a Master Hunter Upland Advanced title and is working on a Master Retriever title, having obtained Senior Hunter.
“We started training Clapton at 8 weeks old with puppy things to build drive and desire. We train up until our Poodles go to their show handler to finish their championship,” Louter said. “When they come home, we get back to field training every day, and they all do great.”
Louter and her husband, Rich, have bred Standard Poodles for 15 years and always emphasized beauty and brains. They originally selected the breed for their family pet because of their daughter’s allergies.
“My husband had trained gundogs in the past, and he read up on the history of Poodles and how they were the original hunting dogs,” she said “He started throwing bumpers for our puppy and then brought home several birds from a duck hunt. The pup was very interested. The rest is history.”
Louter Creek poodles excel in conformation, field and other sports.
“It’s important to have proper structure, and showing them in conformation proofs our breeding program. All our dogs enjoy doing field work. As a puppy, they learn confidence and develop good muscle tone,” Louter said.
Poodles are legendary for the required grooming to keep them in beautiful show coat, but the Louters have found a schedule that works so their dogs pursue all endeavors successfully.
“In the hot summer months, we train them in the shorter sporting trim. We let their hair grow longer around our national specialty so they can be trimmed in the Modified Continental Clip,” she said. “In this trim, the dogs can go from the show ring to the field.”
Clapton, who finished his championship at 7 months, took first place in the conformation Hunting Dog class at the 2021 and 2022 Poodle Club of America National Specialties.
The Louters began entering hunt tests more than a decade ago, and the Poodles drew a lot of attention — and even doubts that they could compete.
“When we first started running hunt tests, there were a lot of curious looks and questions about the ‘breed’ and their eligibility to run them,” she said. “After years and years of educating and mentoring hunt test judges and the public and bringing a lot of Poodles to the line, we’ve paved the proverbial way for future generations and their Poodles. We see more Poodles involved in field events each year.”
Clapton, who bears the formal name GCH CH LouterCreek Wonderful Tonight SH MHU MHUA18 DN CA BCAT FDC WCX UWC, does not just use his keen hunting skills at competitions.
“His favorite thing is to go on wild bird hunts,” she said. “Rich takes him along when hunting each year in South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arkansas and various other places.”
Even though they love field work, Louter said they have never been tempted to add a retriever or spaniel to their kennel.
“Poodles are smart and loyal and have a great nose to find and flush birds,” she said. “They truly bring so much joy in our lives… so much so that we have mentored many people that own our pups in everything from hunt tests to the breed ring to all the other companion and performance stuff that AKC has to offer.”