A Primer for the Pedigree Enthusiast
Michael Brown was on a leisure drive with his dad Michael, and Chinney, a Siberian Husky, when he came across a dog show. Since that introduction to the sport of pedigree dog exhibitions, Brown has bred Chow Chows and competes in 70 shows per year. From his home in historic Lambertville, New Jersey he unleashed the dogs for 15 minutes to offer this primer to assist your pedigree pursuits.
BREED RESEARCH. Investigating genealogy is a matter of priority for pedigree breeders. Before acquiring Marchwind Miro’ de Ca’nquet, a six-month-old Italian Greyhound, Brown says, “I went back ten generations looking at photographs of Miro’s ancestors…reading what owners had to say.” Brown’s ideal breed type had to have correct size and silhouette, a hound-like head and high-stepping strut. Dog World newspaper, specialty books and breed-specific Websites and kennels were instrumental to Brown’s research. Visiting major kennels (including some in England) to learn the types of dogs they produce informed his analysis. When creating your own kennel type you should be firm on how inbred or outbred you want to be—by adhering to either a small or broad gene pool. “You can have a successful breeding kennel with two or three very good brood bitches,” adds Brown, who never buys dogs for breeding from pet shops.
SOCIAL TRAINING. “First thing I do in preparing a dog for show is to get it a complete veterinary physical.” This screens the dog for parasites that provoke weight loss, and coat and skin deficiencies. Next, Brown sources a handling class at a respected kennel club to familiarize the dog with being around other dogs and humans. “These classes are the best simulation of real dog show conditions.” He and Champion Tudors Diamonds Are Forever (call name Shirley), a five-year-old high-strung Italian Greyhound, attended two 30-minute sessions per week for four months. “I worked to socialize her, I took her wherever I went [and] I made sure to expose her to children, the elderly and people in wheelchairs, so that no social encounter would faze her.” Weekly coat conditioning and teeth cleaning were coupled with networking with handlers at shows, and practicing
postures and walking patterns required in the show ring. Brown recommends budding handlers join the Owner Handler Association of America , as well as a club for their specific breed.
SHOWTIME. When the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship awarded $50,000 and a 2004 Suzuki XL-7 for the owner of the Best in Show winning dog, and a $20,000 purse for best dog shown by its owner/breeder, debate flared, says Brown, “insiders felt that dog showing should remain an amateur status sport.” “No award money is given at prestigious shows like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York or Crufts in Birmingham, England,” which attracts 20,000 dogs for its three-day extravaganza. “No one does this for the money,” said Eugene Blake, a revered handler and prominent African American show judge with over 50 years experience. Blake judges sporting, hound, toy and non-sporting categories and emphasizes that “we judge on breed type…without that you don’t have a [potential champion] what makes the dog breed is the way they move not the way they look.” Blake believes the sport is very accepting, “I’ve been involved since before the civil rights movement when places were segregated.”
At annual National Specialty, prizes for competitors who win points toward championship ranking range from $25 – $125. That’s nibbles ‘n bits compared to the princely penny enthusiasts invest. Brown incurred a $6,000 vet bill for orthopedic surgery on Shirley’s broken leg, show entry fees range $22 – $50, and buying a healthy Italian Greyhound pup can cost $1,300, while a show quality pup can fetch $4,000. Cultivate your curiosity, visit the American Kennel Club a comprehensive information emporium.
© SEAN DRAKES
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