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Looking Back: Western Reserve, Santa Barbara and a Survey

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s always interesting to look back to past days, and in dogs, as in most other things, you’ll find it was a very different world. At the same time it’s amazing how much has not changed.

Without further comments, here are a few sample quotes from dog magazines in my archives from past decades:

90 Years Ago
On Sunday, August 5th all the “dog people” of Cleveland were invited to take part in a get-together picnic at Willoughbeach, a suburban lake resort of Cleveland. The picnic was held under the auspices of the Western Reserve Kennel Club, the all-breed club in Cleveland. Members of all of the specialty clubs were invited with their families and friends.

A puppy show and Whippet races were held in connection with it, and also the usual races, games and athletic contests were pulled off. “Owencliffe Olive,” a wire-haired Fox Terrier female owned by Captain C. B. Owen of Cleveland, won in the puppy contest.

Over two hundred people attended, an unprecedented number in the history of the dog game in this vicinity. It cannot help but mean good times ahead when that large a representation from all the dog clubs can be brought together. It means that co-operation and good sportsmanship here are in the dog game to stay.

The Shepherd Dog Club of Ohio is planning on a big one-day outdoor show in Cleveland on September 8th. The date has already been approved by the Shepherd Dog Club of America and the club is going ahead with the preliminary arrangements pending the final approval of the dates by the A.K.C. At the All-Breed Show in March, in Cleveland, over one hundred dogs were entered in the Shepherd classes, and the club is sanguine about having an entry of close to two hundred. Assurance has already been given that some of the best dogs of the East will take in this specialty show.

The Kennel-Review, August 15, 1923

65 Years Ago
Santa Barbara was its usual excellent one-day event. Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Heckert topped off the day by having Earl Warren, Governor of the state of California, present the groups and best in show trophy. Mr. John Neff of A.K.C. was an interested visitor. […]

Kyle Onsstott judged best in show and the nod went to Ernie Ferguson’s black Miniature poodle, Ch. Magic Fate of Blakeen, beautifully put down by Russel Zimmerman. […]

It was a pleasure to see the trophies this club gave. Of late, there has been much complaining about the quality of trophies the show-giving clubs are handing out. This “beef” by the exhibitors is more than Justified.

Bert Heath, In the News, Kennel Review, August 1948

50 Years Ago
Who decided that a professional handler actually can do more to further a Specials dog’s career than an owner! […] Far too many owners have exhibited, campaigned, and “furthered the careers of” their own dogs to perfection, for either of us to assume that this area is exclusive to professional handlers. Let us not forget Dr. Vardon and his Frosty Snowman Bulldog, Mr. Tipton and his beautiful Min Pin, Mrs. Finch and innumerable Afghans of Crown Crest. These are but an immediate few. To make a general statement on this topic would be disastrous. Each individual case is different, depending on the specific dog, specific breed, specific owner, and specific professional handler.

It is generally known that a professional handler is equipped with experience, knowledge, talent, techniques, and his undivided attention, to do an excellent job in the presentation of a Specials dog. If an owner does not find himself as well equipped, he should, by all means, employ the services of a handler, who has made a life’s work of doing the job properly; and who, by the quality of his work, makes it perfectly clear that he is not an amateur, and does not intend to be beaten in competition by some inadequacy in his manner of presentation.

Frank Sabella, “Why Special a Dog?” Kennel Review, August 1963

25 Years Ago
In a 1988 survey, Kennel Review asked professional handlers and judges what they felt are the most important criteria for, on the one hand, judges, and, on the other, handlers. You would perhaps expect that what handlers feel is important in a judge may be different from the characteristics that the judges themselves prioritize – and that was true in some cases, according to this survey, but not all.

Judges and handlers were asked the same questions, first about what characteristics they felt were most important in a judge: good judgment, honesty, courage of conviction, knowledge of standards, showmanship (meaning, presumably, an ability to make the judging exciting to watch) and courtesy. Then the same two groups were asked which of a slightly different set of characteristics were the most important for a handler: honesty, grooming, knowledge of standards, showmanship, courtesy and presentation.

More than twice as many handlers as judges felt that showmanship was a most important characteristic in a handler. (Translation: Flashy presentation doesn’t fool as many judges as you think — at least not according to the judges themselves.)

Grooming ability was also much more highly regarded by the handlers themselves than by the judges: 55 percent of the handlers felt it was a most important skill, but only 23 percent of the judges agreed. (Translation: Superior grooming skills are not a major factor in these judges’ decisions.)

Less surprising, perhaps, was that the judges didn’t feel knowledge of the breed standards was really that important for handlers, while the handlers themselves felt much more strongly about this. In fact, a majority of the handlers felt it was nearly as important that they should know the breed standards as that the judges should!

You would think handlers might consider courage of conviction a huge asset for judges. Surprisingly, the judges themselves felt this was much more important than the handlers did. Sixteen percent more judges than handlers considered this a “most important” asset.

Judges also felt it was more important that they should be courteous than the handlers did. Handlers, on the other hand, felt that their honesty was almost as important as that of the judges – while over 90 percent of the judges, for their part, felt that honesty in their own ranks was much more important than in a handler (66 percent).

If honesty in judges received the highest marks of all, from both the handlers and the judges themselves, as being the most important characteristic, a judge’s showmanship was by far the least important, according to both groups of respondents. Only 1 percent of the judges and 0 percent of the handlers felt that this was a most important characteristic in any judge.

Would the figures be the same in 2013, a quarter of a century later? Perhaps it’s time for another survey.

20 Years Ago
I think the biggest problem today are the instant “know-it-alls.” They start in a breed, and if they are lucky and have a good specimen and start winning, they then become the masters of the game. They cannot accept losing to a better dog. It is then a political judge or some other excuse. We have all heard the poor excuses. Also the instant agent who knows it all. They have never apprenticed under a true professional, but just ask them – they know it all.

Another problem is the unworthy champions being finished. I have never met a judge who does not think that he or she is doing a good job. I just feel some of the judges are not as confident in knowing the breeds as they should be. If they are not sure, I think they tend to put up handlers. We all know that the handlers don’t always have a top one, or a good one for that matter. I just hope that more judges will keep trying to learn the breeds that they are not confident in.

Bettie Krause, Sighthound Review, July-August 1993

10 Years Ago
What a year 2003 has been for purebred dogs and for dog shows. More than ever during the past summer and autumn, it seems you could not turn on the TV without watching some dog show or other, often with a few familiar faces – canine or human – mugging in front of the cameras, right there in your living room.

Who could ever have guessed that dog shows would be a staple of the electronic age and that dog people would become media stars? The regular public is lapping it up: you tell the check-out girl at the supermarket that you’ve got show dogs and she’ll tell you she loved watching the Houston dog shows on TV last week.

Remember the days when any mention of a dog show […] was enough to send you running to watch? Now we hardly look up from our TV dinners… Another dog show? Ho-hum.

Bo Bengtson, Dog World Annual, 2004

5 Years Ago
I think that one of the hardest things breeders face today is the ability to think into the future when planning a litter. To develop a line of dogs takes a lot of careful planning. It is not easy for some breeders to have to wait for that second, third or fourth generation to achieve their vision.

Mary Ellen Fishler, Poodle Variety, August-September 2008

1 Year Ago
It is increasingly difficult to make any sense of the conflicting trends within the American dog sport. Why are we seeing a drop in American Kennel Club registrations, while entry figures in general are up?

Dogs are certainly as popular as ever over here, so why does AKC’s share in the total dog population continue to shrink? If I may hazard a guess, it might be that AKC is finally becoming what many have long felt it should aim to be: a sort of “boutique registry” with fewer dogs, but a high percentage of these actively participating in organized events.

Bo Bengtson, Dog World Annual, 2013 (Published in 2012)

Written by

Bo Bengtson has been involved in dogs since the late 1950s and judged since the mid-1970s in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Japan, China and Russia. He has judged twice at Westminster, twice at Crufts and four times at the FCI World Show, as well as the U.S. national specialties for Scottish Deerhounds, Whippets, Greyhounds and Borzoi.
Comments
  • Collin August 25, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    It’s fun to read the actual written anecdotes and opinions from decades past in the sport. It seems to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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