It’s been an interesting week in the dog world, affording fanciers an opportunity to compare the status of our sport here and abroad. Much of the attention was focused on Crufts, England’s self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Dog Show.”
With more than 20,000 dogs entered, Crufts did deliver on spectacle. Mercifully, what it did not deliver was controversy. After last year’s conflagration over the British Kennel Club’s singling out 15 “High Profile Breeds” for post-judging vet checks, and the subsequent disqualification of six breed winners, some had anticipated that there might be renewed unpleasantness this year. However, this year all of the winners from the high profile breeds were advanced to the group competitions, leaving one to wonder whether the affected breeds were healthier than last year’s candidates or the examining vets less zealous than last year. The bottom line was the public got to enjoy all of the winners JUDGED to be Best of Breed.
There was a day in which I believed that the British did some breeds better than we did here in the USA, primarily in the Terrier Group. However, while there are some notable exceptions, today you are much more likely to find outstanding breed representatives at the Westminster Kennel Club show than at Crufts. One of the advantages we have on this side of the Atlantic is superior grooming and presentation. When Walt Disney designed his iconic theme park, he insisted that everything be “Picture Postcard Perfect.” That’s a pretty good description of what our best handlers do every weekend here in America. Watching the Crufts judging, I get the impression that the British are much less concerned with hitting a photo op stack and having every hair in place. I would like to think that British breeders are so confident in their dogs that they believe the judge will find the best dog whether they perform perfectly or not.
Whatever the thinking behind the presentation, I do know that the ban against cropped ears and docked tails requires a whole shift in one’s concept of breed type. In the 1991 version of the film, “Father of the Bride,” there is a scene in which Steve Martin is greeted in the home of his future son-in-law’s parents by their Doberman Pinschers. The dogs are the very paragons of intimidation and fierceness. The film’s director chose Dobermans because, to him, they were the most intimidating guard dog he could envision. Had those dogs had natural tails and ears they would not have projected that image, the very image that Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann hoped would protect him as he collected taxes in the town of Apolda, Germany. The Doberman Pinscher breed winner at Crufts projected none of that legacy.
Compare the Doberman Pinscher, GCH CH Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici, AKC’s 2012 Number Three Dog All Breeds, to the Crufts’ best Doberman, Grafmax Louis Armstrong SHCM. Which dog is, “elegant in appearance, of proud carriage, reflecting great nobility and temperament”? However, the Doberman is not the only breed which will startle American fanciers. Boxers, Rottweilers and Black Russian Terriers all sport long tails. All of the Spaniels require a double take, and is there anything as disquieting as an Old English, a Bobtail, with a tail? Perhaps all that is needed is several decades of these breeds au naturale before the image becomes acceptable. It still begs the question, “Is this the breed the developers envisioned?”
What most fanciers can agree upon is that the 2013 Crufts Best In Show, the Griffon Basset Vendeen (Petit), CH Sole Trader Peek a Boo, and the Reserve Best In Show, the Labrador Retriever, IT CH Loch Mor Romeo, were both splendid representatives of their breed. I hope that we here in the US can reconcile our differences with our British brethren and advance this wonderful world of dogs we share. And that’s today’s Back Story.