A couple of years ago, I was having lunch with a group of owners and handlers, all of whom were campaigning dogs in the Top 100 Dogs All Breeds. All were hoping to get their dogs higher in the rankings. I asked if anyone could name the top five dogs from the previous year. Not one could name all five. While I write a lot about the top-ranked dogs, I could understand why many exhibitors are focused elsewhere.
What accomplishments do you remember, year to year? I think most people remember who won the Westminster Kennel Club show. I admit I don’t know anyone in the dog game who wouldn’t see a Westminster BIS as the pinnacle of their career in dogs. Even a breed win at the Garden is considered worth bragging about. In just over a decade, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship has established itself as one of the premier events in the world. For us Terrier folks, a Group win at the Montgomery County Kennel Club’s limited-breed show still has a cachet not replicated anywhere else.
While these are all single Best In Show wins, they are almost always accompanied by a show career with dozens of all-breed Bests. At the breed level, any serious exhibitor can tell you who won their latest parent club National Specialty. They will also be able to tell you who holds the record in their breed for the most all-breed shows. While I empathize with the many people who chase breed points, especially those with breeds that rarely make it to the BIS ring, I am skeptical of rankings that are the product of one judge’s opinion at one show, usually a National Specialty.
Then there are the breeders’ accomplishments: the top-producing sire & dam in a breed, the number of champions-grand champions produced, the number of all-breed BIS won by a breeder, the number of consecutive generations with BIS winners and the prestigious AKC Breeder of the Year awards. One of my favorite measures is the number of dogs finished by an owner other than the breeder. Some of these breeder accomplishments can be at cross purposes with many programs. Most breeders produce only one or two litters a year.
I have often written that we all have a responsibility to promote our sport to the general public. While I appreciate campaign strategy as much as anyone, you can’t expect to be remembered if you avoid the marquee shows or boycott your National Specialty. Even if your chances of winning at a premier event are slim, the public will remember every outstanding dog they see, not just the ones that won. Finally, to me, the ultimate goal for anyone in the fancy is to make as many friends in the sport as you can and keep them as long as you can. I know I will never be remembered as an important breeder, but I hope to be remembered as a faithful friend. And that’s today’s Back Story.