Sunday, January 8, 2017

Titles on both ends.

Happy new year!

Today I want to talk about titling dogs on both ends.

You heard me. I'm talking about putting conformation titles on your working dogs and putting working titles on your conformation dogs.

Last weekend I took Stuck to a big UKC cluster show. They had 7 out of 8 judges who could judge Belgian Shepherd Dogs and Stuck actually finished her UKC Championship!

If you know me, you know conformation isn't my thing. I value working titles over a conformation title any day, but I do think a truly balanced dog has titles at both ends of their name. I think it is important for a dog to be close to breed standard and be able to also perform either what they were bred to do, or perform in some type of sport work. 

Conformation puts a sour taste in my mouth because of the political aspect. In the conformation ring it almost becomes more about who is showing the dog rather than the dog itself. I chose to show my dog in UKC because they are far more laid back than AKC. They also do not allow professional handlers.

Here is what UKC says about itself: 

"UKC prides itself on its family-oriented, friendly, educational events. The UKC has supported the "Total Dog" philosophy through its events and programs for over a century. As a departure from registries that place emphasis on a dog’s looks, UKC events are designed for dogs that look and perform equally well."

 Generally speaking UKC focuses on form but also on function. Don't get me wrong, there were definitely fat show dogs at the show and to show Stuck I did put an extra 3-4lbs on her, but she is fit and still ended up with two best of breed placements and two group placements. I was also complimented on how fit she was. The point system is also different than AKC, you get points even if there are no other dogs in your class. You need 100 points and three competition wins to finish your UKC championship. A competition win can be winning best female/male in your breed, winning best of winners, winning best of breed, or getting a group win. It sounds pretty easy, but it can be hard if you don't have enough people showing in your breed.

I think it's important for breeders to put focus on more than just performance, just like I think it's important for breeders to put more focus on more than just conformation. We're dumbing dogs down and physically wrecking some of our breeds. A really good example is the labrador retriever. The conformation dogs are a wreck, flat footed and obese. But the field retrievers are being bred with no regard to standard. Some are ridiculously tall, some have horrible rears which make them prone to cruciate tears, not to mention some of them are bred with so much off the wall energy that they can only be out hunting or locked in a kennel because they are so driven they cannot do anything else. There should be a happy medium. A dog who fits a breed standard but still has the ability to do the job it was bred to do. 

It seems conformation titles are actually looked down on in the sport community. I'm not going to lie, I've been in that camp. But there is nothing wrong with having a dog who fits into the breed standard and can still do its job. I actually wish more people who worked their dogs would attempt to show them. I think that sometimes people get so focused on performance that they completely ignore form. But if we want our dogs to have long sport careers, they need to be built well! 

Anyway, we had a really fun weekend. Even if we hadn't actually been as successful as we were we met a lot of nice dog people and had a good time overall.  I thought for sure I would be chasing the last competition win that we needed for forever. I was already looking at a show to take Stuck to in February! I was pleasantly surprised and quite frankly shocked that we got Best of Breed and two Group 1 placements. We placed BOB over a really nice bitch who was owned and handled by a professional handler. It was a huge compliment to place over them both. The days leading up to that day we got one best of winners and two best females, I really didn't expect to get a BOB or group win at all. 

Here are some pictures from the show:

Our first BOB
I believe this was where we got a best of winners.
Picture taken by: 

Sport will always be my main focus and mean more to me than any conformation title I could get. But I do feel that a balanced dog can be successful in both arenas and I do think that it is worthwhile to try to show our sport dogs, especially if they are built well and good representations of their breed. 

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