Canine Confab

By Geraldine Cove-Print

Crystal Balls?

Crystal Balls?

Ahhh…the mists are clearing ..My crystal ball begins to glow with images…

No, not really, but I think the first few weeks of January is about taking stock and maybe a few predictions for the year ahead.

The world of Dog Showing and Dog Breeding I believe is in a state of flux. The stability of the world of showing has been rocked at its roots as we face the possibility of the demise of the open show and financial considerations taking Championship shows beyond the reach of those on a limited budget and that means most of us!
The Kennel Club have responded by hatching a plan to encourage more entries by way of enticing titles but will this be enough to bring the ailing open show back to fine health? The KC have also tried to tackle the age old question of ensuring the judge standing in the middle of the ring is knowledgeable , at least on paper. Will this be enough to convince us that their judging is fair?

Then we come to Pedigree Dog Breeders and well, Dog Breeders in general. The past few years has seen the rise and rise of the cross breed that is portrayed as a healthy alternative to a public hungry for novelty. All accepted pedigree breeds were a cross breed in the beginning however they were all breed for a purpose and that is where the current trend differs from the beginnings of breeding an animal from healthy stock to do a job. The cross breed is in response to a market need as opposed to a engineered type best able to do a job of work. Even the “companion” breeds have been structured to best fulfil that criteria and while it is, of course, about how a dog appeals to the eye as a companion it is also how a breed fulfils the other requirements of a pet. If we accept this as a fact then there is but a small step to a mating between two companion breeds, surely this will produce a “super companion” dog?
I started wanting to make predictions and all I’ve achieved is to ask more questions!
Perhaps that is the real problem with trying to look into the future with a subject as emotive as dogs; we really sometimes just lose our ability to recognise fact when our hearts rule our heads.

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Passion is a compelling emotion

If we take the facts about the three subjects I’ve mentioned the response that an unemotionally involved commentator would come up with would be entirely unacceptable. For failing Dog Shows for instance the figures prove that such a significant downturn in entries can be linked to the current financial situation of the country as a whole. As anyone involved for any length of time in the world of dog exhibition is likely to be exploding with wrath at this moment perhaps I should have added a health warning! Whether we choose to get up at silly o’clock and traipse the motorways of the land in a car that has seen better days to spend several hours , at our expense, in a muddy field to be judged by someone who we have already decided will not choose our dog for a myriad of reasons, none of which have anything to do with the dog’s conformation or temperament and then after a dreadful meal at extortionate price of grease and carbohydrate we retrace our steps to arrive back home with a houseful of dogs, children, husbands or visitors to feed before we can reach for a cup of tea or glass of Gin (dependant on our means and whim)is rarely about what we can or cannot afford. It is about passion for a hobby. Passion is a compelling emotion; it can be a combination of love and hate. It has precious little to do with number crunching but beware; the age of the accountant is upon us.
Every penny we spend on our dogs whether it be for our favourite choice of food or as insurance or in fuel as we attempt another show is part of this country’s financial balance. I am no political animal, however none of us can say we have nothing to do with politics as we are governed in our lives every day by the politics that are part of this country’s structure.
Democracy tends to produce lethargy and Brits are remarkably good at moaning about almost anything without actively looking for ways to change the hand dealt.
We also have to wake up to the reasoned argument that almost everything in this world comes down to small green pieces of paper, which, as Douglas Adams noted : is strange because for the most part those small green pieces of paper are completely unconcerned.
Where we choose to spend our money isn’t always as clear cut as it appears, food manufacturers and insurance firms can change hands rapidly or can be rebranded without any kind of notice. This means we can swan along thinking all is well and nothing has changed until our dogs react to a new ingredient or suddenly the insurance fails to cover an area due to a change of policy that you would need a magnifying glass to notice.
With all this belt tightening can Pedigree Dog Shows survive? I would suggest that unless the Kennel Club really gets tough on the antics of the few the many will vote with their feet and paws, once we step away from shows it is rare that we return. Perhaps it’s because we suddenly find we are less stressed, our vehicles hold their value as we drive fewer miles and weekends actually become family time again or it may be because once we step back we can see just how rotten the world of Judging and showing has become. I applaud the Kennel Club for the efforts made to inform and educate but as my dear Mama used to say “You can’t educate Pork”. It is not the ability to learn that is the problem; it is the application of that knowledge when there is a total lack of integrity.

Friend or Crony?

In this the year of the dog my wish is that Judges will judge the dog, they will not take into account that a first place may guarantee them a judging appointment in sunnier climes or that a CC here or there doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things and the dog probably had been sound at some point during his judging but the party planned by the owner to celebrate the day’s success had already arranged … When seeking out Judges for shows is it possible that Secretaries will be able to look further than the front page of the pile of schedules before keeping it in the “family”?
I’m sure there is a bluster of noise from all quarters protesting innocence. Wake up and smell the future, it is not acceptable to continue with cronyism. It is of course perfectly feasible that the choice is made from a point of “best person for the job” but for one moment divorce yourself from your position and stand in the shoes of the ordinary exhibitor, see what they see and perhaps you’ll begin to realise that the way to stop falling entries is to stand up to your “friends”.
It all comes down to honesty and integrity, whether it is recognising that there is a health issue in your breed and having the strength of character to first admit it and then do your very best to inform potential buyers and eradicate the issue or cleaning up your own show committee and not just blaming the Kennel Club and /or financial frailty of the country. It seems to me that we are all rather good at throwing stones as a reaction but our glass houses are both brittle and the panes are misted up…we need a clearer view and that starts with some pride in our environment and our hobby.


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Geraldine Cove-Print
Geraldine Cove-Print has always been an "animal person". Her early career path was with horses and as an instructor and competitive three day event rider, a purchaser of bloodstock for the racing fraternity and an interest in the breeding and exhibiting of farm livestock she enjoyed learning from the voices of experience.She has been exhibiting, working and breeding dogs since 1975 and awards Challenge Certificates in two breeds.She spent 10 years as Consultant to the BBC on dog based programmes and has written for specialist journals including those focussed on the Veterinary profession for many years.

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