Sunday, July 25, 2010

Its a Priority Thing

This should be called a Public-Self-Flogging Blog- or something of that sort.

I BLEW IT-- I mean- I REALLY Blew it this weekend, and I owe Bugsy a HUGE apology. But, being a dog- and a wonderful Cardigan, at that, he forgives me. Because he is just like that! He is perfect- he doesn't care that I pushed him and his needs to the side... wait... let me start at the beginning...

Bugsy is, first and foremost, a most AWESOME dog! He is a totally cool DUDE of a dog! He isn't always the easiest dog- because he has this wonderful BRAIN~ he actually thinks~ which has been known to get him in trouble! He hasn't always had the best life- but since he has been back home where he belongs, he has been my "Best Buddy". We have had an ongoing Training Date Night, where just the Bug Man and I went to training class, and he learned about Obedience and Rally- or Agility- but it was a PRIORITY in my life- and that special me and mom time was important to Bugsy.

This summer has been a bit rough. First of all- emotionally, I haven't been there. I lost two dogs, I lost a good friend, I can't find a job... its all been playing on my mind alot. And... Money has been really tight... And... School has been tough...And... its been so hot...And... And...

I made the decision to change Obedience Instructors, but hadn't committed to a new Instructor yet- so was sort of sitting in Limbo (which became really comfortable) No training fees to pay- one less worry- Blah Blah Blah

So along comes a three day trial, indoors and air conditioned, in which Bugsy is entered. I have no idea WHAT I thought. I haven't really worked with the poor dog in weeks! I mean- occasionally I would toss a collar on him and take him out in the yard and do some heeling- or I would toss him over some jumps or through a tunnel. But I ignored his longing gaze from the yard every evening... I ignored my training bag gathering dust on the shelf... and I ignored the fact that my performance dog was not getting any attention!

I deserved EVERYTHING I got, didn't I?? I didn't make Training A Priority!!! 1,000 lashes with a wet Noodle!!!

I KNOW better!! I know that Cardigans are too smart for this-- I know that, given the opportunity, they will devise their own way to occupy their brains, and their time! I also knew that I was in trouble the second that I attempted to step into the Rally ring on Friday!

Note: I said attempted!

Because, after over a month of leisure, Mr. Bugsy planted his feet and said "I don't have to do this- and you can't make me..." I did finally get him in the ring... only to have him bolt as soon as I told him to drop the toy on the Figure 8!

The total of the weekend??? Entered 6 classes; only 2 Q's-- Luckily, (I guess) he Q'd in both Rally Exc. B and Rally Adv B on the same day- so he did get 1 leg toward his RAE-- but he very badly NQ'd in both classes on Friday, and in Advanced on Sunday---

Oh- and Exc on Sunday-- I blew past a sign and NQ'd for him.---

So- on to the Public Self-Flogging! One Thousand Lashes- Let the punishment begin!

Its time to make training a priority- and to quit making excuses. My dog deserves a much more dedicated trainer because he is one heck of a great dog!

I'm sorry, Bugsy- I'll try to be better next time!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chicken or the egg...Where to begin?

My original lesson plan for today was "Evaluating Show Prospects". However, after talking to some friends, and looking at some other blogs this morning, thought that maybe I would start at the beginning. After all, show dogs all had to come from somewhere- lets take a look at planning a litter.
For the purposes of this particular blog entry, we are going to assume that the bitch that is being bred has completed her Championship, finishing easily. Her temperament is sound. She is in excellent health, and has passed her customary health clearances with flying colors. (We will discuss health clearances in a later Blog- I promise!) You, as the upcoming breeder-of-record, have set aside plenty of money to pay for stud service and Veterinary emergencies in advance, and have cleared your schedule so that you can be available to take care of the puppies when the time comes.
Now its time to discuss who we are breeding the princess to!
I have to tell you that I am frequently amazed (and often dismayed) at how some people go about choosing a stud dog. I have to really bite my tongue more often than not, and if you know me at all, you know that is really hard for me to do! :-)
There is REALLY only one thing to consider when choosing a stud dog- which dog is going to do the most for MY bitch?
Win records, location, amount of stud fee, convenience, your friendship with the dogs owner... none of these should really matter!
All too often, bitch owners choose stud dogs that are either A) near by- therefore eliminating the cost of shipping semen/bitches for breeding; B) Owned by friends- thereby perhaps saving on stud fee's, or at least showing a gesture of favoritism, or C) Big Winners- assuming that just because a dog is Winning Big it is going to Produce Well with every bitch.
The issue lies in that if dog A, B, or C does not possess the qualities needed to help your bitch, you are not going to be moving forward with your litter. At best, you will be treading water- at worst, you will be sliding down river!
The wise bitch owner must be highly critical of their bitch. You must know both your dogs virtues and faults. You should be familiar enough with her pedigree to have a good idea where those faults and virtues most likely came from. Any breeder that wants to move forward with their breeding program cannot afford to be kennel blind, or to look at their breeding stock with rose colored glasses.
But how to know which stud dog is really going to be the best dog for your bitch?
The first question I, as a stud dog owner, ask when someone calls to breed to my dog is "What do you want to fix in your bitch?" Now, obviously, we are not going to FIX your bitch- but what we are hoping to do is to produce puppies that do not have the same faults as your bitch! (and yes, I have had people tell me that there was nothing that they needed to fix in their bitch- and our conversation comes to a very quick end-- every bitch- and every dog- has faults!)
The second question I ask is "What do you like about your bitch?" This tells me a great deal about priorities, as much as it tells me about the bitch itself.
I always ask the bitch owner why they are interested in using my dog. I want to know! I need to know! If they want to use my dog because he has produced well with another bitch, that really doesn't mean that he is going to produce well with their bitch, and I need to let them know that! Maybe that other bitch is related differently, or compliments my dog better. If, on the other hand, they tell me that they feel that our dogs compliment each other, that gives me a better feeling.
With the advancements in shipping fresh-chilled semen and frozen semen, there is simply no excuse for breeding to a local dog- unless that dog is TRULY the best dog for your bitch! Yes- shipping semen is marginally more expensive, but isn't your litter worth it? Isn't your goal to produce the absolute best quality dogs possible, rather than another litter of mediocre dogs?
Choosing the right stud dog is not an easy task. While the people next door may be able to find a dog down the road to impregnate their Labradoodle- those of us who are breeding to improve our breed have a different outlook on the process.
It should not be an "any-dog-will-do" choice!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

When is a Champion Not a "Special"?

People show dogs in conformation for many reasons, and I applaud those that decide they want to learn to show their dogs! Showing dogs is a wonderful hobby and can bring you many joys. It's a great family activity, and a super social network!

Along the journey, many people decide that they want to have a "Specials" dog- they want the glory and the recognition that comes from having a Champion that competes at the Group and Best in Show level. A dog that can achieve national ranking on Breed and All-Breed levels.

So, then, the decision will be whether or not their dog is a "Specials" prospect. Or... When is a Champion worthy of being a Special?

Because, you see, there is a VAST difference between the two. There are a multitude of dogs who complete their championships in accordance with the AKC requirements every weekend. The majority of dogs who complete their titles will never see the inside of a show ring again, going on to be performance dogs, companions, or retiring to the whelping box. The smallest percentage of dogs go on to Fame and Glory as "Top Dogs"... Right?

Well... maybe??

How do you decide which of those Champions to run on and Special, and which to retire to the sofa? Is it a matter of win records coming through the classes? Money in the bank? Handler on the end of the lead? Attitude of the dog? Or... a magical combination of all of the above?

First of all... Specials Dogs (or bitches) must be SPECIAL! They must be of EXCEPTIONAL Breed Quality. That means no major breed type faults! That means without major structural faults. That means they don't require trimming (in our breed), dyeing, braces, corrective surgery, or pigment coloring in order to enter the ring!

Mediocre dogs- those dogs without MAJOR breed faults, but with several "niggly" faults- can be successful specials-- with the right attitude-- the right handler-- the right judges--- But you need to ask yourself what your really telling the Cardigan world when you show that dog. Is that dog really exceptional? Or... is it really just a great Generic Show Dog? And... which is more important to you? Are you in this for the Wins (ego) or for the breed recognition?

One big win in the classes, or finishing easily, doesn't make your dog a shoe-in for a Super Specials Career! For example: The photo on the top of this blog is my own Ch. Xtacee Cowboys-N-Indians (Arrow), taken at 4 months. Arrow had a most stellar show career in the classes. Shown a total of 6 times- he was at least WD/BOW 5 times and finished with 4 majors undefeated in the classes- except at the CWCCA National Specialty- where he placed 3rd in BBE at 9 months of age. Along the way, he was BOB over Specals 1 time, and earned a BBE Group I.

From his early start, you would have thought that Arrow was bound for the big time, but we have decided to place him. Because he has what I consider a major breed-type fault, I won't special him- Judges do not need to see Cardigans with major faults being shown. (They see enough of that in the classes.)

Ego plays a large part in the Dog Show world- perhaps too big of a part. Its much more fun to win than to lose. Campaigning a Special is a very expensive, time consuming, life encompassing endeavor. If you are going to ivest that amount of time and money and self into this, you must make sure that the dog is worthy of that investment. It is very hard to separate your emotions when trying to decide whether or not to special a dog, so I suggest taking the decision out of your hands.

We give younger hopefuls (those dogs that we are considering specialing) a trial run. I will enter a handful of local shows under judges that I know are at least knowledgeable and respectful of Cardigans. I make sure that my dog is in condition and at least trained well enough that he won't be overlooked on behavior. At the end of those shows, I will evaluate what our win/lose ratio was. Sometimes we are very pleasantly suprised (Sera- Herding Group I her first show- Specialty BOB /Group IV her second show) - other times we realize that this dog is not going to have what it takes, and the dog stays home- or may come out at a later date.

You do need to know your breed, and know how to evaluate your dogs before you can even begin to make the decision, When is Champion Not a "Special"!

I wish you all the best of luck and LOTS of Blue and Gold ribbons, as you chase those Rainbows!

I'll see you around the rings!