AKC President Dennis Sprung on Public Outreach
President and Chief Operating Officer of the American Kennel Club since 2003, Dennis Sprung has ardently pursued projects designed to share the message of the human-canine bond.
Starting in dogs with the Afghan Hounds of Grandeur in the late 1960s, Sprung was mentored by the legendary Sunny Shay. Shay laid the foundation for his education in dogs, Sprung said. At a time when the famous Long Island kennel housed over 100 dogs, he routinely interacted with everything from puppies to veterans.
Inspiring Dreams for Everyone
“She was one of a kind,” Sprung said. “A true character in the sport. Sunny was unique, in many ways, but particularly in that she was a Breeder Owner Handler. Shirkhan’s first BIS in 1957 was at Westminster Kennel Club.” (For more history and stories about Sunny Shay and the Grandeur Afghans, listen to Michael Canalizo at https://puredogtalk.com/canalizo-ghosts-of-the-past-and-breeding-for-the-future-pure-dog-talk/)
Sharing the Human-Canine Bond
Shortly after Sprung started working for AKC as an Executive Field Rep in 1989, he proposed to the Board of Directors the program that became the AKC Humane Fund. His vision was to create an additional vehicle to serve as outreach to the public, sharing the message of the human-canine bond. The AKC Humane Fund has now grown to include grant making for parent club breed rescue, scholarships, funding for domestic violence shelters that allow pets and assistance in cases of natural disaster. (https://www.akchumanefund.org/)
Art as Outreach
Sprung is involved with the AKC Museum of Dog as a member of original planning committee and former board member. He is actively working with AKC staff to help the museum move back to NYC from its location near St. Louis, Missouri for the last 31 years. “The museum is one of the finest collections of sporting art in the world. It pays respect to our breeds and our traditions in the sport. With a location one block from Grand Central terminal, where they have 22 million visitors annually, the opportunity to grow purebred dogs is endless.” (https://www.akc.org/museum-of-the-dog/)
On the night following the 9/11 attacks, Sprung had a brain storm.
“AKC was able to donate a portable x-ray machine and a large quantity of supplies,” Sprung said. “These were delivered by me to Ground Zero, on that very corner with smoke still rising… I’ll never forget that.”
He resolved to create a public art exhibition and fundraising opportunity. From this was born DOGNY. Honoring the search & rescue dog and handler teams, 112 dog statues were placed around New York City. In all, more than $3.5 million was raised for Search & Rescue groups nationwide. (https://www.akc.org/dogny/)
“I have to tell you. Credit goes to our entire fancy,” Sprung said. “Springfield Kennel Club was the first donor. Corporate America came through and worked with us, but our fancy was with us every step of the way.”
Building from that concept, AKC Reunite was developed, spearheaded by Delegate Pat Laurans.
“The AKC family is providing what’s needed to save dogs throughout the country,” Sprung said. The fundraising effort has placed 67 trailers across the nation. (http://www.akcreunite.org/)
“I think one of the most important things we can do is to not only look inward, but also look outward,” Sprung said. “We need to focus on our core constituency, on our mission of registration and events. But we also have to communicate with the public. We have to educate them. Be consistent in our messaging. Be transparent and continue to do the right thing. …There’s many societal changes that are affecting all of us. We’ve lost a lot of sites (for dog shows). This is no longer rural America. We have to address the fact that there are a number of territories that no longer offer point shows. We have to continue to work together.”
“Guts and Governance” of purebred dogs, the Bull Terrier and Breeders
Hon. David Merriam was given a White Bull Terrier in 1953. “Gigi” was the gift that keeps on giving, starting a 65-year love affair with the breed and purebred dogs.
When Merriam was given Gigi, he had some Collies. “They were not very good collies, conformation-wise,” he said. “Then I was given this bull terrier and she won quite a bit,” he added, in regard to why he’d chosen the Bull Terrier breed. “And winning is better than losing. They grow on you. You become very chauvinistic about them.”
Judging Similarities in Court or in the Ring
Merriam was a trial court judge in Southern California for 20 years and president of the Golden State Bull Terrier Club while still in law school.
“There’s a similarity in judging law cases and dog shows,” said Merriam, who presided over Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club in 2015. “Each has a standard. AKC has a standard for each breed. In the courts the standard is known as the law. In the courts you receive evidence… testimony or physical evidence. In a dog show the evidence is the dogs in front of you. What you see and feel and the application of the standard to those animals.”
History and Judging of Bull Terriers
The essence of the Bull Terrier is the head, Merriam noted. “It’s an egg-shaped head. It’s only commonly been found in the last 20 years or so. Heads have improved enormously. Alva Rosenberg said, ‘Close your eyes, put your hand on the head. It should feel like a velvet egg.’”
The breed was developed as the *white* bull terrier, Merriam said. “Those devoted to the White Bull Terrier thought the Colored dogs were mongrels,” he added. “It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the Colored Bull Terrier was imported to the US from England. There were huge fights within the bull terrier club and the American Kennel Club about recognition of the variety. “Colored (bull terrier) development was slow. It wasn’t until the ‘70s that the quality began to be developed,” he observed.
“It’s been a successful marriage,” Merriam said of the two varieties. He remarked on some problems associated with white bull terriers, including deafness and skin problems. Research by the BAER hearing test program showed that “(In) white to white (breedings), one-third of the litter would have some hearing deficiency. White to colored that went down to 6 percent.”
BTCA presented the information to breeders, who then found value in the Colored variety and began using them in breeding programs. “If you give competent breeders the tools and the information, they’ll help correct the situation,” Merriam said.
Guts and Governance
As a long time AKC delegate and past Chairman of the Board of Directors, Merriam noted that the “guts” of the sport is at the level of the next dog show and the next breeding.
“The governance of it, whether in the delegate body or the Board of Directors, is of lesser interest to all the people here at the dog show,” Merriam said. “How many exhibitors or breeders read the minutes of the board meetings? They only become aware of those when a new regulation comes down.”
Calling himself a “traditionalist,” Merriam challenged some of the ideas and directions of the American Kennel Club.
“If I were king, I would divide the kennel club,” Merriam stated. “I would have the traditional part of conformation and field trials in one group and then I would have all of the other (companion events) in another group. … Each of the two organizations would have to support themselves.”
“The most important thing,” Merriam said in summary, “is that each breed has a coterie of outstanding breeders. They are what moves the breed ahead. Nothing that AKC does changes that.”
We hope you enjoy this thought-provoking, challenging and fascinating conversation with one of the legends of our sport.
Solving the Mysteries of AKC Points and Divisions
AKC releases a new point schedule every year in May to determine how many entries it takes to earn championship points in each breed. Intermittently, the “divisions” that address alignment of regions in which certain point schedules apply are adjusted as well. On May 16 this year, the new points schedule and a division realignment go into effect.
Alan Slay, AKC Director of Event Programs, is here to walk us through the process involved in determining what “makes a major” in every single breed and sex and region of the country each year.
Computers to the Rescue
Fortunately, computers do most of the hard work, Slay said. But the basic formula has remained the same since at least 1971, the oldest documentation he could find.
“So a software program goes and looks at each division, breed and sex,” Slay said. “… 15 Divisions, each breed, each of the sexes, you do that math, that’s a lot of looking. (It) individually looks at the shows that had competitors and then it sorts them and then uses those guidelines set by the board of directors to determine what the number of competitors should be required for each of those one, two, three, four and five points.”
The AKC Board of Directors’ guidelines, according to Slay, are that 95 percent of shows should have one point available, 18 percent of shows should have at least a three-point major on offer and 2 percent of shows should have a five-point major in each division, breed and sex.
Nationals NOT Included in Calculations
Slay noted that Parent Club National Specialties are NOT included in these calculations. He added that more recently ANY show within three days and 50 miles of a National Specialty also is not included in these averages.
“Myself and others working on this saw some disparity of almost a penalty for allowing a National Specialty to come into your division the way the formulation used to work,” Slay said. “About four years ago, we went to the Board of Directors and said this is just not fair. For instance, you have a national specialty occurring on a Thursday, maybe Wednesday and Thursday. And you’d have a cluster over the weekend at the same site on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Well that Friday, Saturday, Sunday for that breed would have an inflated number of competitors compared to what it would normally have. And those all-breed or other specialties were counting toward the point schedule.”
New Divisions Bring Fairness to Exhibitors
Slay and his team also looked at fairness and equal distribution of shows when they created the first realignment of divisions in six years.
“(T)his is an odd looking division we created with Arizona and Colorado,” Slay said. “ … it would be nice to make a little square there (and) make a division out of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. But that is not fair to Utah and New Mexico.
“Utah and New Mexico … the people who live in those states would be greatly affected by the competitors in Arizona and Colorado. … it’s the fairest thing we could do because … Utah and New Mexico really belong in that division with Nebraska, New Mexico and Nevada and South Dakota. They had the similar size shows.”
I hope everyone takes a minute to listen to this excellent discussion with Mr. Slay and is able to gain a greater understanding of how our points and divisions are created. There’s no voodoo magic here!
And remember to stick around for Allison Foley’s Tip of the Week from the Leading Edge Dog Show Academy. Today Allison is talking about getting dogs past those things they hate, including toe nail trimming.
To reach Alan Slay on email, go to ALS@AKC.org … To access this information on an interactive PDF, click here AKCConformationPointsSchedulePodcastImages
Pure Dog Talk is the voice of purebred dogs. We talk to the legends of the sport and give you the tips and tools to create an awesome life with your purebred dog. From showing to preservation breeding, from competitive obedience to field work, from agility to therapy dogs, and all the fun in between - your passion is our purpose!
LAURA REEVES: Welcome to pure dog talk. I am your host Laura Reeves and I have a very special guest for us today. Mr. Alan Slay is joining us from the American Kennel Club. Alan is the Director of Event Operations correct, Alan?
ALAN SLAY: Event Programs, but essentially the same.
LR: Event Programs. OK very good. And we're coming up onto May when the point schedule changes every year - we all wait for it to see whether we're going to get more or less or how are our majors going to work. And everybody is all excited. And sometimes there's confusion about how that works and why things go the way they do. So Allen is here to help us understand that and I really appreciate your time.
AS: You're welcome.
LR: Excellent. OK. So as I was mentioning, point schedules, divisions, all of this - this is very intense interest, right, to those of us that are showing our dogs and we're always looking for, you know, the best advantage or where can I go to find that major. How does this work. So can you give us some of the sort of critical infrastructure that makes this happen. You're the guy that does this, this is your baby if you will.
AS: I'm responsible for it yeah, I work closely each year with our technology team. The AKC technology services - ATS. And so there are really two components here. There's the one is that each year we formulate the point schedule for the following year, and then traditionally about every five years we do an analysis of the composition of the divisions to try to make sure we have a fair and balanced division of states across the different divisions. And it just so happens this year was one of the years - we'd last done it in the point schedules released in 2012.
LR: That would be amazing!
AS: The overall process and then we can discuss more details and each one of them if you if you would like. Because I'll make sure I understand how it worsk.
LR: I think it's wonderful and listeners, just a note, I am still a dog breeder here at Pure Dog Talk and that is a bitty baby puppy you might hear in the background so forgive us.
AS: Sure. So let's talk about the, just the point schedule we do every year. And that is, our clock for formula that starts somewhere about mid January and because that is the time when we will have processed all the conformation events, the results, from the previous year. So one thing I want to point out is, is that while our point schedule begins usually in May -w e started somewhere on the second or third week of May - we try to pick a date where there are no or few events that for a string there at the point schedule is consistent for the string of events occurring at a site.
AS: So sometime around the second week of January, once we process the results, what we'll do is work with the technology services and we have some software programs that have been programmed to reflect the guidelines that have been set by the board of directors as to how to set the points the number of competitors required at the 1/2/3/4/5 point level and for a refresher for folks.
LR: Right cause I think this is new to a lot of people so if we can just kind of break that down just a little bit.
AS: I will and I'll say that preparing for the talk, I've been on the AKC since 1996, so in my 20 years this has always been the same and I did a little research trying to find out, you know, when did this go into effect. As far back as we could find, 1971, and it was in effect then so-...
AS: You know it's been in effect for a long time so there's nothing new as far as the percentages at each of the point levels.
LR: But what I'm saying is I don't think people understand that those percentages exist, right? Like, I've been in this my entire life and I didn't know this, so I think this is - I want to put a big bold star around this listeners because this is good information.
AS: Sure. So in each division - I'm gonna read right off some information from our Web site - I think you're going to include the information you provide associated with the link to this discussion. I'm gonnea read it just right off of that because I think that's the clearest and easy way to do that. And that is for one point, ninety five percent of the shows where there was competition carry one or more points for dogs and bitches. Each one of these is done separately, each division, breed and sex.
LR: Which can I just say that's a lot of dogs! That's a lot of work! I mean you're talking about 190 breeds, 50 states, 14 divisions and you have to do this for every single one - I just think it's crazy.
AS: Well that's what I'm saying, the software program actually has this information and it puts out our first cut of this before we then do some fine tuning to try to make sure that we benefit the exhibitors all that we can. And the way the software works it figures out the one point, the three points. Three points is as close as possible to 18 percent which should not exceed 20 percent of the shows in a division or to carry major points - that's 3, 4, or 5. And the majors created by best of winners, best of breed, best of opposite, are not counted on this calculation and are effect bonus majors over and above the 18 percent. So the software will determine the one percent - the one point threshold for competitors, the three point threshold, and then the 2 point I said it half the difference between the 1 and 3 Point Break.
AS: Now one thing I want to point out is, is that when it's looking at those shows and I call them candidate - that's how I refer to them -these are shows that are candidates to be included in the point schedule formulation process. Once again there had to be competition and it was only regular classes. If I had three entries in the record classes and they were all absent, that show itself was not counted in the competition or if there were no issues. So that's an important aspect there.
LR: And I think it's important to note because I read this in some of your material, national specialties and regional specialties associated with nationals don't bump your points schedule up. Is that a correct statement?
AS: It's actually beyond that. Let me read that - I'd like to extrapolate a little bit ...
LR: Yeah, that'd be great.
AS: Let me read here off the web site and then I'll go a little bit further because it's even further than what you just said there. Competitions offered by parent clubs are not included in the points schedule, so anything offered by the parent club doesn't count. And that includes independent specialties as well as designated specialties.
LR: Wow OK.
AS: And this is the part that you were speaking of: Breed competition - notice I said breed competition, and I'll loop back around that - held by any club, an all breed group or specialty, within plus or minus three days and 50 miles of the breeds parent club National Specialty are excluded from the formulation. Myself and others working on this saw some disparity of almost a penalty for allowing a National Specialty to come into your division the way the formulation used to work. About four years ago, we went to the board of directors and said this is just not fair. For instance you have a national specialty occurring on a Thursday, maybe a Wednesday and a Thursday, and you have a cluster over the weekend the same side on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - well that Friday/Saturday/Sunday for that breed would have an inflated number of competitors compared to what it would normally have, and those all breed or other specialties were counting toward the point schedule. And so that was almost a penalty for bringing in the national into your division.
AS: So we looked at that, we didn't think that was fair to the exhibitor, and we successfully - the board directors completely agreed. So now we exclude any competitio - it doesn't matter if it's held by a local club, a specialty all-breed group, a designated - it doesn't matter - any competition within plus or minus three days and 50 miles of the National does not count. That also help with things like Montgomery where there's a lot Natinoals held up there. It took those out of the equation. So actually there are more majors being handed out than just the percentages there. And the last thing I'll say is is that any events held in conjunction with the AKC National Championship are excluded. So all of the lead up events which is occurring currently in Orlando, even those events are at excluded because once again that would inflate the point schedule, make it more difficult for the rest of that division.
LR: Florida would be in a world of hurt.
AS: So the one thing I do want to point out is one thing when you mention a regional specialty, is there is some misconception out there that we don't count regional specialties. Well maybe, maybe not. Once again let's go back to what the board has agreed to there for their guidelines. If that regional specialty is held by the parent club absolutely it is not included in the points schedule formulation. If that regional specialty is held by any club -a local club or a regional club, however the parent club defines it - within plus or minus three days or 50 miles of their national specialty. You only get one National Specialty a year and, you know, some breeds have a National Specialty then a roving. Well they pick which one they want to consider to be their one National per year and that's what we use. So any one between plus or minus three days or 50 miles, that's not included. However, if there's a regional specialty, you know, not within plus or minus three days or 50 miles of a national, and it's not held by the parent club, those are included in the point schedule formulation.
LR: Right. OK. So I'm just thinking of, for example, this is - and I'm trying to help the listeners understand this and you can clarify if I'm wrong - for example say the Spinone Club of America doesn't have independent local clubs. And so their parent club hosts regional specialties around different parts of the country and those are not National so those do count for those parts of the country for their point schedules. Is that accurate?
AS: Not if it's held by the parent club. If it's on the parent club's name - no event held under the parent club's name counts towards the point schedule formulation.
LR: Good. OK, so that's clear. Nice. Very good. OK. So now we've got a handle on that and I think it's important for exhibitors to understand that 95 percent of the shows are going to have one point and 18 percent of the shows in a division are going to have a three point or a major and only 2 percent of them are supposed to have a five point major - is that - just barebones.
AS: That's correct. That's correct. And the software program will then use that algorithm and give us a file of the proposed point schedule. And then we - and I will say this used to be done manually - it's not anymore.
LR: I bet you're happy about that, Alan.
AS: Yeah I am. Because you get some blurry eyes looking over here. You get to about that twelfth division and you know you want to treat everybody fairly but it used to be about a two day deal with a door closed. We've written a series of database queries that will show us some anomalies. For instance depending on the way competition was held, sometimes the software will put something out that will say something like two competitors for one point, four for two points, and four for three points. You can't have a duplicate there so we'll go and have that adjusted to make that two points down to three. So we run a series of queries to do that and a few other things. We're running it through there to try to make sure we are as fair as we can be to the exhibitor because up until 2012, there used to be - the other thing I want to emphasize here about that point schedule formulation is, right now and since 2012 it has been based off just the previous calendar year. It used to be, prior to 2012, a rolling 3 year. And we saw that having problems because what was happening is, once again, if you had a large event come through your area - like a roving specialty, a large, you know, just a large event - you were kind of penalized for three years. You know because it was the average across that.
AS: Well that's not how it is anymore. It's only off the previous year. And also in there, there were some like we have some governors where we try to not have any division, or any division breed sex, go up by more than a certain percentage in a given year. So even if there's something coming in there we try to soften that a little bit and that's been, you know, we discussed that with the board. We try to make sure there's a fair and balanced point schedule, but adhering to what the guidelines - what the board has directed us to do - we have to do that. That is our job - to implement and support the board policy.
LR: Well and I think too, part of this is you know everybody wants to finish their dog and they want to, and I know this is outside your purview, but for me it's like well just because you've got a major - you know what I'm saying, that cheap major thing I think, is something we talk about in this sport as exhibitors and I think it's good to know that the American Kennel Club is aiming to make sure that you know a show championship means something. Right. That's what these points are designed to do.
AS: And they adjust. We've seen for the most part, we've seen - and it's not across the board - but for the most part, the number of competitors has dropped through the number of years as the number of competitors has dropped. So the point schedule is actually doing its job, whether it's going up or down because it's reflecting what is happening in the sport, and trying to reflect that so that is fair as it can be to the exhibitors.
LR: Perfect. Ok so now talk to us about divisions. Now this division change that is happening this year, and it's going to start in about a month, this is a new one and I was looking at it and thinking, "Well, that's kind of, hmm." So take us through that. How does that work for us?
AS: Well this started for us - I'll just speak for us - I'll just speak to this particular one - this was started in June of 2017. We started doing analysis on the divisions. Obviously one of the key things that makes up the division is geography. I mean it's very obvious. We're going to try to keep it so geography matters. You know, other than a single state division, a state should always have a shared border with at least one other state in the division. When we look at the divisions and the makeup we're looking at the number of all-breed shows. We don't take into account - because the specialties come and go more. At a macro level, we're looking at the analysis on the distribution of - we're looking at all - breed shows and we look at the number shows, the total entry, the average entry, and the standard deviation. I will say that the average entry is the key component there. We want it to be consistent as possible because with this many variations of divisions breeds and sexes across the nation in the pockets of breeders and especially breeds that are not as popular as some others from a showing point of view - a breeding point of view - there's going to be anomalies. And so we have to really step back from a macro point of view and look at this and try to say well if we've got as much as we can to similar size shows across the division, it will trickle down and be as fair as it can be. So we spend a lot of time looking at that. I've got to do a lot of work and Excel and a lot of theories
LR: I'll bet you do!
AS: I'm looking at trends to try to make it more fair and balanced and see what's changed in the sport in the last five years - in this case six years - since the divisions were last realigned. And there were some things that jumped out at us and then there's some things that data brought to our attention. Of course during that whole time exhibitors provide their feedback of some of the changes they would like to have in their divisions and we took those all into account as well. You know as part of that.
LR: Right. I'd like it if you could talk to that a little bit more and I know that maybe you guys don't really necessarily want everybody yelling at you, but I think it's important that people understand that there is a method in which if you have a particular observation that you can voice that opinion to the American Kennel Club. So can you give us just a little snippet of how that would work?
AS: I'll use a couple here. One of them is is that Arizona was included with California in the last realignment and before that California had always been its own division.
LR: It was the one that caught my attention so I'm interested to hear how this went.
AS: And it's because of the distribution of - once again I said we would try to have an even number of shows across a division. Well, one of the issues we have there - and this is an odd looking division we created with Arizona and Colorado - it looks really odd. But if you look at that, there's a big difference between the exhibitors and the number of shows and the numbers between ... you know if you look at ... it'd be nice to make a little square there, oh we're gonna make a division out of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. That is not fair to Utah and New Mexico
LR: Got it.
AS: You know Utah and New Mexico are - the people who live in those states would be greatly affected by the competitors in Arizona and Colorado. And that's an odd looking division with all around Arizona. But it's the fairest thing we could do because, as we did, Utah and New Mexico really belongs in that division with Nebraska and New Mexico and Nevada and South Dakota. They had the similar size shows. And so that's an example of one that was the one we had the most difficulty with.
LR: You know that makes so much more sense. You know living out here on the west coast and all my west coast people and we all drive all over ridiculous distances. But that explanation makes so much more sense. And it is absolutely on target based on what I know of - personally know - of the dog shows in Colorado and Arizona, much more active, more number of shows, bigger shows, versus New Mexico and Utah. That makes perfect sense to me now.
AS: Yeah because you know the easy thing for us to do would be just pretty much lay a grid and say OK we're going to group all these together, but that would not be fair to the exhibitors. And I'll bring another one to your attention, and one is as we move Tennessee. And we moved them into a division with Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi. They not only fit geographically, but once again, the average size of their shows fit much better than the shows that were in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and D.C. overall. That made a lot of sense to do that based off of, you know, looking at the shows. That's an example of some of the things we looked at when doing this. So we started out in June or July and we finished it all up with approval of the board of directors - I believe it was in the October timeframe. I will say this last analysis of the division composition was the most complete and thorough that I know of being done here at the AKC in over 20 years I've been here. And once again we put that effort in because we want it to be as fair as we can to the exhibitors.
LR: Right. And so I want to loop back a minute to what we were talking about before. If someone notices something that slipped through the cracks in their particular breed, in their particular division, in terms of, wow it seems like we really shouldn't have to have 15 Clumber Spaniels to make a major here in Oregon or something like that - is there a process, is there a thing that someone could do that they could bring this to somebody's attention? How does that particular - I think communication sometimes is one of the areas between exhibitors and the American Kennel Club that gets a little lost. So how do we do that?
AS: Sure. Well it all comes to me to start with. So I will provide you my e-mail address here. And then I'll let you provide it on the link and that's ALS@akc.org
LR: Excellent. You're a brave man Alan.
AS: Well no. The thing is, is that we do review it. We do review each one of them. Every time somebody brings something to me I have the queries that I can run and do the analysis and I show people - and I will tell you there are two things that usually happen and that is, is that you have somebody - it usually revolves around breeds in which there's not a whole lot of events where the breeds are shown throughout the year in the division. So each division you're going to have somewhere between about 60 and 180 opportunities to exhibit your dog.
AS: Now you have some situations where you have a breed that out of that 80-160 there's only 10 events in that whole division for that year which there are any competitors.
LR: Yeah. I see that in my breed actually pretty regularly.
AS: Right. And so if we were just talking about Alabama/Arkansas/Louisiana/Mississippi/ Tennessee Division 14, that those 10 events, you know, and out of those 10 events there maybe only be three or four - there's more than one or two competitors. If all those are happening in this case in Louisiana and you live 300 miles away and you're busy that weekend, that may have been the only chance at your major in your division. That doesn't mean you can't cross another division but it usually revolves around this small breeds that we try to take a close look at that. And then you'll have the situation where you have them even more popular breeds. I've received several phone calls this year of some more popular breeds and they'll say there's no way we should've went up by three or four competitors. There's no way. And so then now run my query while we're on the phone usually or I'll get back with them - I'll say, here it is. I'll use an example - you had a hundred shows last year at which there were competitors. There were this number at 18 of them, this number or more, you know there's 15 competitors more 18 and 18 of out of 100 is 18 percent. And then all list off the shows to the exhibitor. And they'll go, "Oh that's because that big closter or that big cluster." If they count, they count - there's no t hing I can do about that. I'm just transparent in that. That's a good thing is is going through this process, I feel very comfortable that we are correctly implementing the board policy. Now, somebody may disagree of the board policy and those percentages. But I feel very comfortable that our system is doing the right thing as far as implementing board policy.
LR: Well I think it's really important that people understand there is a human. It's not voodoo magic. There's no I have newt and tail of frog here. This is science-y.
AS: You know we don't take this lightly at all. I'm the one that does talk to those exhibitors and it provides even a greater appreciation and understanding of the love they have for the sport, of all the things that they give up to participate in the sport, and how sometimes it's hard. It's really hard. You know like, and like to get majors, I will say that one thing is going to surprise some people, you know people say is harder than ever to get majors, and that's a matter of perspective. But unfortunately, because of the decrease in the number of competitors, it has somewhat driven by when you have new breeds coming in they almost always come in at the minimum 2/3/4/5/6 for 1/2/3/4/5 points. With this new point schedule, 79% of the division breed/sex combinations, are at the minimum. Now they cannot go any lower. They are at the minimum of 2/3/4/5/6.
LR: 79%. Wow.
AS: 10 years ago, that was at 51% - about half. So for 79 % of the overall situations, you're at the minimum.
LR: That's actually kind of an incredible number that I had not heard before and that is interesting.
AS: So from a macro view it's easier than ever to get majors. For the person like I talked about who has that breed where only 10 are going to show up and there's really only going to be a major because those smaller breeds too are also very effectively using their communication networks and social media to say hey we're going to get together and we're all going to go to these events this year. You know that may be their only chance. So for those people it is hard. You know it is as hard or harder than ever and you do whatever they can to stay in the sport. And I get even a greater appreciation when reviewing the point schedule with those people who have questions about it.
LR: Excellent. Well Alan I really, really appreciate your time and your insight and your thoughtfulness on this and I will make sure listeners that you have the information if few will have some charts and we'll have some contact information. So I think this has been a really good opportunity for people to really kind of dial into how this happens and that it isn't voodoo magic. So I appreciate that a lot.
AS: Thank you for giving me the opportunity.
LR: All right crew we are back with Allison Foley from the Leading Edge Dog Show Academy and she has her tip of the week for us. Welcome Allison.
ALLISON FOLEY: Hi Laura. How are you today.
LR: I'm great. How are you.
AF: I'm good thanks.
LR: Excellent. So tell us what is today's tip.
AF: So we we're at Poodle Club of America and somebody said I have a tip of the week for you and I said ok. And it was. How about explaining some of the tips and tricks you use to get a dog over something that they hate. So something that you have to do to them all the time - grooming, bathing, nails or something. And how do you get them through it or over it. So it's not always such a hate relationship.
LR: I like it.
AF: Right. So I thought that I'm probably going to do two or three of these but I'm going to start with the obvious one which is toenails because so many people have dogs or they come to me and they say my dog just hates getting its nails clipped, or it's like such a struggle to get their nails clipped. So here you go.
AF: So I was born and raised with Afghan Hounds and we all know, or if you don't, Afghans are notorious for hating their feet being touched never mind their nails being done. So one of the first things that I was taught and something that I always always remember is first of all it's like when you go to the dentist and you're getting some dental work done and it requires freezing right? So the dentist says like this is gonna pinch but they don't really show you that needle like coming down onto your face right. And if do like it's really, really scary. You never see the needle - just a little bit of pressure they try to distract you by maybe like pinching your cheek or stinging your lips or something.
AF: And I used that approach for toenails so my dogs never see the toenail clippers or the grinder coming really, and you know if it's a dog that actually has a hairy foot like an Afghan or Havanese or a Shitzu or something like that. First of all I'm not really going to grind those nails, so what I do is I keep the toenail clippers beside me and when I'm drying their foot I just do the toenails on that foot because first of all the blow dryer's pushing all the hair away from the toenail and I can get in there easier with the nail clippers without the hair getting in the way. And you know you've done three nails before they really realize what you're doing and do the fourth and then maybe they're getting upset. But now you just dry them for another 15-20 minutes till you get to the next foot. Right.
LR: I like that.
AF: I've always done that. And you know I've had people watch me do it like at a show or something and they'll be like oh that makes life so much easier. And I'm like, yeah. Like in so many ways right. And so I will use the same approach for other breeds right. Like instead of making it a big deal that right before I start grooming them I do their nails or at the very end of grooming them I do their nails. I just kind of do it as I go along right. So if I'm drying a foot, like even on a Springer or a Poodle, especially if it's a dog I know that anticipates it and gets upset about it I'll just do the nails then.
AF: And again a lot of times especially, you start by holding the front foot behind the dog - not in front of the dog. And a lot of times they don't see it. And again it's like the third or fourth nail before they even realize what you're doing. And I find that that really, really helps. So I guess my summary of that is, don't anticipate it because dogs don't want to let us down. Right. So if we come at them, you know like OK now it's time to do your nails kind of like the dentist saying you know put this big needle in your face, and it's going to hurt twice as much as we're thinking about it. It's like when somebody rips the bandaid off. Just get it over quickly. So try to do it in a manner that the dog isn't anticipating it and you're maybe not doing all 16 plus nails at once. Right. Maybe I'll just do four and then 20 minutes of relaxing grooming time and then four more nails so that's my tip of the week. like.
LR: I like it. I use a similar method. I always start with the back feet right becasue for whatever reason is it you know like the blinders on the horse they can't see you coming it's not as dramatic right. So that's a good one. Thank you so much Alison. And listeners don't forget your Pure Dog Talk 25 when you check out of one of your Leading Edge Dog Show Academy courses gives you a 25% discount and you can have a cup of coffee on Alison and I.
AF: Sounds great to me.
LR: Excellent thanks Allison.
AF: No problem.
The Dog Show Superintendents Association is a proud supporter of Pure Dog Talk. Our dog shows superintendents are the hard-working people who make the dog show function. They are advocates for education and mentorship in the purebred dog fancy so stop by the Super's desk at your next show. Tell them how much you love Pure Dog Talk and give them a shout out for their support. That's all for today. Thank you for joining us on Pure Dog Talk.
Love the Breeds: Clumber Spaniel Roundtable
Clumber Spaniels are not for everyone, these three breeders say, but for those who love them, they’ll never have another breed. Shedding, snoring and slobbering aside, they agree that the dedication and humor of the Clumber Spaniel is what endears them to their owners.
“You can come home from work after having a bad day and you open up the door and here’s this ball of fuzz with a toy in their mouth and their butt’s going everywhere. Not to give you the toy, just to show you the toy,” said breeder-judge Jan Sutherland.
Meeting a Rare Breed
With only an estimated 3,000 dogs in the U.S., the breeders strongly recommend prospective owners go to a national specialty as well as meeting dogs in their home environments, so they can experience “love mauling” in person.
“Attend a national specialty before you even make the plunge,” breeder judge Jim Fankhauser said. “Look at the extent of what’s out there before you jump in and make that commitment.”
Excellent Hunting Dogs
A very old flushing spaniel named for Clumber Park in Sherwood Forest in England, the breed was developed to push through low hedges in search of game. They remain a determined, methodical hunting dog that works close to the hunter. Breeder Dr.
Roe Froman, DVM describes them as the “Humvee” of spaniels.
“Find it, flush it, fetch it,” Froman said of the breed’s job. “I love hunting with Clumber Spaniels. I don’t know how many hunt test legs we’ve put on our dogs. Many, many, many for the 20 years we’ve been doing this. It is the most fun I think we can have with our dogs. We love it. They love it. I love it.”
While a Clumber’s antics are charming, and they are deeply devoted to their people, breeders agree that new owners should be aware of potential health concerns and idiosyncrasies.
Health Issues to Consider
Clumbers are notorious for eating foreign objects. Froman said it is the number one health risk in her experience. The discussion included who had the most foreign body removal surgeries. More than one had stories of dogs opened up six and seven times to take out blankets, socks, rocks, towels, plastic, toys etc.
Potential disease risks include neck and back problems common to long bodied dogs, autoimmune mediated hemolytic anemia and an enzyme deficiency called PDP1.
“So, if you’re going to have a Clumber or multiple Clumbers,” Froman said, “pet insurance is a really good thing to think about. … they’re worth every penny of it, but they are not an inexpensive breed either. So, don’t think you have to have be rich to have a dog but you have to be responsible. You have to know those things might occur.”
Judging the Clumber in the Show Ring
Clumbers in the show ring have become more successful in recent years, but the unique proportions of the Clumber, described as “long, low and substantial,” can be challenging for conformation judges to asses properly. The standard describes the dog as “9 tall to 11 long measured from the withers to the base of the tail.” This is a much longer dog than most judges are accustomed to seeing.
“It’s the training, in a sense, of a lot of the new judges that are coming into the breed,” said Fankhauser, “because they see rectangular, but it’s rectangular from, as Laura mentioned before, point of shoulder to buttocks. It’s not rectangular as we measure. So, you have to get them to retrain their eye to long enough. … You’re never going to find one too long.”
We hope you enjoy today’s podcast sharing the love of a special breed. You can find more information at http://www.clumbers.org/
Dog Show Judges, Family and Welcoming Exhibitors
Dog show judges, their knowledge and skill level are a constant topic of conversation in purebred dogs. This isn’t a new discussion. From the days when new judges were hand-picked by one of the “in crowd” to today’s more egalitarian system, the role of adjudicating in a subjective sport has routinely been akin to wearing a bulls-eye at a firing range.
Dog Show Judges Approval Always a Challenge
AKC Vice President of dog show judges, Tim Thomas, wasn’t born into the sport. He rose through the ranks as an owner, exhibitor, club member, breeder, handler and eventually AKC employee. His job today revolves around the always lively debate about how best to select, educate and promote judges for the conformation ring.
“… the process (by which) we approve judges is always going to be controversial,” Thomas said. “The last system was horrible, the current one is the worst ever and the next one will be the greatest one ever – that’s always the mindset.”
Thomas advocates that great dog people are born, not made.
“… the reality is, in anything, you’re going to have a broad spectrum of skill sets,” Thomas added. “You’re going to have from the most excellent, to those who are challenged and you’re going to have a whole lot in the middle. And that’s with any field and with any skill set. And we have to recognize it’s true in our judging community, in our dog show world too.”
Educating new judges and assessing existing judges is all part of the process, Thomas noted, so that exhibitors feel they are being judged fairly and haven’t wasted their $30 entry fee.
“…no matter what the process that the AKC puts in place to approve its judges,” Thomas added, “there will be individuals who will try to find a way around or look for the shortest path and there will be those that will prepare until they feel comfortable that they’re ready the judge a breed.”
Thomas strongly supports the recently re-established process of having Executive Field Representatives observe judges and discuss the entry with them to help ensure a nuanced understanding of breed standards and judging procedures.
Drawing on his extensive background in the sport, Thomas shared a deeply personal story about his favorite judge of all time. (No spoiler alert! You’ll have to listen to find out who it is… ) And why the “dog show family” is so important to the fabric of the sport.
And he shares this MOST important observation:
“…(O)ne thing that I think that we have to implore to all of us and whether it’s the way that we act at shows, to the way we conduct ourselves in social media platforms, that we have a bad habit of eating our young,” Thomas said. “..(I)t’s very easy to point the finger and blame to everyone else. But I think all of us are responsible for the way that we conduct ourselves, to have ownership in that if we want our sport to have longevity, we have to make a conscious effort to support those who are new into it. And that’s treat them with respect and nurturing them and mentoring them and not just as point makers.”
For more information about the AKC Conformation Judging Approval process, visit: http://www.akc.org/sports/conformation/judging-information/
Non Profit Foundations Benefit our Breeds
The Clumber Spaniel Health Foundation, created by members of the Clumber Spaniel Club of America, is a non profit organization dedicated to raising funds for health research in their beloved breed. A low registration breed with a relatively small gene pool, the breeders were making progress on the breed’s health issues, but wanted to do more.
It Is Our Responsibility to Act
“While there is no doubt our breed has come a long way in the last 25 years,” CSHF President Jen Amundsen notes on the organization’s web site, “health issues such as immune mediated hemolytic anemia, disc disease, cardiomyopathy and hemangiosarcoma are taking many of our Clumbers much too early in life. It is our responsibility to act.”
Dr. Roe Froman, DVM referenced the Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” as her rallying cry in creating the group that formed the Foundation.
This group has, in fact, changed their world. The CSCA, with a membership of roughly 300, has raised over $100,000 for the Foundation in the last 10 years. The DNA bank Froman created also helped identify gene markers and DNA testing for PDP1, a very specific neurological disease, that is now virtually eliminated in the breed.
CSHF pools its resources through the AKC’s Canine Health Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation and others, to support research being done on diseases of specific importance to the Clumber Spaniel.
Amundsen, an attorney who specializes in work that affects dog owners, provides an excellent tutorial in this episode about the actual how and why of creating a 501c3 non-profit organization for dog clubs. Groups seeking non-profit status for fundraising on health research, rescue, education or any similar venture, will value her suggestions.
While some of the more populous breeds’ parent clubs have already created Foundations to address some of these topics, Amundsen and Froman give hope, encouragement and direction to members of smaller clubs for ways in which they can create a positive impact for their breeds
Don’t miss Allison Foley’s Tip of the Week from the Leading Edge Dog Show Academy on flying with your dog in cabin and how to get through airport screening safely and easily with your pet in a carry-on bag.
A Legend in the Terrier Ring
The 2012 Winkie Award for Best Professional Handler, said it best: “A legend in the Terrier ring, Bergit Coady Kabel’s dogs are always groomed to perfection and flawlessly presented. Always polite and professional, she is totally dedicated to her dogs.”
Hard Work and Dedication
Bergit was someone I admired from afar for my entire handling career. I didn’t get to see her often, as our paths rarely crossed in the particular shows we attended. Every time I saw her, I was impressed by her immaculate charges and her unfailing smile.
I talk with a lot of folks for the podcast who have achieved the highest levels of success in purebred dogs. And I consistently hear the same themes. Hard work. Dedication. And an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Bergit is a leading voice in the chorus.
Responsibility Gave Joy
Bergit tells the story in today’s podcast about being 13 years old and excited beyond words to have been taught by her earliest mentor how “to clean teeth, bathe dogs, express anal glands, and clean ears. … and the happiest kid you could have found.”
Let that sink in for a minute. Here is a kid who was *thrilled* to do anal glands because “Finally I knew a few things to do with dogs.”
Many successful handlers apprenticed for Bergit over the years. “A few assistants that wanted to do this by the clock, needless to say, did not work out,” she noted.
After a recent illness, Bergit is recovered and ready to take on judging with that same focus and intensity.
Focusing on Judging
“After 50 successful years of handling, I feel I can try to give back a little to a sport that has given me so much,” Bergit said. “I know judging will present different challenges and I will educate myself every step of the way. Will I like it better than handling? Never. I loved every minute of my handling career.
“…my son Ryan said to me. He is fully aware of my love for handling. He said, ‘You know, you are very lucky that you can go into judging. There’s a whole big world and big dog family. So you can see your friends again.’ He does mortgages and he said, ‘When I’m done there is no mortgage family waiting for me.’”
Bergit’s concrete advice on reaching the pinnacle of perfection in trimming dogs is invaluable. And we start a new feature on the show “All Time Favorites Best in Show Lineup.” Listen now to hear which dogs she would have in that ring and who would win!
Tibetan Mastiff History, Lore and Modern Living
“No one knows where they came from,” said Sabrina Novarra, one of the original Tibetan Mastiff breeders in the U.S. “The myth of the old monks of Tibet say that snow leopards bred with wolves. Now, we know that’s not true. But, we cannot trace the ancestry. They are the oldest large breed in existence.”
Novarra acquired her first Tibetan Mastiff in 1987 and worked to help establish the breed with the American Kennel Club, where it was recognized in 2007.
Low key breed is long-lived but not easy to train
She said this ancient breed is relatively healthy and long-lived, but, while generally low key, they are not particularly biddable.
“This is a landrace breed,” Novarra said. “… basically, a breed that has evolved itself as opposed to us evolving it. They are self-thinkers. They are not easily trained. You learn after you’ve had them as long as I have, that you make them think it’s their idea to be trained.”
In Tibet the dogs developed as family and flock guardians who were tied during the day and roamed the village at night as protection. They still bark at night if they are outdoors, as that was their job in ancient times.
“This is not a dog if you want to do agility and obedience and take 300-mile hikes, this is not the dog for you … they’re very lazy,” Novarra said. She did note that she accomplished an obedience title on one of her older girls.
The dogs are very large and powerful and need significant amounts of socializing, according to breeders.
“Tibetan mastiffs need to see everything twice,” said Dan Nechemias, owner of the 2018 National Specialty Best of Breed winner. “Just because they saw a red basketball doesn’t mean that they’ll accept a yellow basketball. They were bred for 2000 years to be suspicious of absolutely everything but their family. So, everything that they see in their space — which is their entire visual field — is a threat until they decide it’s otherwise.”
Nechemias, who purchased his first Tibetan Mastiff in 2001, adds that, like many of the working and guardian breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff is very discerning about people they meet.
“… Tibetan Mastiffs are wary of people that are determined to meet them,” Nechemias said. “So what happens is the person’s just really working hard. They’re staring at the dog — you should never stare down an Asian breed much less a Tibetan Mastiff — they’re in their face. … If you ask a Tibetan Mastiff permission to touch it, it will wonder why you’re asking it permission. They’re an incredibly sensitive breed and then they say well this person’s asking me permission they must not be OK.”
Chow Chow Breeder/Handler Shares His Story
Michael & Linda Brantley were AKC’s Non-Sporting Breeders of The Year in 2013 for their Dreamland Chow Chows. Michael is a professional handler, member of the Professional Handlers Association, and has shown top ranked, multiple Best in Show winners in numerous breeds.
Breeding is the Art
“Still, the breeding is very important to me,” Brantley said, “probably more so than the handling. The handling is more the game, but the breeding is the art.”
While Michael says he’s never actually counted, Dreamland Chow Chows have produced more than 200 champions in last 40-plus years.
Brantley’s folks started in Pekingese and were breeding and showing them when he was born. His family acquired their first Chow Chow when Michael was in grade school and never looked back.
The first time Brantley was paid to show a dog, he was thrilled to realize he could “support his habit” with handling.
“I’ve been handling full-time for 40 something years,” Brantley said. “So that ended up (going) from a hobby to a career.”
To this day, handling and breeding, for Brantley, work hand in glove.
“ I think the handling of the other breeds has really helped me understand my breed better,” Brantley said. “It helped me understand structure and function tremendously. More than if I had just stuck with my breed and not sat around and watched these other dogs show or learn the standards of them before I showed the dogs. So, it’s been a double edged thing there where it’s taught me a lot.”
But the hobby, the breeding piece, remains the most compelling for Brantley.
“The show ring is just a mirror of the whelping box,” Brantley observed.
“… maybe 20-25 percent of the dogs that we breed will end up in the show ring,” he added. “Maybe. So, the rest of those dogs are going to go as companions to people. And in a breed that is very strong willed, very independent like Chow’s are, like our Tibetan Mastiffs are as well, it’s extremely important to have that proper temperament to where they end up as being great pets for somebody.
“They think for themselves. They’re happy you’re there, but they would rather go out by themselves. So, you’ve got to learn how to deal with that and it’s not something you learn overnight and it’s something that you’ve got to figure out.”
I hope you enjoy this great Talk with a man who brings a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.
And don’t forget to stick around for Allison Foley’s Tip of the Week on how to manage the male dog’s performance when bitches in season are in the ring.
Doug Ljungren, Vice President of Sports and Events at the American Kennel Club
Trick dogs. Trick dogs? Seriously? Whose bright idea was that?
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
A hard core horseback pointing breed field trial guy with multiple national field champions and dual champions to his credit, that’s who.
Doug Ljungren and AKC's new tricks
Doug Ljungren is the champion of a number of new, non-traditional and wildly popular performance events that have come on line in the last few years.
A highly successful breeder, owner and amateur handler of German Wirehaired Pointers in the field (and in the show ring), Ljungren believes that bringing new people into the sport through non-traditional venues is a long-term win for the purebred dog fancy as a whole.
The human-dog relationship is changing,” Ljungren says. “It has evolved over time. It will continue to evolve. The demographics will evolve. There is no reason to think that dog sports all have to be based on historical function.”
He’s referring here to the “traditional” performance sports that are “based on preserving and enhancing the traits necessary for a dog to perform the function for which it was developed.”
Decline of Hunting Licenses
“The total number of hunting licenses peaked in mid-’80s in this country,” Ljungren notes. “There’s just less people doing that sport now. We’ll still maintain (the traditional performance events) because people are passionate about it. But in terms of growing the sport, it’s just not going to be much of a growth area.”
So, if people (by the way, dog ownership is at an) aren’t going hunting or herding or dispatching rodents with their dogs, what do they want to do? That was Ljungren’s question.
My belief is that some of the changes in society affecting the dog-owner relationship, the humanization of dogs, has an impact,” he adds. “How we spend our time is changing in relation to the internet. We find people are less inclined to join any kind of youth or sports league.”
So his team set out to develop sports that fit the dog owners of today.
“We have to attract people somehow,” Ljungren notes. “Hopefully they transition in the future.”
AKC Transistion Paths - Always More To Do and Learn
One of the things AKC is researching is transition paths. For example, if a new owner starts with their dog in a CGC course, they’re likely to go on to tricks titling.
He notes that tomorrow’s breeders have to start somewhere. If they start with CGC or tricks, what’s next, rally? Obedience? Agility? Even conformation.
“Breeders — hobby breeders — that’s something you consider doing when you get serious,” Ljungren notes. The new performance events allow AKC to develop a relationship with owners, who are likely to transition over time and engage in other events.
“I think that breeding is a logical conclusion of attracting and transitioning people,” Ljungren says.
One of the newest events Ljungren is excited about is.
“It’s very popular. It’s a full meal deal as far as a sport goes,” Ljungren adds. “Clubs are licensed, judges are licensed.” The programming and planning has been going on for nine months and the first trial was held in September 2017.
Most people know dogs smell better than we do…. Intuitively it’s of interest to almost any dog owner…. At our first event we had entries of everything from toy breeds to a Scottish Deerhound.”
The scent work program is structured in levels and isn’t a “training intensive” front end sport, Ljungren adds. “People are fascinated to see the dog’s sense of smell telling the story to them.”
Great Event for a Club
From club’s point of view this is a great event that can be held in pieces. Clubs can choose to offer only the classes they can realistically accommodate.
Tricks are NOT just for kids. The, started this spring, offers four levels and works through the CGC evaluator program. The next level planned will involve a full developed skit, with a theme and a story line, to be evaluated by the director of the CGC program.
Ljungren notes the entertainment value of these dog-handler teams is of value to clubs who hope to encourage the public to attend their dog shows in the future.
Another popular event,, is essentially a timed 100 yard dash. The funny part was AKC originally recorded the Top 20 qualifiers in each breed by the nearest Mile Per Hour. Ljungren chuckles as he notes, that wasn’t good enough! Folks didn’t want to be tied. So now the event is ranked by times to the nearest 100th MPH.
“If you give people something they want to do, it’s hard for them to hate you,” was the comment to Ljungren from Patti Strand, NAIA Executive Director. “You are making my work against the Animal Rights Extremists easier.”
Hear more of my conversation with Doug Ljungren in today’s podcast on Pure Dog Talk.