Seven Secrets of Show Dog Success
Part 6: Be a Kennel
Michael and Cathy Dugan
What is a formal breeding program and why does it make a winning difference?
The answer to this question has been very eloquently defined and refined by Patricia Trotter in her book, and by Dr. Carmen Battaglia in many articles. They are among the best experts in terms of practical experience and knowledge. They really drill down to the genetic issues and questions that arise in successful breeding programs.
When Cathy first became serious about breeding PWDs, she had a longtime PWD breeder ask her why she never bred to dogs other than her own. Cathy’s response was simple; she needed to define what an “Aviator” PWD looks like before she could outcross to other lines.
Our foundation stock consisted of dogs that were from other breeders. We admired the health and temperament of their dogs and, of course, their excellent conformation. These foundation dogs, all loosely related, allowed us to create a linebred dog that showed quality and consistency. Once a type was set and health was assured, then we could begin adding different pieces of pedigree.
Today, we continue to move forward with new pedigree components to strengthen our program. Typically, we’re planning three years into the future about what we hope to achieve from breeding and what we want to avoid. Because we have several bitches in the queue all the time, we can mix and match breedings to constantly improve our line. The goal should always be to try to produce a better dog every time a breeding is done.
What does building champions every year do?
I was once told by a judge and fellow breeder, “You show the dogs you have!” If that’s all you are prepared to do you will go nowhere fast. In the last 10 years, Aviator Kennel has produced six to 10 new champions every year, producing a formidable “bench.”
This gives us the option of knowing when a dog should begin competition and when a dog will be ready for breeding in the future. We never want to put a young dog out in the show ring until we really feel the dog is ready to be competitive and get its championship.
Because of this, our dogs generally finish their championship in eight to 12 shows, making the experience much easier and less costly for their owners. In our experience, the cost of finishing a champion is about $3,000 to $4,000 with entry fees, grooming, handling and other costs, so we want to make this process as efficient as possible.
If you have only one or two dogs to work with, you limit your options for show success. We’ve seen dogs dragged around for many months trying to get a championship and years after that because it was the only dog the breeder or owner had available.
Typically, we will take a potential show dog to a dog show once they’re at least 6 months old. That gives us the chance to observe the dog in the hectic chaos of a show and see how they react. We’ve noticed that the really strong show dogs are instantly curious, watching everything going on around them. At ringside dogs like Ladybug, even as a puppy, watched the other PWDs intently, learning from the process.
Because we always have several dogs coming of age at different times we have the chance to plan when and what dogs will be showing two years ahead of time. We try not to compete against ourselves and with multiple dogs available for showing we can phase in new dogs as others finish their championships. Sometimes, we have to hold a dog out for awhile because they’re simply not quite ready for the ring. We’ve had boys who had to wait until they were almost 3 until they had grown into their show bodies.
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