Editor's Page: Competition, a Desire to Achieve or a Desire to Win?

More often than I’d like these days, I am disturbed by our seeming inability to appreciate our dogs for what they are rather than for what they win.

By Christi McDonald | July 1, 2006

Competition is a by-product of productive work, not its goal. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others. — Ayn Rand

Are there still a significant number of people showing dogs every weekend who are motivated by the desire to achieve, rather than primarily the desire to win? I am not generally fond of the pastime of constantly lamenting how things have changed, and how much better the sport was "in the old days.” But really, let’s be honest with ourselves… are we more focused these days on defeating the "other” dog, making more champions, being number one, than we are on the pure desire to breed a better dog, one that more closely fits his standard than the generations before?   

More often than I’d like these days, I am disturbed by our seeming inability to appreciate our dogs for what they are rather than for what they win. I’m not saying that most of us don’t love our dogs apart from the awards they can win; to be sure, we do love them. It isn’t love and devotion I’m after, but appreciation of our dogs as breeding stock, as representatives of their breeds. Can I appreciate my young bitch, who took 20 shows to finish instead of the four or five I expected, for everything that she is, for the areas in which she improves upon her sire and dam, for her potential contribution to my breeding program and to my breed, in spite of the "long time” it took me to finish her? Can I appreciate that she has precisely the length of head I’ve been breeding for, the beautiful arched toes on small, tight feet that the standard calls for, the lovely rib-spring, the eye of exactly the proper shape and size… if judges to whom she was shown did not appreciate those qualities in her? Can I honestly evaluate my dog and at the end of the day, whether or not she won the points/the Group/the Specialty/Best in Show, know that she is still the one I want as part of my breeding program? That is a question all breeders must ask themselves, and must answer honestly.  Of course, we don’t want to be kennel blind — but that is an entire other subject.

Before I begin this part let me assure you that I don’t mean to be snide or facetious. I only mean to be frank about what I see as a problem with our sport. I genuinely believe that most people who take the time to go through the judges’ approval process mean to do a reasonably good job of judging the breeds for which they are approved. I see the problem more as a result of our sport having far too many events, requiring far too many judges each weekend, which requires AKC to approve far too many people to judge far too many breeds about which they really know very little.

So… several years ago I began to wonder why, when I had a dog ready to begin working toward a championship, I was entering under judges who I knew to have very little background or experience with my breed. If I know for certain that a judge is not very well informed about my breed, not necessarily interested in the breed and has not spent significant time studying it, of what real use to me is their evaluation of my breeding stock? And if I should win, what exactly would it mean to me, in regard to my breeding stock, if the judge under whom I won knows far less about my breed than I know? Sacre bleu! I began to save money on entry fees right and left.

I also found that it began to take longer, in terms of weeks or months, to make up my champions, because judges who are very knowledgeable about the breed don’t come along every day. But I was ever so much happier in the process, whether we won or whether we lost. It seems that, when we didn’t win, those who did were very worthy representatives of the breed.  And when we won, under judges I believe really understand my breed, really know the nuances, the details, the elements we struggle with and those we need to work harder on, my new champions seemed so much more, well, real.

I admit that if one were a breeder with several dogs per year to finish, this might seem an impractical approach. Then again, of what value is it to your breed (or to your breeding program) to finish dogs in great numbers, but under judges from whom you wouldn’t seek advice or guidance… that is, who you wouldn’t ask to grade a litter with you, or with whom you wouldn’t consider discussing the merits of a potential stud dog?

This "new” mindset leads to an enjoyment of the sport in its purest form — as a breeder taking current breeding stock to people for whom one has great respect, for an evaluation among other dogs of one’s breed. Perhaps it would be difficult in the sport as it is today to "campaign” a dog successfully with this mindset in place; it would probably be nearly impossible to reach a number-one ranking only showing to judges with in-depth knowledge of your breed. And after all, we all enjoy the hot competition at the Group and Best in Show level. But for those who aren’t setting out to create a "star” — doesn’t getting a valuable evaluation of your breeding stock sound like fun? 


Dr. Robert Indeglia Heads 2007 Westminster Judges Panel

Dr. Robert A. Indeglia, a cardiac surgeon and longtime participant in the world of purebred dogs, has been selected to judge Best in Show at the 131st Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Feb. 12-13, 2007, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Dr. Indeglia heads a panel of 35 judges from 14 states, Canada and England.  Group judges will be Mrs. Jeannette McGinnis – Sporting; Michael J. Dougherty – Hound; Ms. Jean Fournier – Working; Mrs. James Edward Clark – Terrier; R. William Taylor – Toy; Richard L. Bauer – Non-Sporting; and Eric J. Ringle – Herding. For the complete panel, including breed judges, visit westminsterkennelclub.org.


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