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THE SCHOOL OF WESTMINSTER

 

Will WKC be different this year?  Since 2006 this trained observer has watched glamour dog shows teach young people how to break rules, cheat, and win.

 

Col. Sam Harper,  Dogsport Reconnaissance

February 4, 2015 update | TheDogPress
Col. Sam Harper, Dogsport Reconnaissance

 

Back in 2006 my daughter was engrossed with the Who’s Who stuff, dogs she knew, the politics, handlers, connections, and who didn’t make it to the group rings.  It was glitz, glamour, electric entertainment and I enjoyed it then and still do.

 

The Westminster Dog Show is spectacular pomp and pretense and the best of the best show dogs.By the second night of Westminster however, I was beginning to see why the commentators kept reminding us that judging is subjective, a matter of opinion.  By Best In Show, he said something like “no matter which one he chooses, it will be the right dog.”  It wasn’t meant as an apology but by then we could clearly see this show is less about faults and virtues than about choosing the right handler showing a dog owned by the right people.

 

I am no expert but I’ve been known to go to a show or two.  I like to think that being an “unsophisticated novice” as my daughter haughtily refers to me when I disagree with her, means I have a broader view of the sport.  I've lived enough to see life the way it really is.  So I’m going to send this in and if they don’t publish it, then it's just another indication of how completely the sport is controlled by the wrong people and wrong ideals.

 

As a young guy I was giving a report and my CO cut me off in mid-sentence.  “Corporal” he barked, “give me the facts without qualification or excuses for the way you saw the incident.”  So here’s how I saw it.

 

The AKC and Pedigree commercials were on target.  Couldn’t have been better and some of them were enough to make viewers get a little misty-eyed.  What a wholesome contrast to the undercurrent of the show itself.  I remember reading on this same website about our kids not falling far from the tree.  What our young people see at shows is that rules have no meaning in this sport.  Everyone breaks the AKC dog show rules.  That means they give up their ethics and worse, the kids see that there are few repercussions.

 

Standard Poodle in show ring at Westminster Kennel Club Dog ShowIf I understand this right, in something aptly called SECTION 8 of the rules, it says a dog can’t be enhanced or improved by artificial means.  Period.  That’s what it says.  Like my kid patiently explained to me, if you had a Manchester Terrier that didn’t have black lines on its toes and you drew them in with a marking pen, that would be wrong because it is really important in that breed.  You could be disqualified.  I asked about dying a black poodle with white splotches in its hair.  She said parti-colors are not allowed.  Okay, but what if someone dyed over the white?  They would be disqualified she said.  Oh.  Well what if they sprayed the hair on its head and added a wig to make it look so, uh, glamorous?  “Daaaad…..” was all I got. 

 

Does everyone know poodles don’t really have hair like that?  What if I bred to that dog so I could get that big head of hair?  “That’s different” says my seasoned daughter.  “But is it right?  More important kiddo, is it LEGAL?”  No answer, the group was coming in the ring.

 

We missed part of that group because as much as she fusses at me, she knows I never told her wrong and as much as she has grown up, I know she is an honest woman with depth of character.  Sometimes she hides it but in the end, she will always admit ethics count.  Once she quit with the “Daaaaddy!” stuff, we got to the meat of it.

 

How much is too much?  Chalk to clean up a dog that waded through a mud puddle on the way to the ring is fine.  Brush it out.  Chalk to cover up a bare spot or dingy coat?  Ummmm, she said that is a gray area and laughed, no pun intended.  Okay then, chalk or dye to enhance markings on the Manchester, Doberman or Rottweiler?  She said that would be wrong because that is a genetic fault, not a temporary condition like dirt or a sore place.  She called a friend.  Yep, serious fault in a Rottweiler, clearly defined as “rust” in a lot of breeds.

 

Okay, so what about trimming to make markings look sharper, like in the Springer or that spiffy little Boston?  Well, that is only changing the look in a cosmetic way and “everyone does that.”  Oh.  She pointed out the Wheaton isn’t supposed to be scissored but “they still do it.”  Oh.  It is okay to break the rules as long as it is common practice.  I was beginning to understand.

 

Once she got into it, she began pointing out that judges often chose to “overlook” structural faults as well.  The examples she gave and the dogs she pointed out on the second night were nothing short of astounding as we sat with the AKC book open and flipped between breeds.  When it calls for a short tail, set on low, and the dog is speed gaiting around the ring with a long tail held high, and it wins, we had to agree there is no value in dog shows as a tool for selecting breeding stock.  When the breed is supposed to be square and long backs go to the front of the line, it changes the whole outline but worse yet, it defies the breed standard.  I reminded her she explained on more than one occasion, the standard is the bible of dogs.

 

To be fair, viewers are told that pets aren’t groomed the way show dogs are presented and people understand that.  But if a family selects a breed based on the color or coat or size or shape of a show dog, they could be in for a surprise.  Likewise a person who breeds a female to a big winner that got to the top because it was faked but judges looked the other way.  The bitch owner better hope she has a power handler who can make even more judges accept her faulty product.

 

We enjoyed the show.  I could see it was exciting and to be a part Westminster, like winning a gold medal.  I can also see that showing dogs at the top level makes people break rules.  It makes honest people do dishonest things.  Dog shows should be a good learning experience for young people.  Dogs are so honest.  They rarely break the rules laid down by pack order and nature.  Don’t we wish the next generation would learn from the dogs instead of the handlers and judges!  Anything goes if you win is what kids learn, whether at shows or as members of society.  We’ve taught them well.

 

No wonder Goldens and Labs are tops with the people.  Simple honest dogs for America’s families who still value basic honesty.

 

http://www.thedogpress.com/Columns/Westminster-KC-School_Harper-062.asp #131S152

 

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