Everybody seems to be in a rush today and the world
of dog sports is no different. "How fast can I
get a winner?" new owners ask. But "How soon
for a return on my investment?" is what they'd
really like to know.
dog sports are undergoing many changes. As more and
more people coming from professional backgrounds and
high paying jobs are coming into dog sports, the ruling
bodies of the game are responding to their demands.
American Kennel Club, for example, now permits multiple
ownership of dogs (Borrowed from other industries of
valuable pedigreed animals). This is called "syndication"
in which shares are sold in an animal of great promise,
generally as a way to finance that animal's career.
For dogs, this was a giant step that responded to the
growing business savvy of purebred dog owners planning
to take them "to the top."
are many levels of participation within the pedigreed
dog world. There is the pet level for those who just
want a dog of a particular breed and these make up the
majority of owners. Many breeders supply this demand
and launch people in a love for the breed that can last
a lifetime. On the opposite extreme, however, we have
competitive players that are far beyond that level of
interest - and whom very few of us ever have the chance
talk about those high powered players.
a recent Westminster show at The Garden, a likable,
energetic woman introduced herself and asked what I
had in my kennel. I liked her well enough and we talked
about a litter of pups I had that were line bred on
a particular champion she admired. They were only two
weeks old. "You'll be hearing from me," she
said, and off she went. Not more than a half-hour later,
a gentleman from Mexico introduced himself and gave
me his card. He was a handler, he explained, buying
dogs for his clients. He was looking for twenty champions
or dogs that were champion material.
left that show with business cards from handlers in
four countries and what did they have in common? Every
one of them was referred to me by the woman who introduced
herself at the beginning of the show. That's what I
call a real "power broker." What did she get
out of matching up buyers with top quality dogs, you
ask? She charged a percentage of the sale price, plus
whatever else she could negotiate.
may be wondering what kind of clients handlers such
as those I met at the show represent. I can tell you
their clients are very discriminating. They are serious-minded
people who want the best of the best of the best and
they're willing to pay for it. They expect to campaign
their dog from one end of the country to the other and
all over the world. They will employ the best handlers,
pay them well, and blast pictures in all the right magazines.
Few movie stars are ever campaigned better than a champion
that belongs to an owner playing the game on this level.
For the right dog, they will make deals with breeders
and handlers that would astound you. But, they expect
results. And they want those results now. And that's
where we, as stewards of the Breed, should examine things
closer, because something in "this" picture
the not so long ago "old days" people waited
until a dog was in its prime before presenting it to
the world. Like a painting that isn't finished until
the very last stroke of the artist's brush, a prized
dog was unveiled only when the breeder was ready. Today?
Things are far different in that respect today. Today,
it's all about winning as soon as you can. And when
we are dealing with high profile winners that go on
to have a real impact on the breed, this is where an
unspoken problem hides.
like the people who own them, mature at different rates.
Remember the handsome football player from high school
and the cute cheerleader he dated? They were knockouts
at eighteen. But, think back to your class reunion.
Were they still so gorgeous? Now take another look and
remember the homely ones and the wall flowers nobody
would ask to dance. Even without being at that reunion
of yours, I'll bet some of them were real stunners.
same is true for dogs. Let others rush to breed to the
champion of the moment who makes his mark early but
grows coarse with time. As we become wiser with each
passing year and our favorite dogs grow silver around
their smiling faces, we know the responsibility of protecting
our Breed is bigger than you or me. Time will show us
grand-puppies, great-grandpuppies and great-great-grandpuppies
to prove who is right and who is wrong. But it's up
to us what people will say about our dogs when that
day comes. It's up to us what the mark of a champion