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Friday, April 19, 2013

Dog showing with Jen from My Brown Newfies Interview


Today we have a long overdue guest and special one at that.  Please welcome Jen, from My Brown Newfies to talk about dog showing with her two dogs, Leroy and Sherman.

Now personally I've always been a critic of the sport and thought it was just a show of the prettiest and most popular dog. But like many myths that have been squashed by dog bloggers I thought I take the chance to open my mind with a blogger I have come to trust with the subject.  I asked Jen to share her personal experience with the world of dog showing and her beloved boys.


So first, how long have you been showing and what made you get started?

I have been showing for about 4 years now. I was first introduced to the show ring about 15 years ago by my  sister who was periodically showing her brown Newf. The first show I went to with her I was hooked. I just loved the scene and I loved the sport. 2 short years later I got my first Newfoundland who was named Thunder, we showed one time and that was it.  As soon as we stepped in the ring it was clear that Thunder wanted nothing to do with showing so that was how it would be. I didn't understand the sport of dog showing back then, and if I had I never would of even showed Thunder because he was not a good example of the breed, and by that I mean that he had a heart murmur and a condition called SAS(sub aortic stenosis) which is a condition that Newfs are prone to. Thunder was not a dog that could of been bred because this condition is hereditary., so therefore putting him out in the show ring as a good example of the breed would of basically been lying. I didn't get that 15 years ago, but I get it now.

Many years later I got Sherman. I had spent over 1 1/2 years researching breeders and speaking to them one on one and learning about the the Newfoundland breed. Many reputable breeders are hesitant to give a show dog to someone they don't know so establishing a relationship with the breeder was key for both me and the breeder. I didn't just call someone and say I wanted a show dog and they said "ok here you go" I actually established a relationship over months with the breeder before she agreed to give me a puppy to show.
Sherman and I entered into the show for the first time when he was 9 months. I showed Sherman for a few times after that and then I decided that I wasn't the best handler for him so I hired someone to do it for me. I enjoy being on the outside watching, rather than in the ring.

What exactly is the sport of dog showing?  It is obviously more than who has the prettiest dog.  You also mention that Thunder wouldn't have been a good dog to breed, is that something else that is part of the sport?

The sport of dog showing is intended to evaluate the breeding stock of future generations.  Each breed has a standard that is created by their parent club. A breed standard is a written description of the ideal dog of that breed. The breed standard usually relates to the original function that that breed was bred to perform and general appearance, movement, temperament, and specific traits of that breed such as color, coat texture, eye color, ear shape and placement, feet, tail, etc. Some breed standards are more specific than others.
It is basically showing that you have a dog that conforms to the breed standard and is a great example of the breed. That's the way it is suppose to work anyway.

Thunder had a very bad heart and would not of been a dog to breed. He wasn't healthy and he would not be bettering the Newfoundland breed by siring a litter.
Could I have bred him and taken a chance that his bad heart wouldn't be passed down? Yes, but that wasn't a risk I was willing to take.


OK, Jen bear with me.  I've just had a light bulb go off in my head.  I understand Thunder wouldn't have been a good dog to breed due to his condition.  I didn't word my question very well.  I was referring more to the winning competitors (or dogs that are part of show) and breeding going hand in hand to further said breed.  I once worked for a lady who showed and bred Afghan Hounds and had never really thought about how showing dogs would have a purpose other than "who's got the best dog," but how it is to further the line and the integrity of the breeds.  Any one can make a mutt, but it takes a little more to help create the best purebred dog of that breed.  Right?  

You said: that a dog showing is that a dog conforms to the breed standard and is an great example of the breed.  That's the way it's suppose to work anyways. Have you found different in your experience? 

Any purebred dog can show in a dog show, as long as it is AKC. Most reputable breeders will only sell a dog that has show potential to someone that they know because they are basically giving them the best out of that litter. This is called an open contract. All other puppies that don't have show qualities are sold as a pet on a closed contract. However, some breeders will sell a dog without any contract and the owner can do what they want.  That was a bit off topic but is leading to your question:)
When you show a dog you should be showing a dog that fits the breed standard in conformation, health, and soundness. Inside and out. With the Newfie breed that would mean, good heart, good hips and elbows, etc. You are putting your dog out there because it is a good example of the breed in and out. Some people might put a dog out there that has a genetic condition. The dog looks good on the outside but not so much on the inside. Of course there is always an exception but that is another long drawn out explanation and often disputed topic of genetics., one of which I am just in the process of learning.
Every breed has issues and your goal should be to try and improve the breed.  I think that sometimes breeders lose sight of this goal and are only looking for fame and money, which are the ones you usually read about in the news, but there are very good breeders out there that do not do this.


You mentioned that you felt discriminated against for having Brown Newfoundlands.  Can you tell us about that experience?

Discriminated against? That is a tough one. It sounds harsher when you say it? Do I think sometimes we would of won if one of the boys would of been black? Yes. Do I know exactly what the judge was thinking? No. 

It happened a handful of times, but I guess it's something that happens and for the most part I would have to say there a quite a few judges that are very good at what they do, but there's a few bad apples, just like with most things. 
I think when we started showing we focused on this too much instead of just getting out there and doing it.
We have met fantastic people while showing and true dog lovers. Newfie people are one of the most loving people out there. It's all about the Newfoundland, they care for any Newfoundland and would do anything they can to help a fellow Newfie owner

However over the years we have learned to spot the judges that do not seem to put up any other colors than black. Some judges just do not like a brown dog. Some do.
Now that we are at a different level in showing with both the boys being champions my husband and I have talked about going up against some of the judges that we stayed away from to see what happens.
Is it possible that the judges felt that my dogs weren't the best there, of course, but there has been a few times when a judge didn't even give us a second look, but this might happen to everyone once in awhile.
It also has to do with the type of Newfoundland too, at least that is what I think. Sherman is typical of what is in the ring nowadays, but Leroy is a bit bigger and has a blockier head. Some judges do not like a blocky head, some do.

I really can't pinpoint one experience it's just kind of feeling you get. You see the judge go over every dog with a fine tooth comb and then they come to your dog and barely put a hand on it. This is when I think that the judge knew what he liked when they first walked in the ring. You watch a judge and see how much eye time he gives your dog, you can usually tell right away if he doesn't like him.
We are usually the only ones at a show with a brown newf, at first I really felt like we were the outsiders. Some people may  still see us that way but to be honest I have met a lot of wonderful people through showing and have learned a lot from them.  You know who your friends are, if you know what I mean.

I was thinking about our conversation last night and one thing I have to add is that I take dog showing a bit more personal than I think others may take it.
I am not a breeder. I do not have a new dog to show every year. I have Sherman and Leroy. They are my family.
I think that for a lot of people that show, the people who are breeders, it's not that they don't care but showing is apart of their business, it's what they do.
I am the owner of my dogs, I am not the breeder. I don't show because I  have to, I show because I want to, so I think I may look at it a bit different than most, there are other people like me who show, but I think the majority of it is breeders.

Sherman on his days off from showing.

What else can you tell us about showing?

I'll be honest with you, dog showing can be tricky. They are a lot of hardcore people out there that it do it for the wrong reasons.

There is politics involved., which I didn't know until I started showing. There is discrimination, which we have faced first hand with showing brown Newfoundlands.
There was many times when I just wanted to throw in the towel, but I didn't.

However, with that being said. There are a lot of people like me who do it for the love of the sport, the love of their dogs, and the love of their breed.
I knew my dogs were a good representation of the breed and I knew the right people would see that despite their color. Over the years we have quickly learned
the ways of the show world, but we still have a lot to learn.
There are many, many people who participate in this sport because of a pure love for dogs, and then just like with anything else, their are a few bad apples, who are selfish.

What do you love most about showing?

What I love most about showing Sherman and Leroy is the bonding time I have with them. From the grooming preparations to the drive to the show, to hanging out together at the show site, it's always a blast! I think the dogs love the one on one time too. They get to travel, meet new people and have new experiences like staying in a hotel, riding in an elevator. It's not all about the "show" it's all the things that go along with it:) 

Any last words you'd like to share with skeptics, like me, Jen?

One thing I would say is that it is not just beauty contest like so many people are led to believe, I can't stand that stereotype. There's a whole lot more too it  And another good to make is that most show dogs don't just show they have other jobs too like being service dogs or therapy dogs.  Many of the herding dogs work on a farm and many working dogs pull sleds, carts, etc.  They have a life outside the show ring.

I would like to thank Jen and My Brown Newfies for taking part in our interview.  And in going back and forth with Jen, I've realized that is a lot to dog showing that I once thought.  I think when I realize how important purebreds are and the nature of preserving them, I see the dog shows as a way to prove the breed and all their integrity   What an awesome and beautiful thing.  

Thank you Jen for sharing your personal experience and hopefully opening my eyes and hearts to the world of dog showing.  Please check out My Brown Newfies for more on Jen, Leroy and Sherman.


Unknown said...

We think you made the right decision. Have a fabulous Friday.
Best wishes Molly

bichonpawz said...

Jen is very knowledgeable and always willing to share! Of course we love Leroy and Sherman! Wonderful interview. Thanks for sharing it with us!!

Talking-Dogs said...

Great interview! Over the years I've helped a friend show her Swissys and, believe me, it is not as easy as it looks! Fun, yes, but also a lot of hard work involved. I sincerely admire folks like Jen.

Wyatt said...

Great interview...Kudos to Jen. The dog show world is 'Ruff'.

Wyatt and Stanzie

We love Newfies, especially Leroy and Sherman!