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Back to the Breed Ring

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70 – September, 2022

By Wayne Cavanaugh

Heard at ringside every weekend: “Where’s Mary?” “Oh, she didn’t get out of the breed.” While it sounds harmless, what does it say about the evolution, or is it devolution, of our sport? Since when is the breed ring just something we need to “get out of” to get to the group? (As for Mary, she couldn’t win or lose anyway because, well, she’s not a dog). It’s not a matter of semantics, it’s a sign of how dog shows and dog breeding have shifted in emphasis from breed wins to group wins. Have breed wins gone from coveted wins to a necessary evil standing between an exhibitor and an all-breed ranking?

From 1938 to 1987, the Saw Mill River Kennel Club in New York only had breed judging. No groups, no Best In Shows, no “all breed points” except those won in the breed. If someone tried it today, no one would go. After 47-years, as point races gathered momentum, entries dipped and the writing was on the wall. Saw Mill had to add groups and Best In Show to get entries back up and keep the club together. Breed wins weren’t good enough anymore. Handlers understandably stopped going to Saw Mill years before the change was made because their clients wanted more all breed points. Without handlers, entries sank and there just weren’t enough owner-handlers to fill the void. Are there excellent, brilliant, successful breeder-owner-handlers? Of course, but let’s not kid ourselves about the ratio.

So how and when did the shift of emphasis from breeds to groups begin? Shifts like these don’t happen overnight and there are a number of contributing factors. Was it too many shows, or campaigns that require over 200 shows a year, a pace very few non-professionals can keep? Was it the all breed point systems? Was it the result of too many multi-group judges and not enough breed specialists? Is it all of the above and more?

The legendary dogman, Mr. William Kendrick, once said that the all breed point systems will be the ruination of dog shows and dog breeding. Agreeing or disagreeing with Mr. Kendrick’s sentiment is not the point. Considering his opinion of the impact of rankings is the point. Have dog shows been changed by the rankings, or have the rankings been changed by the dog shows? Fortunately, there are breed point rankings, too. Most of those rankings, however, are topped by the national specialty winners and most hats are hung on the all breed points anyway. It’s how things work now in the newest version of our sport.

Click here to read the complete article
70 – September, 2022

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