WoTeH'sin Shih Tzu
Levels of excellence. Now there's a twisted phrase. I mean really, isn't excellent just simply excellent? I suppose if one merely sees in black and white, then yes, that's all there is. But I dream in color and so there is a gradient always before me.
One of the things in my life that has really hit me lately is giving back. I make charitable donations just like the next guy but I'm talking about really giving back.
NM: How did you become involved in the sport of dogs?
JCM: In 1983, a beautiful little Shih Tzu named Tzusie, a gift from my husband, Don, led to my entrée into the sport of dogs. We chose to breed her to a lovely Champion dog and his owners encouraged me to become involved in the sport.
JCM: The first breed owned and bred by me was Cocker Spaniels through the 1970’s. Since my marriage in 1983 and the gift of Tzusie, it has been a love affair of owning, showing and breeding Shih Tzu.
JCM: It was truly a challenge to me to breed a better dog. Though my Tzusie seemed oh so perfect to me, many people challenged the fact that she hadn’t much of a pedigree. I did spay her after the one litter. It must be said, however, that her daughter, Saki, went on to earn her R.O.M. (Register of Merit) through line breeding. Saki earned that title from only two litters (a total of eight puppies) – one champion from her first litter and three from her second litter. She was spayed at the age of seven years and went on to live a healthy and happy life to the ripe old age of seventeen years and nine months – she was a Shih Tzu of extraordinary health and playfulness.
JCM: The decision to become an AKC judge was simply a matter of natural progression. Believed to have an "eye" for a good dog – it seemed only natural to follow a path to judging by educating myself as thoroughly as possible through all the avenues available; that is practical experience, seminars, AKC Institutes and being mentored by those I felt made great contributions to the sport, as well as their respective breeds.
JCM: Condition, conditioned and conditioning! Condition – picture of health – cleanliness and possessed of good conformation. Conditioned – prepared for a specific action – i.e., being shown. Conditioning – the process, or result, of inducing (the dog) to new or modified behavioral responses so that it can be judged fairly and honestly on all factors encompassed within the breed standard. All of these points are so clearly evident when an exhibit presents in the ring – the eyes clear and sparkling, the coat is clean and well groomed and the exhibit displays confidence and gaits with a fluidity born of excellent conformation married to excellent training and attitude. It is a beautiful sight to behold when this happens.
JCM: The term "breed type" is today’s ‘soccer term’; while all involved in the sport of dogs kick it around, few seem to really score on the meaning. It is used and bandied about with ever increasing frequency without anyone seeming to understand exactly what it encompasses. The old adage ‘if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck’ is NOT actually applicable as some seem to believe. Breed type, by its very definition, has to be as subjective as is the job of judging itself. It cannot be defined in absolutes except as it represents a sum total of a judge’s INTERPRETATION of the specific breed standard to be applied.
JCM: NO – type and structure are not the same, but each is relative to the other. If structure is poor it can, and often does, have a negative impact on the exhibit in that it can destroy the movement. It can ruin the flow of outline, particularly in profile, which is often described within the breed standard.
NM: What do you look for on the table?
JCM: When an exhibit is tabled, it is my job to assess conformational soundness and evaluate through a ‘hands on’ examination the specifics as described within the breed standard. The table is my tool for discovery and the floor is the point of my ultimate decision.
JCM: I like to see smooth, easy flowing movement with reach and drive of equal measure along with a display of level and sound top line and appropriate head carriage. I want the dog to cover good ground at the given speed without any hint of being strung up or raced around the ring. Natural speed varies in all breeds. While some dogs move at a naturally faster pace than others, it is so terribly obvious when a handler races the dog around the ring to try covering faults with speed or by stringing the dog up. How unprofessional it looks as the dogs involved either look terrified to the point of running for their life and/or when strung up, the poor little things have their front feet pulled off the ground. Both things are surely less than complimentary to the handler and the dog!
JCM: All of these factors are of equal importance and somewhat interdependent. Health would include the musculature and skeletal structure of the dog and, therefore, becomes relative to the overall soundness. If a dog suffers any discomfort due to some deviation not fully evident it would, in turn, affect temperament. Though such flaws are not always evident in a young dog, it will be precipitate for the future of any breeder who fails to recognize a problem in its infancy and to take appropriate and responsible steps to correct the issue.
JCM: Ah, the novice - sometimes referred to as ‘the newbie’. What a welcome addition! My advice would be fourfold:
- Talk to everyone while being terrifically discerning.
- Find a reliable, respected and respectful mentor (not necessarily a competitor) and give them you unquestionable loyalty.
- Believe in yourself; trust your instincts with regard to your dogs and the people you surround yourself with.
- The good – the joy of owning/breeding a great dog, the wins, the friendships built and the joy of the journey itself.
- The bad – losses (including your beloved dogs as they age), defeats in the ring and friendships that really weren’t in the first place.
- The ugly – jealousy, miscommunications and other aberrant behaviors that sometimes plague competition.
JCM: Welcome to the twenty-first century. All areas of life today seem cast in a global market. Group re-alignment is just one step for the AKC in a world of competition encompassing more and more registries along with more and more breed recognition. At some point there must an alignment more in tune with the globalization of the sport itself (yuck! That sounds politically terrifying!). Be it with smiles and accolades, or kicking and screaming, things must actually change in order to grow and remain competitive. My personal feelings aside, re-alignment is a truly complex issue. There are some really perplexing questions regarding the wisdom with which this will be accomplished. Judges are confused as to what will happen to their ability to judge the group change-ups. I have empathy for the judges department in their deliberations on how they can possibly make this palatable and fair for all of us concerned. More still, I feel for those of us "in process" and having things confused by this realignment.
JCM: This subject is bandied around as much as the "breed type" comment/question. There is no reason to even begin to try a comparison because there is none!
JCM: As breeders, it is imperative that we take on the issue of structure – particularly the front assembly. Bouncing, rocking and/or swaying in the top line are so prevalent. It is not an optical illusion, as some suggest, created by the dog's hair. Fronts are all over the place; shoulders up under the ears, no chest. Therefore they feel like both front legs come out of the same hole (not just in Shih Tzu); then there are bowed legs and elbows loose or out, necks too long or too short, straight stifles or sickle hocks. We have some rears overdriving the straight front assembly messing with the movement. Straight stifles are causing the dogs to stand under themselves showing a top line that looks more like a Havanese. We have Shih Tzu that move around the ring with Cocker Spaniel top lines because their angles cannot allow them to do otherwise. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand why they are being shown at all – and some of them in the Bred-By class.
We can breed a better dog when, and if, we work together!
On behalf of The Shih Tzu Reporter, I would like to thank Mrs. Clary McGee for taking the time to respond to my inquiry.