Friday, February 20, 2015


This will be a long post and maybe not very interesting for many of you, but I'm writing it because I need to reconcile my feelings about what happened on Tuesday evening. My emotions were in conflict with my ethics and that's always an uncomfortable feeling, so now I'm laying it all out there in hopes of clearing my thoughts.

I love dogs. I guess you all know that by now. I love all dogs, purebred and mutts. I know that's not a popular idea with a number of people these days. I think if I read "Adopt, don't shop" one more time, I may throw something. At another time I'll go into why I object to that not well thought out slogan, but this post is about what happened at Westminster on Tuesday.

This year the favorite dog at the 'big show' was Matisse, a Portuguese Water Dog. Matisse is three years old and has already won 238 best in show titles. Thia makes him the most winning male dog in history, only about 40 wins away from being the most winning dog of all. From what I understand from other PWD people and others in the dog show world, he is magnificent with almost perfect conformation. He certainly is beautiful and moves exceptionally well.

Matisse did not win. He did not even come in second. The top prize went to a Beagle. Now I have nothing against Beagles, I used to own one, and Miss P seems to be an excellent example of her breed. Still, I was holding my breath during the final judging, hoping that my breed would win the honor and adulation. When the judge announced the Beagle, I yelled NO, and left the room, just as Fudge reported yesterday. I also used some language that was unnecessary. Sorry.

I've been thinking about this for a couple days and last night I was talking it out with Rob, when I had to admit that if I were the judge, I would not have chosen Matisse. Given the group that he had before him, I would probably have made the same decision and chosen the Beagle.
Here's why. Every breed in the American Kennel Club has a standard written by the breed club which consists of breeders, owners and people who love that particular breed. The standard goes into every detail about the breed. It covers size, both height and weight.

It covers what the ears should look like. How does it walk?
 It goes into detail about every aspect of the dog. Is the coat long, short or missing? And what colors should they be?
The standard tells what sort of temperament the breed should have. Is it merry, strong willed, protective, etc

The standard for the Portuguese Water dog is detailed, too. It talks about coat type and how it should be clipped. Two clips are acceptable in the USA.
        The retriever - in order to give a natural appearance and a smooth unbroken line, the entire coat is scissored or clipped to follow the outline of the dog, leaving a blanket of coat no longer than one inch in length. The hair at the end of the tail is left at full length.
         The lion clip - As soon as the coat grows long, the middle part and hindquarters, as well as the muzzle, are clipped. The hair at the end of the tail is left at full length.

Matisse was not groomed to the standard. His coat was sculpted for show purposes. When I showed Samba and Fudge, I showed them in retriever clips and always had them clipped to one inch. We were the only dogs in the ring with the short coats called for in the standard, the others were four to six inches long . At our last show the judge told me that Fudge needed more coat. He did give us a first place, though. That was when I decided that our show career was over. Even the judge didn't know or care about the standard.

The PWD standard goes on to say - The Portuguese Water Dog is spirited yet obedient, robust, and of unexaggerated, functional conformation; sure, substantially boned and muscled, and able to do a full day's work in and out of the water. 

When the judge chose Miss P, the Beagle, he said he could picture her doing the job she was bred for, hunting rabbits in the field. For me, that says it all. Matisse is lovely, but he doesn't look like a dog that would jump out of a boat into cold water to pull nets. He looks like a dog that wouldn't want to get a hair out of place.
In my opinion, the Beagle deserved to win, the PWD did not. Not because he isn't an exceptional dog, because his owners and groomers didn't stick to the standard and didn't allow him to look like a working water dog.

If we write a standard for the breed, then we should aspire to achieve it. If we intentionally go against the standard, than we don't deserve to win. Do I think the PWD community will learn anything from this? No.


Two French Bulldogs said...

We love the dog shows. The Portuguese water dogs haircut needs to go
Lily & Edward

Marjie said...

This was a nice, introspective post, Sue. It's very honest of you to admit that your favorite did not meet the standards for his breed. I love all of your different example pictures, and have to say I'm not fond of the Lion clip. Your guys look great just as they are, and I can't imagine you doing anything other than the Retriever clip, as you mentioned. And while adopting is a good sentiment, sometimes you just want a specific type of dog for a specific reason (like my vet and his hunting dogs, for example), so adopting isn't practical.

Bella Roxy & Macdui said...

Well, we like the scotties......

That's a great point. Often we can't see what the judge sees..not that we've ever been in shows.

rottrover said...

This was really interesting, Sue. Matisse is beautiful, but he looks like a sculpture, not a working dog. I agree, too, if there are breed standards, they should be adheared to. Have a good weekend!

Anonymous said...

I saw Matisse jumping up on people, looked like the judges, during a dog show last year or the year before. Matisse was already wearing a ribbon so the job was done. But i couldn't help laughing because even the most perfect Portie was still just a little bit naughty. So if Matisse can be bad so can my Bronson. Kisses to your furkids. Mel and Bronson.

Jo's World said...

Thanks for your comment to my "new" blog. It feels good to be back and welcomed again.

I had a long blurb here about award shows that just disappeared but the gist of it was that if the putter-oners and the awardees would pool the money spent on these whoops, they could probably rebuild Detroit, or something like that!


Jo, Stella and Zkhat

Foley Monster, Pocket and River Song said...

Very insightful. I wonder how the PWD won his group.

Ruby said...

Yeah, I thinks the lion cut is strange lookin'! Then again, ALL my fur cuts are strange lookin', so who am I to criticize!! BOL!!
butts, my issue is with no Airedales winning since 1922!! Pffffffft!!! Just not right i tell ya! Then again, i haven't really been thrilled with the winner of the Airedale group in a long time. I thinks they need one that acts more like ME! Ya know, attitude! That's what's missin'!!
Anyhu, I loved the Beagle, he was a cutie, butts still no Airedale...☺
Ruby ♥

Molly the Airedale said...

We love watching Westminster and seeing all of the dogs strut their stuff. We love them all!

SissySees said...

I'd give you a standing ovation if the Knight wasn't sleeping and I didn't have two dogs pinning me to the sofa.

I'm pretty sure we've had this conversation before. I credit the AKC and Junior Handler (along with horse shows, high school athletics, etc.) for comparatively sane teen years. HOWEVER, the AKC and I parted ways over what is this week, the Parson Russell.

I won't rehash my favorite breed's AKC broohaha here, but I am glad to hear that some breed standards do focus on the job(s) the dog was originally designed to do.

Now... that being said, I'd put Sissy's UKC basset body up against the AKC "Hushpuppy" standard every day. Sissy is finer boned, a little leggy and way too lean by AKC standards, but every single vet who has seen her (and you know that's dozens) declares her the fittest, ortho-est healthy basset ever.

I KNOW we've discussed why I don't show dogs or horses anymore, so I'll just mentally give you - and the Westmin. judge - another round of applause and wrap it up.

Megan said...

My armchair theory (and this is after 25+ years hanging around dog shows and dog people) is that David Merriam (the BIS judge) was thinking about the long game.

Think about this: WKC is the ONE dog show that non-dog-people might actually see in their lives. It is everyone's picture for what a dog show looks like. Dog-loving (but not necessarily dog-breeding or dog-showing) people actually tune in to watch it.

Think about how the public would see the lineup he had for Best. The Shih-Tzu (too "frou-frou"), the Poodle (silly haircut, also "frou-frou"), the OES (over-the-top "frou-frou" and resembles no working herding dog I could ever imagine), the Skye Terrier (who's ever heard of that?), the ESS (groomed to within an inch of her life), and the PWD (the POTUS's dog, but also borderline-frou-frou). Then, finally, the Beagle - no extra hair, pleasant Snoopy associations, and it looks like a dog you might actually have on your couch. (Never mind that the modern show Beagle is thoroughly bleached, dyed, trimmed, and chalked before it hits the ring.)

Every single one of these dogs is a magnificent specimen of its breed (or else it wouldn't be in that BIS ring). Merriam could have picked any of them and been "right".

But only one of them would be the "people's choice", a dog who people who can relate to, a dog who doesn't bring up any uncomfortable questions about over-exaggeration or over-grooming. A uncontroversial dog that can make the public feel good about dog shows and the AKC.

It's just one dog show out of the whole year - and it's the one dog show that the public will see. David Merriam is a longtime veteran of the AKC, and he knows that the fancy is being challenged by a public who sees the dog show world as overblown and detrimental to dogs.

So he can pick any of seven dogs - so he picks the one that will make Joe Public feel good about dog shows for the next twelve months, until the next BIS judge at the next Westminster gets to make his picks.

Lapdog Creations said...

Very interesting post... thank you for the perspective. :)