I remember we had the late great LaMar Kuhns (German Shepherd Dog handler extraordinaire) over for supper at our house one time. He was going to be giving a speech at our club, The GSDC of Greater New Haven. Anyone who knew LaMar could expect anything and everything out of this colorful man’s mouth. He was quick with a comeback and had an answer for everything concerning the breed. He knew what it took to win which was evident in his show record.
So we’re sitting at the dinner table with LaMar and we’re talking about which dogs were winning at the time. All of a sudden, he comes out with “Give me the spook any day, because you know they’re going to be moving around the ring.” Was he promoting the spooky dog? No, but just stating a fact that some dogs can be too sound and find the show ring a boring place to be. Years ago, temperament wasn’t pushed as much as it in the show rings today. It would be harder to get the “spook” past the discerning eye of today's judges. Oh, some of the very well trained ones still get through, but today’s judges are more on the look out for disagreeable temperaments.
I have a friend who owns a champion group winning dog and she and I were talking about this very subject the other day. After a couple of days of showing, her dog becomes bored with it and is not enthusiastic about running around in circles anymore. Her dog has a marvelous temperament, but showing has never been high on his list of fun things to do.
I believe we can train dogs to be show dogs, but I don’t believe we can train all of them to be ‘exciting’ show dogs. There are show dogs and then there are “special” show dogs. What makes them special is their will to win. They have that “look at me, aren’t I special” kind of attitude. They ask for the win, and unless they ask for the win, they won’t be garnering any Select or Best in Show accomplishments. This is what makes them stand out from the rest. The other dog might even be the better dog, but unless he makes the judge take another look, he’ll get run over by the one who is asking for it.
Is this “will to win” type of personality born or made? I believe that they are born. In every litter, there are a few who stand out above all the rest in personality. These are the rascals in the litter. They’re lively and spunky and are usually the ones who are getting into trouble. They’re mischievous and full of life wanting to know about the world around them. They’re inquisitive and usually very smart. They have a will to please their master. Many times they are the alpha of the litter and are jealous and possessive for the owner’s affection. They are the ones that if they could talk would be saying, “Look at me, look at me.” They have that, “Well (ain’t) I somethin’ written all over them!”
Once you know that this is the one, the wise breeder starts teaching the puppy how to “double handle” by playing hide and seek with him. He teaches the puppy to seek him out; to look for him. He rewards him with treats and lots of love and affection and affirmations about how wonderful he is. This is the type of puppy that eats this stuff up. His main purpose in life is to please you.
To be a winner, the dog should be sound in temperament, but also have a lively happy kind of personality. I’ve pulled dogs from continuing their show career because they weren’t fond of the show ring. Two come to my mind. One was a drop dead gorgeous looking dog that would always attract the judges and crowds eye as soon as he stepped into the ring. Jimmy was showing him and told me he’d have no problem finishing him. Only thing is my dog had other ideas. A couple of times around the ring, and then he would no longer put out and instead of pulling out on the lead, decided running next to his handler was all he was going to do. Gorgeous dog…..awful show dog! Then I had a bitch that would rather run up to the judge, tail never stopped wagging as she greeted everyone, but a couple of times around the ring and she too stayed along side the handler rather than pull out in front of her. Both lovely animals but it wasn’t worth the aggravation for me to show them. Both good temperaments, but they would rather be home lying in front of the fireplace.
My rating: the dogs with the attitude: (4), sound dog, but no attitude: (2)