Like many of you, I was glued to my television this week for two nights watching the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. While listening to the commentary, I thought that I heard one of the announcers say that there was only one Best in Show winner ever from the Herding Group. Wow….why was that I wondered? So I just went onto the Westminster Kennel Clubs website and did some investigation. Now remember, the Herding Group was held for the first time at Westminster in 1983. Prior to that, the German Shepherd Dog along with some of the other breeds came from the Working Group. For a little trivia….the Germans Shepherd was known as the German Sheep Dog from 1908-1918 and as the Shepherd Dog from 1919-1931.
As I continued my investigation, I found the chart that showed how many Best in Show dogs ever won from the Herding Group. The Herding Group was only awarded this honor four times! Of those four times, three of those dogs received that award while they were in the Working Group. The fourth dog to win Best in Show from this group was the German Shepherd Dog and when he won it, he won it from the Herding Group, not while he was still in the Working Group. That said then, the German Shepherd Dog is the ONLY herding dog to win it from this group! Why does this group not get the same recognition as the other groups I wondered? Looking over the past Working Groups Best in Shows, they have to their credit 15 wins! 19 Best in Show wins from the Sporting Group, Hound Group has four wins, 45 wins over in the Terrier Group, nine wins from the Toy Group, and ten in Non-Sporting. Those feisty little terriers certainly know how to charm the judges!
So it looks like the Herding Group and the Hound Group are running neck in neck for the least amount of Best in Show winners honoring their breeds. The German Shepherd Dog has had 14 Group Wins at Westminster which is a nice record for our breed.
Right now the German Shepherd Dog is listed as the second most popular breed according to the American Kennel Club 2009 dog registration statistics. The Labrador Retriever holds the number one spot. In my life time, I’ve never seen the German Shepherd Dog not be in the top five most registered dogs. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them slip down below the number 4 position.
There is very little that you can ask of this dog that he won’t be able to deliver. We all know of their heroic contributions in war times. Many times when we see pictures of natural disasters, it is not uncommon to see a German Shepherd’s nose to the ground sniffing out a helpless person that’s buried under the rubble. His search and rescue efforts are numerous. Time and time again we see this dog in the cities Police departments. He is used as a narcotics and bomb detecting dog. We also know that this dog has been used throughout the years as a top Seeing Eye dog for the blind. He’s been a “movie star” in so many Hollywood productions that it would take pages and pages to list them all. He’s a herder of sheep, a therapy dog for the sick and lonely, a guardian of home and property, a babysitter for our kids, and a "demander" of a spot in our heart! Could any other breed of dog have such an illustrious resume?
Then someone questioned if this is one of the most wonderful breed of dogs, how come they don’t win more Best in Shows at Westminster? Quite simply, they are not judged on their accomplishments OUTSIDE of the ring. All of their heroics, all of their contributions to making man’s life easier are pushed aside. When they step into this arena, they are judged on structure, movement, temperament and breed type. The judge is looking for the dog that he considers being the closest to that dog’s breed standard. I personally feel like many other breeder/exhibitors do, that many times the dogs winning record precede him into the show ring at a level of a show as Westminster. We are watching some of the top winning dogs in the country compete at this most prestigious of dog shows. Personally, I would love to see a major upset at this show….that is where the top winning dog in the country whose owners and handler experts to win loses to the a dog that no one expected to take the top honor! Wouldn’t that be something? I am and have always been the champion of the underdog! Wouldn’t it be fun to be surprised? When I hear the announcer say that we are watching the top winning dog in the country and then he goes Best in Show…..well, where’s the excitement in that unless you are the dog’s owner of course?!
There have been some top winning German Shepherds in the United States that have won many Best in Show awards at the All Breed shows. And yet, only one of them won Best in Show at Westminster all the way back in 1987……the great showman…….Manhattan! I’d love to see it happen again! Manhattan like previous Best in Show winners brought his show winning record along into the ring with him so he was not an unheard of dog. He was very well known and very well loved. He had the crowd support on that wonderful night and he stepped it up and the more the crowd applauded, the more the dog responded and showed his little old heart out. Was he the greatest German Shepherd champion that ever lived? No, perhaps he wasn’t. But on that night, he challenged those hardened hearts and non believers and even those few had to admit this dog asked for it, wanted it, and knew he owned that arena and that crowd and ultimately the Best in Show honors!
I think that is why this years winner although certainly a deserving champion, did nothing to excite me. It was like; “Ho hum, another dog show”…….I didn’t feel this dog as previous dogs have done……asked for it. He never seemed to get caught up in the crowd’s enthusiasm and excitement and it was like this was just another dog show to him.
And speaking of that…….some of the dogs at the show seemed so bored. There was a program on Monday night following the Westminster's presentation. It was very interesting showing some of the past winners and also different dog shows across the country. One thing I noticed was that some of these dogs looked so bored. It was like the dog show was all they ever really knew. I wondered how many of them ever chased a ball, played with children or for that fact was ever taken out of a kennel except to go to a dog show. Now mind you, many of these dogs are member’s of their owners families, but I couldn’t help wonder about some of the others.
In my opinion, I must say that our breed was very well represented at this years Westminster with some top quality champions. They were all lovely and must have done their owners and breeders proud. Congratulations to one and all! Oh well, I can’t wait until next year to see which German Shepherd will win the breed and who knows what? Will there be another Best in Show winner in our breed's future? Will it be in my lifetime? Is there a future Westminster Best in Show German Shepherd lying by someone’s feet right now? Can’t wait to see him/her!
From today's book selection: "The Joy of Breeding Your Own Show Dog": Back by popular demand - the only breeding book endorsed by top breeders. "There are many books on breeding dogs, but Ann's book is so on-target and comprehensive that it has become a bible among successful breeders. The news that Howell is making this modern classic available again is to the benefit of both new and future generations of aspiring breeders."-- From the new Foreword by Wendell J. Sammet, The American Kennel Club's first Breeder of the Year (2002)
My rating: German Shepherds are the best inside or outside the ring:(4), "The Joy of Breeding Your Own Show Dog": (4)