Maybe when you were growing up you always had a dog. Or maybe you were one of those kids that wished you had a dog. Whatever your circumstances were growing up you probably now own a dog or many dogs.
For most of us when we got our first German Shepherd, we just loved the breed and wanted to own one of them. He was going to be our friend, our watch dog and our buddy. He was going to be there for us when we got home from work. We could take him for rides in the car with us. We’d play ball with him in the park or even take him for a run on the beach. We’d go hiking with him and he’d even come with us when we went camping. I mean after all, isn’t this what people do with their canine companions?
So when did your interest grow from just owning a German Shepherd to wanting to train or show him? How did you discover there was such a thing as dog shows?
Do you remember your very first dog show? Did you go just to watch and observe or did you participate with a dog of your own? What were the people like back then? Were they friendly and welcoming? Was your first dog show a good experience?
My very first dog show was the most prestigious dog show in America. We went to Westminster at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Oh no, we weren’t showing. We just went to watch, to learn and to be educated. Didn’t we think we were something though? We already owned our first German Shepherd that we bought in a pet store. I mean isn’t that where everybody buys a dog? What’s a breeder? I never heard of them before. I just thought you bought a dog at a pet store or you went to the Humane Society and got yourself one. But we wanted a pure bred dog with papers so we bought our girl at the pet store.
It didn’t take us long to have our bubble burst about what a good German Shepherd looked like. We thought we had something special with our long coated black and silver girl. But we were soon to find out that “The only place you’d find a dog like that is in a pet store.” Yup that’s what a very known breeder told us who we met at that prestigious show in New York City all those years ago. Well we really weren’t heartbroken. We loved our dog and didn’t have any intention of letting her go. We continued taking her to obedience classes and we bought a show quality puppy from that very well known breeder that we met at Madison Square Garden. Long story short, he was a fear biter. So we placed the well bred dog and kept our black and silver long coated girl that we bought from the pet store. Her temperament was wonderful and we figured show dog or no show dog, she was a dog that we could be proud of.
Was I upset that this breeder sold me an inferior dog because he knew that we were novices and what the heck did we know anyway? Oh yes I was upset then because I had to place this youngster and even though his temperament was far from ideal, I still loved him and cried when he left. He went to someone that wanted his property guarded.
Looking back on it now, I realize it was a good thing because it taught me what a good dog is and one that isn’t. It taught me the difference between good and bad temperament. This dog’s conformation was not that of a show quality dog either. I know that now, but I didn’t then. I really thank this breeder now for opening the door for me. Because he sold me a bad quality dog didn’t turn me off to the breed. I knew there was something better out there for me and I wasn’t going to stop until I got it.
Our next show dog was indeed a true show dog. But alas he was from bloodlines at that time that was known to have produced the dreaded bloat. We lost our beloved show boy to this horrific disease at 2 ½ years of age. He went to doggie Heaven with seven points and a major to his credit. Somehow, I don’t think the Heaven’s was impressed.
We bred very few litters a year.....most of the time one to two litters was enough. Like all breeders, we bred some good ones and some mediocre ones. And like most breeders we had some show dog quality puppies but mostly pet quality puppies. We dealt with those people that came knocking on our doors looking for a pet for their little Johnny. We may have tossed and turned wondering if we should have let a certain puppy go before we realized his true potential. We cleaned up and we scooped up. We watered and we fed. We groomed and we trained. We won and we lost. We took home a trophy and blue ribbon one day, and another day we went home empty handed. And we never really learned how to say good bye even though popular belief would have us believing it gets easier with time. NOT!
So where did it all start for you? Was your experience a good one or a bad one? Did you have any mentors helping you or did you learn on your own? I was EXTREMELY fortunate that I had some wonderful people, many of them pillars of the breed guiding me in those early years. Many of them are no longer with us, but what they taught me and showed me remains with me to this day. All of these people in one way or another helped shape my future in this breed. I listened, I learned and I watched. I took what they taught me and formulated my own opinions about things. I am forever thankful to them for their guidance.
So this is how it all began for me. What about you? Would you do it all over again? Would you have done things differently? Would you have been just as contented owning a pet German Shepherd as you are owning a show dog?
My rating: Owning a pet or show dog: (4), Learning from mentors: (4), educating yourself about the breed: (4)