I used to love showing my dogs in conformation. In the beginning I went to the dog show just for fun and to spend time with my pet. I attended handling classes every week for many years. I went to handling seminars. I watched professional handlers and picked up tips. I went to UK and AU and watched how people there presented their Staffords I helped friends in other breeds to gain more experience. I showed to any judge without caring what they normally preferred because I was working on honing my own skills. My first show win I was told by other exhibitors that I won because I simply out handled them. It’s true. My dog was a pet. That is the point of this blog entry.
As time went on I became a lot pickier what I would walk into the ring with. I first stopped showing other peoples dogs if I didn’t think it could win BOB. Then I decided not to show dogs I had bred unless I felt they were worthy of a Specialty win under a Stafford breeder judge. I know where my dogs meet or fall from meeting our breed standard. I see all the nuances. I feel no need to ‘hide’ or ‘cover up’ faults I am not keen on just to win a ribbon or fake congratulations from other fanciers. It’s not important.
I feel strongly that unless you can dissect and see these faults and virtues in minute detail in your own dogs then you honestly have no business breeding. The exception is if you are working with mentors and you are learning still and if this is the case then you MUST have an open mind. You must be willing to see the issues pointed out to you, research those for yourself, determine whether or not they do exist and then work to change these faults in the future. None of that is done in a show ring.
In the show ring the best you can do is to understand how to present your exhibit to a judge who hopefully knows and understands the breed and how it relates to the written standard – and is willing to actually JUDGE to that standard. Most of the time the judge has 2 minutes to do that and many of them aren’t willing or able too. It seems it is easier for them to go with what they think is ‘safe’ and assume the professional handlers must have the best ones – right? That was in sarcasm font by the way.
There are times when a handler has a good dog. Sometimes it could be the best dog in the show ring. Many times it is not. There are other breeders like myself who only present their very best. Its not often these dogs are rewarded on a consistent basis. Oftentimes they are overlooked for handlers dogs. Handlers have a lot of skills. They get to practice 4-5 days a week all year long. They are skilled at showing statues and generic movement and flashy handling – ever see them hold the end of a long lead by two fingers while the dog stands perfectly still at the end of it? Looks so pretty doesn’t it. But…..how does that meet that dogs standard? Maybe it does. Maybe not. Maybe it’s just pretty.
Many of us serious Stafford breeders are growing weary of wasting our time, energy, education, and money on bringing good dogs into the ring. I personally have attended shows and looked around seeing a couple very competitive dogs and (wrongly as it turns out) thinking – that’s my competition – and more than that – that’s a dog to follow and he could be a good prospect to keep up my high standards in my breeding plans…..but most judges won’t find these superior dogs. They seem blinded by flash.
Why are entries down? Why are breeds going downhill? Why are poor temperaments rewarded? Why is fat and soft rewarded over fitness and strength? Lazy judges and political games. Thats why. Never mind the general lack of knowledge of canine structure. never mind the serious disinterest in learning breed type. Never mind not understanding good powerful effortless movement. What is the point of showing our best dogs? We already know what we have. We don’t need a stranger who lacks this knowledge to know what we already know.
I show because I am expected to show. Puppy buyers expect me to only breed from Champions. Champion titles in America mean nothing. NOW in sharp contrast – making a champion from ONLY showing in HUGE classes under only other breeder judges means a LOT and this is what we do. HUGE difference to beat 100 dogs under breeder judges and a handler dragging a dog show to show to show barely beating 5 dogs a weekend to title. Think about that.
AKC is a joke. There I said it. Most of us understand why I would say this too. What will it take for AKC to also see this and GREATLY improve their judge education and requirements? I suggest ongoing requirements of judges to continue to meet breeders and visit kennels and talk with breeders and find out the nuances. Most judges simply do not care and I have even been told condescending opinions by judges such as – “You don’t get where I am without knowing the breed” when I look at the dogs they selected and shake my head….walking away wondering what on earth they DO know.
Worse than that recently I overheard judges talking about how Stafford specialties bring over judges from UK and AU and how in their opinions this makes the Stafford breeders snobby. Worse than being called snobby (who cares, more sarcasm font) they went on to then say how these overseas judges don’t know anything at all and how they are terrible at judging. Why do they pick up feet? What are they doing with the coat? What are they doing with their hands on the head and muzzle and shoulders and rears? Why would they kneel down to watch movement? Why do they need to watch the entire down and back? Why are they making funny noises or dangling keys or dropping a ball? OH do you mean why do they ACTUALLY judge the dogs to the written breed standard? Is this the question?
I heard one judge say how breeder judges don’t even know movement or structure and only award heads and friends. 😂 Okay, so to you all breed judges who only award friends and handlers (don’t forget many judges were also once handlers) that’s different why??? Soo you mean for me to believe that a breeder judge from UK who has lived with Staffords for their entire lives, many of their parents also lived with Staffords, they see Staffords daily in the street, at ringcraft and at shows where the entries can get into the 100’s at times – you mean to tell me those people don’t know this breed? Seriously? Sorry – I simply cannot stop laughing except its not funny.
We do not breed often. We do not show in conformation as often as we used to. We mainly travel to the bigger specialty shows to show to breeder judges and breed specialists when possible. We also never require a puppy we sell to be shown. If we sell a show prospect, we may encourage the dog to be shown after full review between 10 months and 2 years. We always offer to show the dog ourselves and we offer to pay the expenses as well as mentor and teach ring procedures and handling skills. We help find classes and shows if the owner is interested. It’s not in our contract as mandatory.
That all being said the rings today are filled with pet quality Staffords. Yes, I said it. Many are thinking it but nobody speaks out. We must be choosier if we wish to truly be preserving the breed as we like to say we are. An American CH title means much less than it once did. It means so much more if the title is earned mainly from the large specialty shows. It means even more if ALL points earned are from breeder judges and specialists. And it means even more than that to me personally if the title is also earned from the BBE class at specialties, against a lot of competition.
So often today breeders require new owners to show their new puppy to its title under contract. This means some owners have the added expenses of paying handlers if they are not interested (or lack confidence) in doing it themselves. Staffords are paraded around rings 2-4 days a week for months on end in order to fulfill these contracts. This also means that oftentimes these dogs lack the temperaments, structure and type which makes a true Stafford champion. Once the title has been earned….well awarded….as earned means its deserving…then these contracts require the dogs to be bred and puppies often going back to (or names added as breeder/owner) the breeders. And the cycle begins again . . .
How on earth do people NOT see how this is damaging the breed, not helping it?! How can they get on FB and watch a live video each week and see all the out of balance, soft toplines, low on leg, overweight, out of condition, roach, no breed type, terrified, timid, sad or out of control dogs being strung up and sculpted into position to win that ribbon? Seriously? How can you not see this is a farce? And now AKC judges see so many of this type they think it’s correct. You cant even have a conversation with many of them these days to help them see the error of their ways. You cant even offer them a copy of the SBTCA Illustrated Breed Standard or the TSK Illustrated Breed Standard because they think they know all there is to know about this breed! How insulting!
Many of us have worked hard over many years to educate, learn, teach, read, study about the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. We live with them. We get hands on 100’s of them. We travel great distances to see as many as we can. We study pedigrees, we do rescue, we understand correct temperament, we own libraries filled with books on the breed. We live and breathe Staffordshire Bull Terriers . . . and yet the arrogance of some judges (and handlers) sadly now shapes the future of this breed.
This is a video showing the first steps to teaching leash walking in heel position. The puppies are 9.5 weeks old. I am about a week behind where I normally wish to be at this age but we have been very busy with work thankfully so catching up as I can. This is a Puppy Culture technique from the workbook Chapters 8-9-10. Thank you to Jodie B. for the idea of using the long cream cheese spoon trick instead of treats. It works much more easily for me too. All the puppies did so well.
Sure, there’s a lot to criticize here – handler error – but instead focus on what’s being done correctly and effectively and see how each puppy is focusing a little more with each distraction. We didn’t video the first session without a collar and using an adult dog in heel position and having the puppy follow along. This 2nd session used a collar first, then the leash but notice I haven’t yet picked it up. That comes tomorrow. Keeping each training session very short – watching each puppy to see how his attention span is to determine the length. Always using positive only in my voice inflection and tone, plus loads of praise and the clicker . . . . . and of course yummy cream cheese which is something they only get for the more difficult of training sessions.
So here you are waiting for a puppy from the breeder you have developed a relationship with after a lengthy search. You both have agreed that your expectations and theirs are a good match. You have passed the breeders detailed interviews, home checks, reference checks and enjoyed many lengthy conversations over the last few months or years possibly. Now what?
Now is the time for you, and your family, to continue the education you began when you first researched the breed you were seeking. Does your breeder offer mentoring and education materials? If so take advantage of these! I cannot stress enough that NOW is the time to immerse yourselves in any and all education materials offered to you.
Now is also the time to be proactive – reach out to your breeder and talk about questions, concerns you may have. Now is the time for all adults to speak to the breeder. Now is the time to discuss your childrens puppy experience. If they have none or only a little – educate your children now! Do NOT wait to bring a puppy home to teach your kids the correct and safe way to interact with puppies and adult dogs. Now is also not the time for bravado and machismo to take over. Your kids do not know everything you think they know. Explain to them the importance of being safe, gentle and kind to dogs. No screaming, sudden wild movements, no loud noises, no jerking, poking, pulling. Sit down to hold puppies. Be gentle with puppies. Teach your kids to be patient. A little good parenting now will pay off later. Your breeder is more concerned about the puppies experiences than your kids, trust me on that.
For our new owners, we have this incredibly detailed website chock full of articles, blog posts, book lists, puppy raisingprotocols, nutritional and natural rearing information, essential oils, health, exercise and training advice and more! Read about Breed Specific Legislation and Breed Bans. They exist and are very real. We give everyone a copy of the suggested exercise schedule written by Puppy Culture. We also upload 100’s of files pertaining to the breed, the litter, health testing documents, history and advice for our buyers to print, download and read on a FB group they have the link to. We have The Stafford Knot , rescue fund raiser pages and SBT Mentor websites and FB pages. These are excellent places to learn more about the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. We post a book list we suggest new owners to read from. We make suggestions on safe breed appropriate toys and warnings about those that can be ingested causing obstructions or broken teeth. We are here to answer any and all questions for the life of your dog so please – take advantage of this!
We suggest they join other groups on FB as well. Examples of these groups include a debates page where you can follow along with many topics pertaining to the breed from fellow owners in America. There is a page for Stafford Rescue and Re-homing which all SBT owners need to participate in. We need help with transport, breed ID and foster care. There are fun pages such as Stafford Ink where you can show off your SBT related tattoos.
Do it! Now. Now, before you take home a puppy.
We ask that all buyers purchase and watch Puppy Culture – you can live stream so its super convenient to watch anytime you have free time. You will want to follow along each week with your puppies PC experiences and by watching the videos it will make more sense to you and make it easy to continue when you bring home your new puppy. We ask buyers to go online and read past issues of The Stafford Knot online magazine to see photos and read about the history of this breed. The more you know now, the easier it will be later. I cannot repeat this advice strongly or often enough.