Segregation of working and show lines by Peter Lewis

Created: 23/05/2012

Some things and, certainly, institutions seem to be there for ever, yet truly we all know that nothing is forever. Everything changes over time. For instance, once there was no Kennel Club yet it has seemed for a very long time that this particular institution had been there forever and was unassailable. As a person who enjoys stability, for it seems to bring order from what might otherwise be chaos, I have been happy to be part of the KC system and, indeed, over the years I have worked hard to persuade others that this was the way to go in the competition world of dog training.
I suppose it was natural that I should gravitate onto councils and then committees. At Clarges Street I never played the rebels part yet never sought influence or power for the sake of kudos. Naively I always had that silly old-fashioned idea that perhaps I could improve the world of dogs. Of course, my interests being confined to dog training issues, I had little contact with the breed side which has for years been the main stay of matters KC. Therefore I always assumed those knowledgeable people who made the decisions about breed matters knew what they were doing. That is not to say that there were times when I worried about the working abilities of breeds bred for that very purpose, and for many years some working abilities appeared to be under threat.
All in all the KC seemed to be in good shape and agility has been for some years a main part of KC activities and miles apart from the furore about breed health issues first dragged before the general public on Pedigree Dogs Exposed. From there all my preconceptions have gone down hill and for someone who can be classed as an outsider to breed matters, the ruling body I have supported for so long seems also on the way down.
That feeling was confirmed when I read two different columnists in DW April 27. One headline was, Is the world of dogs at crisis point? Bad enough perhaps, then two pages later the headline The death of purebred dogs? I am sure that these two articles published in the same issue were co-incidental in content but they confirmed my worries.


Different types

While our KC was founded by gundog people it seems that all is far from well with many breeds and so I come back to the dog training aspect. Apart from all the furore about health issues, how is it that we have had two different shapes of German Shepherd Dogs over the years? In one of my own favoured breeds, there have been two different types of Labradors, the working type and the show type. That also applies to Border Collies, my other favourite. I am not going to say which is right or wrong for I do not have the expertise, however, I just point out that both factions cannot be right. Naturally I lean towards the working bred type for what else would a dog trainer do? However, if someone spends their life breeding and showing dogs, which way would we expect them to lean?
Therefore as a working man if I wanted a collie for agility work I would certainly purchase a puppy from good working stock. However, others might say my choice was not a good looking specimen of the breed. My black Labrador is from a hundred years of breeding for the gun. She is lithe and loves nothing better than using her nose at 100 miles an hour and pleasing me. Her larger cousins of the same breed to be found on the show benches do not look the same and do not resemble the breed I grew up with. Also, while I have no proof that I am correct, they do not look fit for a dayís work with a gamekeeper. So we have these differences, and in the latter two breeds I mentioned perhaps the differences could be described as minor compared with a few others. OK so I might be wrong, but it is a great shame that these differences cannot be ironed out so that we all sing the same words.
Our sport of agility of course features greatly the collie, but in this country we finished up with two different breeds of collie largely because our KC wanted all breeds to be able to participate in dog training competitions. Our KC should take great credit for that move but the effect was two types of collie with the Working Sheepdog being for collie types without one or more pieces of paper.
Once agility went global, with the FCI being the prominent international body, they still stuck to their purebred breeds only rule, originally brought about because their only interest was breed showing. Mind you, they did face quite a lot of pressure so they came up with a sop for those who believe all dogs were created equal and changed the qualification rules for the European Open competition. Not the big one of course, as the FCI World Championships is still for purebred dogs only and therefore segregation is still being practised.


Solo ambition

So it just seems to me that everything is in turmoil because we, the people in dogs, have not stood together doing what was right. Or perhaps the whole problem has been the prize card and rosettes that became the creed of the dog game, the be-all and end-all, and therefore whatever faction we belonged to we would constantly push the limits in an endeavour to get the red one. Letís face it, many of us have discovered ways of manipulating the rules or conventions at any given time and then defended our own corners and not looked after the interests of our best friends who do not have a say in these matters. Who knows what will happen in the future? While agility is relatively free from criticism at the moment, will that always be the case? Accuracy combined with speed is our game and these two factors will always be manipulated if possible.
Maybe one day we will all pull in the same direction while using the same set of words, as we sing a different creed.