To mutual benefit

By: Simon Parsons


To mutual benefit

IN A RECENT Kennel Gazette Mark Cocozza, in addition to his interesting thoughts about how we should publicise breeders’ commitment to producing healthy dogs, mentions another topic about which he feels strongly – and it’s one I’ve mentioned before in this column.

  He feels disappointed that more British exhibitors do not do what happens in many other countries and allow keen young people to have the opportunity of campaigning their dogs, to mutual benefit.

  This was something I noticed on my last visit to Australia where many of the leading kennels, their owners perhaps not so agile as they used to be, allow younger people to take their dogs in the ring, often with spectacular results. And indeed this is also quite a feature of the Scandinavian show scene.

  And isn’t it true to say that this is becoming more prevalent in Britain too? I’m sure you don’t need me to quote the names of several of the late teens and twenties generation (and a few considerably younger) who have made quite a mark over the last two or three years – several of them featured high at group level at Crufts this year and others at subsequent shows.

  Certainly anyone who fears that they might lose out on a win if the judge doesn’t know whom the dog belongs to need not worry – one hopes that the vast majority will actually judge the dog, and any who need to know which dog is which will quickly work it out anyway!

  One of the difficulties in attracting young people to maintain their interest in the sport has always been the lack of opportunities for those who are no longer ‘junior handlers’.

  As they go into further education, develop other interests, have the stress of finding a job, accommodation and so on, and then perhaps starting their own family, it becomes understandable that their practical involvement in the world of dogs gets harder to maintain. In all too many cases youngsters from a good doggy background, who were once really keen, never return to the dog scene.

  But if other exhibitors are prepared to let them present and handle their dogs there is surely a chance that they will continue their enthusiasm for our world and when time and circumstances eventually permit, start breeding and showing their own dogs.

  Of course, for many senior exhibitors continuing to handle their own dogs is what keeps them interested and involved, and one would hate to see a situation where only the very fit were able to compete at top level. That is perhaps more of an issue overseas where some judges seem to want all breeds to rush around the ring at top speed whether or not that suits that particular breed’s gait.

  Nevertheless there is an increasing number of examples in this country where what is effectively a partnership (even if not an officially recorded one) between a long-term experienced, talented breeder/exhibitor and keen young handler has proved mutually beneficial.