Interview with Carma & Galen Ewer, Breeders of Carmel Miniature Schnauzers
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What is your breed? What is your kennel name? Do you have a website? How long have you been in dogs? How long have you been breeding dogs? Who are some of your best-known dogs?
My husband, Galen, and I have been breeding Miniature Schnauzers for almost 50 years. Our first schnauzer was a Valentine’s Day present from him, and we have lived and loved Miniature Schnauzers ever since. I have held several club offices, including President of the American Miniature Schnauzer Club, and have served on the Board for many years. This year I will begin a new four-year term on the Board.
Galen and I currently live in Sandy, Utah, but we have lived and been active with our schnauzers in other states, including Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Georgia. Our kennel name is Carmel, and yes, we do have a website: carmelminiatureschnauzers.com, although we have trouble keeping it up to date and the Facebook page is much more active. Our dogs have won more than 50 Bests in Show over the years, with our best-known dog being “Twink,” GCHP Carmel Sky High Wish Upon A Star. She is the top-winning Miniature Schnauzer in AKC history with 35 Bests in Show. But one of our biggest accomplishments is the group of new exhibitors that we have mentored over the years.
As a Breeder, can you share your thoughts on your breed today? Is breed type strong? Are there things to be concerned about? Are there any health-related issues? Have you worked with breeders overseas? Are pet homes typically available for your breed?
At nearly every show there is a good specimen in the ring. Most exhibitors understand the importance of conditioning and grooming, and I think as a whole, the breed is healthy and very competitive. I do have some concerns about breed type, particularly with balance. I think, as breeders, we often get too concerned about a certain trait or quality that we are looking for and forget that a well-bred dog should be balanced and built to perform the original purpose of the breed. Our dogs need long rib cages, but short loins, to protect their vital organs while pulling varmints out of holes. As farm dogs and family companions, these qualities, along with the confident, outgoing personality, are extremely important.
We have worked with breeders in many countries and our dogs are behind some of the top-winning dogs in Canada, China, and Japan. Our breeding program is very limited. Our dogs are all housepets and live with us as a family. Finding good pet homes is easy with this breed. They are smart, happy, easy dogs to live with and do well with families and retired couples.
The biggest concern currently is the continuous decline of breeders and exhibitors. As the long-time exhibitors “age out,” fewer people are stepping up to take their place. Miniature Schnauzers are a hard breed to groom, requiring a long learning curve, and many people willing to enter the world of dog shows are looking for an easier breed. Sadly, numerous local Miniature Schnauzer clubs have closed in such major population centers such as Atlanta and Chicago, as have regional clubs such as Colorado. There are more that are struggling.
Overall, Miniature Schnauzers are a healthy breed, but like humans, they are subject to health problems due to inactivity, excess weight, poor tooth care, etc. The American Miniature Schnauzer Club has a health committee that is aware of some concerns within the breed, but it has not identified wide-spread issues for the membership to monitor.
As an Exhibitor, can you comment on recent entries in your breed? Are majors available in your area? Does your breed often participate in Companion and Performance events? How can newcomers in your breed be encouraged to join the sport of dogs?
Entries in our breed are down from the past. When we first started traveling to Montgomery County years ago, it was not uncommon to have more than 100 Mini Schnauzers entered. An Open Bitch Class would have 20-plus entries. Now at our National Specialties, we are happy with 60 and our Regional Specialties often struggle for majors. AKC has lowered the number of dogs needed for a major because of lower entries over the years. I can understand a lower number for a 3-point major in order to give exhibitors a fair chance to find majors, but lowering the number required for 4- and 5-point majors eliminates the prestige of a “5” -point major and finishes some dogs too quickly.
I live in the Mountain West. We have few dog shows in our local area, and it is not uncommon for us to drive 8-plus hours one way for a dog show weekend. Rising gas prices are also making showing prohibitive for many people. I remember when we first started showing our dogs, before kids, we would load our van on Thursday night, go to work on Friday, and then leave right after work for the dog shows. Arriving late, showing dogs Saturday and Sunday, and then driving home to go to work on Monday.
With four- and five-day circuits, I don’t really know how someone with a full-time job could have enough time away from work to show dogs. I think that this is a big problem and is demonstrated by the fewer number of people exhibiting. However, as a Show Chair of an all-breed show, we have also had to go to three days with Specialties added just to attract enough professional handlers for the club to continue. So, it is a problem within our sport. Finding a happy medium between encouraging new exhibitors who are young and working, and providing longer circuits to make showing dogs more economical.
The bright spot has been the NOHS competition. This program has created an avenue for owner handlers to do what they enjoy—working closely with their dogs, finding ways to improve their showing/handling ability, and in breeds like ours, to fine-tune the grooming techniques.
I think that all-breed Conformation clubs can really help the sport by offering more activities for exhibitors and their dogs. Dock Diving, Fast CAT, and other Performance events and AKC activities would give more exhibitors a chance to compete with their dogs. And I think we need to start looking at the way people live and show their dogs. With so many cities and towns adding dog limits, exhibitors are doing more with their dogs and breed less often. So, there are fewer puppies coming up, and more exhibitors looking for fun things to do with their dogs.
What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole and how can we address them? And finally, what are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in your breed and in the dog show community as a whole over the past decade?
I probably have addressed most of the issues in the previous answers. A lot of our breed and all-breed clubs are struggling for members, and especially, working volunteers. We are “aging out” without younger exhibitors and members stepping up to fill the holes. I’m not sure how to solve that problem, but we need to find a way to be more welcoming to new exhibitors and encourage preservation breeders to pass on their knowledge and bloodlines to a new generation of exhibitors. We have seen such great caring and good sportsmanship in our breed over the years. Most exhibitors, new and old, seem to care about our sport and their dogs.