Shortly after being elected to serve as the Greenville Kennel Club’s AKC Delegate, Gloria Askins was elected by the AKC Delegate body to serve on the Field Trial and Hunt Test Committee. She hit the ground running, so to speak.
My girlfriend Gloria is a mover and a shaker. Since the early 1970s, Gloria has been in the show ring sporting around her Legacy Irish Setters. Her dogs have been shown and titled in Conformation, Hunt Test, Rally, CAT and FCAT. Gloria has been a member of the Irish Setter Club of America since 1978, and was a founding member of the Beckley West Virginia Kennel Club and the Carolina Irish Setter Club. For over two decades, she has been a member of the Potomac Irish Setter Club. Other affiliations include her membership in the Sandhills Pointing Breeds Club and the Murfreesboro Kennel Club. Her calendar is full!
When Doug Ljungren, AKC Executive Vice President of Sports and Events, invited Gloria to his Oak Hill Farms to participate in the first of what I hope will be many such captivating learning experiences, she was excited! Gloria wrote about the day for “Perspectives,” the AKC Delegate newsletter. I want to thank them for allowing me to share her article with you.
“Meet the Breeds in the Field”
“In recent years we have all heard people use the phrase ‘Purpose Bred Dogs’ or ‘Preservation Breeders.’ As someone who has discussed this subject with many breeders, judges, and handlers, I’ve come to realize people have interpreted this many different ways. On the most basic level, ‘Purpose Bred’ is about preserving and enhancing form and function.
We need to ask ourselves two questions:
1) Why did the founders of our breeds consider particular traits so important as to specify them for ALL future breeders to strive for and ensure they are never lost?
2) How can we as breeders and judges today best meet our obligation to pass them on to future generations of dog owners?
We all study written standards and talk to experienced breeders, but it is not always easy to understand nuances and discern exactly what is required without being able to observe the dogs doing what they were originally intended to do. In this case, hunt, point, and retrieve upland game birds. It would be nice if all breeders and judges would seek out opportunities to do this, but it is not always easy to do.
The idea behind Meet the Breeds in the Field is to demonstrate the interdependency of form and function. This concept is so basic to explaining the value of purebred dogs that it should be an essential component of AKC’s overall messaging and branding efforts. Doug Ljungren, AKC Executive Vice President for Sports and Events, believed this important lesson could be captured in a video, provided the right dogs and the right conformation experts could be assembled at the right location to allow the dogs to showcase their abilities.
It was decided to invite the fifteen most popular pointing breeds to this unique event. The Performance Events Department asked the Parent Clubs to select their breed representative(s).
AKC conformation judge Michael Faulkner was enlisted to help viewers understand the ‘form’ of the pointers, and AKC Judge and Board member Karolynne McAteer agreed to explain the ‘form’ of the four setters. AKC Field Director for Pointing Breeds, Tom Maneely, was there to help Doug provide a play-by-play commentary of the field work. The production team decided to keep things interesting by using drones and go-pros as well as conventional cameras for the filming.
In mid-November it was time to put the idea to the test. The entire group gathered at Oak Hill Farm in north central North Carolina. The weather was perfect and the owners were excited to represent their breed and do their part to bring this concept to life.
In the first part of the video, Michael helps viewers understand form by explaining the general characteristics all pointing breeds have in common. He and Karolynne then introduce us to each of the breeds by describing their primary breed-specific characteristics. After the ‘form’ segment of the video was complete, Doug provided an important reminder and perfect segue into the field portion of the video by saying: ‘There is more to a great hunting dog than meets the eye. There are inbred traits that you can only learn about by working with a dog… things like desire, intelligence, trainability, toughness, concentration, and that balance between independence and being a team player. These traits are important for success in the field and should be a consideration in any breeding program.’
The second portion of the video follows ten ‘braces’ of dogs (two dogs at a time) into the field. We see how the different breeds hunt and point birds while Tom and Doug provide interesting and educational insight into what we are watching. Doug informs the audience that AKC’s first two sports were conformation and field trials. Providing insight into the enduring value of both form and function, Doug adds, ‘This wasn’t a coincidence. Even 138 years ago, owners and breeders were seeking a structured way to evaluate both the form and function of working breeds.’
‘Meet the Breeds in the Field’ on one level is interesting and educational. It also provides a deeper message for those serious purebred owners and breeders that view their dogs in the context of time and purpose.
Maintaining and enhancing form and function is what purpose-bred dogs are all about.
The AKC provides responsible owners and breeders the means to evaluate form (conformation shows) and function (field trials/hunting tests).
Purpose-bred dogs were not developed in a generation. Thoughtful breeders have been working at it for hundreds of years. Today we are the fortunate ones that have inherited these gifts.
As responsible breeders and judges, it is our obligation to pass on these treasures to future generations of dog owners.
Thank you to Doug Ljungren and the AKC for this thoughtful message and the unique opportunity to take a closer look at both the form and function of the pointing breeds. It serves to focus us and remind us of our responsibilities to the future of purpose-bred dogs.”
The video will be completed early this spring and will be made available to all interested clubs. Inquires can be directed to PreformanceEvents@akc.org.
Participant Michael Faulkner summed it up to me:
“Meet the Pointing Breeds” was a truly remarkable experience with Doug Ljungren. It’s nice that there is AKC interest in Form-Follows-Function, and there is an opportunity to educate and showcase show dogs who perform the task they were bred to do.”