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Melissa Newman | Setter Ridge Kennel English Setters

Melissa Newman

Interview with Melissa Newman, Breeder of Setter Ridge Kennel English Setters

    1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder? What is your kennel name?
    2. What is your “process” for selecting show puppies? Performance puppies?
    3. In your opinion, is your breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
    4. As a Preservation Breeder, can you share your thoughts on the sport today? How’s the judging these days? What do you think about the number of shows?
    5. In your opinion, is social media good for the sport? Is it harmful?
    6. What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole today and how can these be addressed?
    7. What are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in the sport over the past decade?

1. It is an honor to be included with other Sporting Group breeders dedicated to preserving their breeds. My name is Melissa Newman, Setter Ridge Kennel, English Setters. I live on an Island off of Washington State. I have been involved in the sport of dogs for 52 years. I started professionally boarding dogs when I was eight years old and by the time I turned twelve years old I was professionally training Working dogs and Sporting dogs, both advanced Obedience, hunting training, and retrieving. I purchased my first Setter with my own money at twelve years of age and competed in Obedience and 4-H. At eighteen, I purchased my first show quality English Setter. I have competed in Obedience Trials and trained Setters through Utility, and have trained and competed with them in Hunt Tests to earn several Master Hunter Titles. I have trained and competed in AKC Field Trials to earn several Field Championships and Amateur Field Championships, and I’ve competed in Specialties and National Specialties and have won both the American and Canadian Nationals as well as many All-Breed Bests in Show. I’m a producer of over 25 All-Breed Best in Show dogs in many countries, over 200 American Champions, and many National Specialty winners and High in Trial Obedience dogs, Field Trial Champions, and Dual Champions as well as Certified Therapy Dogs, Rally, Scent, Barn Hunt, Fast CAT, Service Dogs, 4-H dogs, and some of the top Junior Showmanship dogs.

2. Because I believe a dog should be able to function in what they were bred to do, it is very important to me that English Setters are hunters as well as beautiful and have excellent movement. Hunting for hours every day takes a correctly built dog. When I grade my puppies, I look for balance, good muscle tone, strong toplines, and strong fronts and rears. I believe an English Setter should flow smoothly from the head all the way through the tip of the tail. The tail should not be high and coming over the back; it should be an extension of the topline. Heads should be brick-shaped and very pleasing to look at, with no harshness in the eyes. A good show puppy should have drive and confidence as well as being birdy.

3. My concerns for the breed would be high tail carriages and lack of strong, correct movement. This is a Sporting dog that should be able to hunt all day for days on end.

4. I worry that judges are too influenced by what other judges are doing rather than judging to the Breed Standard. I am always impressed when a judge has the guts to put up the best-moving and typey dog in the ring and not worrying about its popularity. That seems much more rare these days. More education on breed function and how important it is to have sound dogs would be good, and to encourage judges rather than berate them for not putting up the popular dog. I think social media ads to this problem. I don’t have a problem with a lot of shows, but it has always been harder for people in Western states to get to as many shows as the Eastern states. I do feel that Sporting dogs move better outside in bigger rings.

5. I believe social media can be harmful for our sport, as judges can be chastised publicly for not putting up the favorite dog. However, it can be a positive for educating people about breeds, breed type, what a breed was bred to do, and what the temperament of the breed is like.

6. We are losing new people in our breed, as people tend to show their dog to Grand Championships and they don’t get a new dog to show in the classes. So, instead of trying to pursue a better dog that can be competitive with the Breed winner, they just compete for Grand Championships and are satisfied with those titles. On the flip side, it has given people who can’t get a second dog an opportunity to show them to their Grand Championship and show them in the Owner-Handled competition. Sometimes I think people feel like they can’t beat the top-winning dog, but I think they can if they have the better dog, and train it to perfection and show it to perfection. It takes work to make a good dog a big-winning dog.

7. I think adding more performance events has given more people positive things to do with their dogs. I feel the Owner-Handled Group has encouraged more owners to show their own dogs and enjoy the sport.