Let’s Talk About The Sporting Group

We asked the following questions to various experts involved with the breeding & showing of dogs in the Sporting Group. Below are their responses, which are taken from the June 2019 issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe



  1. Where do you live? How many years in dogs? What do you do “outside” of dogs? Any other hobbies or interests?
  2. Current overall quality of the Group?
  3. Most of these breeds were developed for particular (and almost always outdoor) purposes but now find themselves leading primarily indoor, air-conditioned lives. How do you think Sporting Dogs have adapted to this change?
  4. Any particular challenges Sporting Dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate?
  5. What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion in these 21st-century times?
  6. What advice would you give a newcomer to the sport?
  7. What’s the largest health concern facing your breed today?
  8. Any trends you see that you believe need to continue? Any you’d like to see stopped?
  9. To whom do you owe the most? In other words, which mentor helped you the most as you learned the ropes? 
  10. Biggest pitfall awaiting new and novice judges? 
  11. And for a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing experience you’ve ever had at a dog show?
  12. And of course anything else you’d like to share would be welcome.



Sarah Armstrong

I live in Toledo, Ohio. I received my first show dog in 2001, my second Gordon as my first was a retired CH. Outside of dogs I have a full time job in outside sales and sit on the board of The Toledo Kennel Club. My hobbies include dogs and photography.

Current overall quality of the Group: in my area we have a very strong sporting group! Highly competitive in the group and the owner handler group as well.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to living primarily indoor lives? I think quite easily in my breed. The Gordon Setter is ready to go when you are but quite content to lounge around with you. We do get outside for a good romp and game of fetch on a daily basis but what I love most about the breed is how they are big mushy lap dogs!

I fear for our sporting dogs with the AR people out there. We are already seeing laws in states about docking and banning hunting altogether. And in my state there is a law about breeding that labels the hobby breeder as a pet store. Luckily that interpretation of the law is being reviewed but if put into place could have huge ramifications on breeders.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion: their eagerness to please, their wanting to just be with you no matter what!

Advice to a newcomer: ask questions! Find a mentor and go to handling classes! I repeat, go to handling classes!

The largest health concern today: in all breeds, cancer.

Know your breed and your standard. In my breed I am seeing topcoats that almost look shaved down. These are Scottish dogs from the highlands, they have longer coats for a reason. I’m seeing more and more topcoats that are entirely too short in my opinion. If it looks like its been shaved, it’s too short.

I have so many mentors! My breeders first of all, my handling instructor, Nancy Harris and of course Eileen Hacket! Eileen is always willing to help and answer questions, even now!

The biggest pitfall for judges is the dogs in the ring! Remember that you have height variances in your standards. A dog that is shorter than others in your ring could be well within the standard for that breed but I see them getting passed over because they are shorter than the others. Know the standards and know the 
height recommendations!

The most amusing thing at a dog show: it’s 100 degrees, I had two dogs entered at a specialty. I chose to not show one of the boys. We get to the ring and find out that several people had pulled so the major had broken by one. My friend, co-breeder and co-owner looked at me and said “Go get your dog!” Her dog needed a major to finish and had gone WD the previous day. So I run back to our set-up, get my boy out of his crate, grab a leash and run back to the ring, did I mention it was 100 degrees that day? Her dog went WD to finish and mine RWD (brothers).


Wendy Bockman

Wendy was a horse crazy kid who grew up showing her pony and horses in 4-H. She graduated from Cook College-Rutgers University with a degree in Animal Science and worked during college and a few years after at several vet clinics as a tech. After meeting and marrying Ed, they raised their three daughters with a love of all animals. Wendy and the girls showed and raised Quarter Horses and Half Arabians. Wendy’s first show dog was a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Simba who decided he preferred to stay home with “his girls” to watch over them instead of going to shows. In 2006 Ed said he wanted a dog for bird hunting and a good friend offered us an Irish Red & White Setter puppy. After discussing it with the breeder we brought home Rylee and then a year later Toir was imported from Argentina. In 2009 when the IRWS received full recognition from AKC, we jumped feet first into showing and boy did we have a lot to learn. Our first litter was born in January of 2009 and we have learned so much along the way since then. Wendy gets to use her experience as a horse breeder and vet tech along with all the research that she and the girls do to raise the best puppies we can and we are constantly looking to improve such as adding the Puppy Culture program to our puppy raising technique. Wendy also handles many of the dogs in the show ring and assists Ed with his field training as she also enjoys running the dogs in Junior Hunt tests and has finished the title on several of the dogs herself.

Ed has always been an avid hunter, growing up in a large family and hunting with his father for birds and deer when he was growing up. When raising the kids he always had his fall hunting trips for a vacation from all the hard work at home and at his jobs. He currently works for a major pharmaceutical company and enjoys his time at home to work on field training and hunting with all of our dogs. He enjoys introducing each new litter to birds and evaluating which ones would be best suited for hunting homes. When he’s not building things for the dogs or training them you can find him at the game lands or the hunting preserve usually with Rylee 
or Emerald. He also has put most of the hunt test passes on the dogs with the ladies filling in when he has to work.

We live in eastern Pennsylvania. We have been breeding and showing since 2009. My husband, Ed, hunts with our dogs and I enjoy photography. Our daughters Lindsay and Rachel are both nurses who show and help raise puppies around their work schedules. They are the primary handlers for our dogs.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor lives? Our dogs do get to hunt and we also have eight acres of property for them to run on daily. The pups that we place in companion homes adapt well as long as the family is active and they involve the dog in daily exercise.

Challenges that breeders face currently: mostly people are positive about sporting breeds but there are the occasional people that are anti-hunting. One time someone on Facebook asked me to stop posting photos of our dogs with dead birds because it was upsetting them and they would leave the page if we didn’t stop. I politely told her that our dogs hunt and that this is what they do so perhaps she would be happier not following our page.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion? Sporting dogs are inherently intelligent and affectionate. They enjoy doing whatever their owners are doing whether that is watching TV or going for a hike.

Advice to a newcomer: find a breeder that you get along with and do research on the breed you are interested in. Ask to be mentored. If you put in the time and show you are serious we’ll take you seriously and you will go far.

The biggest health concern today: Irish Red & White Setters are generally a healthy breed, but as with all dogs there are some issues with cancer, usually in older age, and we need to be sure that breeding stock doesn’t have thyroid issues before breeding from them. That’s not something we want to cause an increase in.

We are seeing more people getting involved in hunting with their dogs, especially women and that is so wonderful. We have to be careful to not allow our breed to be split into two types, ie bench and field. So far there’s not a big difference and many of the dogs being shown also hunt but we need to be sure it stays that way.

I owe the most to Anna Jones, Paterjay Irish Setters and Irish Red & White Setters. She doesn’t live too far from us and has been very helpful over the years with evaluating our litters and 
giving advice.

The biggest pitfall for new judges: please read the standard and don’t expect our Irish Red & White Setters to look the same as the other setter breeds.

The most amusing thing at a dog show: my daughter Lindsay had taken our girl Fallon to shows in Pennsylvania and I had gone with Rachel to W. Springfield with Fallon’s brother Fagan. The first day Fallon had received her second group placement, a 4th. The second day my daughter Rachel had gotten a call from Lindsay and she along with some other friends from other breeds all came walking over to me, apparently they all wanted to see the look on my face when Rachel told me that Fallon had won the group. I literally started hyperventilating and they all got a real kick out of my reaction.

Having been involved in our breed for over a decade we have bred over 25 Champions as well as finishing championships on many others that we imported or purchased from other breeders. We enjoy watching our dogs in the field and raising puppies that are excellent ambassadors for our breed everywhere that they go. We are very excited about Fallon’s daughter P!nk who recently finished her Championship at the National Specialty, and we are looking forward to her taking over as Fallon eases into retirement from the show ring.

The photo is of Fallon, the first Platinum GCH in our breed. GCHP Truly Gotta Have Faith BN JH CGCA TKI, The hunting picture was a week after she won BOB at Westminster.


LaDanna Bostwick

Firewater Labradors is located in the mountainous region of Northern Arizona. Our small town is nestled in the beauty, serenity and privacy of the Kaibab National Forest.

I was born and raised in Broken Bow, Oklahoma to a working commercial farming and ranching family. I’ve been involved in some form of animal husbandry my entire life, I will always be grateful for an upbringing that was surrounded by animals. I started learning about the Conformation of animals and showing at six years old, when I showed my first of many Hampshire pigs at our local county fair. I made the sale with my pig that year. Awarded Best Junior Showmanship, I was hooked! I also have shown sheep and horses, and have appreciated a beautiful well-bred animal my entire life. Any animal doing its job is a beautiful thing to me.

Our family was also a big rodeo family. Every weekend we could get away from the farm, we were at a rodeo, where I participated in barrel racing starting at five years old. In my teen years, someone gave us a male black Labrador, Buddy. Well-bred, he was a handsome boy with the epitome of a Labrador temperament. Buddy was our family dog, and oh did he love us! He excelled in that area and lying on the front porch. I think it’s safe to say—Buddy made an everlasting impression on me.

My husband, Tom, and I share six children and three grandchildren together. I had a wonderful 20 year career working as a Registered Nurse, specializing in pediatric critical care for special-needs children, and retired in 2017. Tom is a Veteran and served 25 years in law enforcement before retiring. I am thankful that Tom also enjoys and supports our amazing dogs and the journey they continue to take us on.

I live in Parks, Arizona and I have seven years in dogs. We have a fantastic large family that keeps us busy. We travel as much as possible—something Tom and I truly enjoy doing together. We enjoy horseback riding and gathering cattle on our ranch. We also raise and breed Highland Cattle. I am an art enthusiast, paint/draw myself. Something I plan to do more of as I slowdown a bit in the years to come.

Overall I would say the quality of the sporting group is strong. It is always a super competitive group.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor living? I feel they have adapted very well. Sporting dogs have stable temperaments suitable for a variety of activities beyond hunting and outdoor activities. A very versatile group!

Economic challenges are always something we must be conscientious of. To exhibit and breed proper health tested purebred dogs is not cheap. It requires extensive planning, budgeting and many other sacrifices.

I feel our social climate is great. With the introduction of social media. We are now capable of expanding our gene pool by being introduced to a much broader selection of dogs from all around the world. I feel we have also been given a wealth of information through mentor and educational forums on social media.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion is their even temperaments and trainability.

Advice to a newcomer: you must educate yourself extensively. Read every book recommended on your breed, then read more! Comprehend your breed standard. Ensure you understand the anatomy and philology of your breed. Attend seminars, observe and listen! Join your local breed and all breed clubs. This will help you to get know people you can learn from. Choose your mentors wisely, not every opinion is correct. I seek the advice of the consistently successful breeders, exhibitors and handlers.

The largest health concern for my breed is Tricuspid Value Dysplasia (TVD). It is suspected that TVD has a complex inheritance pattern. However, the mode of inheritance is still unknown. We utilize the Echocardiogram to determine if a dog is clear or affected. Active research is being conducted through the AKC Canine Health Foundation. The research intends to determine the genetic variant that is responsible for TVD. The Labrador Retriever Club and the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac Top Twenty Gala Foundation are supporting this research. Through continued research genetic insights will be obtained that will enable affected dogs to be recognized earlier and enable breeders to know if they are producing an affected puppy.

The trends that I believe that are excellent for the breed and need to continue: a properly proportioned, well balanced Labrador and strong, straight tail sets. This is paramount to me, as silhouette is the first thing you see when the dog enters the ring. Improvements in coats—eliminating open coats.

Trends to see stop: generic dogs. Utilizing DNA tools incorrectly, e.g., only breeding to a clear dog.

I owe the most to Norma Turk of Paloma Labradors and Sherry L. Anderson of Sher-Mi Labradors.

The biggest pitfall awaiting new and novice judges is the availability of educational seminars to meet judging requirements.

The most amusing experience at a dog show? At the 2018 Atlanta LRC Specialty. Our 15 month bitch, Paloma’s Linda Look It @ Firewater, won Best In Sweeps and onto win back to back Best In Specialty wins that weekend. That was amusing to say the least!


Pam Boyer

I started using the kennel name of Game Creek because it’s great local area we hunt in, I think the first year I used it was in 1989. First it was with AWS and then Fields. Our family has always been dog people, my husband, Steve, was gunner for years and years at the AWS national hunt tests. He always felt it was his duty to shoot as many chucker, as he could so those poor started dogs didn’t get fly aways . As a very young child of three my daughter, Sidney helped me train bird dogs by tossing the pigeons for the puppies. She was also the first to receive an AKC hunting title on her little bitch, Indie. She is also trying to maintain type, temperament and health, while breeding Beauceron. Indie was the puppy of my multiple BISS “Jack”, co bred with Linda and Jon Hattrem, he won the timed hunting event and the national specially a few times, that’s like the AWS Triple Crown. Being part of the world of purebred dogs has been extremely rewarding , I always try to stay focused on the dogs and not on the showring, so many wonderful dogs never see a show ring yet are the most amazing companions to very happy families.

I live in Driggs, Idaho and have since 1988, my husband and I moved here from Maryland. We both worked for George and Maryann Alston, that is how I met him. I originate from Ohio, that’s where I was first exposed to sporting dogs and hounds. I got my first purebred AKC dog when I was 15 years old, a Bloodhound. My current hobbies outside of dogs is fleece, spinning and weaving all kinds. I have Angora goats for their wonderful fleece and easy temperaments.

As an avid grouse hunter when I look at the sporting group I don’t see many dogs we would even attempt to take in the mountains. If we ignore the whole too much coat issue, my next would be the lack of substance, so many sporting dogs are lovely in a 40 foot ring but they lack the necessary girth and body to have well developed heart and lungs.

Sporting dogs as a whole are happy and so willing to please, the indoor life hasn’t seemed to hurt the dogs themselves. I would rather see city dwellers have sporting dogs than working or herding dogs.

Challenges are everywhere, first it would be the influx of doodle breeds pushing out the purebred sporting dogs. As a boarding and grooming kennel owner I see more doodles than Golden Retrievers, that’s terrible because the poor matted to the skin doodle suffers. A well-bred Golden or Lab, even not well bred, would make most of these owners better pets and require less grooming.

Sporting dogs tend to be social and accept strange dogs well, the current society wants a social non aggressive dog to visit the dog parks . Most sporting dogs are great at social events.

Advice to newcomers: wow, how much space do I have? Newcomers to the sport of dogs are very few and far between mostly because it’s so tough to find breeders willing to share information and be objective. So many use a newcomer to help show their own dogs rather than help them develop their own eye and line of dogs. I have to add newcomers need to be specifically cautious about health issues in their chosen breed.

While I would love to consider Field Spaniels a healthy breed I agonize over clearances, I would say our greatest threat is late on set seizures, we are not able to test for them and by the time a dog seizures at seven to ten years old the breeding’s are done and puppies are now being bred. As long as we can test for other diseases I say test as much as you can because late on set seizures are like a skeleton in our breeds closet. Many breeders may feel they are safe from them because they haven’t had any yet, but in a breed that has been listed and critical in their mother country for numbers, no breeder is an island .

Trends I love are the great pedigree sites available to so many breeds, these include extended pedigrees and health clearances, it also a great way to track siblings.

Trends I don’t like, after 40 years in showing, there are many, first is is probably the over-valuing of wins. Each week we see page after page of win photos, and unfortunately when you speak to long time breeders of many of those breeds they are disgusted by the lack of breed type on “this or that dog.”

Handlers have become fantastic at covering up faults but they can’t fix type. The old term the “generic show dog” shouldn’t be forgotten. So many breeds have great side movement around a 40 foot ring , but when you actually watch that dog, what you see is flying feet, that actually go nowhere.

In Field Spaniels, the UK standard explains how the dog is to be moved and ours states on a loose lead. So why are so many shown strung up, because they can’t move on their own. Our breed along with many other sporting dogs should be shown on a loose lead allowing their neck to drop into that natural 45 degree angle, and let them reach. If a dog has no reach, of course, they look better strung up .So loosen those leads and watch a dog move.

So who do I owe the most: starting with The Alstons, George had a great hand with a dog, and Maryann’s knowledge of breeding was a crash course in showing and breeding at the same time. Probably next would be the late Father Vaughn Brockman in Am. Water Spaniels, he focused on what has become my own mantra type, health and temperament, he was unimpressed by the show dogs in the breed what he was impressed with was a dog of good type that had a good hunting dog temperament and health. My first three litters of Am. Water Spaniels , were from dogs that either never saw a show ring or didn’t finish until they were old. From those litters Linda Hattrem of Waterways Kennels and my self produced all the top AWS of all times, both in the field and ring.

The one person that we have recently lost is Mike Schmit, he gave me my first Field. We lost him just last month. Mike was so consumed with maintaining type, he openly would discuss with a judge a poor judging decision . He carried a standard in his pocket to illustrate and judges’ mistake—that takes guts.

Mike described the Field Spaniel as “smooth, round with no sharp points always soft and pleasing expression”, he felt we have been losing proper body length, to the more popular head up, straight shoulder, over-angulated show dog. When you respect a friend as much as I did when Mike spoke I listened. He is the voice in my head he is who I think of every time I look at a puppy, “What would Mike think?”

Biggest pitfalls to new judges or any judges is looking at the winners and not studying the losers. Our standard explains what we want , many times famous handlers shadow some very nice dogs being shown by their owners. There has been too much push for shorter loins what that has caused is the loss of the rectangular body shape of many breeds.

Most amusing time I can remember at a show was in Sacramento set up with Oscar Quiros and having a deluge of rain. We showed in jeans and muck boots all weekend, all we could do was try and keep our equipment dry because we were soaked through.


Suzanne Burns

I’m Suzanne Burns and my kennel name is Prism Weimaraners. I’ve been in the breed since 1997. I joined Piedmont Kennel Club in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1998 and was mentored in the sport and also the business of kennel clubs by some of the very best. Since joining I’ve been on the board for many years and served as President for three years. I’ve been the Show Chair for our club since we joined the Greenville Kennel Club seven years ago to create the Carolina Foothills Cluster held each July. I have bred and owned BIS winners and co-own the current Weimaraner Club of America National Specialty Winner, who has won the last three nationals, the first at ten months old. He also won the group last year at the AKC National Championship, which was a thrill to say the very least!

I live in York, South Carolina. My parents bred Collies many years ago and I got my first Weimaraner in 1997. I wish that I could say that I have some exotic hobby, but I’m consumed with dogs. Between my own dogs, kennel club duties and dog shows, my dance card is pretty full. I love to read, but, it’s true, I usually read about dogs or dog sports.

The current overall quality of the Group? Some breeds are strong, some are not, which is always the case. I think it’s just the natural ebb and flow.

Sporting dogs are very adaptable to their circumstances and I have never met one that would consider it a hardship to be in air conditioning. My breed, Weimaraners, was bred to hunt during the day and come inside with the family at night, so no problems for us there. Their main interest in life is being with their people, whether hunting, showing or sleeping. I always say that my dogs hunt with a passion—but it’s either me or a space on the couch they are 
usually hunting.

One issue that I see, for both breeders and owners, is that the cost of doing multiple types of events is prohibitive to a lot of folks. With so many events available for us to participate in with our versatile dogs, we must determine which to do with our dogs based on finances and time. It’s great that we have so many opportunities, but choices have to be made. We ideally want our breeding stock to be proven in as many venues as possible, but realistically we do have those constraints.

These are versatile breeds that are generally easy going and adaptable. With so many sizes and coat types, there really is something for everyone. The sturdiness of our breeds is also a great benefit. You can have a smaller dog that is not at all fragile, which I see as ideal for families with children and for those that do not want a large dog but do want to participate in hunting events (and anything else) with their pets.

Advice to a newcomer: remember that it’s just a dog show. You can’t take wins, or lack thereof, personally. You will lose more than you win—become good at both. Join and work for your local all-breed or specialty clubs. They need the help and you will learn from people with many years of experience in our sport. Make friends, enjoy yourself, laugh as much as possible—I promise it’s worth it.

The largest health concern facing the breed today? I would always say that Gastric Torsion (Bloat) is the largest health concern in our breed. It can happen at any time and if not caught quickly, it’s deadly. Fortunately we have a generally healthy breed and it’s imperative that we are diligent and responsible enough to 
continue this.

We need to continue harking back to the specific qualities that define our purebred dogs and purposefully breed to maintain the original intent of the breed. We must insure that our dogs do not lose the intent of their breed in order to win. It is very destructive to the sport and the dogs to be concerned with breeding a winner rather than a good one. I am very fortunate to own dogs from the Nani line, created by Chris and Ted Grisell. Nani dogs, along with dogs from kennels such as Colsidex and Camelot, have defined Weimaraners for over 40 years. Chris and Ted have been incredibly generous with their time and guidance. My co-owner and co-breeder, Derek Beatty, was mentored by Chris for many years and continues to share his knowledge with me daily. Chris, Derek and I just bred another litter together and are extremely excited for the future of these puppies and our continued relationships. I can never thank them enough for trusting Derek and I with their remarkable dogs.

The biggest pitfall for new judges is that is very expensive and time consuming to become a judge and to acquire additional breeds. Ensure that you take advantage of any educational opportunity that you can, especially those that are of good quality and reasonably priced. Mentorship is of paramount importance. Mentorship from a true expert in a breed is invaluable. You must be well educated in all breed specific qualities and reward on those qualities.


Julie Caruthers

Julie lives outside Mount Vernon, Iowa with her husband, Tom, a retired Chemical Engineer. She has one son, Jesse. Being the daughter of a retired Marine, Julie moved a lot and her dogs where her most treasured friends growing up.

Julie and her husband, Tom, have both competed in dog sports for many years and earned titles in many different venues. Some of the highlights would be the Multiple Best in Specialties, Group Wins, Three Top Ten Goldens, many Champions and three Senior Hunters.

Julie served on the board of the Golden Retriever Club of America for six years as Vice President.

During her term she worked actively on the WC/WCX, VC/VCX, OS,OD and Triathlon programs.

While Golden Retrievers are Julie’s primary breed she currently has a Havanese, two Labradors, a Clumber Spaniel and one spoiled rotten Min Pin named CeeCee.

Julie breeds under the Kennel name Jetoca on a limited basis. Julie has met some incredible people and lifelong friends while competing with her dogs and feels truly blessed by this gift. She is so thankful for the dogs who have been and are currently in her life and the great joy they each bring.

I live outside Mount Vernon, Iowa and I have been in the sport of dogs for over 44 years. My husband, Tom, is a retired chemical engineer and although I have had part time jobs my main focus has always been on taking care of my dogs.

My husband, Tom, built an airplane, an RV7A, and flies it—I don’t fly. I enjoy being involved in arts and crafts and work in several mediums. I, along with my dog Archer, have written two books which have sold quite well and are in their third publishing Advice from Archer are the wise words and advice from Archer, the smartest Golden Retriever ever, and Good Grief is book dealing with loss and grief.

As far as the current quality of the Sporting Group, I figure there is always room for improvement. Speaking of my breed, the Golden Retriever, we could improve on fronts and toplines. We also have quite a few dogs who are long and low, long bodied and no legs. The Golden is suppose to be of an 11×12 ratio height to length. We need to breed to the standard and for function and then we would see improvement in these areas.

Goldens and most Sporting breeds are very adaptable dogs. They are happy wherever they are as long as they have their owners and receive the right amount of exercise and play they will be fine with their living arrangements.

The biggest concern facing reputable breeders of any dogs today is lack of knowledge. The public is fed all the negative propaganda from the animal activists and they believe they are helping the dogs by passing anti-breeding and breed ban legislation. If they would just take some time to become educated on what reputable breeders really do and how dedicated they are to their dogs I think things might be different.

I think sporting dogs make great pets because of their temperaments and adaptability. I think the huge benefit of sporting dogs’ in the 21st century is that they make great service dogs and therapy dogs. Both of these areas have heavy emphasis in today’s world. Golden Retrievers are really good at both and are in high demand for those jobs.

I could write a book on what I would like newcomers to my breed to know. I guess I would start with the fact that the Golden Retriever breed competition is very competitive. If you want to show your own dog you need to educate yourself. You need to watch talented handlers and learn to present your dog to the best of your ability. You need to learn to groom your dog well and as the breed standard calls for. You need to know the breed standard and know your dogs good points and faults. Not all AKC registered dogs will become Champions and not all Champions will become Specials. You will probably lose more than you win and you need to get good at both.

If you have aspirations of becoming a breeder it is your responsibility to the breed to know all there is to know about what a Golden is bred to do and what the standard, the blue print, says about how they are suppose to be constructed. If you do not do that you are not going to benefit or better the breed. If you breed before you are educated you are not going to make a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided. Find a mentor, a good one and fill yourself up with knowledge.

Although Goldens are tested for several health concerns before being bred, I believe the biggest health concern is cancer. Goldens aren’t the only breed to get cancer but far too many of our breed will list this horrible disease for cause of death. The Golden Retriever Foundation and the Golden Retriever Club of America are funding research in this area. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is an amazing program where 3,000 Goldens are followed their entire lives with yearly exams. The researchers are looking for environmental and genetic factors that might provide some clues as to the reason cancer is so prevalent. Progress is being made and we are hoping for some answers very soon.

I am not a fan of trends in dogs. I was asked by a fellow exhibitor how often I thought the “look” of the Golden changed over the years. Well I guess every time a dog starts to win big people are going to try to breed dogs that look like the winner does. Doesn’t matter if he is correct or not, he is winning so let’s make more. Every time a new grooming technique shows up someone thinks the dogs looks better it starts to become the norm. None of this helps us breed better dogs.

When I answered the fellow exhibitors question about how often the Goldens look changed, I said, “I don’t know” but I know the standard has not changed to we should still be breeding dogs that conform.

As far as a trend I think should stay—well one of the biggest improvements is having the exhibitor show the bite. I realize it started when the dog flu was spreading like wildfire but it stuck and I think it should continue to be the rule. It is far more sanitary and healthy.

I have learned a lot from many people, far too many to list. I hope I continue to learn for many more years to come. The person I owe the most to would be my husband, Tom. He got me involved in the sport of dogs, encouraged me and supported me in my dreams the past 44 years. He has been an incredible help and been my biggest fan too.

Not sure about the pitfalls for the new judges except for falling into ruts and not trying to improve on what is the norm. However, I can speak to what I think the new judges should do. I would ask that when they enter the ring to judge my breed the do so with the same consideration they would want from me if I was judging theirs. I would ask that they first and foremost consider the dogs conformation to my breed’s standard and its movement and overall balance and whether it’s able to perform as it was bred to do.

I would ask that they judge for what is right with the dog not fault find. I would ask that they judge all dogs the same no matter who is showing them. That they realize their decision will have an effect on the breed they are judging. Whether it be negative or positive is the question. Respect the exhibitors. Show them that you enjoy what you are doing. Treat the puppies and the veterans gently.

Amusing things happen at dog shows all the time—I know I have had several. I can remember one. I was showing a young male and he was quite wild. As I was gaiting him down the mat he decided to cross in front of me and took me down to the ground. When he realized I was on his level, he began leaping and hopping all over me, wagging his tail like crazy and licking and hugging me. I sat there helpless to get up because he was keeping me down. 
The judge and spectators watched, not knowing what to do. I sat waiting for someone to realize that until they took the dog I was helpless. Finally, someone came from outside the ring, rescued me from wild puppy and I was able to return to my feet and showing. I can remember yelling at the co-owner, “Diane, train your dog!” Which made me feel better but was really not very fair since the dog lived with me and I was the one responsible for his crazy behavior. I did make her show him at the next show though.


Beth Dake-Kirven

I have been involved in purebred dogs for 35 years. I acquired my first English Cocker Spaniel in 1978 and was hooked. I have bred and finished Eng. Cockers and Pointers under the Malamson prefix.

In 1994 I got my first Vizsla, a finished bitch, and since that time I have bred, owned, and titled many Vizslas under the Solaris prefix. Those titles include Platinum GCH, CH, MH, CDX, CA, RA, CGC, TKI and TDX. Titles are held in both UKC and AKC.

I am one of the founding members of the Vizsla Club of the Carolinas and have held almost all offices. I have been the president for the last 15 years, was formerly the treasurer and VP and have always been on the board. I have been and still am trophy chair, Hunt Test Chair.

I am constantly in the pursuit of improving our breed, educating the public and working towards ensuring that we always have the right to, show, hunt, own and breed our dogs.

I have been employed for 38 years at a large hospital as an application security analyst. I have two daughters, two step-kids and three step-grands and live with my husband, Jimmy, and six Vizslas, three Pointers, two Coated AHT’s and a Boston Terrier.

I live in West Columbia, South Carolina and I have 42 years in dogs. “Outside” of dogs I am an application security analyst with a very large hospital system. I’ve been here almost 39 years. My husband and I also like to boat/jet ski on the lake and we travel when possible. Our favorite is to places with casinos, and I like to plant things and watch them grow.

The current overall quality of the Group is good. There are some fine examples of their breeds out there right now but only a small handful. That’s why you see the same dogs doing well weekend after weekend. There aren’t as many good ones as there should be.

How do I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor lives? I feel like some of the sporting breeds have become a little high-strung and therefore destructive as house pets because they don’t get the opportunity to blow off steam and focus their energy as it was meant to be used. That isn’t always the fault of the owners/breeders. Sometimes there just isn’t a place to hunt or even run your dogs anywhere close by. But more importantly it is causing the loss of the basic instincts in the breeds.

Any challenges Sporting Dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate? Absolutely, so many people view it as cruel to shoot birds over the dogs or to use them for hunt test and retriever trials. They think it’s cruel to put a dog on a tie out while training and trialing. Political correctness causes less and less people to attempt to use their dogs for the sports they were bred to excel in. And again it’s harder to find large tracts of land to use for this 
purpose as a lot of larger tracts are bought up by big corporations for plants and businesses.

The Sporting Dog is an ideal companion because they are so playful and love people and most other animals. Most sporting breeds get along fine in multi-dog situations like doggie daycare and dog parks and are happy to go on a run with you, play some fetch and then go home and lay on the couch and watch TV. Not all but most.

Advice to a newcomer: find people who you admire and respect and mimic their style and ways of doing things. It doesn’t all have to come from one person. I remember watching a handler years ago and thinking she had beautiful hands and I loved the way she held the dogs heads and stroked over their necks and shoulders to show that off so I tried to copy that part of her style. Others I copied their way of speaking to their clients or puppy buyers and then others their organizational habits.

The health concern today? I think this is true for all breeds. We have so many outside agents affecting the health and there isn’t enough research into the effects of meds, flea and tick preventatives, vaccines etc. into the long term effects on our dogs. All of these things affect reproductions, skin and coat, joint and muscles and it’s just not being tested out enough. I think we are killing them by trying to make them more healthy.

Trends I’d like to see continue: breeders are starting to pay more attention to some qualities that have been lost, mainly front assembly. Length of upper arm, depth and width of chest and fore chest and I think that certainly needs to continue without losing sight of the rest of the dog. Any I’d like to see stopped? I would love to see tails not left quite so long. Just a hair shorter. I’m pretty sure some have more then 2/3rds left.

I owe the most to two people really. The first person to get me interested in purebred dogs was Jeanette Long, Merryborne Irish Setters. I learned from her about showing dogs, cleanliness, immaculate grooming and presentation. But my true lifelong friend and mentor in all things breeding was Susan Thompson, Solivia Pointers. She taught me the most important thing is to do no harm to the breed/breeds you love. You should always be attempting to improve on your breeding dogs but never at the risk of causing harm in the long run. She taught me to keep it fun and to include my family and the people I loved in the sport and how to be a good mom to my kids while still pursuing my dreams.

The biggest pitfall for new judges is social media! It’s almost impossible to not be influenced by what you see and hear. It’s hard to avoid it and in some cases you are exposed to info you shouldn’t be and aren’t even aware of it until it’s too late. There is a sense of impropriety if you view a video or read a post but sometimes you are half-way into it before you realize what it is you are viewing. And then there are people posting terribly negative things about judges that may just be one person’s view but their opinion can negatively affect a person for years. Someone who may have been a really good one given the chance, It’s a double edged sword for sure.

The most amusing experience at a dog show: I watched a well-known handler with a very big winning Springer Spaniel let the lead slop out of his hand as he started his triangle. The dog kept going and the handler stood by the judge and they waited while the dog completed the triangle. When he stopped in front of the judge and his handler he turned and looked behind him and then back at them as if to say “Hey buddy, you are in the wrong spot. You’re supposed to be behind me.”


Anita Gage

We live in Fortuna, California, a small town on the coast about 250 miles north of San Francisco I have shown and raised Irish Setters for 46 years. I am a retired high school English teacher, who has been on the high school Board of Trustees for 12 years. My husband and I travel all over the world.

The Sporting group in California is very, very strong and on the West Coast generally.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to primarily indoor lives: I think many of the sporting dogs shown could go right into the field. However, with the variety competitive experiences and an active lifestyle, sporting dogs can fit right in to the 21st century. Many exhibitors do have titles on both ends of the dogs’ names.

I think all purebred breeders face the same obstacles of lack of public understanding and respect for the purebred dogs and their functions, as well as the diminishing number of dogs being shown. With the increase in the use of professional handlers in some breeds like Irish Setters, it has become harder to expect new owners to show their dogs and expect positive results or to pay the huge expenses to have the dog shown by a professional. Thus fewer dogs are being shown.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion? Sporting dogs have been bred to work closely with their humans to fulfill their function. I think most responsible breeders try to keep this “companion” dog personality.

Advice to a newcomer: don’t just show and go. I find many “new” exhibitors do that, and by new, I mean ten years or less. Sit at ringside. Observe talented handlers and a variety of breeds. Really try to learn about dogs, breeding, handling, competition, and sportsmanship. Talk to people at ringside about their breeds. Find a mentor. My first mentor told me to just “shut my mouth and listen.” That was the best advice I have had.

The biggest health concern today: I find it so frustrating that though bloat surgeries have improved, finding the causes or eliminating the problem has not. This is a problem with many breeds and so scary.

For Irish Setters, I would like to see more emphasis on movement considering the function of the breed and less on coat and severe grooming. We also need to see more owner handlers. I applaud the Irish Setter Club of America Foundation for being so generous to health research for our breed.

Jo Ann Berry is the mentor to whom I owe the most. She helped me obtain my first really outstanding show dogs, groomed them, encouraged me, took me to my first National in 1978 introducing me to some great breeders and handlers and taught me the joys 
of showing.

The biggest pitfall to new judges is not having seen a variety of the breed at Nationals and assuming the best groomed dog is necessarily the best dog.

The funniest thing that ever happened to me was showing my yct UD Irish setter. The first time in the utility ring I sent her out for the scent articles and she peed all over the articles. But I have had many funny squirrel, bird and gopher situations with my current special Ready.


Karen Hanson

I have been a Brittany breeder for 40+ years and have been on my National Club’s Board of directors, have bred and owned National BOB and Best in Show dogs, field winners, top producers and great bed dogs. I have been very blessed to have had many great dogs in my life.

I live in Central Virginia, half way between Richmond and Charlottesville—in prime horse country. I bred my first litter of Brittanys 40 years ago and have learned so much since then! Outside of dogs I am a liability claim adjuster for a major insurance company and enjoy reading and learning 
about everything!

The current overall quality of the Group? I think it depends on what part of the country you are in. In some areas the group is very strong, and in other parts of the country it is not. I’m always amazed that some of the strongest breeds in the group are often the lowest entry breeds overall. That just proves that it is dedicated breeders who determine the quality of dogs, and not the sheer number of dogs in a breed that are shown!

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to indoor living? For my breed, Brittanys in particular, I find that they love to have a job—and are not necessarily picky about what the job is! Brittanys make outstanding gun dogs, but they also make outstanding therapy dogs, agility dogs, running buddies, etc. Most Brittanys were developed to be family dogs vs. kennel dogs, so for most dogs that do not have the opportunity to be a hunting dog, they can still embrace the family dog part of their heritage.

Challenges Sporting Dog breeders face: when I first moved to Central Virginia 20+ years ago I saw bobwhite quail on a daily basis. Today, the only quail I am likely to see are pen-raised quail. Areas where you could run dogs in the field used to be plentiful. Now, even the wildlife management areas are hard to run dogs on. People who want to hunt bird dogs in Virginia usually have to hunt on a preserve or out of state. Field trials are having to adapt to the reality that most owners do not have horses anymore and walking field trials are having a resurgence.

The Sporting Dog the ideal companion due to adaptability. Most sporting dogs can, with proper exercise, live in the country or the city.

Advice to a newcomer: find a great mentor. Learn from everybody. If you can, spend as much time prior to buying a dog learning. When you go to a dog show, field trial, obedience trial etc. Spend as much time there as you can and watch everything! In my opinion, the people who have the best time in dog sports are the people who spend their time constantly learning and improving. You should surround yourself with positive people. Negativity is its own reward. Recognize that every dog has value, and sometimes the better dog on the day is not the dog you brought with you. But, always know, that at the end of the day, the very best dog is the dog you go home with.

The largest health concern today: in general, Brittanys as a breed are very healthy. Personally, even though the incidence of epilepsy in Brittanys is small, epilepsy is the scariest condition to most people.

A trend that I would like to see stopped is the sheer number of people bashing dog sports on social media. We really do eat our own. Most of it is sour grapes. Some of the things that I see at dog shows in particular that I love to see: health clinics and special attractions. We need to get the word out to the general public more about what those attractions are so that they can enjoy them, too. Dock diving is exciting, but so is watching Fast CAT, and other events!

I had many great mentors. As a teenager, I had people take me to field trials, and others take me to dog shows. Over the years, I have found that some of my best mentors have been people in other breeds who have explained their breeding philosophies to me, have shown me how they groom, and even how they manage their kennels. Mentors are out there—and I find that most people are willing to pass on knowledge to people that are open 
to learning.

I think the biggest pitfall to new judges is being afraid of making a mistake. I think when a judge takes the time to really learn a breed, they should trust in their ability and not to worry about what will be politically correct. I do strongly suggest that sporting dog judges really take the time to learn what a real working dog in a particular breed does. I have taken new Brittany judges to field trials and have had them “apprentice judge” a gun dog stake. It is an eye opening experience!

The most amusing experience at a dog show? Oh, there have been so many. One of the funnest was a dog I had back in the early 90s who loved to be groomed. I shuffled back in the line-up in the group one day and as we did our down and back, the steward moved the table for the Cockers and Barney dragged me across the ring, and leaped on the table and I fell on my face. He thought it was mighty funny. I still laugh about it!


Janice Hightower

I have bred Dobermans back in the 70s and 80s (even back then the Dobe ring was tough and the handlers were in the ring a lot) and then got my first show Brittany. I showed him to Top 10 four years myself. I bred and showed my Brittanys to their Championships, with also my breeding doing well at Nationals. I own the most titled liver roan Brittany in the history of the breed, Tuna “AKC GCH, UKC BIMBS & UKC CH, INT CH Saradac’s Locked N Loaded, JH, CGC & CHIC” and also Top 10 UKC winner in 2015, OH multi group winner and due to pyometra had to spay her two years ago so I never got my little Tuna puppy. Tuna is also the cover dog for Brittanys on AKC TV!

I have a niece of hers, REO, OHBIS, GCH, NHR CHS Horizon-Breezewater’s I’m The Only One. The breeders told me she was to help with my broken heart and she has; I am not quite ready to give up showing and breeding.

I live in Florida and have 40 years in dogs. Outside of dogs, I like to go jeeping and have girls time out. I also enjoy fishing, swimming and cooking for parties.

The current overall quality of the Group? The sporting group has in my eyes gotten better but worse also. I see it a lot in my breed, Brittanys and in other breeds also. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of good dogs out there.

How I think sporting dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor lives? I think the past six years that I have been back out in the show and field has shown more people working both, even with the couch dogs. They take exercise and many do not realize it when they buy a sporting dog. Some dogs adapt okay and some do not. Those either end back (hopefully) with the breeder or in rescue.

Challenges Sporting Dog breeders currently face is losing space to hunt and trial dogs.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion: they are loving dogs and are very much in tune with their person. My one is a service dog for my husband and I. She does it naturally and tried to tell us my husband was sick and did not realize what she was doing. We now watch what she does with both of us. She also woke up a friend who had sleep apnea at a motel at a show one time, so she is and all around service dog for anyone!

Advice to a newcomer: find a reputable breeder to get your dog from who does all the breed testing needed for the breed. Hopefully the breeder will mentor you but if not try and find a breeder or even a handler to help you. There are some handlers who will help newbies!

The largest health concern facing the breed today is hips and epilepsy. The breeders who do not health test or tell problems behind their lines is a problem.

Trends I’d like to see stop is overgrowing of the Brittany and other breeds. Sculpting of the breed should not be needed, it’s a hunting dog!

I owe the most to Sheila Wheatley of Heatherwood Labradors! She helped me when I bred Dobermans (as she did also at one time) and she had top winning Labradors owner handled to BIS’s, Groups wins and top 10. We co-bred Labs and my Brittanys and she helped me with handling when I started. We traveled and still do travel a lot together.

The biggest pitfall for new judges is not learning the standard well enough and being afraid to measure when a breed has disqualifications. Just because a handler is on the dog does not mean it is the best in the ring.

The most amusing experience at a dog show: years ago I was showing my Brittany special and was going around the ring with honorable judge Donald Booxbaum judging and my slip fell down and I ran out of it like it was nothing and he asked me how many times I had done that because I looked like a pro and I told him this and one more time will make twice I have done it. I thought he was going to cry laughing.


Peggy Holman & Milford Cole

We live in Iowa, Louisiana. We have been showing and breeding Clumber Spaniels since 2004. Peggy and I have been retired since 2007. I was a Petroleum Environmental and Safety Inspector and Peggy was an Executive Secretary for the Federal Government.

I believe overall the Sporting Group is as good as I can remember. A number of the new breeds have really elevated the group.

How the group has adapted to the change to primarily indoor living? Our location dictates that the dogs need air conditioning, but at the right time of the day, we do spend a lot of time outdoors.

The biggest challenge for breeders is anytime we have a conversation with potential puppy buyers, this question comes up—“Why are they so expensive?” Most kennels will not make a living doing. We have had to really be aware of buyers to make sure we have good homes for our dogs.

What makes them perfect companions? Sporting dogs travel well; most are people dogs and they love attention.

Advice to a newcomer: don’t expect to get rich, and be sure to find a good mentor that can help and point you in the 
right direction.

Hip dysplasia has been a problem for years, but recently our Clumber breeders have made this a priority. We can see a huge rise in good to excellent hips.

We as Clumber breeders need to continue to breed better quality dogs with each litter being better than the last one. We should be breeding with a purpose and not breeding just to be breeding.

When we decided to show, we watched exhibitors/handlers in the ring and out of the ring as to how they showed, how they groomed, and how they interacted with the dog. We had many mentors along the way that helped us.

The biggest pitfall for new and novice judges is the same as most new breeders and exhibitors, they really need to find mentors that can explain and guide them along the way.

The most amusing thing at a dog show: I was waiting at ringside for my handler to take my Clumber in the ring. He was showing in another ring and the judge, James Reynolds, was ready. He told me to come in and show my dog as he knew my handler was stuck in another ring. So I kicked off my flip flops and continued in the ring with my dog. My attire was shorts and a t-shirt. I won of course. Later that day at the concession stand, James offered to buy my smoothie because he said he knew I didn’t have any money because I didn’t have shoes.

Another incident, I was in the ring with my class Clumber and my handler was in the ring with my special and Barbara Alderman was the judge. As I set my dog up for her to go over him, I heard “CREECH”. Yep you guessed it-my pants ripped exposing my whole back end. That was the end of that suit. We all remember that to this day.


Donna Jordan

My husband Shaun, and I have shown and bred English Setters since 1981 under our kennel name “Country Squire”. We have had great success as breeder/owner/handlers and had the number one English Setter (all breed system) in 1997. His name was Ch. Country Squire Lone Star and he was also a top producer. We have nine consecutive generations of either Best In Show or Group winners and we are now working on the tenth generation. I am most proud of our great health clearances throughout the years. Another passion is helping Juniors get started in this breed and several have had 
outstanding careers.

I’m from Brighton, Colorado. I have owned and bred English Setters for the past 38 years. My husband, Shaun, and I are ardent sports fans and take the time to attend the Colorado Rockies and Denver Bronco games (even if they are losing).

The quality of the Sporting Group certainly varies depending on where you are. I believe there are several sporting breeds that are not as good now as they were 10 to 20 years ago and other breeds in this group have maintained their excellence. Today the depth is not always there.

Sporting dogs love their people and will adapt to a sedentary life but prefer a more active lifestyle. English Setters for the most part will retain their hunting instincts even if their owners do not train or hunt with them which is a very good thing.

The popularity of the “designer dogs” such as,Labradoodles and Goldendoodles have cut into the demand for purebred dogs and negatively affect dogs shows and breeders alike.

The popularity of outdoor events including hiking and camping make a sporting dog pet a great choice especially for the active or athletic folks.

Advice to a newcomer: get a good mentor!

The biggest health concern today: English Setters are one of the top breeds for thyroid problems but are relatively a healthy breed.

The trend to promote performance events is essential to the longevity of the sport of dogs. I am not a fan of the 4-6 puppy competition. Puppies of this age do not need the stress of showing during a time their immune systems are not fully developed and are more susceptible to disease and they are also teething.

My mentors are Lynda Gall of Lynann English Cockers and of course my husband Shaun.

The biggest pitfall for new judges is apparently many new judges do not understand breed type on all the breeds they are approved to judge from what I have seen.

A funny but amusing is when I mistakenly walked into a ring I thought was empty when judging was going on, uh oh!


Ida Kavafian

I split my time between Connecticut and Philadelphia. I’m actually a concert violinist and I have performed internationally for 60 years. I also teach violin in Philly at one of the most revered music schools in the world, The Curtis Institute of Music. It is a small, all tuition free school where the admittance rate is the lowest in the country—less than 5%. Following Curtis on the 2019 list is Stanford, Harvard and Yale, so you get an idea of the kind of talent we attract. Since admittance is based solely on merit at an audition, we have among the greatest talent internationally of any music school. I am very fortunate to teach some of the finest young violinists in the world, ranging in age from my prodigies at 12 years to some in 
their mid-twenties.

I’ve been in Vizslas for 34 years and bred my first litter 26 years ago. My first dog came to me through music. I met a Vizsla that belonged to the director of a festival in Nova Scotia—his name was Max of Halifax—and fell in love with him. I said something very unwise like “oh, if only I could have a dog like this some day” and the director did something even more unwise, finding me a beautiful male Vizsla that was the pick of the litter but stayed behind with the breeder because of an undescended testicle. He talked the breeder out of the dog that she had decided to keep for herself after the testicle came down at ten weeks, telling her that I was a famous violinist, had a live in maid, would be taking the dogs on all my concert tours and the dog would be featured on stage! He then talked my new boyfriend into surprising me with this puppy, telling him that “Fred assured me that this is what she wanted”. Fred was my ex husband. Whoops. With this inauspicious start, we dove head first right into the world of dog shows and haven’t looked back. Luckily, my boyfriend. Steven Tenenbom. became my husband and he developed the same love for the Vizsla breed as I had. Music and dogs are pretty much my life, in rotating order.

I have bred and owned nationally ranked Vizslas throughout the years, including the #1 Vizsla in the country in 2003, who also won the breed at the Nationals in 2007. I just had a litter of eight pups which represents my seventh generation. The dam of this litter was the #2 bitch in the country last year, a Gold GCh who was out with Jessy and Roxanne Sutton. Currently I am breeding and co-breeding with a team of gals—Britt Jung, Lori Salb and Lindsay Fetters—who share my passion to produce beautiful dogs with great temperaments who can do what they were bred to do. We each bring years of experience and we work hard to do the right thing for our breed. We are fortunate to have bred the current #1 Vizsla in the country, Boomer, who is out with Ania Romano Kelly. Being a small volume breeder, these personal relationships are so important to me. I learn so much from my co breeders and I depend on my friends to help me through difficult bumps along the way. I would encourage every breeder to form a team of like minded people in order to exchange ideas and avoid pitfalls. We can’t and shouldn’t do this alone in a vacuum.

One of my greatest honors in this sport was being voted by the membership of our national club to judge Sweepstakes at our Nationals last year. This was a very long way from when I first started in this breed and every Vizsla looked the same to me! Along the way, I was fortunate to learn from a few important mentors: Nica Lyons of Gemini Vizslas and Anne Denehy of Harann Vizslas. I also credit the handler of my #1 Vizsla, Phoebe Jordan Booth. I learned so much from Phoebe about every aspect of the dog show world and breeding. I’d like to think I developed a small fraction of her fierce integrity.

It’s a tough time to be in the sport, with dwindling numbers at shows and an ever changing climate of campaigning. We all know that handlers can make successes out of mediocre dogs with the right backing, a lot of effort and some degree of luck. This is frustrating for new people in our sport. I’d love to see judges learn from and listen to breeders with principal and learn to discern between those breeders and the ones who seek out judges in order to promote their dogs. I’d like to see breeders be more honest about their dogs’ faults, stop hiding those faults and more importantly, stop breeding dogs with those faults.

My breed, as in many breeds, suffers from various cancers, particularly the heartbreaking Hemangiosarcoma. Thankfully we have an active welfare foundation as part of our national club dedicating their efforts to researching this horrid disease.

I would encourage newcomers to seek out breeders rather than wait for them to come to you. We might be busy and seem unapproachable but come talk to us anyway! When I was first in the breed, I felt that people were unfriendly, but I realize that much of that was my own fault. Seek out breeders of note and listen to what they have to say. When interviewing for a puppy, ask as many questions of the breeder as they do of you.

Music and dog shows have a common challenge, and that is how to involve more young people for their futures to thrive as well as take care of their sick and elderly. The dog show world is doing a wonderful job in this area with the addition of the wonderful PeeWee events and the respect shown to Juniors and Junior Showmanship. Take the Lead is doing an amazing to help their own that are in need.

I’ve had my share of mishaps at shows that I will freely admit. Seeing a loose dog and wondering how someone could be so careless, only to find out it was one of mine whose crate I didn’t latch properly. Or how about the time we realized after a while that we were missing a dog in our hotel room, bursting out the door to look for her only to find her riding around on a luggage cart? Luckily I have a breed that doesn’t want to go far! Or perhaps when my friend was in the ring and someone yelled fire and she yelled “Ida, get Indie!” at which moment I ran faster than an Olympian to save my violin and the bitch. If I had a third arm, I would have saved the vodka. Luckily the fire was contained and no one was hurt.


Alexandra Latta

I live in Mission Valley, Montana and have 18 years in dogs. I’m an Attorney by trade. Other hobbies include anything outside: hiking, backpacking, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing, etc., traveling and reading.

The current overall quality of the Group is variable. Preferring a function-oriented dog I’m impressed by the number of Sporting breeds that have resisted trends towards conformational extremes and retained a form that follows their function.

How do you think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor lives? As one who actively hunts my dogs throughout waterfowl and upland seasons, I believe we should resist any adaptation to an indoor, air-conditioned Sporting dog life. Which isn’t to say that all Sporting dogs must hunt three days a week, but I believe we should strive to engage our Sporting dogs in a task-oriented way that fulfills those instincts and desires, and encourages their perpetuation as necessary to preserve breed purpose. AKC has done a wonderful job installing a broad range of dog events to challenge all owners to engage their dogs.

Breeders of working Sporting dogs face increasingly limited accessibility to the hunting and training grounds necessary to evaluate breeding stock. Dwindling public lands and regulations restricting hunting dogs prove a significant threat.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion? Their versatility and adaptability makes them ideal co-pilots for all of 
life’s adventures.

Advice to a newcomer: find good mentorship, study the breed, read the standard and attend events where you can watch a lot of quality dogs, traveling abroad if your breed requires. And, always bear in mind that a conformational assessment offers a very small snapshot of any given dog’s objective value.

The largest health concern today? Flat-Coats are cancer bombs and suffer poor longevity.

I very much appreciate that Flat-Coats are dual-purpose and have maintained a functional and athletic appearance. I also applaud a judging trend calling for more free-stacking, such being helpful to evaluating the character called for in the breed standard and revealed by a wagging tail. There is a trend towards high tailsets that I find problematic – while flashy, it is maladaptive to functional retriever movement and incorrect to the standard, which calls for a slight drop at the croup.

Who I owe the most to: I’ve been so lucky in this regard but am especially grateful for Maureen Kolasa (Wingmaster), Liz Saunders (Blazingstar), and Bunny Milliken (Wingover).

The biggest pitfall for new judges: in Flat-Coats there is so much variability in type and maturity of the dogs presented that I suspect it a very challenging breed to judge at first. Revisit the standard and remember that you’re judging a working retriever.

The most amusing experience at a dog show was overhearing a woman recruiting an animal communicator to convince her performance-anxiety-stricken dog into submitting a semen collection.


Valerie Lovins

Casmir Clumbers is a small kennel located in Thonotosassa, Florida, seven miles outside of Tampa. Before Clumbers, I had previously raised Poms, Malamutes, and Lilac Siamese cats. I started in Clumbers in 1996 with Maxwell (Ch. Lord Winston Maxwell Hunter) and then two years later I got Sarah (Ch. Wicfairs Sarah Lawrence). 

I had my first litter of Clumbers in 2001 and have continued to breed and show. Currently, I am specialling DJ, he has done quite well and finished last year number four in Breed and number eight in All breed.

I live in Thonotosassa, Florida I’ve been in Clumbers since 1996, Poms prior to that and as a child my Mother raised English spaniels. Outside of dogs, I like to take family vacations.

The current overall quality of the Group? I think they are good but don’t really know the standards of them all.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor lives? I think they have done just fine and enjoy their lives inside the cool house.

Challenges Sporting Dog breeders face: cost of breeding and entries for shows have gotten to be too high. Vet care, in general, is very expensive even with health insurance. Cost of good quality foods and the foods usually need supplements so then you have the expense of supplements.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion? They make wonderful family pets and hunting companions. I think for a family with children, a sporting dog is what they need. Big enough to not hurt them and loyal and friendly enough for families and kids to enjoy them.

Advice to a newcomer: relax and enjoy yourself, have fun with your dog and let him have fun. Don’t take comments from other exhibitors to heart. Be educated on your breed.

The largest health concern today? We have a few but have been working hard to breed them out. We are doing a lot more health testing these days to rule out the dogs that are affected. EIC ( Exercise intolerance), Hips, entropion. These used to be big problems but better breeding has improved our numbers. Even though a Clumber may not have good hips with their body structure it really does not bother them too much like other breeds.

I’d like to see more health testing at reasonable pricing. I’d like to see breeding oversized dogs and saying they are within the standard stop. AKC needs to stop increasing the prices so that exhibitors are able to enter and I think adding all the titles so that we have to continue to show needs to stop as well. Also allowing Judges to enter their dogs in the big shows when they are judging at the same show.—this needs to stop as it takes away chances for someone else to win.

I owe the most to the breeder that sold me my first Clumber and the Clumber Spaniel Club.

The biggest pitfall for new judges? They need to study the breeds and be educated more. Too many are putting up dogs that are not standard correct and can only see handlers and not the novice exhibitors or the breed by exhibitors, this is true especially in the groups.

The most amusing experience at a dog show was my friend was showing two of her dogs that day, the youngest had just shown and was handed off to someone ringside. He got away from them and followed his owner in the ring when she was showing another dog.

Showing my dogs used to be fun but it has become very political and not so much fun anymore. Now if you don’t have a big named handler on your dog, you are not going to win in the groups. This is wrong on so many levels. If it weren’t for us breeders there would not be any dogs for those handlers to show.


Kristin Lyons

Located in Virginia, Kristin began breeding and showing Golden Retrievers in 1980 while growing up in Connecticut. She and her family produced many champions in conformation, including specialty winning and group winning dogs. But, more importantly, their puppies became beloved new family members throughout New England.

As a kid, Kristin showed in the junior showmanship ring. She then moved on to apprentice for five professional dog handlers for over ten years, all the while actively breeding and showing many Goldens. This experience provided a valuable education in the proper care and rearing of dogs.

Early in her career, Kristin became enamored with the English Cocker Spaniel breed. She finished her own personal dog and housemate, BISS CH. Arigna Wild Card, to his AKC championship. Throughout his show career, Wylie had many specialty wins, group placements, and later went on to become the number two English Cocker Spaniel all systems.

In 1997, Kristin started Foxwoods Kennels and became a professional dog handler. She piloted BIS BISS CH. Sunnyside Skylark PaybyPlay, “Buster”, to four All Breed Best in Shows and he became the number one English Cocker Spaniel all systems.

This success continued with GCH. Foxwoods Dublin Diva (Caitlyn), a Multiple All Breed Best in Show Winner, record holder for Specialty wins, and ranked the number one English Cocker Spaniel, all systems, for 2013 and 2014. She retired at the end of 2014 to become a mother. Kristin also showed Caitlyn’s litter brother, GCH. Foxwoods Rock of Cashel (Owen), who is also a Multiple All Breed Best in Show Winner and Multiple Best in Specialty Show Winner and was the number one English Cocker Spaniel, all systems, for 2015. After, Owen came his daughter, Savannah PGCH. Foxwoods Ivywood Fusion. She currently holds the BIS record for females in our breed, winning ten All-Breed Best In Shows. She was the number one English Cocker Spaniel All Systems in 2017 and 2018 and the number five Sporting Dog in the country.

I live in Crozet, Virginia which is a suburb or Charlottesville. My hobbies include breeding, raising English Cocker Spaniels and Golden Retrievers, and being a professional dog handler consumes most of my time throughout the year.

The current overall quality of the Group: it depends on where you are in the country, overall on the east coast we have strong competition in the Sporting Group.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to indoor living? We all make sure our breeds get sufficient time in outdoor activities so that they can withstand the heat and the rigors of outdoor life.

Any particular challenges Sporting Dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate? Sporting dogs face the same challenges as all purebred dogs today in that the trend toward purebred dog ownership, breeding and exhibiting is not always in our favor.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion? It’s a dog that is always willing to do many outdoor activities as well as take a nap on the couch when you are done. Sporting dogs want to please and mainly be with their family.

Advice to a newcomer: quickly identify and associate with the best possible breeder who will also act as your long term mentor.

The largest health concern in the breed today: in talking to my fellow breeders, there seems to be an increase in cancer. This is not unique to English Cockers, but is consistent with many 
other breeds.

I would like to see a trend toward better moving dogs be embraced by more of our breeders. Our breed should be able to cover ground effortlessly and they should demonstrate great endurance and an ability to work in the field. Too many English Cockers today labor to get around the ring while exhibiting poor carriage.

Without a doubt, I owe the most to Mrs. Clark, who was an English Cocker breeder/exhibitor, in addition to a world-renowned judge. She encouraged me and continually pointed out positives in the breed to be pursued and weaknesses to be avoided.

The biggest pitfall for new judges: this is a breed of moderation and functionality. Balance is essential and the dog, as a whole, should be considered. Breed mentors who single out one feature as the hallmark may mislead a new judge. In addition, many of the English Cockers that judges encounter will not look the same standing as they do on the move. This is red flag, as they should certainly appear as one consistent picture.

The most amusing thing at a dog show was watching a fellow exhibitor’s skirt unwrap in the ring, much to the embarrassment of our very proper judge. Those were the days that people could laugh, even at themselves, without being offended.


Barbara McNeill

I live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I own Three Graces European Day Spa in Oklahoma City. I love gardening, architectural design and traveling Europe with my husband.

The current overall quality of the Group? There are some lovely dogs representing the sporting group, however I am seeing more unconditioned dogs in the ring.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to indoor living? My particular breed I find about 50% are primarily for the sport of hunting, however these new and advanced kennels have climate control features. The dogs that are total house dogs, as well as hunters, are just as adaptable in the field as the hunt 
kennel dogs.

The problem in Oklahoma is that the wild game bird population is not what it was 10-15 years ago, so many of the hunt dogs are not worked. The other problem I see is breeders not preforming adequate health tests on their stud dogs, brood bitches and preliminary heath checks on the offspring.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion in these 21st-century times? Sporting dogs are truly versatile who easily adapts to any lifestyle of the owner.

What advice I’d give a newcomer to the sport? Do your homework before you buy a puppy. Not only about the health of the puppy, stud dog and dam, but what type of life-long support will the breeder give you. If a breeder brings a dog into this world they should be willing to give support, advise and love the entire life of that puppy.

The largest health concern facing the breed today: cancer, as in all species, are of great concern. The one that is on the top of my list as well as the Germans Shorthaired Pointer Club of America is Hemangiosarcoma. Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is a type of cancer that develops from the cells that normally create blood vessels (endothelial cells). The cause of hemangiosarcoma in most cases is unknown. Hemangiosarcoma is more common in dogs than any other species and affects mostly middle–aged to older animals.

Trends that need to continue: sportsmanship needs to be at the top of the list. You may not agree with the dog that won on that day but a simple congratulations to the winner and a thank you to the judge are still appropriate. Also the dog did his job, praise the dog no matter if you win or lose, they did their job!

I owe the most to Dot Simberland with Fieldfine Kennels was our foundation in the lovely breed. Gwen DeMiltra has given me lifelong tips on how to special a dog while Valerie Nunes-Atkinson polished my ring presence. I owe my success to these women.

The biggest pitfall for new judges is simply not knowing the breed standards.

The most amusing thing at a dog show was while in the group ring in an old building with support columns, the judge made a cut and sent us individually around the ring for a final look. One support beam was situated in the corner of the mats on the first turn. I wasn’t paying attention as Ethel took the left side of the column and I took the right side! In a split second I dropped the lead as to not clothesline my dog. She didn’t miss a stride the entire way around the ring and I caught up with her at the end of the lineup. She stopped and looked at me as if to say “Where have you been?”. She stacked up and took a group placement. You gotta love 
ring-wise dogs!


Adrienne Perry

I live in Tucson, Arizona and had my first CD on a Miniature Schnauzer in 1973 (as a kid!). As an adult, I started in Rottweilers in 1990, then looked to downsize and have had Lagotto Romagnolo since 2009. I probably have about 20 years of experience as a veterinary technician. Outside of dogs, I grew up in theatre and have done a lot of playwriting.

The current quality of the Group: depends on where I think. I think in the West we have some super sporting dogs. However, there are more Lagotto being Specialed in the East.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor lives? Lagotto are still pretty active. They haven’t been “brought in” until recently. When I was in Italy last year, we visited about eight breeders and met only one housedog. In my experience, Lagotto seem to settle down around puberty (which is fairly late 12-14 months) to two years. Afterwards, they are great little cuddlers, before that they are very busy, and determined. The one word in our standard that we always laugh about is the word “Undemanding.” It’s a literal translation of an Italian word that is meant to convey that they are easy keepers, accepting of things, having patience. But in reality, the English translation makes us laugh—the Lagotto can be very demanding and sometimes vocal about it. And they love heights. I have one bitch that I keep finding on the counter in the bathroom and she can’t get down. So she let’s me know she needs a rescue!

We are unique in that we don’t hunt birds, in fact, have been purposely bred off them in favor of searching the forest floor for the scent of truffles. Most American truffle hunters are very concerned about the impact on the environment and in fact foraging with a dog probably has the least impact on the environment (as opposed to commercial “raking”). This is true in the commercial truffiere as well.

I think the other thing that serious breeders in Lagotto face are the people who see a good thing in our dogs (they are still rather expensive even for pet quality and demand far exceeds supply) and decide that they should breed. How can we get transform these folks breeding for the money into serious ethical breeding colleagues? I’ve recently heard of people pricing their puppies well above $5,000 this is ridiculous and encourage people into breeding who aren’t ready. Education of our upcoming puppy buyers is so important, but many want a puppy yesterday. There are way too many people who are selling female puppies on co-ownership that demand 1/2 of each litter back. These are dogs not Amway products!

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion: their overall lack of “grumpiness”! There is a bright, sunny, mischievous side to a good Lagotto that I really like. Lagotto “tick a lot of boxes” for people too: medium size, non-shedding, hypo-allergenic, smart and biddable, and cute as can be.

Advice to a newcomer: don’t expect to become an expert overnight. Get great mentors who have good sound dogs and listen to them! Work your dog in the sport he was bred for, or the closest thing you can find to that sport. We have truffles in only a few places in the US, doing tracking, nosework, barnhunt—these are great alternatives, this dog needs to use his nose and to solve problems.

The biggest health concern today is breeders who don’t want to health test or don’t want to release/register results on public 
databases like OFA! We have to build our database together as breeders for the good of our breed. Puppy people have a hard time finding specialists and doing DNA testing, we should do it for them before puppies go home and send litter results into OFA. We get a discount and we get to build the database of information. It’s a win for everyone! And I think it gives the pet people a sense of being part of the progression forward, their dog’s info is listed, they have peace of mind on a few things that way and I think it builds up a feeling of doing their part of the health testing later on. Since I’ve started sending puppies home with both their Wisdom Panels (DNA testing) and their OFA Eye exams done, I’ve noticed greater compliance in their continuing the process of doing patellas at a year and hips at two years.

Also I think we need to be conducting Cardiac Echo tests. Too many things get missed when all you do is an auscultation. Nearly, every breeder who has done so has found something—we need to know everything if we are going to move forward breeding healthy dogs. I found a dog with SubAortic Stenosis a few years ago, had I not tested him before breeding ,I would never know where that had come from in my future dogs. I was lucky, the dog was with me on an agreement, I had almost imported his semen.

Structurally we need to keep paying attention to the hindquarters, we are so cowhocked and close. This is a world wide problem. We are doing a little better on rear angle than we were ten years ago, when so many also lacked turn of stifle. When judging make sure you get to see a good down and back (and when showing make sure you execute a good one!) there are a lot of dogs that look pretty good in sidegait, but when you watch behind it’s a different story!

Handlers are doing a good job of presenting a rustic dog in most places in terms of grooming. However, I see too many dogs flying around the ring, as we are a square dog with long legs and a more open shoulder angle this is incorrect. We are not meant to keep up with the ESS or the Brittany! Also tails should only be encouraged up with a slight touch, not held, when shown! The Lagotto should be wagging his tail, it’s the barometer of his temperament. For photographs, make sure it’s up so we can see the rear angles but not when showing!

Also remember that the Lagotto is like a long distance runner, running up and down over the forested hills negotiating fallen trees and briar patches, he is not a short-coupled muscle-bound sprinter with heavy bone. There needs to be some graceful athleticism in the breed. The standard says he has the ability to work all day in difficult and challenging terrain, his body should reflect that.

Advice to a newcomer: this is probably pretty basic, but I think it saves a lot of heartache—don’t breed to a dog you haven’t met 
in person!

Well, I am a new and novice judge! I’m grateful to a number of people who help me see better and be better: Laurin Howard, Marilyn Little, Kitty Steidel, my Rottweiler mentor Daviann Braun, and all the folks who recently helped me complete my Rottweiler mentoring requirements. Also in Italy, Sr. Gilberto Grandi who helped the judges ed and breed revision committees work on our Lagotto standard. Also, my “go to” group of Lagotto friends too numerous to name. As the JEC for the Llagotto breed, I also feel greatly mentored and helped by Sue Vroom.

About six years ago, we took our first Lagotto back to Europe to try to finish up his Swiss and German Championships that he had started previously. The best way to organize two shows in Switzerland and three shows in Germany meant attending the huge Europaseiger show in Dortmund, Germany. It also meant going head to head with the top winning dog in Germany, who I believe was unbeaten in his home country at the time we entered. Now, as you know you don’t have to be the Top dog (CACIB) to get the wins for your FCI championships, but you do have to win your class with the CAC rating. We were in Open by that time, at the Europaseiger show we pulled a V-2 rating(Excellent second place)but the next day we won the Open class. When we went in for best male against the famous champion class winner it was the surprise of all surprises that we beat him! And then we went Best of breed over the Best Female (who had just beaten the champion male the week before and gone on to BIG1!)I have it on video, people outside the ring “gasping” at such a thing! What a high! Then we went in for Group 8. As we lined for the judging in the staging area, the group judge went down the line and then just stopped at us, like “Who the heck are you?! And what are you doing here?” Needless to say we didn’t do anything in Groups, after beating two Group 1 winners for 
the breed!


Deb Peterson

I live in Wisconsin. I have 38 years in dogs. Outside of dogs I love to travel, go camping, attend music concerts, create perennial gardens and volunteer with children events.

The Sporting Group is a tough group. I believe the quality is high in competition.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor lives? Overall, I believe those that have sporting dogs have them for a reason. Most folks are active and enjoy that their animals are equally active.

As breeders, we need to keep up on health issues within our breeds. Continually keeping updated with the latest medical and health issues that come with various breeds can be daunting as well as additional expense for further testing on our breed stock.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion? I believe that as an owner of sporting dogs, their activity level challenges me to be more active also. Their love of the outdoors brings new opportunities and adventures to their owners. What better way to explore the world with a dog that is actively involved in your travels 
and activities!

Advice to a newcomer: talk to long time breeders, find a mentor within your breed. Get involved in local kennel clubs. There are many opportunities to learn the sport when you meet up with the right people!

The largest health concern is having a “vulnerable breed”, it is crucial to do consistent health testing and diversity breeding. Right now, the Irish Red & White Setters are fairly clear on health issues. Personally, I would like to see more testing done for various cancers that are showing up in the breed.

Any trends I see that I believe need to continue? Breed specific, Irish Red & White Setters still seem to confuse judges. Previous Judges Education material that was put out when the breed was first recognize, put an emphasis on “color”. Subsequent JE material has eliminated that in their material simply for the reason that how much or where their patching is has no relationship to their hunting ability. The breed is a “parti-colored” breed and their coloring should not define their natural working ability.

I was very fortunate to team up with the late Jackie Howatson (Vanders/UK). Her long time involvement with the IRWS was legendary. She was on the Genetic’s committee with the Kennel Club as well as being well known for her Vanders Kennels.

I additionally have been mentored by Gail Harrison (Caniscaeli/Canada). Our Killary kennel is proud to have both the Vanders IRWS and the Caniscaeli dogs within our foundation lines!

The biggest pitfall awaiting new judges: again, breed specific for IRWS, these are to not be compared to the other Setters in the groups. The IRWS are to be looked at “from a working gundog” perspective. They are built sturdier as well as not having the volumes of coat that the other setters are known for. Their movement is fluid and purposeful.

Having spent 28 years as an Irish Setter breeder, I found the Irish Red & White Setters are much different in personality and “type” and of course, much less time to groom!

The most amusing thing at a dog show: oh the stories I could tell but my personal favorite was taking a 12 month old Irish Red & White Setters into the ring and being “tested” by this young dog numerous times with his exuberance. The judge repeatedly asked us to do our “down and back”. On the final time, we got it right and to make sure the judge knew it—the dog jumped up and licked the judges face! We both laughed when the judge asked the dog if he was trying to influence his decision! This young dog went on to taking BOB from the classes that day and went on to win five National Specialties, including two in Canada.

MBISS GCHG Aramis Farms High Road to Killary “Gilbey”. Gilbey is the proud sire of his sons, two that have also gone on to win IRWSAA National Specialties (GCHS. Killary’s Grand Getaway and Ch. Killary’s Talk About High Class) as well as his son in England, Sh.Ch. Killary’s Grand Venture with Vanders and Romaunt, who became the youngest show champion in the breed history/ UK.

Their dam, Caniscaeli Waltzwithme Killary “Tilly” is the daughter of Sh Ch. Shireoak Caniscaeli Windsong, “Eamon”, owned by Gail and Leslie Harrison and was the first Irish Red & White Setter to be shown at Westminster when the breed was recognized by AKC.


Michelle Porfido

Michelle and her husband live in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina with their five Vizslas and Pointer. Aside from their consulting business, Michelle is an animal health Researcher by profession, and is currently finishing her Theriogenology RVT license. She has been breeding Vizslas under the “Rhapsody” prefix since 2003, and is active in a multitude of activities with her dogs as an owner-handler. Her breeding program has proudly produced versatile dogs that successfully compete in conformation, agility, field trials, hunt tests, dock diving, Rally, Obedience, and several are trained as Service Dogs and as registered Therapy Dogs. Collectively, her dogs have been recognized and used internationally, have been consistently Nationally ranked, have won BOB at Westminster, are multiple BISS winners, multiple group winning and/or placing, are international National Specialty winners, excel at the Senior and Master level in Hunt Tests, are multiple field trial placing, and several have gone on to be recognized as ROM (Registry of Merit) and Top Producer recipients from the Vizsla Club of America.

I have been in dogs for 25 years, but my passion and involvement with Vizslas began in 2001. Outside of dogs, I’m a researcher by profession, and my husband and I own our own consulting business. We’re avid travelers and certified scuba divers, but also love spending time at home with our family and working on our DIY projects for our beautiful home.

Current quality of the group: I think this depends regionally.There are shows where I’m absolutely taken back by the depth of quality in the Sporting group, but likewise there are times I worry that they are losing their type and becoming generic show dogs. This isn’t at all the fault of the judge, as they are only able to put up what is brought to them.. The problem lays within us, the breeders, and what we think is truly worthy of being shown and finished.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to indoor living? Interesting question. Many of the sporting breeds were developed for outdoor work, yes, but they still lived indoors with their owners. Breeds like the Vizsla, German Shorthaired Pointer, Weimaraner, most of the retrievers and spaniels, were status symbols and prized companions in the home; they were purposely bred to be skilled hunters in the field and/or water, and likewise reliable and affectionate companions in the home. I may be speaking from what I am personally seeing, but I think many of our sporting breeds still do what they were bred to do. It is completely common for a dog to go to a hunt test or field trial one weekend, and then a conformation show the following weekend. The retrievers, pointers, and spaniels in our group have, for the most part, a well-endowed sense of of dual purpose ability. Whether their owners allow them the opportunity is something different..

The biggest challenge today: I will say that the cost of hunt tests, field trials and conformation shows are expensive—especially when you’re trying to introduce a new puppy family to the sport of purebred dogs. I understand clubs are only reacting to the economic stress pressed upon them, but it will eventually drive new families away, and then deter us from entering multiple dogs as we are used to doing.

Sporting dogs are everything you’d want in a dog; biddable, even tempered, versatile, up for anything, excellent family companions, healthy sense of humor, and of course their undying loyalty to their people. A sporting dog is just as happy in the field/water doing what it was bred to do, as he is curled up on the couch next to his family.

Advice to a newcomer: do your research! Don’t ever get a dog because you saw one and think it’s pretty. Read up on the breed, talk to people who have them, ask as many questions as you can—any breeder would be happy to answer and share their knowledge with you, especially if it’s in the best interest of their beloved breed. So many sporting dogs get turned into rescue because people didn’t do their research on the breed, and ended up with a bored and destructive dog that got the short end of the stick. These dogs need to part of their family—they thrive off of it. These are all breeds that were bred for a specific purpose, and need daily mental and physical stimulation.

The largest health concern: Vizslas are generally a healthy breed, but we have a high incidence of Hemangiosarcoma. We also see our fair share of epilepsy and lymphoma. Our breed club is 
fabulous and we have made huge strides in our research efforts with our Vizsla Club of America Welfare Foundation.

I’m seeing a ton of people getting involved in NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association) Natural Ability testing with their Vizslas, and I think it’s absolutely fantastic. Keep getting your dogs out and giving them the opportunity to do what they were bred for! Our breed is in a relatively good place, and I don’t think there is a specific negatively impacting trend that 
needs attention.

I have been fortunate to be mentored by a handful of people throughout my involvement, each teaching me invaluable lessons, history, and advice. Larry Berg, Carol Phelps and Kathy Rust—these people have been instrumental in my development as a breeder, investing countless hours into conversations, phone calls, emails, sharing tears and supporting me through every hurdle and accomplishment, to them I am eternally thankful.

The biggest pitfall for new judges: I think most breeds face this, but I see the huge type discrepancy in our breed being difficult for new/green judges to get a grasp on. It’s partly our fault as breeders, since we all breed to our interpretation of the standard, but it doesn’t make the job of our judges any easier. I think the Canine College will be an excellent tool once it is completed.

The most amusing thing at a dog show: it’s hard just to name one, but I think anything that makes you laugh so hard that you cry, is worth sharing! My friend and I were at a show last year in Greenville, South Carolina, showing Vizslas to a breeder/judge we both adore and respect. We were in the Open bitch class, she was showing a bitch out of my stud dog, and I was showing my personal girl. The judge had just finished examining the bitch my friend was showing, and sent her down and back, while she herself began to move up behind her, awaiting her return to freestack. My friend, so deeply intent on making sure the dog was having fun and moving well, didn’t look up to see that the judge had moved, and ran right into the judge at full speed, knocking the wind out of the judge and herself. The ring gasped in horror, but the judge, classy and charismatic as ever, buckled over and broke down into hysterical laughter with tears streaming down her face for a solid few minutes. The two of them stood in the middle of the ring, embracing each other in laughter, before she sent her around the ring to continue with the next exhibit. I’m sure it could have been a much scarier and dangerous situation, and I’m certainly not condoning running your judge over, but it was most definitely very funny.


Judie Posner

I grew up on a peninsula in New York called Rockaway, which was technically part of Queens so I am a product of the NYC school system. I graduated Far Rockaway High School in 1972 and started studying with The North American School of Animal Sciences, so you could say dogs have always been my passion.

In 1971, I received my first dog from my mother, she was a silver buff Cocker purchased at a pet store, and her undying loyalty and devotion won my heart for the breed and I haven’t been without a Cocker Spaniel since.

Shortly after high school I relocated to Long Island and raised my three children there while I perfected my grooming skills and learned the true standard of my chosen breed. That’s when I decided to obtain a show puppy. After many months and a great deal of research “Encore” was born. I chose that name thinking about the theater, when your performance is finished and you are encouraged to return to the stage it is referred to as an “Encore” and here I am 47 years later.

My current club affiliations include American Spaniel Club, being a board member of South Atlantic Cocker Spaniel Club, and a founding member as well as past president of The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of Northern Florida.

Over the years I have had the privilege of owning, breeding and loving BIS, BISS, National Variety winners and numerous top ten Cockers in the black and ASCOB variety in both the USA and Asia.

Along with so many others, I am a native New Yorker who is now a Florida transplant and loving it here in Ocala.

My start in dogs was thanks to my mother who purchased my first dog for me in 1971, she was a silver buff Cocker Spaniel and the rest is, as they say “history”.

Other than my Cockers, I enjoy cruising and traveling to new places. I hope to be able to make my bucket list trip soon and take an African safari.

Overall the quality in the sporting group is good. Personally, I would like to see more adherents to correct size as the smaller sporting dogs are getting too large and the larger ones a bit too slight.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor lives? One of the best things about sporting breeds is their adaptability! However, their need for exercise must be met for their physical health and their and your mental health.

I feel all exhibitors are facing challenges from all ends, with rising entry fees, animal rights/PETA presences trying to infringe on our rights and the lack of sportsmanship exhibited by some, it has made it increasing difficult to enjoy our sport like we did say 25 years ago.

Sporting dogs were bred to work alongside man and assist them, what better companion could a person obtain then one that desires to be with and please its owner? Besides the obvious they are adaptable, versatile and truly enjoy the company of their family making them a timeless companion.

Advice to a newcomer: this is not a venue for the lighthearted or thin-skinned. Sad but true. Open your ears and your mind, not so much your mouth. And never stop learning about your chosen breed. Remember you came to enjoy your dog, win or lose you go home with the best dog of all.

The largest problem in the Cocker Spaniel is juvenile cataracts. Annual exams by a certified canine ophthalmologist is mandatory as it is behind every line out there. I feel it is important to install in your buyer that even the “pet” puppies need to screened. Our parent club (American Spaniel Club) has been conducting no cost cataract research for genetic markers to help eradicate the problem and I encourage all Cocker fanciers to participate.

Health clinics at dog shows are invaluable. Heart/eye/ hip/patella, etc and the semen collection banks are wonderful. These things make it easier for most to get the job done right with no excuses. I also love the Junior Jamborees , I have seen so many talented young people in the ring and they are truly the future of our sport. My only complaint is the lack of sportsmanship, I really feel the AKC needs to do a better job of enforcing goodwill between, handlers and exhibitors, would it be so hard to say congrats to someone you lost to? The rudeness has, at times, gotten out of control. Which does not put our sport in a good light to a newcomer.

The how-to breeding/whelping ropes kudos go to a visually challenged Collie breeder on Long Island named Connie Hornick. she taught me how to do it all since she couldn’t. But my breed mentor kudos goes to Ruth Muller of Milru Cockers, she believed in me when I was a smart-mouthed kid looking to learn and, boy, did she teach me. I will always be grateful to her for the years of pedigree talks and memorization of them and the standard as I whelped my litter by her sire CH Milru’s Arabian Knight that created my first homebred Champion, CH Encore’s Total Eclipse.

The Biggest pitfall for new judges? Don’t fall victim to the “Top Dog /Top Handler” syndrome. You know the standard, chose the best specimen and don’t be afraid to pull a wicket, the breeders will respect you for it.

The most amusing experience at a dog show? Many years ago, on Long Island, I was grabbed by my handler to show WB in the ring as everyone was hoping that the WD would get the cross over major by going BOW to finish. I was not at all dressed, actually was in a parachute type electric blue jogging suit. So there we were, BOB (not my breed to boot) and around we went. Needless to say, the late Annie Rodgers Clark found her and gave her BOW. There were some very unhappy handlers that day. I always admired Mrs. Clark and showed (my breed) to her often very successfully.


Scott & Kathy Shifflett

We are native Marylanders. We have had dogs our entire lives. However, we got our first show dog in the early 90s. We start breeding Curly-Coated Retrievers in 1997. Today we are participating in conformation, fast cat and dock diving AKC events. When we aren’t showing our dogs we raise hay and vegetables and ride horses. I have bred, trained, and showed hunters and jumpers as well.

The quality of the Sporting Group is extremely competitive. Like other AKC groups the Sporting Group has gotten bigger than it was when we started showing. When you are showing a less popular breed, every group placement is appreciated by every 
Curly fancier.

Just like most things, our dogs adapt to the environment, which we provide for them.

A sporting dog for me makes the ideal companion because I enjoy a lot of outside activities. My Curlys go trail riding with me as a goose hunting in the fall and winter.

Sporting dog breeders are facing a decline in places and habitat for hunting as well as for those holding and attending Hunt tests. Sporting Breeds, for the most part have a purpose in life—hunt, retrieve or flush birds.

I cannot speak for other sporting breeds, but the Curly-Coated Retriever is a very loyal companion, wickedly smart and confident. It is a dog that will entertain you with their antics, but it can be a serious dog when it is working in the field.

People should come into the sport of dogs open minded. Learn about the breed you choose, find a mentor or two in your breed plus find people in other breeds that you can bounce ideas off and will provide advice/opinions to you.

We had many mentors along the way. Several of our breed mentors have passed away, but the value of the information and history they shared with us has been invaluable to us in making breeding decisions. There are mentors within our breed that we can go to and ask questions about breeding. We have mentors in Georgia that we have learned from over the years and continue to learn from them. We found mentors in our breed and we also found mentors in the fancy that have helped us learn about showing dogs. One thing that people don’t do often enough is get to know people who have been in the breed for a long time. These fanciers are very knowledgeable and valuable assets to new people in the breed.

The biggest health issue for the breed, like many other breeds, cancer has become a concern.

Judges should make themselves familiar with the Curly-Coated Retriever Club of America’s Illustrated Standard. The coat is the hallmark of the breed. It is often times difficult for judges that are provisional to see a Curly in certain parts of the country. I believe it is important for a judge to understand the working ability of sporting dogs. If a judge has the opportunity to see a Curly work in the field, they should take advantage of it. I encourage judges to reread the breed standard if they haven’t judged Curlys in a while and judge to the breed standard. As I have heard others voice in other breeds, judges are leaning toward extremes. Remember a Curly is moderately angled.One should be able to identify a Curly from 
the silhouette.

One question we get asked all the time is, “Is that a Labradoodle?” For a funny story, I was asked this question at an AKC dog show waiting to go in the group. I politely answered no and said he is a Curly-Coated Retriever. Well, the person behind me went off and began to explain about the breed (which she did know something about) as well as quickly explaining about AKC dog registration and purebred dogs.


Nancy Tuthill

Henri and myself breed and show Pointers under the kennel name of Cumbrian Est. in the States in 1969 after the importation of the first Black and White show Pointers into the USA from Cumbrian Kennel in Cumbria England. We also can claim the first Orange and White Pointer in History to win a National Specialty in 1978 as well as the All Time Best in Show Record breaking and number one Sporting in 1984 Ch Cumbrian Black Pearl.

Henri and I reside in Maryland, We love to collect dog art and vintage books.

The current overall quality of the group? It depends on the breed. It depends on the long-time breeder status, many breeds have little or no support for newcomers, the older breeders are just not there.

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to the change to primarily indoor lives? They have not adapted here at our kennel, yes they have indoor sleeping with heat and A/C but also have vast outdoor facility and a paddock that is 470 feet long and 75 feet wide double fenced to run in everyday. On poor weather days we have a jog a dog. Pointers want to be outside and free running

Challenges breeders face: it’s not a hobby you can do on the cheap. You have to be able to provide facilities big enough for exercise, top quality food and vet care. We spend probably $30K a year even before we account for show expenses to run our private 
kennel facility.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion: a breed can only be ideal for the right situation.

Advice to a newcomer: learn all you can before you go to a show, if you show up with the wrong lead and an untrained dog and then turn away after a bad experience, it’s due to your lack of preparation. I get tired of hearing that newcomers are not treated well when this is a sport like any other. Would you play soccer in high heels? No, you would research the correct attire and equipment as well as 
the rules.

I am concerned about issues caused by the bombardment of chemicals in our dogs environments, which is why we use no lawn or weed chemicals, as well as no flea treatments that are not natural derivatives.

Trends I’d like to see stopped: over-handling! Just stop it. A good handler should be barely noticeable, subtle. And why the emphasis on a self stacked free bait over a good quality specimen who is not trained like a circus dog ?

I owe the most to my husband, Henri Tuthill. I met Henri when I came to buy my first show Pointer in 1982. Henri celebrated his 50th year breeding Pointers in 2018. At this time I believe we are the oldest Pointer kennel in the country that is still actively breeding and showing since 1967. We are proud to be breeder owner handlers of 130 AKC champion Pointers.

Advice to judges: judge dogs and don’t let yourself get intimidated by who is handling and put up the best in your opinion. Make your decisions with purpose.

The most amusing thing at a dog show walking out at a national Specialty and finding my friends had wrapped about 50 boxes of saran wrap around my van in retaliation to a toilet papering incident of which I claim no knowledge.


Jill Warren

I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have 30 years in dogs. I was a college professor of English and then a technical writer for a major national laboratory before retiring. I love the arts—literature, art, and music.

The current quality of the group is outstanding. There are many, many great examples of their breeds competing in the group I judge (sporting).

How I think Sporting Dogs have adapted to indoor living? Most sporting breeds easily fall into whatever the owner wants to do. All that’s required to make them happy is an opportunity for vigorous exercise and lots of love and companionship.

Because it’s harder to have lots of land along with your house these days, I think sporting dog breeders have a harder time placing our active dogs into a situation where they can get the exercise and activity that allow them to thrive.

Most sporting breeds adore people, so if you want a dog that will dote on you and love to be with you, most sporting breeds will fill that bill.

Advice for a newcomer: for sporting breeds, I would say do your best to give hunting with your breed a try. They love it and take to it so naturally. It’s hard wired into their DNA to be good at it. It will be a great experience for you and our dog and will help you understand how form follows function.

My breed is English Setters, and we have relatively few genetic problems compared to some other breeds. The greatest difficulty is finding a way to give these active breeds adequate exercise for optimal health and well being.

A trend I would like to see continue is owners who try many different venues with their dogs. Doing lots of different activities with your sporting dog, from conformation to hunting to agility to obedience to rally to nose work to therapy to Fast CAT to barn hunt (in other words whatever you enjoy) is so good for the dog. In my breed, what I would like to see stopped is the over-emphasis on length of coat and over-grooming in show dogs. Less coat would still be attractive and allow the dog to enjoy less time being bathed and groomed and more time doing active dog stuff.

I owe the most to Eileen Hackett, Chebaco English Setters, she helped me the most.

The biggest pitfall for new judges is putting up the generic show dog with good movement, lots of attitude and sculpted coat rather than being able to pick the specimens with true breed type.

The most amusing experience: once I showed in an outfit that was bright yellow from head to toe. The judge said, “Take him down and back Tweety Bird.”


Judith Webb

My husband and I live in a small town in what is known as the “quiet corner” of Connecticut, bordering Rhode Island 
and Massachusetts.

We came to the USA in 1999 and not long after we purchased our first home in Greenwich, Connecticut.

I was Director of Jazz and then Administration Director at a local dance studio but my love for dogs had us in search of a companion. I wanted an American Cocker as I had met one while living in South Africa, and fell in love. Once we settled in our own home we introduced two loving and sweet Cockers, Tammy and Max.

After puppy classes, Max and I started our Agility training with Arlene Spooner and not long after my husband joined with Tammy.

While competing at a show in Massachusetts over the Thanksgiving holidays, I walked over to the Conformation Building to watch the Cockers. I so wanted to get myself a show potential and just so happened to sit next to a person who became my mentor and best friend, Victoria Snowden. Victoria took the time to chat with me and then couple months later sold me my first show potential, CH Detor N Normandy’s City View. We called him Monti and I fell in love. With Victoria’s guidance, Monti debuted at the same Thanksgiving shows a year later and won two four point majors. We were hooked! Monti finished in record time with four four point majors with Per Rismyhr at the end of lead.

Once Monti was ready we leased a bitch from Jessica Legath and our first litter was whelped in May 2009. This was the start 
of SoundView.

Aside from my love for Cockers, my other favorite thing is to paint. Naturally, my favorite subject is Cockers. I’m so honored and thankful to have painted trophies for specialty clubs over the years. It is time I spend quietly alone in my thoughts and I love it.

The current overall quality of the Group? I am very proud to be part of the sporting group. Many of the winners at The National Dog Show and Westminster have come from the sporting group, one of those being the top winning Cocker Spaniel of 2017.

Sporting dogs especially Cocker Spaniels adapt to their surroundings without losing their flushing background. They make a perfect home companion and with exercise and appropriate grooming they can be a well-rounded family pet, performance and field dog. Cocker Spaniels are truly the All-American dog.

Challenges Sporting Dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate: I think the biggest challenge would be that hunting is no longer necessary for our survival, it’s just for sport, and so frowned upon.

What makes a Sporting Dog the ideal companion? Sporting dogs were bred to help us in the field so there is a bond that is very special. Attributes include loyalty and a willingness to work and please which carries through when they are in a companion home.

They are easy to train because they want to please, their merry disposition is a delight to have in the home and their welcome merry ways are ideal for a family.

Advice to a newcomer: first and foremost, find a mentor. Take your time and find a good dog. Ask questions no matter how silly you may think they are and listen. Be prepared to hear criticism, be prepared to lose more than you win and always be a good sport, gracious and humble.

When you decide to breed a litter do your research, go to your Breed National and watch. The puppy classes are always a good start, this will tell you what certain lines are producing and if that is what you like, make notes for the future.

Sit next to a long time breeder or mentor ringside and ask questions and again listen. And last but by far certainly not the least, read the standard. Then read it again. And again!

The largest health concern facing your breed today? Unfortunately cataracts is our biggest concern, but I am proud to say our breeders and the ASCF are doing an amazing job raising money to fund research to hopefully find the DNA marker.

Trends that need to continue: if we are talking about the sport of showing, I would have to say the NOHS was a great idea, but not without problems.

There are a few things I would love to see changed: the point system for example, no matter how many dogs you beat in the group, be it three or 20 dogs, the points you get are the same. This really doesn’t seem right especially when the ultimate goal is to qualify for the finals. Owner Handlers play a very large part in the future of this sport, so I would love to see clubs recognize this, respect and award the winners of NOHS as they would those in the 
regular group.

I was very lucky to find two mentors, Victoria Snowden and Jessica Legath, Victoria of Detor Cockers was in the breed for over 15 years and bred around 30 champions, four ASC winners and Multiple BIS Parti Cockers. We have spent many hours studying pedigrees and her knowledge and advice is greatly appreciated.

My other mentor is Jessica, who has been instrumental in teaching me the art of showing a dog. Because of her I have finished many of my own dogs as well as winning Group placements. Jessica has also played a vital roll in my breeding program and very much a part of the successful breeding that resulted in “Jon” MBISS GCHG SoundView’s Master of The North. Number one ASCOB all systems 2018. I am forever grateful to these two ladies.

The biggest pitfall for judges? I would think it’s pretty overwhelming when you are faced with an entry, big or small, but I would hope the judge has knowledge of the Standard, has read it many times over and then awards accordingly, not swayed or intimidated by the handler.

Well it wasn’t funny at the time but it happened in the OH Sporting group, on my last go around I fell and planted my face on the hard concrete floor. I remember thinking “get up” the Judge came flying over and helped me up, said, “Are you ok?” I said, “Yes I’m fine.” (I wasn’t, hurt my knee pretty bad) and off we went. He awarded me a group 1 but made sure to let me know it wasn’t because he felt sorry for me.

My husband, who always has a smart remark, after telling him what happened said, “Well if that’s what it takes make sure you do it again tomorrow.” 


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