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Rhonda Cornum | Munroc Farm Kennel Gordon Setters

Rhonda Cornum

Interview With Rhonda Cornum – Breeder of Munroc Farm Kennel Gordon Setters

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

1. I live in Paris, Kentucky, on a beautiful 700-acre farm. I started as a teenager in 1967 with my first Gordon Setter, CH Sangerfield Cameo, but did not start a serious breeding program until 2004. We are Munroc Farm Kennel, and my partner, Silvia Timmermann, runs “Munroc Kennel-Europe” in Germany.

2. I look at them critically between 6-8 weeks, paying particular attention to traits I am trying to correct from the parents. Patience is important; some dogs go through the “adolescent uglies.” If he was a beautiful puppy at eight weeks, he’ll be a beautiful dog as an adult, but maybe not a great-looking teenager. That’s an advantage of letting youngsters do field work between six months and two years. It gives them something to think about and do, and earn juvenile points. And it gives us an opportunity to work together, even if we are not going to dog shows.

I don’t select puppies for “performance.” I believe every puppy we breed will instinctively point game birds. Some are more stylish, some use the terrain and wind more instinctively, and some have a more aggressive running style. Those qualities help to determine whether the dog will stop at the Master Hunter level or continue as a Field Trial contender, but I don’t believe I can pick that puppy early.

3. The status of the breed today? I see Gordon Setters all over the world: Australia, the British Isles, the US, and Continental Europe. There are plenty of great dogs, and genetic diversity is available. It’s up to breeders to go out of their way, and out of their area, to find them. I actually think Gordons are in pretty good shape as a breed. The temperaments and rears have improved since I got my first Gordon back in 1967. Otherwise, they are pretty similar and still have the qualities that made me want one in the first place. The only worrisome thing is the split between breeders who breed “just” for conformation and those who breed “just” for field work. I think a Sporting dog needs to look like and perform like the Breed Standard describes, and breeders should feel responsible for producing that.

4. I like the term preservation breeder, because that is what I am; making an effort to preserve the breed as it was developed. A Gordon Setter should look like the Standard but must still instinctively and reliably find and point upland game birds. The dog must be loyal, trainable, and want to work with its owner. That’s what I’m trying to preserve, the classic Gordon Setter.

I think judging has improved over the past few years. Up until recently, it was the biggest, hairiest, and best “sculpted” dogs that were winning. If the dog has a lot of hair (and the handler has good clippers) anyone can create a good silhouette, regardless of the bone structure beneath that hair. But in the last few years, I have seen more judges putting up dogs with the best movement, and more judges preventing handlers from setting the dog up at the end of the down and back, and making them stop on a loose lead, so they can see where the dog’s feet go naturally.

The question of whether there are too many shows, or not enough, or just right the number, is interesting. I think the number of dog shows is fine, but the distribution of dog shows (i.e., clusters) needs to change if we are going to attract any new people. When clubs in different areas all get together and have four shows in a row at one location it does two things:

  • It makes it far away for a majority of people, and;
  • It means that two of those four days are on weekdays.

This means anybody with a job, or kids in school, can’t go. These are not characteristics that attract people who are young, employed, and have families. These clusters benefit professional handlers, and superintendents, but not individual dog owners. Showing dogs is not very expensive if you can drive there, show your dog, and drive home. Showing dogs is very expensive if it includes 4-6 nights in a hotel and a long drive. We need more local shows.

5. I doubt social media is any worse for dog sports than any other sport. Unfortunately, it encourages people to “watch,” not “do.” If people spent as much time playing with their dogs as they spend playing with their phones, both dogs and people would be better off.

6. As I alluded to before, the biggest challenge facing the dog show community is getting new, younger people interested. This is equally true for field trialing; we need more young people to take up the sport.

7. Positive changes I have seen in recent years include bringing in more foreign judges who have experienced greater diversity of quality dogs, and so will “see” the dog in the ring that is different. Another noticeable thing is the good sportsmanship and willingness to help which I have seen at dog shows in the past few years, especially among strangers and people I barely know. From sharing electricity to helping get dogs to the ring when there is a conflict, there seems to be greater camaraderie than I remember in years past.