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Sharon & Steve Dattilio, Kahla Ennis | Shomberg German Shorthaired Pointers

Sharon & Steve Dattilio

Interview with Sharon & Steve Dattilio, Kahla Ennis | Shomberg German Shorthaired Pointers

  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. My husband, Steve, and I live in Hagerstown, Maryland. We have been in German Shorthairs for 51 years. Our first homebred litter was whelped in 1976. We have produced over 100 homebred champions to date out of only 32 litters bred and co-bred. Our dogs are bred and registered under the name “Shomberg.” After traveling the world with USAF, Carl and Kahla Ennis have called Yorktown, Virginia, home for 38 years. They bought their first German Shorthaired Pointer in 1972. Carl wanted a Sporting dog to hunt with. After researching various breeds, he decided on the versatile GSP. So, 50 years later, it is still the dog that can and wants to do everything for them. While looking to get a new puppy, 20 years ago, Kahla connected with the Dattilios. Sharon and Kahla were like-minded and bonded over GSPs. Kahla has been co-breeder with Sharon on litters that have gone on to do great things in all venues. Kahla has become the main trainer in her house, which currently has four dogs with titles in Obedience, Rally, and Dock Diving, including a Senior Hunter and three Master Hunters.

Sharon & Steve Dattilio Kahla Ennis
Kahla Ennis

2. Puppies are whelped and raised in the Dattilio home. We do not own a “ kennel.” Puppies are hand-raised and enjoy living with us, which allows more personal interaction and observation, and gives the ability to handle them often and evaluate them as they grow and develop. I watch for those characteristics, structure and personality traits, that I feel to be critical in exhibiting them as a correct and worthy breed representative. Not every puppy has show potential, but they all deserve to be in a family and home that will love and care for them for their entire life. When evaluating puppies for performance, I want to see bold yet controllable; a puppy that is excited to investigate and is happy and outgoing, and has a great attention span.

3. As a preservation breeder, and now also an AKC Conformation Judge, I have observed quite a few changes over 50 years—and not all for the better. Overall, the breed is in good condition, but I’m seeing new people coming into the breed who often feel they already know quite a bit. I feel you continually learn, no matter how long you’ve been in your chosen breed. The popular sire syndrome is alive and well among many pedigrees, and a huge concern for me is watching as some paint themselves into a corner and have no idea how to get out. You have to know structure inside and out. You have to know when to linebreed, how often, and when it’s critical to go out. All too often, the dogs and bitches in the top standings in the country are not always the greatest breed specimens. They have financial backers, advertising, and professional handlers who have put them where they are. I can say that I’ve lived on both sides of that street, so I come to my observations knowing that many great dogs are in homes laying on someone’s sofa.

4. The sport today has changed dramatically; fewer dogs exhibited overall, higher point scales for fewer dogs mean cheaper champions, and the costs involved to participate are crazy-expensive. Judges often take a really bad rap for awarding poor specimens and creating cheap champions, but when you consider how entries have fallen in the sport from 20 or 30 years ago, and the expenses involved to participate, it’s understandable. If judges withheld ribbons or didn’t award dogs handled by professional handlers, they wouldn’t be asked for assignments… period. That’s simply a cold, hard fact. If you judge, you’d better do it because you love it and not expect a lot more.

5. Social media has its good points and its bad as well. It has allowed more audiences to watch the sport, but there is also some negativity that comes along with that with many animal rights groups and advocates.

6. Biggest challenges? Encouraging people to try the sport. Having good, knowledgeable people to mentor and guide new people. Making it more affordable for average people while still allowing host clubs to cover expenses and realize some profit. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how we accomplish all of this but we should at least try or we’ll be losing more and more exhibitors in the future.

7. I feel that most exhibitors and breeders try, for the most part, to come into the sport with the intention of showing off the dogs they have bred and dearly love. I feel there is more awareness of the many talents of so many breeds, and in coming together, we have educated and given our fellow exhibitors and breeders, as well as the general public, a window into a sport less recognizable a century ago