Showsight Presents The Rhodesian Ridgeback

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q&A

DAVID T. HAYEK hPK-tRoPACo RidgeBACKS Our kennel, HPK-Tropaco, is located in North San Diego County on five acres atop Starvation Mountain. It is the combination of two kennels in 2002, my wife Helen’s long established Tropaco prefix and my own, High Profile. 1. How many years in dogs? Showing? Judging? While relatively new as a conformation judge, I have been involved in the sport of purebred dogs in one form or other for decades. I was first licensed as a field judge in the late 90s in lure coursing. More recently, I was granted permit status for conformation judging of Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Junior Showmanship. 2. Describe the Rhodesian Ridgeback in three words. Powerful. Intelligent. Loyal. 3. What to you is the ultimate hallmark of the breed? According to the official standard, the hallmark of the breed is the ridge. In more practical terms, the hallmark of a Rhodesian Ridgeback is the tight relationship it develops with its breeder and its family. Of all the breeds I’ve been privileged to share time with during my life, the Ridgeback has the strongest bond with the people in its life. 4. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? I am a functionalist and the Ridgeback standard is mostly described in terms of its performance and purpose. As an exhibitor, field judge and now conformation judge, I see a continuing and worsening problem with a lack of balance between front and rear in our breed in an effort to improve generic “showiness.” It is not uncom- mon to see examples of very straight fronts coupled with shepherd-like rear angulation. The result is two halves working against each other, compromising endurance. The second trait is an increase in the bulk of dogs in this breed, becoming heavy-headed and boned beyond that which is necessary to perform their functions. Though the number of Ridgeback breeders and owners in the United States truly work their dogs as gun dogs is few, breeders need to be ever-cognizant of the breed’s original purposes and how the standard was developed to main- tain that functionality. 5. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are bet- ter now than they were when you first started judg- ing? Why or why not? Generally, yes. Comparing revered Ridgebacks from twenty years ago to the top specimens today reveals a constant trend of improvement towards the standard by conscientious breeders. This is both in terms of health and improvement toward the ideal of the AKC standard. The second and third generation of breeders of Rhode- sian Ridgebacks have taken the excellent stock obtained from the breed’s foundation kennels and moved the breed forward, striving to breed better dogs in each successive generation. Advances in genetics and health testing have provided welcome tools to combat issues

like hip dysplasia, degenerative mylopathy and others inherited problems as well. 6. Your pet peeve in the show ring is…? My biggest pet peeve is the exhibitor who does not focus on their dog in the ring. First and foremost, we are responsible for our dog’s well-being at all times, includ- ing in the show ring. Exhibitors should not be distracted from ensuring their dog is safe and happy and ready to show at its best. 7. What advice would you give a novice exhibitor? Meaningful practice. By that I mean finding an experi- enced exhibitor to guide them and to work with experi- enced, trained show dogs long before they step into the ring with their own puppy. Also, to remember that dogs are, well, dogs, and they have a way of humbling all of us at times. Finally, novices should watch the open senior and master classes of junior handlers. They generally have experience and skill far beyond their years. Every time I judge or watch juniors at their craft, I learn some- thing new about exhibiting. 8. What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? I’ve been an exhibitor a lot longer than a judge. Once, a fellow exhibitor came into the ring with a dog that was less than keen on the show experience. The exhibitor did his best to calm the dog’s nervousness but, during the down-and-back, the dog latched on to the exhibitor’s leg and suddenly became amorous. It was a good four min- utes before exhibitor and dog could be de-coupled. Along with various “wardrobe malfunctions” I’ve witnessed, these are probably the funniest moments I’ve been wit- ness to in the show ring. SANDRA FIKES I’ve had RRs since 1969 when I acquired my first male, Kalahari Leo UD. Naming him gave me my kennel prefix that I’ve used ever since. I consider myself a performance person, as it’s my first love. As for highlights, most people would think your first or many BIS, BISS, being #1 RR or winning big at Westminster (yes, I have had those) would be the first thing you’d list, but I think it’s your first title in whatever venue you compete. Nothing like getting that first UD or agility title, because of all the time, training, training partners, new friends, failures and triumphs they represent. I love judging RRs. I have a couple of other breeds, but I will not be adding to them as it dawned on me that I do not like the hassle of flying anymore. I have judged the RRCUS specialty twice, RRs specialties in Australia, Denmark and Italy. I love photography and it’s usually dog friends who I go along with to nature spots and I love reading. Most of my time is doing things with my dogs—training, hiking, helping others with training and working with my obedience/agility club. 1. What five traits do you look for, in order, when judging Ridgebacks? What do you consider the ulti- mate hallmark of the breed?

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