Showsight May 2017

the sporting group Q&A

5. What makes a Sporting dog the ideal companion in the 21st century? Sporting dogs generally have wonderful temperaments making them great companions. The breeds I have bred are incredible family pets and great with children. 6. What advice would you give a newcomer? Talk to everyone you can, always be willing to learn something new, have lots of patience and enjoy what you are doing. It’s a hobby and if you are not enjoying it, don’t do it! JOHN ROBERT “BOBBY” LEWIS, JR. 1. What is the current over- all quality of the Group? With the exception of the rare Sporting breeds, I think the quality of the Sporting Group has remained constant over the past twenty years. Many of the rare breeds— especially my breed, the Sussex Spaniel— have improved tremendously in quality and type during that period of time. Over the past 45 years, I have seen dramatic changes in breed type in sever- al of the more popular Sporting breeds, and most of the changes have not been favorable in my opinion. 2. Any shift in the balance of popularity among breeds? Why do you think this happened? Thinking back when I got my first Sussex Spaniel in 1972, there has been little relative change in the popularity of the Sporting breeds. The most popular Sporting breeds then are still the most popular now even though their overall numbers have declined. While the rarest of the Sporting breeds continue with that distinction today, their numbers have increased from what they were fifty years ago. Irish Setters and Cocker Spaniels have seen the most dramatic fluctuations in registrations over the same period, but they still have respectable numbers in com- parison with other breeds. Fifty years from now, I do not foresee much change in the relative popularity of each of the Sporting breeds. 3. Any particular challenges Sporting Dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate? The biggest challenge all dog breeders and owners face is the threat from animal rights extremists. These groups are skilled at convincing legislators to introduce bills that restrict the ownership and breeding of dogs. They are masters of drafting legislation that appears to go after unscrupulous dog breeders, but in reality, is meant even- tually to shut down ALL dog breeding as the laws morph. Other challenges pale in comparison.

4. What advice would you give a newcomer? My advice is to begin a breeding program, study your breed’s history, talk to long-time breeders and research pedigrees of old. 7. And for a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing experience you’ve ever had at a dog show? In the 1970s, majors in Sussex Spaniels were about as common as hen’s teeth. What made matters worse was that those handful of owners who did own Sussex lived hundreds of miles apart, so showing together was next to impossible. My most amusing experience was when my father and I (and I was about seventeen years old at the time) took a dam and four of her six-month old pup- pies to a dog show. We knew no one there and had to grab strangers to help us show the puppies. I can’t recall who the judge was, but I am certain that he or she surely remembers the spectacle. CARL LIEPMANN

1. What is the current qual- ity of the Sporting Group?? I am pleased to say that I believe that many of the breeds in the Sporting group have improved over what was shown to me 35 years ago. Unfortu- nately that assessment is not true for all of the exhibits. Without attempting to go

into great detail and list each breed I will simply say that in my opinion Weimaraners and Vizslas are two breeds that are the most improved and the American Cocker has fallen on difficult times. 2. Do you think Sporting breeds have adapted from traditional roles to modern living—full of indoor living and air conditioning? The Sporting dog has always had a unique way of worm- ing his way into the house. Just look at any old after-the- hunt painting or photograph and most likely you will see a Sporting dog sleeping by the fireside or at the hunter’s feet. While it goes without saying that everyone who owns a Sporting dog will not plan to hunt, it is still true that the gene is present and can easily be awakened. I have trained literally hundreds of dogs for field work, during my pre-judge years, when I owned and operated a training kennels. Many were finished champions and many were purchased from strictly field lines, but all showed some desire and aptitude. I know and appreciate many show people who work their dogs in the field even though they themselves are not hunters. I wish that state- ment used the word “all” instead of “many”, but it is what it is in this day and age. The old saying that a “house dog won’t hunt” is nonsense. Dogs hunt for only two reasons, either for themselves or for their master. Ask yourself this

188 • S how S ight M agazine , M ay 2017

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