curly-coated retriever Q&A WITH IRIS ANDRE, SUE DAVIS, KATHY KAIL, MEGAN MELLO, MARY KAY MOREL, LESLIE PUPPO, SCOTT SHIFFLETT, ANN SHINKLE AND BOB THOMPSON
another hobby, taking photos of wildflowers that I see during our travels. I love to drive to new show venues and see what I can find in the way of new-to-me wildflowers. My opinion of the current quality of purebred dogs in gen- eral, and my breed in particular: not good. Too much empha- sis has been put on presentation and “asking for the win”, and not enough on physical soundness. All of the sporting breeds still have a job, yet we see many BIS and NBISS win- ners with awful movement, weak rears, poor feet, incorrect coats and soft top lines. Judges in the show ring cannot evalu- ate whether a dog wants to do field work, but they certainly cannot evaluate if they can! More emphasis needs to be put on the dogs themselves and less on whether they are showy or how perfect their coats look. The biggest concern I have about my breed: the split between working and show. Like all other breeds, the show dogs are exaggerated—in our case, they are overly big, overly heavy and frequently too short bodied and/or too deep. The lack of balance and moderation means these dogs won’t last long and/or injure easily; many have trouble swimming! And this is only if they actually want to work since so many have little desire to retrieve or work with anyone. They make great pets as they lack drive and are more interested in socializing than anything else, which is very counter the correct Curly temperament or a working retriever. The biggest problem facing me as a breeder is finding worthwhile breeding stock, because of the above issues. Far too few dogs participate in any sports beyond the entry level, so it’s almost impossible to assess any of the needed char- acteristics of a working retriever. On top of that, due to the “popular sire syndrome” and the ability to ship semen world- wide, we have essentially no lines left without a certain pro- ducer of seizures, which is a health issue without a test and that is fairly late onset. Advice to the new breeder: Slow down! Study the breed, and dogs in general, before you even buy your first breeding stock. Learn about the health issues, if there are tests and how they are inherited. Study pedigrees beyond the first three to four generations; I had one breeder say that there were no dogs of my breeding in his pedigrees, yet there were three dogs of my breeding in the fourth and fifth generations in one of his dogs, and two in another plus more further back. How can someone avoid health and other issues if they don’t know what dogs are in the pedigrees of what they are breeding from? A good breeder not only knows where they want to go with their program, but also where they are com- ing from. Go see as many dogs as you can, especially those related to ones you own or are interested in buying/breeding to. Attend working tests beyond the entry level, obedience train and title your dogs so you can get a feel for the biddabil- ity and drives that are there, or, not there. Learn what physi- cal soundness is and why it is important; never excuse an ongoing fault. Advice to the new judge: Soundness and balance are always more important than details of type! I can’t emphasize that enough; unsound dogs with beautiful coats or a to die for head are worthless in the field. Unlike the popular quote, a judge should make his first cut based on soundness and his placements on type, especially in a breed that still has a job. Type is what allows you to tell what breed a dog is, details of type separate good dogs from great dogs if the dog is sound and balanced.
The most common fault I see when traveling around the country is cowhocks mostly, usually in dogs that are over- angulated in the rear. Also lack of angulation in the front, flat feet, wimpy temperaments. Apparently coat patterning— bald patches to the skin—is making a comeback too. Go watch dogs that are doing the jobs they were bred for. That more than anything else will teach judges and new breeders what is important in a breed as it will show what traits are needed to get the work done, and what faults will impede the dog from doing it. The funniest thing experienced at a dog show: well, it’s funny now. I was showing a dog in the group for someone else and was focused on making sure he was moving well and at the right speed, to the point that I ran smack into a con- crete post and knocked myself out! During the few seconds I was unconscious, I was told that I refused to let go of the dog’s lead; they thought they would have to pry my fingers open. Fortunately I wasn’t out long and not really damaged, and no, the dog didn’t even make the cut! MEGAN MELLO I’m an environmental compliance inspector and part-time dog show handler and live in Jacksonville, Florida. Growing up in the sport I have seen breeds change over time. Some have gone from good to bad and others from bad to good. For curly coats I have noticed that recently breed- ers are getting back to the breed standard. Curlies are bred to be an all-around dog, not just conformation or field work. It’s exciting when you can see a dog excel in all that it’s bred to do. Like every breed there are health concerns and things that need to be corrected. Luckily, the curly world is working together to hopefully bred out these issues. I have always said what is great about a Curly is you can shoot a gun off over the top of their head and they don’t flinch. However, if you do not work with a dog on anything that it doesn’t like you are for sure to have a problem on your hands. I for one do not like it when a dog is not approachable towards people. Coming from a handler’s standpoint this is a big issue and should be corrected. With time, patience, and lots of hands on practice the dog should easily be worked out of it. As a young person in this breed I have only bred one lit- ter. However, quoting from the breed standard, “To work all day a Curly must be balanced and sound, strong and robust, and quick and agile.” Sadly, I am starting to see some dogs that are losing these qualities. When breeding a litter, a breed- er should never go with the dogs that are easy to breed to whether its cost, time, or travel. The best dogs always take more effort but bring out the most reward. In a small breed like this the gene pool can be limited but if you do your home- work and look further back in the blood line you will find the answers you are looking for. It is not just what the sire and the dam look like. It’s also what the grandparents and great-grandparents looked like too and what they produced in other litters. Advice to a new judge: When judging this breed always go back to the breed standard if you are unsure of what to look for. Curlies are not like other retrievers, they are tall and should be tall, elegant, and have a sound movement. For a breed that is as a majority of the breed in the field a Curly should drive off its rear and have a solid body. For a judge, look for what you know and never guess on what you
S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M ARCH 2019 • 305
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