For many years I have enjoyed doing multiple activities with my hounds. Usually we start with conformation and rally, move on to to tracking, and then eventually agility and obedience, hunting when we have the opportunity. I think this creates well rounded dogs and encourages me to keep my hounds healthy and in good condition long after their show careers end.
The downside of doing this is that I can’t really specialize in any one thing. I’m not sure this is totally a downside, because I like variety and I think my dogs do too, but it can be hard to be compared with exhibitors who specialize in one area, especially if they have the luxury of not also having a full time job. This comes up in all kinds of ways. Recently it was stated that someone dedicated to the hunt test program would attend every hunt in the country, even though the travel time alone would mean 18+ days off from work each year. Being “serious” about conformation or agility means competing even more often than that, not just every weekend but many weekdays as well. This doesn’t even take into account entry fees and the handler fees and advertising that are pretty much required to show a dog beyond his championship.
Doing multiple things means being taken less seriously in all of them. I know I don’t have the right breed to be a real contender in obedience or agility, but I’ve been around both sports a long time and probably know more than I’m given credit for. I can’t become a 70 year old man, a requirement to be a real rabbit hunter, but just maybe the time a well known show breeder had too many beverages at dinner and referred to my ugly hunting dogs was a little much.
So, I can’t make everyone, or maybe anyone, happy. Instead I need to think about what matters to me:
1. Having healthy dogs that are good examples of the breed, both physically and mentally. Maybe campaigning a special is not realistic for an owner handler, but I should continue to show my dogs to their championships and breed to the standard- even if my 30 pound breed champions aren’t the fastest PBGVs in agility. Preserving working ability is just as important as preserving the appearance of the breed, which might mean that my dog will sometimes leave her pretty leg furnishings in the field the weekend before a big show. I want this for GBGVs too, but I know I don’t have the time and resources to breed more than one breed well, and the Petits are my true love.
2. Having well rounded dogs, not only for competition but as part of my family. All of our dogs live together in the house as a pack. This means breeding selectively and keeping numbers of dogs manageable so everyone gets time and individual attention.
3. Pursuing interests outside of dogs. I’ve shown dogs since I was ten and have never had a job that didn’t involve dogs. It’s probably a good idea for me to do other things sometimes, like taking a quilting class or planting a garden.