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Published in December 2010 issue of Perspectives detailing the 50th anniversary of our breed.
The word "performance" has many different meanings to many people. Let's forget the drama side of performance and turn to the side of: execution, carrying out, accomplishment, attainment, achievement . . . the work in functioning to a crowning finish.
A working dog needs to be bred for stamina and an innate willingness to do the necessary jobs it is needed for. Consider the history of working canines from ancient falconry to World War I messengers to today's search and rescue, seeing eye, bomb and drug detection, guarding and Transportation Security Authority assistants. Aside from these types of well known canine assistance, there are many other things these special animals can do: Dogs for the Deaf has professionally trained many dogs and provided, at no cost to the hearing impaired, a companion to alert them to sounds; Peanut Dogs are trained to save the lives of people with food allergies. They learn to sniff, detect and then spin around to signal owners to steer clear of dangerous items; Gabriel's Angels - these special dogs work with abused children. This organization believes that the bond between a therapy dog and a child is strong enough to break the cycle of violence (www.GabrielsAngels.org); Puppies Behind Bars - convicted felons in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut train service dogs for wounded veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan (they teach 82 commands that can help veterans missing limbs or needing wheelchairs); Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) created by Intermountain Therapy Animals uses registered therapy dogs to help children build self-assurance through reading. They work in libraries, elementary schools and bookstores. READ focuses on young children encouraging them to read aloud and build self confidence.
We can only tell how strong performance traits are by seeing dogs work in Performance Events. A handsome dog without the natural ability for which many breeds are bred for is missing a very important factor that needs to be emphasized. How can we breed for natural ability unless we can test it, compete for the best, encourage dog fanciers to get involved and offer Performance Events to participate in.
For those of us with working dogs, performance is as important as conformation ‚Äì maybe even more so. Natural ability has as much genetic punch as good looks. I've seen "bird dogs" turn away from birds with no interest and walk off. Check the pedigrees, generally no strong indication of breeding for natural ability.
So, what's the answer? Aside from committing to breed for natural ability, support for proving natural ability in Performance Events is needed. The American Kennel Club needs to invest as much time, energy and monetary support into Performance as Conformation. In order to fight legislation that would compromise training and work with dogs, Performance needs to be emphasized in every way possible.
Performance, as well as Conformation, needs young people. Performance activities and events that would attract youth must be created.
So, let's get started on bolstering and subsidizing what exists and creating what's needed to move to a crowning and champion finish for The American Kennel Club.
Lynn Worth Smith, Delegate
Vizsla Club of America