My First Experience at an RKNA Dog Show
My wife Karen and I are new to showing dogs, but not to Rottweilers. Our family owned one growing up (among other large breed dogs) and my wife and I owned one for four years before he died and we purchased our current Rottweiler named Zeus. Our breeder (Krafthaus Rottweilers) encouraged us to show him – something we’ve never done before, but agreed to try. We started small (a local UKC show) and he did reasonably well in his first outing, winning 1st place in the male puppy division. Having enjoyed it, we decided to travel to Nashville, TN to attend two Rottweiler Klub of North America (RKNA) shows being held over one weekend – the 2013 Nashville Rottweiler Klub Breed Show (Saturday, Sept. 21st) and the 2013 RKNA Klub Seiger Show. I thought it might be beneficial for me to document my experiences and share my thoughts as both a new member of RKNA and someone new to dog showing,
The first thing that I’ll say that it is very challenging for a “newbie” to get what I assume is very basic information about showing in an RKNA event. What sort of leash and collar should be on the dog being shown? What is the dress code for owners/handlers? None of this sort of information could be found on the RKNA website. Looking on the RKNA website, you’re inundated with jargon like “premium,” “ZTP,” and “IPO” – none of these terms are clearly defined. I’m not even comfortable calling a female dog the “b” word yet…how am I supposed to know what a V1 rating means? This lack of “RKNA 101” information creates hurdles for people outside of the show world to get involved. Apparently RKNA assumes that anyone who wants to get involved in RKNA showing has a foundation of knowledge (perhaps from showing in AKC or other organizations). For many, this may be true but speaking for myself it isn’t. My recommendation would be for RKNA to produce a “RKNA For Dummies” type FAQ for their website which assumes that a person has no prior background to showing dogs. While they’re at it, produce some short, simple videos about how to show a dog in an RKNA event. The videos should show judging by the various classes, and demonstrate what is expected. Questions like “how do I show a dogs teeth?” and “how and when do I bait my dog?” should be answered. I was very fortunate that my breeder (Krafthaus Rottweilers) attended the show and “carried me” throughout the event. Were such assistance not available to me, I seriously doubt I would have attended the event. When I joined the RKNA, I had the opportunity to speak with their officer in charge of membership, Natalie Cswertek (nice lady) and expressed my concern over being completely ignorant of how showing a dog worked in RKNA, and asked her if some sort of reference guide was available? She instead suggested that I hook up with the organizer for the show I was attending, and let them know this was my first show. They would likely be able to connect me with someone at the show who might be able to help me show my dog, either on a friendly volunteer basis or paid. Having attended the show, and seeing how nice everyone was, this was probably good advice and might (emphasis on the might) have worked out for me had my breeder not been there to help me. But for someone traveling a fair distance (most attendees come from out of state it seems) is it reasonable to ask someone to spend money on registration, hotel, and travel to attend a show on the hope that someone MIGHT be available to help show their dog? I think the better answer here is to produce some basic reference material. If anyone at RKNA agrees with me, I’ll be happy to assist in producing the material.
Once we arrived at the show, we were extremely impressed and perhaps spoiled for any future RKNA shows we attend. The shows were hosted by the Nashville Rottweiler Klub and organized by Alex Rodriguez of Von Der Rod Rottweilers. You couldn’t ask for a better run and more well organized show with an ideal location right in the heart of downtown Nashville:.
The Nashville RKNA Klub Seiger Show is billed as the largest RKNA show in North America and we saw no reason to dispute the claim – reportedly over 200 dogs were in attendance. In fact, the Saturday Nashville Rottweiler Klub Breed Show was added. giving those in attendance two opportunities to earn ratings and points in a single weekend. The location chosen (Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park) again was fantastic with plenty of open grassy space for the ring area, and some nice shady areas close by to keep dogs when they weren’t in the ring. Here’s a few photos of my puppy Zeus Sind Von Holbrook who competed in the 4-6 month male class:
Gerard O’Shea (an Irishman flown in from Sweeden) was the judge on Saturday for the male dogs, and Hans-Jürgen Radtke (a German flown in from Germany) judged the males on Sunday. Radtke conversely judged the males on Saturday, with O’Shea handling the females that day. Much to everyone’s surprise, O’Shea (a world renown expert on dogs in general and the Rottweiler breed in particular) was hyper-critical of all the dogs he saw, and extremely strict in the standards he applied. In what I call the “puppy divisions” (4-6 mo., 6-9 mo., and 9-12 mo.) the highest rating that can be received is “VP” (Very Promising”), followed by P (Promising), S (Satisfactory), NP (Not Promising), and DQ (Disqualified). Throughout all of the “puppy divisions” O’Shea only gave one rating of VP (who I believe was the 1st place winner of the male 9-12 month category). All the other dogs (approximately 20 dogs) got ratings of “P” or below. My puppy received a “P3” in his competition in the 4-6 month male category, meaning a 3rd place finish and a “P” rating. Now, I don’t have a problem with how strict O’Shea was in his judging, and certainly have no expertise to credibly question his judgement. However, I think it is possible to apply the strictest of standards and maintain positive professionalism. I heard O’Shea make several statements like “I’ve not seen any good dogs here today” and “I’m not happy with any of the dogs I’ve seen here today.” I don’t think this sort of commentary was warranted, necessary, or professional. As a newcomer to RKNA, I found O’Shea’s commentary to be very off-putting. I can only imagine how the other more experienced dog owners felt about O’Shea’s critiques.
Sunday was the RKNA Klubseiger Show – the main event for the weekend. We were quite optimistic going into Sunday’s competition as Zeus wouldn’t be judged by Gerard O’Shea and would be instead judged by Hans-Jürgen Radtke. We could not have been more wrong! Zeus placed 4th in the 4-6 month male puppy class, garnering an “NP” rating from Radtke – given almost solely on the basis of light eye color from what we could glean from his translator. I wasn’t particularly concerned about the 4th place finish – I didn’t expect Zeus to finish well as he was only 4.5 months old (he was the youngest and least developed of any puppy in his class). But an “NP” rating? Sitting next to Zeus was his half-brother Grantham (both dogs have the same father) who placed 3rd and received a “P” rating. Several breeders in attendance examined both dogs and could perceive no difference in their eye color. Our breeder was as stunned as we were that Radtke would give Zeus such a poor rating. Particularly when a judge who, (by all accounts) has both greater experience and expertise rated Zeus a full two categories higher the day prior and made no critical comments about his eye color.
Given our experience with the judging, you might be wondering if my wife and I plan to show again in an RKNA show? The answer is a resounding, “yes!” Overall, we very much enjoyed ourselves, again in no small part due to the effort and expense show organizer Alex Rodriguez put into the entire weekend. We met a lot of great people and saw so many beautiful Rottweilers! I might think twice about showing at an event that’s being judged by O’Shea, and judging from the virtually unanimous commentary I heard from others who showed that weekend, I’m not the only one. Ironically, while O’Shea rated and placed my dog better than Radtke, I had less of a problem with him as a judge and wouldn’t hesitate to participate in a show with him as a judge in the future. I didn’t particularly agree with his rating, but he did his job professionally so I have no issue with him whatsoever. I do however have to question the wisdom of apply such strict judging criteria to puppies. Again, think about newcomers to RKNA events (who most likely would be starting out with a puppy) – if someone who was less thick skinned than myself had seen their puppy get a “not promising” rating, they might well have been discouraged enough to never again participate.
Outside of the judging, the only other thing I observed at the Nashville RKNA shows which I found disturbing was the number of dogs which had behavioral issues. I care very deeply about Rottweilers as a breed and and about all dogs in general. I strongly believe in proper obedience training and socialization for all dogs, but particularly for Rottweilers who are often targets for Breed Specific Legislation. The Nashville show took place in a highly trafficked public park and drew many spectators who knew nothing about Rottweilers or dog shows. I can’t count how many times I cringed at how dogs in this show behaved – not only during the show (two dogs were disqualified for displaying aggressive behavior while O’Shea examined teeth or confirmed intactness of male dogs on Saturday) but also outside the ring. Caged dogs reacted aggressively to anyone passing by their cages, and there were several instances of dogs attaching other dogs. I look at these outdoor events as great opportunities for the public to see Rottweilers outside of how they are often portrayed by the media. Unfortunately, there were too many examples of dogs which didn’t help our cause during this show. If a dog isn’t properly trained and socialized, they really have no business being entered into this type of show in my honest opinion. And if an owner/breeder owns too many dogs to be able to properly work with each dog they own on an individual basis, then that owner/breeder should scale back to a more manageable number of dogs.
I close with this final photo of myself in the ring with my dog Zeus. I think I’ll take a much more active role in showing my dog in the next event based on what I learned in Nashville.
In case you’re wondering, I am a professional photographer. The photos in this article were taken with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III, my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, and processed using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, Adobe Photoshop CS6, and OnOne Software Perfect Photo Suite. Thanks to my wife Karen who took many of the photos while I was busy in the show.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.