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Our First AKC Conformation Show

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This weekend I showed our Rottweiler Zeus Sohn Von Holbrook Vom Krafthaus in our first AKC dog show – the Mid-Ohio Cluster.  The show is somewhat of a cooperative venture between several AKC kennel clubs in and around Columbus, OH (the show was held at the Ohio Expo Center), hence the designation “cluster” in the show title.

Readers of ThruMyLens know that I’ve been very active in showing our Rottweilers in various conformation events over the past year or so, and may be wondering why this is the first time Zeus and I have stepped into an AKC conformation ring.  The answer is simple, but the issue behind it is complex – Zeus has a natural tail, and the American Rottweiler Club/American Kennel Club standard calls for the Rottweiler tail to be docked.  So technically speaking, an AKC judge is within their right (based on the ARC/AKC breed standard for a Rottweiler) to either not consider or not favorably consider a naturally tailed Rottweiler in an AKC conformation ring.

22. Zeus Sohn von Holbrook vom Krafthaus NN 2014-4

Zeus and his natural tail

If you’re in the US or Canada and reading this article, perhaps you’ve never even seen a Rottweiler with a natural tail.  But in the vast majority of countries outside of North American, it’s illegal to dock the tail of a dog (including Germany where the breed originates) – it’s considered inhumane.  In the American Rottweiler Club (and in several other AKC breed clubs) this issue is both intensely divisive and utterly ridiculous.  Breed standards are in place to ensure the betterment of the breed, and conformation events are ultimately intended to identify the best candidates for breeding based on genetic factors.  Judges look at things like the dog’s teeth, it’s structure, it’s eyes, and it’s movement to separate the finest examples of the breed from other dogs who are either absent in desirable traits, or have undesirable traits present.  At this point, the thinking person should be asking the question “why is there such consternation and controversy over whether or not a dog has a tail that’s been surgically removed?”  The presence or absence of a tail on a dog isn’t a genetically determined factor.  At best, it’s a cosmetic alteration to the dog’s appearance.  At worst, it’s mutilating a dog’s naturally occurring appendage.   In either case, because the presence or absence of a natural tail isn’t controlled by breeding/genetics, why then should the presence or absence of a tail be any sort of deciding factor in the conformation ring?

Good question.  Logically speaking, it makes no sense.  Hence my hesitation to show in an AKC ring prior to the Mid-Ohio Cluster.

At this point you might be wondering how Zeus did at the Mid-Ohio Cluster.  The short answer?  Not well.

On both Saturday and Sunday, Zeus received a blue ribbon (1st place) in the class in which I entered him – “Amateur Owner Handled:”

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Sounds good right?  Well, not really.  Zeus was the only dog competing in this class on both days.  To actually get points needed for an AKC Championship title, the dog has to advance from their class and win, which didn’t happen for us this show.  Many have told me that these blue ribbons do in fact represent a small victory for the naturally tailed Rottweiler.  Judges have been known to dismiss naturally tailed dogs from the ring or award a 2nd place red ribbon – even if the dog in question was the only dog entered in the class.  Does that sound ridiculously absurd?   It should.

Having won his class, Zeus then went back into to the ring to compete with the other male class winners for “Best of Winners.”  In both cases, Zeus didn’t place 1st, or go “reserve” (2nd place).  In fact, neither judge (John Marin on Saturday, and Robin Stansell on Sunday) really ever gave Zeus serious consideration.  There were two other tailed dogs that showed in other classes, and neither placed in their classes.

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There was another natural tailed Rottweiler in this class (the last dog, far right). Like the other natural tailed Rottweilers shown this weekend, it wasn’t given serious consideration.

This show was considered a “major” by AKC standards (more than 2000 dogs of various breeds entered).  Did that have something to do with how stringent these judges applied breed standards?  Perhaps.  Did the fact that Zeus was an 18 mo. old male competing against adults factor in to his lack of placement?  Maybe.  But we’re talking about a dog who has, in his last three national level Sieger shows placed not less than 2nd place, and is a multi-V rated dog (the best a dog can be rated against the breed standard).  We’re talking about a dog who received his UKC Championship title in little over a weekend (UKC unlike AKC does not penalize tailed Rottweilers in the conformation show ring).  So I find it difficult to believe that his having a tail played no part in his lack of serious consideration at this show.  I could be wrong.

When you take a step back and reconsider that conformation events aren’t about ribbons, trophies, or even money – they’re supposed to be about breed betterment – you realize what a shame and disgrace this situation is with Rottweilers and the AKC.  It seems not a day goes by that I don’t see heartbreaking “my dog just crossed the Rainbow Bridge” posts in Rottweiler groups on Facebook – dogs that are dying young from diseases like cancer or heart issues, or hip dysplasia.  Yet, the American Rottweiler Club (keeper of the breed standard in the US) chooses to allow itself to get absolutely consumed with whether or not a Rottweiler should have their tail removed.  The American Rottweiler Club and the American Kennel Club should be ashamed.

Look, I’m not hear to tell anyone that they can’t dock their Rottweiler’s tail.  What I am saying is ARC and AKC need to focus on what’s in front of the tail of a Rottweiler, not behind it.  The breed standard should be about genetic factors that are influenced through breeding, NOT about factors which come about via surgical alteration purely for cosmetic preferences.  Again, I’ve shown in the United Kennel Club (UKC), Rottweiler Klub of North America (RKNA), the Association of Independent Rottweiler Klub (AIRK) and the International All-Breed Canine Association (IABCA) – in each of the venues, I’ve seen docked tailed Rottweilers competing with natural tailed Rottweilers.  If those organizations can make it work, why can’t ARC/AKC?

Will I continue to show my Rottweilers in the AKC show ring?  Yes I will.  There are certain brave and enlightened AKC judges who recognize that penalizing a dog in a conformation event for not having their tail surgically altered is absurd.  Still, Zeus may never earn enough points to receive an AKC Championship title.  But if we can play a small part in changing attitudes and policies within the ARC (as both a voting member and exhibitor) then it will be worth while.  Besides, Zeus already has plenty of ribbons, trophies and titles – including the title that counts the most – “my best friend.”

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About 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.

  1. He is looking good!!! Keep up the good work. Ciana and I are going to try it again next weekend here in Texas. Yes it is hard, but I think if we keep showing times will change. I love the tails. Good luck to you!
    Barbara

  2. Jeff Shaver says:

    Wonderful article

  3. John, hang in there, not everyone wins at every show, infact only 1 male and 1 female win from the classes, It takes luck, a good dog, and a judge that judges fairly to win. One day all of these will line up for you. You article is well written and shows you view, to bad some of the folks in ARC can not see the tailed dogs as just another dog and open of the standard to accept them without penalty. AKC registers them, and AKC shows are open to pure bred registered dogs, so there should be no discrimination in showing a registered dog tail or no tail.

  4. John, I applaud you. I have a blue male Dane with natural ears, and I have faced some of the same prejudice. Docking a dog’s tail just to keep to a “breed standard” is nothing but abuse to the dog. Oh, and by the way, my Dobie female also has natural ears. I would have kept her tail too, but it was docked before I got her.
    Jill

  5. Sherri Fuentes says:

    Great article, I own two Rotts with tails and I don’t think I will ever consider a docked Rottie. My male puppy is going to be shown so maybe we can help change the “tail” attitude in the near future!

  6. Ruth Kroon says:

    Wow! Thanks for the article. I have a tailed bitch that had her first show at 14 mos in Jun of this year and then her second and third in Nov. She was the only tailed Rottweiler at all the events. We were newbies together and it has been an interesting experience. We will be getting into more shows as the season starts again. Probably not to win, but we are determined to have fun 🙂

  7. Laura Rosinski says:

    Nice article John.

    Yes, it’s true, that there are still judges (and other exhibitors) who don’t like tails, and will penalize the dog for it. But more and more judges are seeing the big picture, and will judge the ENTIRE dog, vice the 15+ inches and the butt end of the dog !

    Keep up the good work, and know that there are a lot of Rottweiler people behind you, and have every confidence that your dog will win.

  8. The same applies for the boxer.i would like to see akc step up and enforce mandatory health testing for all breeds prior to breeding.until that happens I will not support an akc show of any kind.

  9. Joe Rottweiler says:

    John: Are you a member of the American Rottweiler Club (ARC)? ARC is the keeper of the AKC Rottweiler Breed Standard but the standard belongs to the members. If you want to accomplish change you need to join the club and become a voting member. The standard as it exists today is the result of choices made by a majority of the members of ARC and only a majority can change it.

    Well written article.

    Joe R.

  10. Alxe Noden says:

    John, glad to see you trying (peacefully) to get this changed in your breed. In my book, “Showing Kunga: from Pet Owner to Dog Show Junkie,” I talk a bit about the struggle to finish a championship on a natural-eared Great Dane. At least our standard now explicitly permits the natural ear, though there is a great deal of judge prejudice against it.

  11. Dear “Joe”

    Yes, my wife and I enjoy a family membership (2 votes!) to ARC.

  12. Thank you so much Laura for both your kind words and continued support!

  13. Maureen Griffin says:

    A wonderful article that echoes the thoughts I have had regarding all this nonsense in the USA about tailed Rottweilers ever since I started going to European shows. At my first show in Helsinki, I watched 117 Rotties compete and it became immediately apparent that the length of the tail has nothing to do with the structure of the dog.
    I only have one caveat. While it appears that your dog’s wins indicate that he is of high quality, I have seen dogs with tails shown that did not deserve to win and the owners fell back on the “It’s because he has a tail” thing as an excuse for losing. People must be willing to truthfully evaluate their dogs and bring dogs of high quality. Besides, if a judge puts up a very incorrect docked dog over a tailed dog of high quality, who looks like a fool? ;-))

  14. Maureen – thanks for the kind words on the article. Your caveat is certainly true, but again, mine certainly wasn’t the only tailed dog that was shown. The judges overlooked all four tailed dogs that were entered.

  15. I get that there is some resistance to a tail but to say that such dogs are not getting put up is just wrong. The sire of my new pup has a tail…and he’s an American and Canadian champion among other things brought over from Croatia as a youngster. He kept getting put up over docked dogs. It is possible with a dog that is good enough, it’s just not especially easy sometimes.

    He is AM/CAN Ch. Eter vom Hause Edelstein (with assorted alphabet soup after the name that I can’t remember all of it)

    I like docked tails, because of a severe leg injury I sustained from a happy lab tail, I prefer docked tails in my dogs, but I support the desire and right NOT to have a docked tail…it shouldn’t make a difference in the ring one way or the other.

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  1. 2014: Zeus's Year In Review | ThruMyLens - […] the year was just last month in November, and was our first true AKC all-breed conformation show:  The Mid-Ohio…

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