I am the guy who used to tell others “There are just two types of dogs – German Shepherds, and those who want to be German Shepherds”. And for the last few years, I don’t have a German Shepherd – not one. Instead, I have a Golden Retriever and now a one year old labrador male. These two breeds are totally different from shepherds, and also somewhat different to each other. And guess what – I love them and think they are also great dogs to have, as long as I recognize they are unique and dissimilar to shepherds.
At the height of my craze for German shepherds – I knew pedigrees of hundreds of dogs, and had videos of every big show that happened in the GSD world. I had way more dogs than I should have had. I knew most top breeders – and knew all top dogs, and up coming stars. I also spent a large part of my disposable income in doing all this. And I totally understood how little I knew even with that kind of commitment.
For a variety of reasons, I bought a Golden and then a Lab . Thanks to the experience in Shepherds – I don’t worry at all any more if my dogs don’t end up as succesful show dogs . They can still stay home and play and cuddle with us if they don’t make a career in show ring. However, I still only buy pups which are of show potential, and that too from breeders I like, and blood lines i like. I think it is a great investment even if the dog turns out not so good in looks when he matures – and so far I have had no regrets.
It is kind of funny when you get into a new breed. Despite not being a newbie to purebred dogs, and despite handling and winning with a variety of breeds for friends - I have to start similar to a newbie all over again. To begin with, I buy books and videos and research internet. But that is just a small step. Unless I see several good dogs at different ages , I cannot appreciate the breed at all. So I go out and get introduced to breeders and handlers. It is not really a slow process – there is a lot of stuff that you know from other breeds that can be applied to your new breed.
However, I learned the hard way that this can be awkward too in some cases. I did not like the movement in a lot of goldens I saw at the national show in Malibu,CA a few years ago. So I got in touch with a judge over email, and asked him. After a few back and forth emails – I got it. I didn’t like some goldens because I was expecting them to move like German Shepherds. The scary part was that I was actually liking a few who did move the way I liked, and hence my “eye” was developing an appreciation for a wrong type of Goldens.
Life is a bit more easier with labs – since I have owned and shown labs when I was in school, and hence have a decent foundation. But I don’t know them like I know shepherds – which means I still need lots of time invested to learn, and find some mentors to guide me when I get stuck on something. Thankfully – as with Goldens, the lab people are also a friendly crowd. I have met very few who wouldn’t answer my questions – however silly they are. Another advantage was that I worked in UK before, and they have some great labs. So I have some exposure to good dogs. Couple of trips more to Potomac, and I will have enough to have my basics covered.
I don’t think I will ever become a “breeder” – due to the lack of time and inability to suffer like my many friends who do breed. It is not for a part timer like me – I would much rather make use of the work put in by the dedicated folks who put their hearts and souls into it, by buying from them. A good part of my education in dogs will remain incomplete since I don’t breed – maybe I will try it at retirement. Maybe not. Most probably not. But then again – if I can buy a dog that is not a German Shepherd, I suppose I can breed too someday.
It makes me wonder – when I get my next dog, what breed will he be? Will I buy a German Shepherd, a Golden or a Lab? Or will I buy something else – I also like Irish Setters, Dobes and Boxers. I don’t quite know. A good dog of any large breed gives me goose bumps. Maybe next time, I should buy a dog that fits Arizona climate – so may be a Saluki? If I am buying a Saluki - I need to hire a skinny handler. I cannot even imagine what ringsiders will say if I walk into a ring with a Saluki with its 3 ribs showing !