Reprinted from The Empire Kerry Blue Terrier Club Newsletter, contributed by Edith Izant
I am going to quote two passages from the American Kennel Club which may be unfamiliar, but which explain pretty well what we are all doing, or should be doing, in the world of pure-bred dogs.
"The holding of dog shows at which pure-bred dogs may be exhibited and given an opportunity to compete for prizes and thereby enable their breeders and owners to demonstrate the progress made in breeding for type and quality and the holding of obedience trials and field trials at which pure-bred dogs may be run in competition for prizes and thereby enable their breeders and owners to determine the progress made in breeding for practical use, stamina and obedience have been found to be the best methods by which the progress which has been made in breeding can be shown." Rules Applying to Registration and Dog Shows
"The purpose of Obedience Trials is to demonstrate the usefulness of the pure-bred dog as a companion of man, not merely the dog's ability to follow specified routines in the obedience ring. While all contestants in a class are required to perform the same exercises in substantially the same way so that the relative quality of the various performances may be compared and scored, the basic objective of Obedience Trials is to produce dogs that have been trained and conditioned always to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs in a manner that will reflect credit on the sport of Obedience." AKC Obedience Regulations
We who own Kerry Blue Terriers should be very proud of the fact that we now have numerous CHAMPION-UTILITY dogs in our breed. That means that a person can buy a puppy from a reputable breeder and have opportunities to show in breed and obedience, plus tracking or agility. These options are not available in most AKC breeds today.
What does it take to accomplish a CH/UD? The owner has to have patience and determination. He needs encouragement from fellow exhibitors (which he usually gets in good measure) and the time and money to spend on training and entries. The dog has to have its head "screwed on right" otherwise it can't function off lead, away from its handler among strange surroundings, people and other dogs. It must meet the requirements of the breed standard in the show ring, demonstrating the structural soundness which will also permit the years of jumping required in Open and Utility. Last though not least, it must have the will and ability to please its owner, outstanding characteristics of our Kerry Blues.
I have been determined enough and lucky enough to have accomplished Champion/Utility degrees twice with two Kerry Blues and once with a Portuguese Water Dog and am now an AKC Obedience Judge, broadening my perspective. I would love to believe that such achievements with both a terrier breed and a working breed have gotten rid of the notion that obedience is bad for a dog's show temperament, but I don't think they have. Another notion that makes little sense to me is that if your dog goes to obedience, when it is shown in breed, it will sit down. My answer to this is that a well trained dog does what it is told to do. I specialed "Genie" (Ch. Spindrift Genoa UD, a PWD) while I was working her on Utility and got into Group numerous times. However, I never put a dog in obedience and breed on the same day as, in my opinion, both suffer.
Obedience can do wonders for Kerry puppies no matter what the future holds--the breed ring, the obedience trial or both. It gets them out in the real world and lets strangers go over them. It is a learning experience during their formative years that helps them become good citizens which, with the new wave of dog legislation sweeping the country, is becoming more and more necessary. Most importantly, it gives the owner a great companion of whom he can be proud.
Here's to more CH/UD Kerry Blues and their breeders and owners!
Editor's note: Something to think about. It seems to me that the same "Hey world, look at me" attitude that is present in the top winning conformation dogs is the exact same personality that serious trainers look for when selecting an obedience prospect. And, if the thought of putting a UD on your Kerry sounds overwhelming, why not aim for a CD and go from there? This goes for pet Kerries too!