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Using All Your Knowledge
Posted on 02/13/2013 in Ringside Conversations.

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Richard (Rick) Beauchamp

In trying to catch up with my stacks of “must read” articles, I recently came across one written by Harry Bennett, a long-time breeder-exhibitor and all around dog man from Florida. He made several worthwhile points, but one in particular really got me thinking.

“It is interesting that as we become more sophisticated or ‘evolved’ in our hobby and sport, we make things complex to a point that it seems we lose sight of the basics.”

In their attempts to help fanciers better understand the canine world, it is my opinion that too many well-meaning lecturers are spoon-feeding technical information to attendees that, in many cases, they do not really have the background to correctly apply.

As a result, many of our breeder-exhibitors have entirely lost sight of what it is we as dog fanciers are or should be pursuing - which is, plain and simple, the best specimens of our respective breeds that we can breed or find in our rings.

If the word “generic” is mentioned at all in the course of a dog show day, it is heard dozens upon dozens of times. Why do you think that’s the case?

We have so dissected our show and breeding dogs that while we might well be able to name the hundreds, if not thousands, of anatomical parts that go into making any purebred dog. We’ve also mastered the fine art of giving every reason on earth why each of those parts is or can be wrong, and in doing so we are losing the ability to see the truly outstanding animal even if it were to step our toes in passing.

In self-defense, the breeder breeds for a dog with no obvious faults. The judge, sick to death of being criticized for putting up any dog with an obvious flaw or fault looks for the dog that he doesn’t have to defend in the winner’s circle afterward - the dog with no real observable faults.

And, in case you haven’t learned this yet, learn it now if you ever want to breed or judge well - the absence of faults does not the great dog make!

As a result, we have become inundated with dogs that show their heads off and don’t make a mistake moving. Dogs that, although they have no major faults, neither do they have outstanding virtues. In other words - faultless and also useless, if in fact we are still in pursuit of the great and ideal specimen of our respective breeds.

An Ability Lost
We are losing our ability to see excellence. The ability to do so occurs within the mind and that in part was subject of an article I wrote for the monthly publication of a very popular and high entry breed. Evidently the article had some impact in that it was reprinted in several other publications as well.

What I wrote made reference to a conversation that Elliott Weiss, a friend and fellow judge, had with the daughter of one of Great Britain’s master breeders. Her mother was Mrs. Walter Edmondson, who bred Pointers under the iconic Crookrise prefix. Mrs. Robertshaw is without a doubt the doyen of the Pointer breed. She did not create Pointers, but she created the look of the Pointer as we know it today. The classic chiseled head the bee sting tail were hallmarks of the Crookrise dogs and of what most of us now consider excellence in today’s Pointer breed. The Crookrise dogs only needed to step into the ring to be recognized. There was never a need to refer to a catalogue.

In the course of his conversation with Mrs. Edmondson’s daughter, Cecily, Weiss learned that her mother had never looked at a pedigree in the course of her breeding program. From the beginning she had created the perfect Pointer picture in her mind, she would breed only the dog, and bitch closest to that picture and after a few generations had in fact created her own pedigree.

The pros and cons of pedigree breeding are subject of an entirely different article and I will not go into that here and now. However, I must ask how many of you reading this has a crystal clear picture of the ideal dog of your breed firmly implanted in your mind’s eye? Not a picture of the parts that might be anatomically correct for the breed, but the picture that should you be so fortunate to see it in the flesh would make your heart skip a beat.

Sadly we are losing our ability to recognize and appreciate this excellence. As I stated above, the ability to do so occurs within the mind, and it was Mr. Weiss who first brought Right Brain/Left Brain thinking to my attention and how it can assist us in our appreciation of the works of art we call outstanding purebred dogs. Allow me to oversimplify a bit, if you will.

Left Brain, Right Brain Theory
According to scientific studies made over the last two decades, it has been found that each side of the brain generally controls different types of thinking. Additionally, people are said to prefer one type of thinking to the other. For example, a person who is “left-brained” is often said to be more logical, analytical and objective, while a person who is “right-brained” is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful and subjective.

The Right Brain: According to the left-brain, right-brain theory, the right side of the brain is best at expressive and creative tasks. Some of the abilities that are popularly associated with the right side of the brain include:
• Recognizing faces
• Expressing emotions
• Music
• Reading emotions
• Color
• Images
• Intuition
• Creativity
• An ability to see the whole

This is the side of our brain that assists us in our appreciation of the beautiful sunset, the work of the great artists, recognition of the “ideal”.

The Left Brain: The left side of the brain is considered to be adept at tasks that involve logic, language and analytical thinking. The left-brain is often described as being better at:
• Language
• Logic
• Critical thinking
• Numbers
• Reasoning

It assists us with math, with mechanics, separating fact from fancy, and so forth.

Uses of Right Brain, Left Brain Theory
While often over-generalized and overstated by pop psychology and self-help gurus, understanding your strengths and weaknesses in certain areas can help you develop better ways to learn and study.

For example, someone who has difficulty in following verbal instructions (often cited as a right-brain shortcoming), can benefit from writing down directions and developing better organizational skills.

Exercises that require word usage, logical reasoning or step-by-step processing help strengthen left-brain thinking immeasurably. Brainteasers and word puzzles are good examples that utilize the left hemisphere and strengthen its function. Spelling and math activities are also good left-brain exercises.

Individuals who are inclined to approach tasks primarily from the left side of their brain can also find tools that assist them in learning to appreciate the benefits of right brain thinking.

Specific right-brain focused exercises such as listening to or performing music, an art class or even tracing a picture can encourage the right brain to become more active. Creative hobbies that absorb all of your attention and focus encourage the creative, conceptual part of the right brain. Stimulating your right brain through writing or drawing with your “wrong” hand can help you get in touch with your creative, intuitive and emotional side.

Recent studies have proven that in a great respect individuals may be far more heavily influenced by one side of their brain rather than governed exclusively by just one side.

This, in a very general sense, familiarizes you with the right brain-left brain thinking. If I have not characterized it perfectly, please forgive and blame me, not the world’s therapists and psychologists.

That said, here is where I take a great dive overboard to render an opinion that may well be considered outrageous. Do allow me to say, however, that my opinion is based upon some nearly 65 years of observation of those pretty well conceded to be some of our greatest breeders and judges. And the opinion, with all modesty aside, is backed up by my own God given ability to appreciate and recognize type - or as some may call it, “having an eye.”

I do believe the best breeders and judges I know in the world today are those who approach their task primarily from the right side of their brain - the artistic and creative side. They are able to fully appreciate the forest knowing full well that it exists because of the trees. That is, they are able to appreciate the essence of their breed or breeds without losing their sense of what logically makes it all possible.

A lot to think about, I assure you, but if you are able to give the foregoing careful thought and consideration, you are resorting to right brain thinking and my own mission has been accomplished!

Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp has been successfully involved in practically every facet of purebred dogs: breeding, exhibiting, publishing, writing. He is the author of numerous breed and all breed books including the best-selling Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type and Breeding Dogs for Dummies. He has judged all breeds throughout the world and was one of the United Kennel Club’s first all breed judges.

This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News.