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Interview with the 2009 Total Dog Best In Show Owner

Robin Clark of Battle Creek, MI

August 6, 2020

Total Dog Best In Show came to life for the first time in 2009 - won by UAGII UC UWPS UWPCHX GRCH Nirvana Chosen One Of Snobiz (call name "Leah"), a Samoyed female owned by Robin Clark of Battle Creek, Michigan.

Total Dog has been a core UKC belief for a century. It had always been a Premier highlight to offer Total Dog throughout the weekend. Incorporating a Total Dog Best In Show provided the recognition worthy of the designation, and it has only increased in popularity and prestige since then.

The following is from Robin Clark, owner of the very first Total Dog Best In Show from 2009.

Tell us what you remember about Premier that year:
What I remember most about the first Total Dog competition was that Mark Threlfall and Wayne Cavanaugh were judging. I sent [my daughter] Jill into the ring with Leah. Leah was 9 years old. When talking to Wayne while getting pictures, he said he was really surprised by what he felt under all the hair. That's so important to remember. You truly have to do hands on with coated breeds to know their structure.

How did you get started in Samoyeds? What memories can you share about UAGII UC UWPS UWPCHX GRCH Nirvana Chosen One Of Snobiz?
I always say that I downsized to Samoyeds. I use to show horses. Next I had Great Danes. When it was time for another dog, I dragged my husband to a dog show. He decided that he wanted a Northern type dog. I checked into all of the breeds. We had 2 children at the time, 2.5 and 5 years old, so we needed a good family dog that I could show. I got lucky when I found a breeder and got an exceptional show dog for my first Samoyed. And then we added Leah, who won Total Dog in 2009. She came to live with me at 14 months, from co-owner, and we started doing everything. What I remember most is her desire to be with me, dragging several people across fields to get to me. That certainly helped her weight pull career!

What does Total Dog mean to you? Why do you choose to participate in both conformation and performance?
Form and Function. You need both to preserve your chosen breed for their intended purpose. And you need to test both aspects to determine if you are achieving that. Does your dog have a work ethic? Can he/she live up to their potential or does structure hold them back?

Robin Clark mushing

Robin Clark racing her Samoyed team.

What UKC performance sports do you enjoy doing the most with your dogs and why?
The UKC performance events that I like best, and fit the strengths of my breed, are agility and weight pull. But I've done all of them. I do realize that all dogs won't like or excel at every event. Find what your dog likes best and do it. And remember, if it's not fun for you both, try something else.

Robin Clark weight pull

Photo submitted by Robin Clark.

Robin Clark agility

Photo submitted by Robin Clark.

When you're not at UKC shows, what else do you do to keep your dogs busy?
The other events that Im really involved in, that have historical roots for my breed, are herding and dog sledding. Those are their intended function and they enjoy those most. We spend months conditioning for races and keep that conditioning thru the summer with herding and agility. I currently work/train several dogs and they don't all live with me. Temperament is so important when doing team sports like sledding. I can throw dogs from 3 different households together with no issues. Granted, I bred them all to be social and have a great temperament.

Robin Clark herding

Historically, Samoyed dogs were used to hunt, herd reindeer, and haul sledges. Robin Clark trains her dogs in many of the activities central to the breed's heritage.

Since 2009, what other Total Dog goals have you reached?
There are two other times that stand out to me as Total Dog events that we did well in. First was the year that Paris, sled team lead dog and exceptional weight pull dog, won Select Bitch at the Samoyed Nationals. We won the Working Bitch class and when the judge asked what she did, I had a whole list to recite. The other was winning Best In Working Sweeps at the Samoyed Nationals with Carina. She is one of my current sledding lead dogs that also does agility, weight pull, and nosework with me. She's mother to my 3 other dogs that I currently show and work. She also received an Award of Merit at that Samoyed Nationals, along with 3 firsts in her various agility classes. So Total Dog at the Samoyed Nationals multiple years.

What other UKC shows do you like to attend every year? How often are you on the road for dog sports, and how far do you travel on a given weekend?
I attend many UKC events because I'm located in Michigan and there's many to choose from. I haven't missed Premier since Ive begun showing in UKC. It's my favorite event due to all the variety available. Samoyed Nationals rotate around the country so Ive gone quite far to get to those. Mainly, I stick to the Midwest so WI, IL, IN, OH, MI with occasional visits to PA, KY, and MN.

What else would you like to share? What suggestions do you have for people who might be reading this wondering how to get started in the world of UKC dog sports?
Find something you like to do with your dog that exercises their minds and bodies. All dogs will have favorites. If youre not having fun, find something else. Remember its about you and your dog as a team. Regardless of the days results, you are always taking the best dog home because hes your dog.

More Premier Reading

Read this historical overview of Premier for more details on past shows.

Watch the UKC Virtual Premier Total Dog Challenge on August 22nd. The virtual Best In Show winner will be awarded as well as an exciting announcement released related to UKC Total Dog!

How to watch the show online

Guided by the belief that dogs make a difference by being the best partner a human can have in the field, on the job, or in a competition event, UKC is a community for people and dogs to pursue excellence together. Founded in 1898, UKC has been dedicated to enhancing the lives of Dogs That Do More, and their owners, by providing essential resources to help owners and breeders make informed decisions. The dog-human bond is celebrated through family-friendly programs highlighting the instincts and heritage of purebred and mixed-breed dogs alike at over 15,000 licensed events annually.

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