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Pat was asked in an e-mail  <<Given the fact that I'm new to Afghan Hounds, what are your thoughts on getting a retired Ch. to show? I thought since they already know the ropes of showing it would be easier for a newcomer. OK  One more <G> any thoughts on which is easier for a newcomer to the breed, male or female? THANKS!!>>

While the questions were specifically asked about an Afghan Hound, I think my reasoning can apply for any breed you choose to become involved with and love.

My first instinct is to say Frying Pan into the Fire. Then I have to ask, is this your first show dog experience? Do you have years in showing other breeds?

These are my thoughts if you are new to the world of showing. Obviously get a mentor. If you can get to handling classes go and learn the ropes, but make sure they are breed specific.

If you are talking about competition in Junior Showmanship, then yes a more polished dog will give you one less thing to worry about.

Now let’s discuss showing a Champion. As a former handler and now a judge I expect to see the very best in the Champion class. They are also called Specials and that is exactly what I want to see. I want to see Special dogs. The crème de la crème for beautifully fit and conditioned dogs, grooming and presentation are seen in this class. I usually see Best In Show dogs, Specialty Winners, and Group Winners in this competition. When I and many other judges consider this competition, it is sudden death elimination. That means no mistakes on the part of the dog or the handler.

Correct grooming and breed presentation are essential. Many breeds are very labor intensive and require special training and skills. Hard coats that many Terrier breeds have fall into that category. A Special's coat is very demanding.

I am also concerned about whether or not you can handle a Special's coat. Afghan Hound grooming is very particular to our breed and has to be learned gradually unless you are a very experienced groomer. I have seen members of the Professional Handlers Assoc. mess up the grooming of an Afghan Hound because they had no experience with the breed. I think this is where breed specialist owner/handlers excel and outdo the general professional handler almost every time.

Male or female? There are very different sex characteristics in each breed and you should find out what makes you happy. A male doesn't come into heat but he does smell bitches in heat. They can howl at the moon and drool over any perceived invitation. There is also a strength and sweetness in the male. Usually they are larger and more heavily coated and muscled than the females. That appeals to many people.

A female does come into heat and that can be challenging. The neighborhood can congregate on your doorstep. You have to watch your bitch very carefully to prevent an unwanted mating. There is a mess to contend with as bitches can spot and drip in season. There are panties with pads for that time of the year. Along with the season, you have to deal with the coat drop. Females can, but do not necessarily go very bald after a heat. That will put you out of competition for some months until the coat grows back.

Then of course the word bitch came from dogs. I always wondered why that was an insult when some of my favorite dogs were bitches. They did have their bitchy moments.

Why don't you hang out around some dogs of your chosen breed and decide for yourself?

Finally, if you start with a puppy or a young dog, you can mold him to your lifestyle. You can grow and learn together.

Which ever way you choose to go, you chose a wonderful breed with good people. Remember at the end of the day it is just you and your dog who always gives you unconditional love.