2014-01-22 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

When you tune in (or go to the Garden) on Feb. 10 and 11 to enjoy the 138th Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Dog Show, you will see three “new breeds” – the Chinook, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno and the Rat Terrier. This means that in 2014 the total number of breeds and varieties eligible to compete is now 190. However, the three newbies are not really new. Let me explain:

Contrary to what many people think, WKC doesn’t decide which breeds may enter their prestigious show in NYC or any other sanctioned American dog show. Instead, the American Kennel Club (AKC) is the governing body that makes these determinations. Most newly recognized breeds have been in existence for a long time, perhaps centuries, before receiving the official OK from the AKC to be included in conformation (breed judged) in dog shows in the United States. “New” breeds must first go through a sequence of steps so the recognition process can take years.


Perry and Patti Richards with Tagluk and Talis, their Chinooks. Photo by Tillie Grassa Perry and Patti Richards with Tagluk and Talis, their Chinooks. Photo by Tillie Grassa There are a number of factors the AKC considers in making the decision to recognize a “new” breed and, thus, register these dogs within the AKC pedigree system, including documentation that the breed in question has been breeding true for many generations, with accurate record keeping; evidence that there is sufficient interest in the breed throughout the United States and a national club in place that meets AKC requirements to act as the parent club for the breed. So here are the newest breeds to join Westminster, the celebrated canine competition:

RAT TERRIER (Terrier Group- 20 WKC entries) Beyond being a farm dog, Rat Terriers have proven themselves to be a versatile, multi-purpose breed with a playful, happy-go-lucky attitude. They are an all-inone dog – able to do virtually anything they are trained to do – and they are easily trainable and exceptionally intelligent. They excel in conformation and many canine performance events like agility, obedience, rally, terrier racing, earthdog, barn hunt and lure coursing. They are capable of hunting rodents and vermin above and below ground; they make fine therapy and service dogs and they are loyal friends and companions – especially for families.

The Rat Terrier is an American breed that originated from crosses by early immigrants using Fox Terriers and other European Terriers common in the 19th century. During the 1910s and 1920s, the Rat Terrier was one of the most common farm dogs. Because Kansas Jack Rabbits were plaguing crops in the Midwest, to increase the speed, some farmers began breeding them to Whippets and Italian Greyhounds. Others in the Central and Southern regions bred their Rat Terriers to Beagles to bring out a stronger prey and pack drive for hunting.

PORTUGUESE PODENGO PEQUENO (Hound Group- eight WKC entries) The smallest of the Podengo family, this active rabbit hunter dates back to antiquity. He is still used today by huntsmen in his native Portugal. To manage the terrain in different parts of Portugal, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno come in two coat varieties, smooth and wire. The word “Pequeno” means miniature – the smallest of three sizes – Grand, Medio and Pequeno (almost like Starbucks). With proper socialization this intelligent breed is a delightful companion and willing participant in agility, obedience, hunting and lure coursing, as well as conformation.

CHINOOK (Working Group- four WKC entries) Chinooks are large, affectionate family dogs, dependent on their owner, with a special bond to children. They are intelligent and easy to train, with a gentle and affectionate disposition and a calm and willing work ethic. As a working breed, the Chinook thrives on regular exercise. Training and competing, along with activities such as backpacking, hiking, jogging, agility, and skijoring [sport where a person on skis is pulled by a dog] will keep a Chinook happy, fit and healthy. Chinooks are not a protection breed and do not make good guard dogs.

The Chinook was developed by polar explorer Arthur T. Walden at his New Hampshire farm in the 1920s after a breeding of a female supposed to be descended from Admiral Peary’s lead dog to a St. Bernard/Mastiff. One puppy named “Chinook” stood out from the rest, and became the foundation of his namesake breed. In 1925, Arthur Walden’s Chinook sled dog team was the first dog team to summit Mt. Washington and, in 1927, Walden, along with 16 of his male Chinooks, went with Admiral Richard Byrd’s first expedition to Antarctica where the Chinook dogs were used to haul the freighting sleds.

During the Depression, Walden sold his Chinook kennels which in 1947 were again sold to Perry Greene who became the sole breeder of Chinooks until his death in 1963. Over the next decades the breed was saved from extinction, and in 2009 the Chinook was designated as the state dog of New Hampshire.

At Westminster’s Jan. 15 press conference at MSG, Patti and Perry Richards of Vermont brought their Chinooks – Talis and Tagluk – to introduce this “new breed” to the media. Talis kissed every stranger she met as if she had known them for ages. Perry is the great-grandson of Perry Greene who worked so hard to preserve this incredible breed which, now numbering about 1,000, is still considered one of the rarest breeds in the world.

Talis and Tagluk are mother and son WKC entries. “Talis” is Inuit for “beloved” while “Tagluk” is Inuit for “snowshoes.” When describing what she likes best about her breed, Patti Richards said, “They always want to be with you; no matter what you are doing they are right there with you. They will go out and hike, skijor, bikejor, sled and then come in and lay on the couch with you and watch the football game. They are never far away…Talis is a kissing fool. She will wash your face if you let her and she keeps all the other dogs clean by washing their teeth, eyes and ears. Tagluk on the other hand does not offer a lot of kisses, he gives nose bumps. He will come up behind you and bump you with his nose, or come up in front of you and bump you.”

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