Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Retirement Breeds

There's no avoiding the fact that we're all getting older — and especially around the conformation ring. Just surf the various dog-show websites and those for the publications, and see the number of articles that lament the graying of the sport, the increasing average age of the people involved, and so on. Look around you at the next dog show you attend, and note the proportion of gray-haired judges and exhibitors to younger ones. (While you're there, do something nice for a junior handler, even if it's just to say, "Good job." They are the future of this sport, and fewer and fewer of them are taking up show handling instead of XBox.)

Not that I mean this post to be a downer. It's just that I've noticed the subjects of conversations with my friends drifting toward certain subjects more and more often as time goes on. One very popular theme these days is the Retirement Breed. Almost everyone I speak with at a show has, at one time or another, started a sentence with, "When I retire, I think I might get myself [X breed]."

Retirement Breeds are almost always smaller than people's current breeds. Some have easier-care coats. Some have the same sorts of coats as the speakers' current breeds. In Beardie-land, a number of people have "downsized" from Beardies to Lowchens or Havanese — same amount of grooming, but on a dog you can gait around the show ring at a walk, show on a table, and pick up and carry easily.

I'm honestly not ready for the little dogs yet, if ever. Having grown up with Newfies, I still maintain an overwhelming fondness for the giants. I would have a house full of Irish Wolfhounds if they only lived a little longer. As it is, I proudly point to Dinah and say, "I've already downsized! She's the smallest dog I've ever owned."

Still, playing the game of "What If" with friends is fun and doesn't cost anything. The subject of Retirement Breeds came up around the stewards' lunch table at the Penobscot shows. Aside from the folks with Shelties and Chihuahuas, who have probably already downsized enough, nearly everybody added a Retirement Breed to the pile.

French Bulldogs appeared to be the paws-down favorite; quite a few people would trade a little snoring for a short, easy-care coat. Many of those folks thought that Boston Terriers or Whippets wouldn't be bad breeds to downsize to, either. One person offered up a Smooth Collie as a breed that still was respectably big enough to have fun with, but with an appealingly low-maintenance coat.

For myself, I can't imagine not having a Beardie around the house. Long-haired smaller breeds just don't make adequate substitutes for me. Actually, most short-haired small breeds don't do a lot for me, either. If I did cave in and draw up a Retirement Breed Bucket List, perhaps these breeds might make their way onto it:
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I just love this breed and always have.
  • Skye Terrier. I've met a few belonging to friends and think they're just wonderful. They're definitely not little dogs; they just have low centers of gravity.
  • Frenchie. Of course, the Frenchie! I had one become my BFF at a Mardi Gras dog parade once.
  • Greyhound. Yes, they're big -- but they have hardly any coat, and they wear funky collars so well.
  • Standard Poodle. I had one as a kid. Keep a good groomer on speed-dial if you're not the DIY type, but they're wonderful.
  • Smooth Collie. All the fun of a Rough Collie with a fraction of the maintenance.
What about you? What breeds would be your Retirement Breeds?


Molly said...

My other breeds of interest are all bigger too! I think I'd just have to stick with beardies and use a groomer...I know too many people way more immobile than me who have them and somehow theirs behave LOL

Frenchie Maintenance Supervisor said...

Did anyone mentioned Frenchie ringtime is usually 8AM? So much for sleeping in for your retirement:-)

Frenchies look easy care, but there's a lot more than meets the eye to making these guys ring ready. (Probably a truism for the rest on your list, too.) Plus, Frenchies are natural clowns who seem to love proving this most when you are in the ring... with that important judge... with that hard sought major at stake...

See if you have someone in your dog crowd who'll let you "test drive" a Frenchie in the ring. Give one a whirl and see how a table dog stacks up to your expectations. It'd be interesting to hear how they differ for you. Great blog BTW!

lindsayt said...

I have a fairly small easy coat care breed to begin with (Shibas), so I would go with a Kai Ken, a Basenji (much shorter coat), or a Tibetan Terrier. Those are all great sizes of dogs.

I still want a big dog around when I retire (I love my thick coated Caucasian Ovcharka), and I agree it is sad that some of my favorites like Deerhounds and Wolfhounds just don't live long enough. So, I would go with a Dogo or American Bulldog for easier coat, yet similar function, one of the Belgian breeds, or another Ovcharka if I can find one that carries a much shorter coat.

All Things Brittany said...

Well, my parents were breeders of Boston Terriers 'back in the day'... which when revealed would DEFINITELY also point out the fact that I'm in the age group to consider a retirement breed! Even so, as much as "my" breed is an active sporting dog at present time - I would love to welcome another Boston Terrier into my life at some point - for all the reasons you suggested, plus a few sentimental ones of my own including of course to show him/her. It will be awhile though as my heart and home is and shall continue to be consumed by Brittanys for all the right reasons - including a pre-requisite for the breed that owners of them must be active. In the meantime saving for a knee replacement and a bottle of 'something' to wash my gray away! Thanks for a great topic and as always, a great blog.

Linda said...

I have Airedales. I'm thinking Irish or Border Terriers. t has to be a Terrier