Westminster Competitor Q&A: Talon the Belgian TervurenPublished February 11, 2010
Learn what it takes to compete at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.AKC/UKC Ch. Chimeric Desperado, CD RN HT, TDI -- Talon for short -- has been competing in dog shows since he was 4 months old. Next week, this Belgian Tervuren will be showing for the first time at one of the biggest dog shows in the world.
Petside spoke to Talon's owner, Jackie Woehrle, and breeder, Carole Corbin, about the road to Westminster.
Q: Where did Talon's name come from?
Jackie: We actually had Talon's name picked out before we knew we were getting him. "Talon" is the name of a ride at Dorney Park (Amusement Park) and it stuck, so when Carole asked us to come and see the litter we knew our next puppy was going to be Talon.
Q: How did Talon get his start in competitions?
Jackie: Talons AKC championship was achieved by my husband Mike Eremus. They started showing at match shows when he was about 4-5 months old, and at their first match he won a Puppy Herding Group One.
At 6 months they started showing in AKC competition, and the title was earned at about 18 months with limited showing. Talons UKC championship was achieved by Carole and she is also piloting his during his very selective breed show career.
Q: What does it take to have a dog at Westminster?
Carole: In our case, luck! The show didn't fill last year, Talon is really looking great, so.... I rolled the dice! I mailed in the entry and viola! We made it in.
Seriously though, many of the competitors are well-seasoned show dogs that are out most weekends with their handler - those are the dogs who generally get the invitation. All other entries are there on the luck of the draw.
Q: How is Westminster different from other shows?
Carole: There is the cachet that is just Westminster, lots of tradition. The fact that this is a Champions only show, and is a benched show (meaning competitors can't leave the venue during competition), make it very different. Dogs are on display for the public for hours (we have to be in the building no later than 11 am and can't leave until 8pm). It makes for a long day for dogs, owners and handlers. The crowds in the benching areas and around some of the rings can be very trying.
With Monday (the day we're showing) being a holiday, I'm expecting a crush of spectators. Westminster has also given me the opportunity to watch truly masterful dog handling as the best handlers in the US usually attend.
Q: What makes your dog stand out from the other competitors?
Carole: It's hard to say when we don't know who else is entered, but he has a very pleasing outline, very nice shoulders, and extremely stable character. His color is rich and his mask at 7 years of age is incredible. Talon is also a proud dog and tends to show off his tail a bit, which isn't ideal but that's life. I'm pretty sure he will be the lightest 'campaigned' dog in the entry.
Q: What do you think people would find surprising about dog competitions?
Carole: The amount of work required to put on a show, and the fact that very few of us ever reap financial rewards from showing our own dogs. Yes, it's great that the winner at Eukanuba wins $50K, but ask them how much was spent to get that check, there are boarding/training costs, and the handler costs and thousands upon thousands spent on advertising in the dog magazines (which are sent to judges)... if they broke even I'd be surprised.
I also think the public might be surprised to know that even though the handlers are in competition with themselves and breeder-handlers and owner-handlers, we all get along pretty darn well. It is possible to show your own dog and win...and that is most rewarding.
The public also might be surprised to know that many of the dogs shown here are beloved pets first and foremost. They live with their families, sleep on furniture and act like any other dog when they're not in the show ring.
Q: How does your dog react to all the commotion and attention at competitions?
Carole: Talon is a born show dog - he's a ham! I used to call him a used car salesman or the mayor as he's ready to meet and greet everyone. I fear the crowd noise at Madison Square Garden will get him a little too happy and his tail will be flying!
Jackie and Mike have made a platform for Talon at the Garden. It will sit on top of his crate and allow him to observe the WKC universe. I know he'll love it as most Belgians enjoy 'perching.'
Q: Why are Belgian Tervuren your breed of choice?
Jackie: When I was just starting out in obedience trialing I watched a fascinating dog in the obedience ring I was going into next. He was a Belgian Tervuren. I knew at that moment that that was the breed for me. I spent a few years researching the breed and breeders. I then took the leap. We have had 3 Belgian Tervuren. We just can't have one.
Q: Tell us something about the breed that most people don't know.
Jackie: They are snuggle butts. At night when we watch TV, my husband and I each have one on our laps. We wouldn't have it any other way.
Carole: They are NOT collie-shepherd mixes, and many can be smarter than their owners. Belgians are masterful manipulators!
Q: Do show dogs require special training?
Jackie: Since I am performance (activity shows) person, I have to say yes. With each venue Talon has been in the training has been different. I honestly didn't know that breed showing required training, but I was very wrong.
Carole and other Belgian lovers put us on the right track. I should say, they put Mike my husband on the right track, since I really never got the urge to show in breed.
Q: How long does it take to prepare for a competition like Westminster and what kind of grooming?
Carole: Talon is a pet first and foremost. You might see him on a treadmill, but he'll be sleeping on it. I'd love to have a canine treadmill but the cost is staggering for a breeder/handler like me. He's done some roadwork (biking) with us, but the weather ended that.
Talon was entered in about 3 shows in 2009, and 6 shows in 2010. After the Garden, he'll go back to doing what he and Jackie love best, herding.
Grooming? Belgians are deceptively easy - start with a clean dog, then work on encouraging hair growth with daily brushing using a water or grooming spray. Trim the nails, neaten the feet and hocks and we're ready to roll! We'll do a major grooming from nose to tail this weekend and spruce him up on Monday morning at the show.
All of that aside though, the Garden is chaos and your dog has to be mentally fit as well.
Q: What are Talon's favorite things to do besides competing?
Jackie: He loves to go to Grammy Carole's and see his (he thinks) girls. He whines in the car when we pull up her road. What a baby. His most recent favorite is herding. He believes the sheep were put on earth for his enjoyment but must be kept under control.
Carole: He loves to show though, and it's a blast having a joyful dog at the end of your leash. Now, if we could only get him some sheep of his very own? That would be a very happy dog. I enjoyed biking with him, he's up for anything.
Q: Do you do anything special for Talon after a competition?
Jackie: Yep, he gets a special bone and we snuggle. He is normally pretty tired after a day of showing off.
You can meet Talon at the Westminster Dog Show on Monday, February 15th, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.