Toy Fox Terrier History
The ATFT Club’s First Pointed AKC Specialty Show
by UKC Judge Dr. Marsha L. Shively
The ATFT Club's First AKC Pointed Show was held at the Oklahoma Toy Dog Club cluster in 2003 organized by Toy Fox Terrier fanciers and AKC judge Roger Pritchard.
As mentioned by numerous people from other breeds: this group of ‘competitors’ really was enjoying being there, visiting, and seeing just what was going on at this type of show. – Like most breeds, a national or even a regional specialty can bring out the best dogs and the worst sportsmanship all in one event; however, for the toy fox terrier fanciers, this has not traditionally been the case. True, for previous specialties, people correctly have forecast ‘the winner will be XXXXX’ yet that has not prevented many from attending and enjoying the opportunity for seeing dogs from various parts of the country and visiting with other breed lovers. This tradition, minus the ‘we know who will win,’ continued at this AKC event, to the delight of all TFT lovers.
While a few glitches occurred, and who can avoid weather complications?, the events ran smoothly, certainly due to the experienced efforts of Roger Pritchard and the Central Oklahoma Toy Dog Cub. What especially pleased many of the TFT people was having the hotel and show accommodations within the same facility, actually within the same or the next building, having vendors tailored to the toy group, and having just other toy breeds, as those with similar interests/concerns in the toy breeds all together during the three+ days. Thus, toy people had an opportunity to see a large gathering of quality toys together and were given opportunities to question breed type and concerns. [For those of you who are unaware, the TFT is in the Toy Group for most kennel registries but is part of the terrier group in United Kennel Club, the breed’s original registry.] Personally, I enjoyed attending three of the breed seminars: the Chihuahua and the Manchester which have influenced some TFT breeding programs, and of course the Toy Fox Terrier seminar.
What most TFT people, and several from other breeds too, complained about was not having enough time to show and visit! From experience with previous Nationals, I’d allowed an extra ½ day prior to the Specialty and stayed through early Sunday afternoon; but, this still did not allow sufficient time to visit and think through what all occurred and to decide what to ask some other attendees. That point is listed in my calendar notes!
The Specialty had over fifty entries, including eleven specials. The entries came primarily from established kennels, such as: Toy Acres, Windy Acres, Wilkins, Bay Toys [all four from Texas]; Jerri Singleton and Foxdale [from the East Coast]; Rascati, Jacobs, James, and Maldoon [from the South East/Florida]; Goldenhills, Valcopy, and Foxhill [West Coast], and Shively’s Livelies [Mid-West]. Not surprisingly, the winners, including the two Specialty Awards of Merit, on all three days under three different judges, came from these established kennels, which operate as breeder-owner-handler.
All three shows were well attended by judges as well as other interested toy breeders. This probably was one of the more distinct aspects of the events, as TFT people are more accustomed to having breeder-judges showing their dogs then judges being outside the ring strictly as observers. This aspect offered us an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our breed and to open up inquiries, which it did. Generally, the comments ran more on the distinct differences between the dogs than questions on particular structure/type issues. While agreement was clear on which were competitive confirmation TFTs, spectators were surprised about the number of more pet-quality entries. Part of this comes from this being a Toy Fox Terrier National Specialty, where people expect to bring their dogs for the enjoyment of being at the event, not anticipating a win. This is part of why the attendees were really enjoying themselves and less worried about ‘winning’.
However, the variance of quality is, from another position, a serious and consistent breed problem and very possibly the one most needing addressing over the coming years. The cause and its cure[s] are not something to be decided here; however, they include people needing to recognize that champion title dogs do not necessarily produce champion quality off-spring and that mentoring is a requirement for anyone wanting to become a serious part of a breed and is an activity that goes beyond promoting one’s own breed-line and preferences but, rather, directs/develops the novice in breed type, genetics, etc., those elements necessary for producing a champion worthy of winning, regardless of location or judge.
Years ago, many kennels produced TFT's that were easily recognized; today, however, this is not readily the case. Furthermore, individual litters regularly lack consistent size, a factor that drives some from the breed who have experienced more consistency with other animals. Obviously, a well-developed ‘eye for the breed’ which ‘knows’ the ‘best’ pup is helpful to develop a consistent result; however, the facts are that non-fox terrier breeds were mixed in with some breed lines to quickly develop particular characteristics, such as size or head style, an approach with breed-type complications which continue to plague many generations later, as does the breeder who mixes dogs from several lines together which he/she ‘just likes’ or uses to flatter those breeders.
Today, also, there are distinct ‘looks’ to certain kennels or dogs from parts of the country; while that is not unusual for most breeds to see a difference in size or coat from one part of the country to another, in the Toy Fox Terrier’s case the matter can also affect how close or far from breed type the particular dog actually is.
These factors bring us to the realities of the comments from the various judges, spectators, and our specialty judge, Mrs. Laura Perkinson, that the breed has problems with top line [whether one calls it ‘up in back,’ a ‘reverse top line,’ or other label]; lack of angulation [or straight in the stifle, etc.]; lacking terrier head; front gaiting issues [too close, hackney, etc.]; lack of elegance [too rough an appearance for a toy]; lacking terrier strength [including lacking a terrier front]; poor feet [not small; too long toed]; and so forth. Yes, there are those in the breed who have recognized these issues and tried to breed accordingly. However, many have ignored them, preferring to breed to their own tastes rather than to the breed. This is precisely where the AKC judges with their rigorous training and quality supervision can help this breed. If a faulted example comes into the ring, please do NOT give it points; with-hold the ribbon and EXPLAIN why. [And, please, look to our Bred-By classes and older stock; these are the foundation of our current puppies and we want your evaluation about their being continued in our breeding program.] The exhibitor may be surprised, even unhappy, but at least he/she is now informed about what quality is expected of an AKC champion; otherwise, the breed will continue to exhibit within the ring the variances shown at this first Specialty. Please remember, the owners of this breed truly enjoy and love it. They want to see it being as good quality as possible, while enjoying their pet, at large breed specific shows.
Reprinted with permission from DogNews coverage The TFT's first "Westminster", a specialty show
In closing: what those of us attending and supporting this first AKC specialty want to read twenty years from now is: "The American Toy Fox Terrier Club’s Twentieth Pointed AKC Specialty Show: Breed improvement really happened!"
Photo coverage of the first-ever Toy Fox Terrier National Specialty Show