Dr. Daniel W. Fleitas
Interview by Barbara J. Andrews, Publisher
Approved for: Best In Show, Working and Herding Groups
Dr. Daniel W. Fleitas, exclusive July 2011 interview reveals a thinking man who genuinely loves dogs!
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST BREED? AND FIRST SHOWDOG?
Our first breed was Shetland Sheepdogs (1971). Our first show dog, luckily, finished to his championship: Ch. Jodan’s Beau Prince. At that point, we were hooked on dog shows.
WERE YOU AN OWNER HANDLER OR PROFESSIONAL HANDLER?
Although we sometimes used a professional handler when we first began, most of our dogs have been shown by my wife, Jo, and occasionally by me.
WHICH DOG WAS YOUR FAVORITE OR TOP RECORD HOLDER, WINNER, PRODUCER?
Our top record holder was a Siberian Husky Ch. Granbar’s Eric of Innisfree (retired at 100 BOBs, after many Group wins and placements—nearly all shown by Jo).
WHEN, AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A JUDGE?
I became a judge after several years of activity, which also included being the head steward for the Southeastern Stewards Association shows in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee. Along the way several persons encouraged me to apply for a judge’s license. I was also writing articles for Sheltie and Siberian Husky publications.
WHICH BREEDS WERE YOU FIRST APPROVED FOR AND IN WHICH ASSOCIATION?
I was first approved in 1983 for Shetland Sheepdogs, adding Siberian Huskies and Collies shortly thereafter. Now I judge the entire Working and Herding groups. I have had the honor of judging the bitch classes for the Siberian Husky Club of America on two different occasions.
DO YOU STILL BREED AND IF SO, DO YOU OWNER HANDLE OR USE HANDLERS?
We do very little breeding but still owner handle on a limited scale.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR OTHER LIFE? PROFESSION, HOBBY?
I began my professional business life as a pharmacist for the Walgreen chain in Florida, then decided to change careers. I returned to university life and earned a Ph.D. in Political Science at Florida State University after which I taught at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for 35 years, then retired—but have returned to pharmacy as a “floater pharmacist” for the Eckerd, now Rite Aid pharmacy chain—which helps cover expenses for our motor home travels.
HAVE YOU JUDGED FOR OTHER COUNTRIES OR REGISTRIES; IF SO , WHAT, WHERE?
I have judged in Spain (4 times), Italy, Australia, and Estonia, doing Siberian Husky specialties (including the Siberian Husky National in Madrid) plus other breeds.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST AND THE LEAST ABOUT JUDGING DOGS?
The most enjoyable part of judging dogs is the process of sorting through the exhibits in hopes of locating that ideal dog described by the breed’s standard. Over the last few years, the least enjoyable part has been the airline travel—crowded planes, little leg room, sitting for long stretches of time on the tarmac.
WHAT IS THE NICEST AND THE MOST INCONSIDERATE THING KENNEL CLUBS DO FOR JUDGES?
The nicest thing that clubs do for judges is having someone (or a shuttle) available to pick one up at the airport and transport one to the motel. I have had very few “inconsiderate” experiences, although one club failed to make a reservation for me at the motel and had to take me to a more-or-less truck-stop motel that had no dining facility other than a vending machine (and the surrounding neighborhood was not one I would venture out into). There was a very large horse show in town that weekend and rooms were almost non-existent.
DO YOU PLAN TO APPLY FOR ADDITIONAL BREEDS AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CURRENT POLICY?
I am undecided on applying for additional breeds. The current policy is so cumbersome and fraught with subjective evaluations that it’s almost not worth the time and effort involved.
ARE YOU A DELEGATE AND IF SO, FOR WHICH CLUB AND DOES THE CLUB INSTRUCT YOUR VOTE?
I am not a delegate.
SHOULD CLUBS HOST MORE EVENTS SUCH AS COURSING, EARTHDOG, WEIGHT PULLING, ETC.?
At present many clubs are struggling because of the lower entries. Many clubs have only a small corps of workers; taking on additional responsibilities required by some of the performance events is not possible for them.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING EXHIBITORS SHOULD DO - AND SHOULD NOT DO IN YOUR RING?
I am not a stickler about exhibitors’ do’s and don’ts. But I would wish that exhibitors would pay attention to the judging procedure being used by those ahead of them in the ring—it will be the same for them.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT FIRST WHEN YOU TURN TO ASSESS A CLASS OR GROUP?
When a class enters the ring and the handlers have stacked their dogs, I try to evaluate proportions and overall stationary type. Quite often there may be a dog or two that clearly will be out of the ribbons at this point. But what is sometimes discouraging is the dog that looks marvelous on the stack but then loses it upon being gaited (or sometimes upon being examined).
WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT, DOWN AND BACK OR AROUND, AND WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
I place emphasis on the down and back movement in the majority of breeds, but there are those, such as Corgis and German Shepherds, for example, where side gait is very important. Even in those breeds where I pay particular attention to down and back, I may eventually base my final decisions on side gait from among those who excel in coming and going. Of course, each breed also has its own significant type points that are a very important part of the evaluation.
DO YOU EVALUATE PUPPIES AS PUPPIES OR STRICTLY ACCORDING TO THE STANDARD WHEN SELECTING WINNERS?
If puppies are entered in the show (as in puppy classes), they must be evaluated and examined the same as the adults. But a judge can excuse some puppy behavior in the decision-making process if the puppy’s excellence comes through more so than the adult exhibits.
DO YOU THINK THE REGISTRIES ARE DOING ENOUGH TO PROMOTE WELL BRED PUREBRED DOGS?
I would hope that a larger percentage of AKC’s and UKC’s budgets could be devoted to explaining to the public the value of a pedigreed dog above and beyond the paper certificate, etc. Just as there are debates about the national and state budget priorities, there are some obvious savings that could be made to allocate money for public relations (an unneeded and expensive NYC office comes immediately to mind).
DO YOU THINK THE SPORT AND/OR THE DOGS ARE BETTER OR WORSE THAN 20 YEARS AGO?
I have been involved in the sport for slightly over 40 years now. I would not want to return to the show scene of the 70’s. Despite what some other old-timers like to believe, judging today is more competent and shows are more professionally organized than in the past. Unfortunately, the money scene behind some dogs that are being campaigned is at the point of turning many exhibitors off once the process reaches the Group and Best in Show level.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO TODAY’S ASPIRING JUDGES?
For those who aspire to judge there are fewer opportunities to gain experience at matches, but there are many more seminars, DVDs, etc. that were unheard of in the twentieth century. I would also advise those who aspire to judge to join one of the professional stewards associations—one can really learn a lot if the individual works as a steward at hundreds of shows (not just the minimum five or so that AKC requires). It’s also helpful to work (voluntarily or for pay) with a professional handler; my wife and I learned a lot in this way. Talk to successful breeders and handlers; ask judges for advice. Everything helps.
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