There are two main ways to enter the dog show world. One is by purchasing a purebred; the other is breeding the dog itself.
Bainbridge Island’s Gail Fleming struggled to purchase a dog to succeed at the highest level, so she decided to breed the dog herself in 2019. “Several years ago, I learned if I was going to get a good-quality dog to be shown, I got to breed it myself,” Fleming said. “I went through the process and got lucky.”
In January 2019, Fleming found herself among a new litter of Vizslas. “I can only keep one dog,” she said. “The way I live is my dogs live with me; they don’t live in a kennel. So you can only have so many dogs in your house.”
Currently, Fleming has four Vizslas: Kizzy, Desi, Trek and Ryder. Fleming decided Vizslas were her choice of dogs because of her sons. “In 1997, my sons went hunting,” Fleming said. “When they came back, they said we gotta get a hunting dog. So I went to the library and researched different hunting dogs and came across the Vizsla. The reason I picked that one is because it’s known for being a velcro dog. I wanted a dog who took direction from me but was very affectionate.”
Vizslas originally came to the United States from Europe in the 1950s. In 1962, the American Kennel Club recognized them as purebreds.
When Trek, now 3½, turned one, he began competing in hunting competitions. After a handful, Trek earned a Junior Hunter title. He was able to find and point out a bird to his hunter.
While he was successful there, Fleming wanted Trek to compete in show competitions. “It’s always been an interest of mine to breed a quality dog,” Fleming said. “In the American Kennel Club, they have what they call the standard and describe the perfect dog of that breed. When he was very young, I had him evaluated by an independent person, and she saw he had the qualities to meet the standard.”
For the first year, Fleming showed him on her own. They won a handful of competitions, including a Junior championship. However, Fleming knew her age and physique would not allow Trek to reach his full potential. “I went to handling classes and worked with other people so I can be a better handler,” Fleming said. “But at my age and the fact I have short legs and can’t move around a ring, I couldn’t highlight his reach.”
So she hired Andy Linton, who is tall and agile in the ring. Since Linton took over as the professional handler, Fleming and Trek’s schedule has been nonstop. The two travel mostly around the West two to three times a month. When Linton took over, Trek’s stock rose exponentially.
Before going to the world-famous Westminster Dog Show recently, Trek was ranked second in the Canine Chronicle’s All Breed standings and first in the Vizslas Breed standings. The Canine Chronicle is a monthly dog show magazine.
The Westminster Dog Show usually takes place at Madison Square Garden in January. But it was changed to last month in Terrytown, N.Y., due to COVID-19. The change benefitted Fleming and Trek. “Having it on grass in Terrytown, New York was a big plus for me because Vizslas showcase well on the green grass,” Fleming said.
After competing for a couple of days, Trek defeated 28 other Vizslas, winning Best Breed at the show. For Fleming, Trek’s victory meant a lot. “It was very rewarding because I have bred this dog and raised him,” Fleming said. “It’s a dream come true. This is a sport of passion.”
After winning at Westminster, Trek continues to look to dominate competitions across the U.S. However, the plans are not in Fleming’s hands. “I leave that up to Andy,” she said. “I know he has several shows planned based on who the judges are and how many dogs he expects.”