A lot of time and energy is spent by people on the show ring circuit culling through pedigrees counting the number of "champions" they can find listed. This is called "selective breeding," by the Kennel Club folks, but what is it they are selecting for?
Among show ring aficionado's working ability is never the primary selection. Since, in the world of working dogs in which John Russell lived, the second slot is selection by size, and the third slot is selection by gender, the show ring breeder is (at best) promoting fourth-string characteristics to prime. This is a recipe for ruin, and it's a recipe the Reverend John Russell watched with concern during the early years of the British Kennel Club. As he noted about his own dogs:
"True terriers they were, but differing from the present show dogs as the wild eglantine differs from a garden rose."
If you do not work your dogs underground often, you have no idea of what you are breeding for when it comes to work.
It is not a matter of working a few weekends. A dog's working qualities and abilities are not made in a day. Nor should yours be, if you are a serious breeder. You need to dig quite a while to know the value of voice, the value of nose, and the nature of the balance point between having a dog that is too hard and too soft. It takes a few dogs and a few winters to fully appreciate the value of a good coat, and to understand the value of a small well-muscled dog.
The people in the AKC like to talk a lot about John Russell, but they manage to leave off the fact that he did not create his dogs in the show ring, but in the field and by testing them in the ground and under a spade. Though he occasionally judged dog shows, he did not register his own dogs as he feared dog shows would be the ruin of working terrier. He was not wrong!
If John Russell were alive today, most of the people who own Jack Russell terriers -- including many of those with working certificates -- could not show him a day in the field with the dogs. I think Russell would be rather embarrassed by that fact, and he would certainly by saddened.
A repost from 2009