Despite the distance between their home base and the dog-show world, the Smiths have raised a handful of Champions (dogs who, through judges’ recognition in competition, have accumulated enough points to earn acknowledgment as among the best in their breed). Among the Smith’s pack of Champion dogs is Leo, a 5-year-old male who recently brought home the highest award the Smiths and their Oak Ridge German Shepherds business have seen yet: A coveted Best in Breed, won at a German Shepherd-specific show in Albuquerque, N.M., earlier this month.
As Carrie Smith explained, judges award Best in Breed to the one dog that most closely matches the American Kennel Club’s written standards for that breed. For German Shepherds, those standards are several pages long, describing in great detail all dimensions of German Shepherd-ness: The exact angulation of the shoulders, the coloring of the coat, the shape of the ears, the length of the legs, the way they trot, and the like.
“Judges are looking for what they believe is the dog who most closely resembles the AKC standard,” she said. “On Saturday, Best in Breed was given to another male. But on Sunday it was a different judge, and that turned things around for Leo to win,” Smith said of the two-day specialty show held over the first weekend in April. As she explained it, a specialty show, a show for only one breed, draws a larger pool of dogs than a traditional all-breed show; several states are generally represented.
The last major award an Oak Ridge German Shepherd received was in 2002, when their dog Zia received accolades as the number one-ranked German Shepherd in the country for both obedience and confirmation (breed excellence.)
The Smiths have been breeding and showing dogs since 1996. All of their dogs live in their house; currently, the couple share their home with 15 dogs.