The "Apollo of Dogdom" comes OUT of the Closet!
The Greek God "Apollo" was worshiped in many forms, because of his myriad and varied attributes - art, archery, various bucolic arts such as care of flocks and herds, and was frequently portrayed in art as the perfection of youth and beauty. The marble statue in the Belvedere of the Vatican, Rome, represents the God as a vigorous and triumphant youth. He was also worshiped as a God of healing and prophecy. Whomsoever applied the pseudonym "Apollo of Dogdom" to our breed, indeed, understood the true characteristics, physical attributes and mentality enveloped in the mind and being of the "great" Great Dane.
Decades of breeding have changed the original structure of the Dane. It is no longer the massive, broad chested, blockheaded dog used for boar hunting and guarding large estates, depicted in old drawings and photos. We now have males standing 36/37 and bitches 32/34 inches at the withers, elongated heads and necks, and a body that epitomizes power, with a beautiful balance of substance and elegance. Breeders strive to breed to the Standard, and we see many beautiful specimens gaiting to their Championship titles, Group and Best in Show awards - Danes that deserve the analogy with The Greek God's perfection of youth and beauty.
Now, a new phase has entered the Dane entity, a very important one, that, I think, will change the whole concept of our breed. Breeders of this generation are pursuing the "Apollo" analogy beyond the perfection of youth and beauty. They want their Danes to live up to the many other virtues worshiped in the God Apollo - his vitality, athleticism, mentality, intelligence. As a result, much more emphasis is being placed on temperament, physical soundness and health. The breed ring, where our Champions evolve, require a minimum of a Dane's physical ability or intelligence. Plus, an experienced Professional Handler, will know his/her dog, and if any physical or mental problems exist, they can be 'handled' while in the ring. Yes, we do have Champions that could not step into an obedience ring, or any event that requires off leash exercises. We also have Champions of record that could not physically cope with an Agility course. Not to say they don't deserve to be Champions. They have earned that right, having performed and fulfilled all the AKC requirements, and the breeders are to be congratulated on breeding beautiful specimens of our breed, that "visually" fit our Standard. Now, however, an increasing number of breeders, owners, exhibitors, are asking more, a lot more, from our Danes, and this is why I say the concept of our breed is changing. Education is having an effect. When breeding, buying, or selling, folks not only want to know about Health Checks, they want to see the certificates in hand. Hence more breeding stock is receiving Health Checks, with heart, hips and eyes being the the major checks being done. They want Danes that can be "dual" contenders with the physical and mental ability to perform in Obedience Trials, Agility, and any other AKC Performance event available. Right now the addition of an Obedience or Agility Title to a breed Champion is the "Icing on the cake", I would like to see, and it may well happen, the Championship title become the "Icing"!
Our 2002 National Show had an entry of 50 Danes in obedience competition, and 27 in Agility. A tremendous jump from previous years. Five or six years ago we were lucky to get an entry in an Obedience trial that warranted bringing in a judge. Agility was not even considered until a couple of years ago, and then the entry was so poor, we almost dropped it. Agility does require a lot of space, work, equipment, another judge, and it was only at the urging of the real enthusiasts that it was included as an event in the 2002 National. The entry certainly vindicated the support, and is indicative of the enthusiasm for developing the full potentials of our breed. This past year has seen a tremendous increase in entries, and interest in Obedience Trials, with competitive Agility rapidly catching up, plus Weight pulling, Therapy Dog activity, etc. What a change in mind-set for breeders and exhibitors - it is truly amazing! It will do so much for our breed - bringing their full potential 'out of the closet' - where it has been virtually hidden for decades. This is an enormous step forward and upward for our breed, we are finally promoting their intelligence and physical attributes, with the complete support and encouragement of the GDCA. What a Great year this will be when the "Apollo of Dogdom shows the pseudonym is deserved.
Mrs. Paddy Magnuson,