Recommended NZ | Guide to Money | Gimme: Competitions - Giveaways

Three Fs At Manfeild

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

WHAT decides a winner in dog showing? A Manawatu resident whose expertise in making that choice says for her it comes down to the three Fs.

"Fit for, form and function," says Geraldine Gulbransen, a top New Zealand judge who has taken her talent around the globe.

Show dogs obviously have to conform to a standard, so her job is to start there then spotlight traits and nuances that might well be invisible to the non-professional eye. Consideration goes beyond how an animal performs in the ring, or even its physical state. Judges also give consideration to mental well-being - on show day, a dog has to be happy with its lot.

And, yes, it IS all about the dog, not the person at the other end of the lead. "No, just the dog. That's all we're interested in."

Her ability to pick champions is obviously well-regarded. She has adjudicated many times in Australia and her skills have taken her to Europe, including Scandinavia and, just a few months ago, Ireland.

Her competence is wide-ranging - she's an all-breeds expert - but her chosen speciality breed is the German Shepherd.

The next big show on Mrs Gulbransen's schedule won't require any international travel or those special duties. It's just a drive 20 minutes from her home near Bainesse to reach Manfeild Stadium for the New Zealand Kennel Club's Eukanuba National Dog Show on October 1-3.

The three-day nationals provide a chance to step down from crowning champions and instead concentrate on showing her two current show dogs, AJ and Jake.

That's after she completes her official duty as Show Manager of the traditional Prelude Show, on September 30.

NZ judges can officiate at the National Show but the preference for big events such as this is to follow the convention that has given her the opportunity to see the world, and that's to invite experts from other countries.

"It's actually better for the show to have someone come in from overseas," she explains.

"You get a bigger entry and it's good to have an opinion from someone new. There are occasions when New Zealanders have officiated, but that's not the norm."

She's excited by the show being at Manfeild, not just because it's an excellent venue but also because Feilding and Palmerston North benefit from having such a large event.

"It's a good-sized venue, with excellent facilities, and I think it is quite central for the North and South Islands. It rates internationally. I really hope a lot of people come to see it."

Economically, too, an event involving several thousand people must bring significant economic benefit - the spend isn't just on food, accommodation and fuel, she reminds. "Vets and pet shops will also be selling all sorts of things."

And the dogs take it seriously, too. It'll be a big few days for AJ, a five-year-old bitch, and 20-month-old Jake, who otherwise keep company at home with a past star, Zeppy.

They'd do well to take cues from the 13-year-old pack patriarch - he's a multiple past champion, imported from Australia, now enjoying an easy life on the farm.

Just as the dogs are part of the family, so too is the family part of dog showing - her grand daughter, Abbe, is the latest to join in.

An avid member of the Young Kennel Club, the 12-year-old will help with the Shepherds and compete with her own dog, an English Pointer named Tommy.

"I'm thrilled that Abbe has become involved. All our family have had dogs; they were always part of our household right from when I was a child," Mrs Gulbransen says.

Her parents in England showed and bred Old English Sheepdogs and British Bulldogs. Her mum imported the first Old English dog to New Zealand. A sister, meantime, had Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

Mrs Gulbransen has also had some of those breeds, but admits German Shepherds have become her first love. She's been breeding and showing them for more than 30 years, with many champions to show for the effort.

"I dunno, there's just something about them. They are such noble dogs and such a beautiful breed, very intelligent animals and a great family dog."

And fiercely protective? "Well, when they need to be. It's a misnomer that they are aggressive. They have a natural guarding instinct but that's a controlled instinct."

By her late teens, Mrs Gulbransen was not only showing dogs but was also becoming immersed in club activity. She has been involved on committees of all breed and specialist clubs in all capacities, from committee member to President.

She began judging in the late 1980s and is now actively involved with a Kennel Club scheme that brings new people to the role.

Judging can be a tough life and it probably pays to be thick-skinned - like rugby refs, they're prone to cop the odd criticism. But that doesn't worry.

"Through my dogs and my judging I have been privileged to meet some wonderful people and judge some beautiful animals."

And are dog show people just a bit, well, over-zealous? Not really, she assures.

"They are passionate in regard to their desire to achieve their 'perfect' dog. But I also think the majority are just really nice people, and very conscientious about their dogs' health and well-being."

The National Dog Show attracts more than 2500 top dog competitors in breed, agility and obedience and has links to two international events - the world-famous Crufts in England and the newly-instigated World Challenge, which involves 46 countries. All Best in Show winners qualify for this Blue Ribbon event. The 2010 shows will essentially be a dress rehearsal for next year's 'big one', the 125th anniversary event, returning to Manfeild in April, to avoid a clash with the Rugby World Cup. Feilding's 7500 square metre stadium won acclaim last year for being the first facility used for the show large enough to host eight show rings and also bring the agility code inside. Manfeild also provided enough outdoor space for activities that had to be staged off-site at previous shows.

All articles and comments on have been submitted by our community of users. Please notify us if you believe an item on this site breaches our community guidelines.