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Salon owner’s Yorkies a cut above the rest

By Leigh Ann Dewey

Contributor

The eyes of dog lovers worldwide will be focused on their TV screens on Feb. 6, when the ninth annual AKC/Eukanuba National Championship dog show is simulcast from 8 to 11 p.m. on the Animal Planet and Discovery Channel cable networks.

The program will be rebroadcast through March 1. Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the American Kennel Club, the show was held Dec. 12 and 13 in Long Beach and featured 133 breeds of dogs from throughout the world.

In honor of the event’s milestone, the show, for the first time, will be an all-breed champion competition, allowing dogs to earn points toward their national champion titles. Next year, the event will return to its invitational format.

Among those closely watching the competition will be San Diego native and resident Mark Dearinger. Best known for his hair salon, Dearinger, with locations in La Jolla and downtown San Diego, is quickly earning a second reputation as an exhibitor of champion Yorkshire terriers, who compete in AKC-sanctioned dog shows throughout the country.

Dearinger’s top dog, George, a 3-year-old, was ranked among the best 25 Yorkshire terriers in the nation in 2009, and is earning a reputation of his own. He is featured on the January cover of The Yorkshire Terrier Magazine, published quarterly.

Through championship points earned at numerous shows last year, George qualified to compete in the recent annual championship, but Dearinger canceled because of the flu. He said he recommends the upcoming program as great TV viewing for anyone, whether or not they own purebred canines or are dog show enthusiasts.

“Many times on the shows,” he said, “they’ll talk about the country and region of the world where the (competing) dog originated. It’s educational learning about where the dogs were bred, their culture and (original) purpose.” For people who own dogs, even mixed breeds, “they can often see those qualities in their dogs.”

Dearinger said he did not set out to become a purebred dog owner or exhibitor; in fact, he said, he did not intend to pursue a career as a hairstylist and salon owner.

Born to parents who owned a former hotel and restaurant in Pacific Beach, Dearinger said he worked early on the family’s establishments and developed a good work ethic and business sense. Moving into hairstyling field, he said, “was a complete accident. After I got out of the family business, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.”

Through the recommendation of a friend, Dearinger accepted a position in his early 20s in the business office of Avanti, a San Diego hairstyling academy.

“Sometimes I would work 70 to 80 hours a week,” he said, “but I didn’t mind, because that’s what I was taught to do.” At one point, he said, “the owner recommended that I learn to cut hair. Over time, I learned more and got a lot of really good training, and it became something that I wanted to do.”

In 1992, he opened his first salon, Ricochet, in Encinitas. He later sold the business and established Dearinger salons in La Jolla and downtown San Diego.

“I grew up in the area and knew the city,” he said, “so I was comfortable opening a business in La Jolla and downtown. I knew what areas would remain stable and growing.” He and his salon staff style hair for a variety of clients, from loyal regulars to international celebrities, including Stacy Ferguson (Fergie) of the band Black-Eyed Peas.

Horses spurred Dearinger’s interest in dogs. Although his family owned dogs throughout his life, he began riding, training and showing horses while growing up. After starting his salon business, “I decided I wanted to get back into showing horses ... but they take a lot of work and high maintenance. I wanted something I could do (with animals) at home,” he said, “so I chose dogs.”

Dearinger chose Yorkshire terriers, he said, “because of their similarity to the kind of horse I’m used to,” the American Saddlebred. “I was attracted to the coat and showiness of the Yorkshire terrier, and their temperament is similar to that breed of horse.”

He bought George from an owner who trained the dog for competition. Dearinger said he has learned how to show George as an exhibitor at the shows, and to make the Yorkie feel comfortable and have him respond to commands.

“It’s a growing process,” he said, “to learn what competitive situations George will feel comfortable and excel in.” He said that good training, sensitivity to a show dog’s needs and the bond a dog feels with his owner or exhibitor are key to the animal becoming a canine champ.

As with other pets, “the dogs become ... pretty much part of your family,” Dearinger said, “and the more they bond with a person, the more they show (at a competition) for that person. You can’t make a dog show if it doesn’t want to. They need to be happy, excited and having fun.” He said George enjoys the excitement of each competitive event.

Dearinger’s involvement with the dog show world, he said, inspires him when he returns to the salon business. “The details and care dog people take helps motivate me with my customers,” he said. “It inspires me with my (salon) work.”

When to watch

The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship dog show will air from 8 to 11 p.m. Feb. 6 on the Animal Planet and Discovery cable networks. Other broadcast times at www.akc.org.