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Friday, March 21, 2014

Before a dog steps into the show ring...

I have been planning on writing about a typical day at a dog show, and that promised post is still in the works.  But before I write the post, I wanted to give you all some background information on what happens at a dog show and what goes into preparing for a show.  There are a lot of misconceptions about dog shows, specifically conformation shows, and some think that it is just a beauty pageant for dogs.  And I have even heard a couple people say that they believed it was actually cruel to dogs to make them compete at dog shows.  But this isn’t true, and I wanted to explain why.

 






First, is it cruel to dogs?  No, I do not think so, and I’m pretty sure most dogs would agree with me.  Dogs who compete at dog shows are kept in top shape, both their bodies and their coats have to be in great condition.  To keep them fit, show dogs are exercised on a regular basis, because they have to be kept lean and healthy.  And because they need a beautiful coat, and bright eyes, they are fed a high quality dog food.  I can’t tell you how many arguments I have had with non-dog show people who think feeding a cheap dog food, which contains a lot of fillers and food coloring, is perfectly fine for their pets because their childhood family dog always ate that food.  Or how many people admit to never even walking their dogs, and instead leave them tied up in the backyard with little or no mental stimulation. 

 



Most dog show people watch the sun rise from their cars, as they are up and beginning their drive while it is still dark outside!


Which leads me to my second point, show dogs are more than just pretty faces.  Many people turn on their televisions on Thanksgiving day to watch the dog show, which is aired right after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Or they faithfully tune into the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, for two days every February.  If they have never been to a dog show, then all they might see is a bunch of people in fancy clothes, running around in a circle with their dogs.  What they don’t see on these televised dog shows are the months, and sometimes years, spent training for these competitions.  The handlers do not simply run around the ring, if you watch an experienced handler with his or her dog long enough, you will start to become aware of the subtle signals that are being transmitted between handler and dog.  I have watched my own daughter with our dogs, and it is like watching a well matched couple out on the dance floor.  One partner leads, and with the slightest of movements, she guides the other through the steps of the dance.  This doesn’t happen as soon as they step in the ring, this is the result of months, and sometimes years, of training. 

 





We start training our collies when they are around six weeks old, we begin their training by making it all a fun game.  Because of this, they view dog shows as fun and they become excited when they spot us loading up the van with all our dog show equipment.  To be successful as a show dog, they have to have more than just beauty.  If the dog doesn’t enjoy dog shows, they will look scared or miserable in the ring.  And yes, I have seen dogs who just do not enjoy dog shows, and if the dog is not having fun, then I do not think they should be forced to compete.  But most dogs, with the right training, view dog shows as only a positive, rewarding experience.  They get groomed regularly, fed a good diet, exercised daily, trained and socialized from a young age and they get to travel with their people instead of being left home alone.  So how anyone could view this as abuse is something I can’t comprehend.

 






And third, what you see on TV is only the end of the competition.  What they do not show is what comes before the Group judging.  Dog shows are divided into classes.  Each dog breed is judged separately, and the judging begins with the “class” dogs or bitches.   The class dogs are entered into individual classes, such as 9 – 12 month puppy, American bred, Open, or Bred-by-exhibitor.  The owner chooses which class to enter their dog or bitch, choosing the class where they think the dog or bitch will have the best chance of winning first place, which advances them to the next class, which is the Winner’s Dog/Bitch competition.  The winners of each class compete against each other in the Winner’s Bitch or Winner’s Dog competition.  Whichever dog or bitch is chosen as “Winner’s” is awarded points towards his or her championship.  The number of points awarded depends on how many dogs/bitches of that breed were entered in the show.  To become a champion, a dog needs 15 points and two of the wins have to be major wins, which means the wins were worth 3, 4 or 5 points each.  The males are judged first, and then the females.  When the judging of the “class” dogs/bitches is completed it is then time for the Best of Variety competition.  In this class, all the finished champions, along with the Winner’s Dog and Winner’s Bitch, compete for the best of variety, which means the judge decides who is the best example of the breed.  From this group the judge will also choose the Best of opposite sex to Best of Variety.  So if the judge chose a bitch as the Best of Variety, he or she will now choose a male who is the best of opposite sex.  The judge will also choose between the Winner’s Dog and Winner’s Bitch, to award “Best of Winners.”  The judge may also choose to award "Select dog and/or bitch," which allows the judge to honor other dogs who he or she felt deserved recognition.  The dog or bitch who wins Best of Variety will go on to compete in the Group ring. (herding, toys, sporting, etc)  And then the winners of each group will go on to compete for the coveted title of Best in Show. 

 





A lot of preparation and planning goes into every show dog’s career, and it all starts before the dog is even born!  It really begins when the dog’s breeder carefully selects a stud dog, breeds their bitch, whelps the litter, and then chooses show prospects.  Think of all this the next time you watch a dog show on TV, the dog you see in the ring is the result of extensive time researching pedigrees, choosing a stud dog with the correct virtues, caring for the pregnant bitch, whelping the litter, raising and socializing the pups, training them, and then competing in multiple dog shows to become a champion.

11 comments:

  1. I think most people would know if the dog didn't enjoy showing.....and it wouldn't show well if it didn't - part of the judges look for is personality and if they are stressed they won't show well.

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  2. I really enjoyed your post! I have several friends who show their dogs, and I know the hard work and dedication that goes into it, and I know the enjoyment that my friends and their dogs get from it too, and it's fun to watch them! I will look forward to your next post! :-)

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  3. Great information. We want you to know we are still reading and visiting... today we decided to comment since we have some time. Keep up the great work. Tomorrow we have a surprise for you.... so do visit. :)
    -the Collies and Chuck :)

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  4. One of Dog Dad's favorite things is to walk me at O'Dark Thirty and go to the Dog Park in the Afternoon.

    Sherman

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  5. Excellent post!! I just came home from a 3 day dog show--I wasn't showing, but I was helping a friend, cheering for her, supporting the Collie Club of Canada, and watching the other breeds and groups too. The days are long for the owners showing their own dogs, for the handlers, who are often showing a number of dogs in the day, and for the club members putting on the show. The dogs are treated like royalty--they are pampered, fussed over, and applauded. Their owners have the highest level of commitments to their dogs, and the breed. No one spends the kind of time it takes to develop one's lines, train the dogs, to travel to shows, to set up, to groom, to take down, to travel home, and then do it all over again for the next show which could be the next weekend, unless they are committed. And the dogs live the life of Riley--most dogs love the show ring and show that pride when they are in there!!

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  6. I think the only reason some people think showing is cruel is because they don't really know anything about showing and all it entails. The AKC and it's sister clubs need to do more community outreach. L

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  7. I think so many people thing showing is cruel because they know nothing about the show world at all. The AKC and it's sister clubs need to do more community outreach events.

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  8. I guess the reason some people think showing is cruel is that they really know nothing about the show world at all. The AKC and it's sister clubs show do more community outreach events.

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  9. Great post! A lot of people can by cynical about dog shows - and I suppose there are some legitimate concerns out there (promoting undesirable traits, for example), but I find it hard to say they're cruel. They're not more cruel that participating in any other activity with your dog - if they like it, what's the harm? Strange.
    I've only participated in a few shows, but I thought it was neat to see all the different breeds of dog in one place and learn about them. And I was amazed at all the pre-show prep! It's a LOT of work! Kudos to those who stick with it and do well.

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  10. The little tri-color looks like my sister. Events are good for people and their charges. If it makes you happy and it does not hurt the dogs, we're all in.

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  11. I would love to watch your Collies compete, I bet it really is a lot of fun!

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