Speaking Up For Showing
We asked readers to give us a report on the 'State of the Show World.' Their responses were overwhelmingly positive.
Sure there are a small percentage of people out there who want to win no matter what the cost. But for the most part the people that I meet at shows love and care about their dogs. In fact some of them care so much about their dogs, they forget about the breed! In 15 years of showing dogs, my dogs are always pets first, then show dogs.
We compete in obedience, conformation, agility, tracking and field. I would never consider hurting some one else’s dog to help my dog win, nor illegally alter my dog. My first dog ended up as a washout in both conformation and obedience. It didn’t matter, we spayed her and she lived to 15 (pretty long years for a Malamute). She was part of our family. My Weims have been successful in many fields, but their health and happiness comes first.
Show people aren’t all perfect, but most of them are pretty darn good people! I think the worst I have personally witnessed was someone who used grooming techniques to hide structural faults, or dying to cover color faults. Someone did once step on my dog (fortunately she wasn’t hurt) and occasionally some one displays bad sportsmanship. Peer pressure takes care of poor ringmanship. If you are responsible and you actually witness unethical activity then you talk to them about it or you report it. It is up to us to police our own sport.
Agility is more fun for me
I showed a little in conformation in the last few years, but quit because I didn’t enjoy it. I now compete solely in agility, which I do enjoy! Because I didn’t get too involved in conformation, I can only give my opinion on the dog’s happiness at being a show dog. Because their attitude and enthusiasm count a lot, along with their appearance, the dog must be happy! So, to me, showing seems like a positive thing for the dogs. Because I didn’t enjoy conformation showing, my dogs picked up on that, and they weren’t happy. A couple of judges commented on this!
I like agility; it always makes me happy to see happy dogs doing things with their people. Because this doesn’t involve the use of professional handlers and dogs being out on the show circuit for long periods, it’s much less stressful than a show dog’s life.
As for training, I attended a seminar recently with one of agility’s top trainers. To stress how this should be a positive, fun thing for the dog, he said you should never say “no” to your dog in agility training. When any of us absentmindedly said no to our dogs, we had to wear a dunce hat until we passed it along to the next person!
AKC rules protect dogs
I have owned and shown various breeds since 1989; first Shelties, then Papillions, and now Chihuahuas.
In the last three years or so I have noticed many more people feeding raw meat and veggies to their show dogs, as well as using healthy supplements. Some do give their dogs drugs, but it is not that common. Homeopathic remedies, Bach Flower Essences, and other natural supplements for anxiety, fear and nervousness are becoming so common that some vendors at the shows sell them.
One thing that must be remembered is that show dogs who compete in conformation are judged on how they look and move (first impression), how they feel (a physical examination by the judge going over the dog with his hands), and how they act. If a dog is not in good physical condition, (if it is fed a cheap, poor quality diet with no supplements), or if a dog is in poor mental condition (unhappy, fearful, acting abused), chances are not very good that it will win. It is in the best interests of the owner/handler to have the show dog in top condition and abusive methods do not produce a happy show dog.
The AKC Obedience Regulations state that dogs who compete in obedience are also judged on how they perform and lose points if they act fearful or abused. “Lack of willingness or enjoyment on the part of the dog must be penalized as must . . . roughness in handling.” “A qualifying score must never be awarded to a . . . dog that shows fear . . . nor to a dog whose handler disciplines or abuses it in the ring.”
-Liz Moore, Diadem Chihuahuas
Newman Lake, WA
Show dogs get spoiled, but not abused
The vast majority of show dogs receive top care, food, medical attention, and are loved as members of the family. I don’t know of any instance where that is not the case, and I know quite a few dog people since I am active in a breed club (Labrador Retrievers) and our local all-breed club.
Show people spend a lot of money on their dogs and on dog-related items in general; just ask my grumbling husband! I suppose there are cases of mistreated dogs, but I’d venture to guess that you’ll find a much lower instance of that occurring in show people than in the general population.
Members of our families
I show my dogs and have friends who have shown dogs for 30 years. Our dogs are important members of the family and are very cherished and loved. Anyone breeding dogs to make money are in it for the wrong reasons. I have learned that you breed to improve the breed’s qualities, not for money.
As for me I feel responsible to those pups as long as they live and try to stay in contact with the owners of my placed pups so I may help ensure they are safe and happy.
Those who show dogs using harmful drugs and/or are abusive are reprimanded by AKC and it’s not if they are caught, it’s a matter of when. This type of behavior is not acceptable nor will it ever be among show people.
-Teresa Miles, Lyonesse Kennels
Rumors, but no evidence
I breed, show and love Welsh Terriers. I also own a Borzoi which I show, and I used to show and breed Australian Terriers. I have obtained championships in both obedience and conformation. My dogs are raised in my house. I have perhaps one litter per year. I spend more money on my dogs than I do on myself.
I have learned more about holistic dog care from show breeders than from anyone else. They seem to be more abreast of current research, trends, etc., regarding holistic care and supplements. There are exceptions, of course. Some old timers are more holistic with their dogs’ diets than you would imagine! They all have favorite recipes for homemade food and supplements and their dogs reflect these things in the show ring.
I have heard horrible tales that have never been substantiated – such as the use of arsenic for fuller coats, etc. But it seems to me that if the dog dies then you have lost even more money! So I cannot believe that these tales are true. I believe they are (in part) due to jealousies from competitors, etc. Sometimes, losers have nothing but bad to say about winners.
If you hear of a show person getting arrested for animal cruelty they probably had many dogs. Most animal enforcement officials do not act unless there are several dogs or animals involved. The show people are more in the public eye.
Average handlers are OK
I have been showing dogs in conformation and obedience since 1980. I am not a breeder or handler; I show my own dogs as a hobby, and have shown a few dogs for friends.
I believe the majority of people in the “sport of dogs” are like me – going about their hobby and having a good time. You won’t see our names on top ten lists or on TV at Westminster or in magazines. Most of us are not in what I would classify as the “super competitive” group.
I know of people I suspect of doing unscrupulous things and there are always rumors, but nothing I can prove. But I’m sure that just like any other competitive arena, there are people who will do anything to win. This includes cheating and doing things that are harmful to their dogs.
Unfortunately, people are people, and those who show dogs are no different than anyone else. While most people enjoy a chosen sport, some carry it to a destructive degree. Ask anyone who has ever watched the parents of Little League players!
I wish I could give you a guess as to a proportion of the bad competitors but I simply have no idea. There are so many people involved in showing in my area (Los Angeles) that I couldn’t even begin to have a passing knowledge of a small section of them.
In my own circle, a more behavioral approach to obedience training has certainly become more common. I’d guess that at least 50 percent of the obedience dogs in my group are trained using positive motivation. However, fewer people are aware of the benefits of a “healthful diet;” that will come along more slowly. I only know two people who feed raw-food diets to their dogs, but I also know more and more people who check dog food ingredients very carefully.