Why Show Dogs?

Back in the middle of the last century, I was a kid just starting out with purebred dogs. In those days we didn’t have the internet, we had books and magazines and wonderful people we called mentors with whom we would communicate by mailing letters across the country then waiting days or even weeks for a reply. Eager to learn everything I could about my chosen breed, I spent innumerable hours reading articles, writing questions, studying diagrams and putting hands on all the neighborhood dogs then watching them move in comparison to my mental notes. As a newcomer, I longed to breed my first litter of truly quality puppies, and watch them develop into the fine examples of the breed my carefully researched selection would insure.

What I kept reading, hearing, and being told somewhat emphatically was that to be a truly reputable breeder, I had to exhibit my dogs in shows. Of course I wanted to be a reputable breeder of quality dogs, so of course I went off the shows. I dutifully entered my dogs and learned to present them respectably. In those early days, the shows were an additional opportunity to learn more about the breed from some of the other exhibitors, and that broadened my letter writing somewhat.

The shows themselves, however, were never quite my cup of tea. Not only am I innately devoid of having a competitive bone in my body, but I always failed to ultimately understand how putting breeders in competition with each other was supposed to be conducive to bringing them together in support of the breed as a whole. In other words, How is it that an all out battle to insure that MY dog comes out on top translates to the stated purpose of “comparing potential breeding stock to insure the maintaining of the best of breed quality”? Observing the shows themselves did nothing to help convince me this was what was happening. Yes, good dogs won, garnered titles, and were bred. Additionally, not so good dogs won, garnered titles, and were bred. As well, good and not so good dogs failed to win enough to garner titles, and most were bred nonetheless.

So why show dogs?

These days, showing dogs has become a hobby sport for people of every description and determination.
Competition in any venue, after all, attracts participants, and it is a simple fact that most people enjoy competing. While there is nothing particularly “wrong” with that, it indisputably calls into question whether any true reputability is actually demonstrated by the mere participation in what has become something far different from a genuine comparison of potential breeding stock. Yet the stigma of a breeder who declines to make regular appearances at shows still remains.



2 thoughts on “Why Show Dogs?

  1. This is something many of us struggle with and I don’t know the answer, but I’m glad to see it posted here.

  2. Great Article!

    I also starred out as an idealist, wanting all of my dogs to be titled at both ends of the name. Over time, it just did not pan out. Fundamentally, I still believe in a balanced program. Sadly I found that it made no economic sense at all to continue to seek that elusive breed championship when the entry money could be better put to use with genetic screening and in performance events where the judging is not subjective and where frankly, I have more fun.

    I was discouraged and often embarrased at the gossip and backbiting that went on, and as more and more emphasis was put on the coat – with all of the ratting, sculpting, fussing…I don’t want my dogs away from home, away from me,yet could not compete with handlers unless I wanted to spend a truckload of money doing so. I just became very disillusioned with the whole thing overall.

    That being said, I did like some aspects of it. I liked taking a dog I was proud of into the ring. I especially miss those old school judges like Maxwell Riddle who truly understood movement. I just loved to take in a handsome, sound dog under a judge like that, win or lose.

    I don’t have the answer either. As conformation entries dwindle in my region year by year, it seems like an answer is needed somewhere. It would be nice if we had some sort of NON competitive, objective grading system, a certificate with a score sheet matched to the breed standard that would at least rank the dog somehow as to it’s breeding worthiness, where the strengths and weaknesses are. I think this would be a great educational tool especially for newcomers to help them see what is correct, what is not. It could also maybe help us remember what the standard says, so we don’t get too caught up in the fads….I dunno, the show could still go on as is for those who aspire to be the champion of champions, but I do think there needs to be a practical alternative. I think that if the program was practical and non-subjective people would go for it. Maybe this is where the breed clubs could step in with their own programs????

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