It’s time to go on with the (dog) show
So, you have decided that it is time for your family to get a dog, but you aren’t yet sure what breed of dog is right for your family. You have talked to friends and neighbors. You have read some books, but you still don’t know which breed is right for you. There are a few breeds you are interested in, but you don’t know anyone that owns that breed. You would really like to talk to someone whom personally owns the breed. Well, your chance is just a few weeks away.
Every November, thousands of dogs make their way to the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury, Md., for the annual Talbot County, Mispillion and Salisbury Dog Shows. This year, the shows start Wednesday, Nov. 6, and run through Sunday, Nov. 10. The shows take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. There are numerous different types of shows going on every day. There are obedience trials, agility, rally, conformation (like the dog shows you see on TV) and more.
If you have never been to a dog show, this is the time to start. They are nothing like you see on TV. There is much more to them, and you can even watch dogs being groomed and prepared for their show time.
The conformation show is where dogs compete for their looks. It is not the prettiest or best-groomed dog. Dogs are judged on how they conform to breed standard. The individual breed clubs create a breed description on how their ideal dog should look. The judge is supposed to look over the dogs, touch them and examine them, and watch them “move” and then pick the dog that the judge feels most closely resembles that perfect dog.
Each individual breed first competes against others in their breed, for the best-of-breed. Then each best-of-breed competes with other dogs from their “group” to choose a best of group winner. The groups are the hound group, working group, terrier group, toy group, non-working group and herding group. Then, the winner from each group goes to the finals, and a Best of Show is finally chosen. (There is more to it than this, but this is the brief version.)
This is a good place to meet owners and handlers who can tell you about the different breeds of dogs. This is also where you can often meet breeders and make a connection of someone to contact later when you have made your final decision of which kind of dog you would like to own.
You do need to be careful in regards to your timing of questioning the owners and handlers. You do not want to try to play 20 questions with them as they are getting to go into the ring. But if you quickly and politely tell the person with the dog that you would like to ask them some questions regarding the breed, they will often tell you good time to talk with them.
Realize that some professional handlers might be busy all day, running from ring to ring with different dogs, but often they will have a few minutes here and there, or they can direct you to someone else involved in the breed that will have more time to talk with you.
One of the things you may not know about dog shows is that each day there is a best-of-show. Most dog shows are held at a specific venue for several days. It can be for two days to a weeklong event. Also, there are many things going on at once. Different breeds are participating in different rings, and in other shows, such as agility, obedience and rally, that may be going on too. Also, there are loads of dog-related vendors at the shows. You can buy almost anything dog-related.
Most dog shows do not allow dogs that are not participating in the shows to attend the shows. There are some exceptions, such as if they are coming in for pictures or another activity, but generally, only dogs participating in the show are allowed in.
Most dog shows either have you pay for parking or for entry to the show. The cost is usually minimal, around $5 or so. The money goes to the club sponsoring the show, to help offset the costs.
At the show, you can walk around in the “grooming” or “crating” areas. This is where the dogs are prepared for the shows and where many dogs spend their day before and after showing. Often, you can talk to the owners and handlers and ask questions while they prepare dogs for the show.
If you are going to the show to see a specific breed, you will need to do a little research beforehand. Showing starts at 8 a.m. usually, and different breeds show at different times on different days. Of course, if you just get there at 8 a.m., you can watch other breeds show, you can shop the vendors, you can eat at the snack bar and you can watch dogs being groomed.
There are also the other types of activities to watch, such as agility and rally, etc. Beware though — dog shows can be addictive. Even if you do not have a purebred dog, there are activities you can participate in. So, come on out and watch the fun. Then you can get involved and you can be out there next year participating with your dog.
Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with two bloodhounds, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training her male bloodhound for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.
Dog show terminology
This is some of the “dog-show world” terminology that may help you to understand dog shows a little better.
• Conformation: Dogs are judged on how closely they conform to the breed standards developed by the individual breed clubs and accepted by the AKC. Winning dogs win points toward their championship.
• Agility: Dogs compete on a course with their handler, going through tunnels, weave poles, teeter-totters, A-frames and more. They are timed.
• Obedience: Dogs are judged on how well they obey specific commands.
• Rally: A very fast-paced combination of obedience and agility in which handlers and dogs compete more as a team.
• CGC Test (Canine Good Citizen Test): Dogs are tested on a specific obedience sequence.
• Sweepstakes: Breed-specific conformation show generally for puppies and veterans that is done more for fun/practice. Dogs usually win some sort of prize. No points are awarded.
• Supported Entry: A conformation show where the local breed club is providing special prizes for winning dogs. It usually draws a larger entry for that breed.
• Professional Handler/Handler: It is the person that shows the dog. Professional handlers show many other people’s dogs. Many specialize in a breed or group. They are paid by the owners and receive bonuses for winning.
• Champion/Grand Champion: After dogs win a particular numbers of points and majors in conformation shows, they become a champion. Once a champion, they can earn additional points and majors towards their grand championship.
• Major: When a certain number of dogs are entered in the breed classes, it is called a two- or three-point major. A particular number of majors are required to earn a championship. (Individual breed clubs make the final determination for numbers of entries required.)
• Breed Club: There is usually a national breed club, and then there are regional breed clubs. Breed clubs organize special events to promote their specific breeds. Also, breed clubs generally have rescue groups for their specific breed.
• Ring: the area marked off at a dog show for the dogs to be judged in. Usually there are numerous rings set up with different breeds competing at the same time. Generally, there is a posted schedule on each ring daily as to what breed is being judged at what time.
• AKC/American Kennel Club: One of the major dog registries in the USA.
• Dog: Male dog.
• Bitch: Female dog.
• In season: when a female dog comes in heat (when a female dog is able to be bred).