Dog shows are an addiction and serious emotional commitment by participating dog owners and dog shows mean different things to different dogs. These shows, worldwide, have been going on since about 1877 and have remained popular traditions for almost one and a half centuries. Six years ago, about 3.5 million people watched the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York City.
The atmosphere is always unique, incorporating the particular venue, human-animal interaction, climate and public attendance. There are local, provincial, national and international shows, which may vary from an intimate rent-a-crowd event to an extravaganza, expo and convention of awesome and mesmerising standards and content where the world’s top dogs from many countries gather in front of hundreds of judges to compete in the numerous canine disciplines.
Imagine owning the world’s best dog and winning the honour at the world’s biggest dog show. At these famous events, usually about 50 countries participate, submitting close on 17 000 dogs and attracting about 60 000 visitors.
Dog shows are an ideal platform to educate the public about the vast variety of canine breeds available in the country, the genetic purpose of each race and the benchmark one can strive for to obtain the optimum potential out of any pet show dog. Since pet dogs are such a part of people’s lives, too few owners attend the variety of shows available on the annual calendar. Similarly, not enough knowledge is transferred from the judges to the public.
When the judges prance around evaluating breeds or Best Dog in the Show or test obedience or agility, there is no clear communication between the experts and the uninformed in the grandstands or the periphery to explain why they are making certain decisions, why one particular dog is superior to the next and what features are impressing them to attain rosettes and trophies for the handlers or owners.
If this line of information was improved, the attendance figures and interest would increase dramatically. The judges may be rating dogs according to how their appearance conforms with the standard, but the spectators need to know what these parameters are.
When obedience is being judged there is no credit given to how the participants, canine and human, prepared for such a level at a prestigious event.
I have often sat in the audience listening to what some of the commentators are saying but the audiovisual systems and acoustics have left much to be desired, so most of the great content went over people’s heads like SwissAir.
The organisers, breeders, trainers, sponsors, handlers et al need to sell this wonderful product in a much more attractive manner. There is no reason every event at every show should not be packed to capacity.
There is no doubt the major shows have so many events running concurrently that there is too much for one person to witness or absorb, which often induces return visits for future shows. At most dog shows, one may witness trials for agility, obedience and field work. There are also displays for tracking, speciality work, novelty and best in breeds, groups and the entire show.
Events such as the Best-Dressed Dog and the Dog Resembling Its Owner are fun. The Ugliest Dog on Show has become popular because these pets are usually chosen out of sympathy from animal welfare organisations with an inherent fear no one would want them; yet, they mould into the most wonderful characters, proving that animals are nonjudgmental towards each other, have no vanity and looks are merely superficial.
Dogs do not care what they look like when they go out.
v Read more on this topic next week.