Sunday, April 4, 2010

First time at a dog show

Last weekend, I went to my first dog show. While I have been to (and even participated in) obedience trials, and have watched the Westminster and other dog shows on TV, I have never seen a conformation show in person. When I heard there was to be a UKC show at the Clermont County Dog Training Club last weekend, I thought I'd drop in to see what it was about.

My first impression was one of sheer chaos and confusion. Dogs, dog crates, dog paraphernalia, and dog people, were everywhere. Without a map or a helpful person to guide me through, I was lost.
Slowly, I sorted it out. The center of the building was where the hopefuls had staked out their claim. Each small square was filled with dogs resting in crates, dogs on grooming tables, undergoing their final preparations, and dogs on leashes, awaiting their turn in the ring.
Everywhere, people were bustling around, too busy to chat.
A few were catching up on some much-needed rest.

The rings were arranged around the perimeter of the large room, with spectators sitting in lawn chairs outside the fences, and the participants lined up at the gate, waiting to enter.

There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the activity, but if you knew the system, you could see that dogs were brought into the ring first by class (puppy dog, puppy bitch, novice dog, novice bitch, and so forth) and then winners of each class returned to compete against each other for winner of the breed. Each breed winner then came back to compete for Group Winner.

This Standard Poodle puppy
and this veteran Chesapeake Bay Retriever
were each the only dog in their division. The Chessie moved on to represent his breed in the Gun Dog Group, while the Poodle was defeated by an adult dog.

While in the ring, each dog must be stacked

gaited (trotted along a prescribed path), and then examined by the judge, who checks for correct bite, good structure, and overall grooming and appearance.

A seasoned campaigner awaits his chance,licking his chops in anticipation.When he is judged, he turns it all on!

Because this was a UKC (United Kennel Club) show and not the more familiar AKC (American Kennel Club), there were some breeds I was not familiar with, and even the groups were different. Where the AKC has Working Dogs and Sporting Dogs. UKC has Guardian (Mastiffs, Dobermans, etc.) and Gun Dogs (retrievers, spaniels, and the like.) Here are the top dogs of each breed in the Gun Dog group.
You might be surprised to see the Standard Poodle here, but this breed was originally designed to be a water retriever, just like a Lab. ("Poodle" comes from the German "Pudle," meaning "to splash in the water." Did you know "French" Poodles were actually German? I didn't, either!) AKC classifies the Standard Poodle as a Non-sporting breed, perhaps reflecting its current usage as a companion dog instead of a hunting dog.

Although to the casual observer, it seems as though the dogs are being judged against each other, in truth, the judge considers each dog as an individual, comparing it to the breed standard of perfection. Each judge has his or her own interpretation of that standard, which is why a dog might win under one judge and be placed last by another, even on the same weekend.

Don't ask me what won - I got a little distracted and had a hard time keeping track of all the activity. I'll definitely be back; I'd like to learn a little more about this dog sport. Perhaps the next time, I'll bring a translator!


Geoff Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Gets Native said...

That was a very interesting and newsy post....but you lost me at "Novice Bitch".

KatDoc said...

Yeah, that was the point. If you know what you're talking about at a dog show, you know what you're talking about. If you are as lost as I was, you hear these words washing over you and you are still lost.

FYI: "Novice Bitch" isn't what you think it is. It is a show class for adult female canines who have yet to win a first place. I only know this because I read a book on dog showing.

littleorangeguy said...

I've gone a few times to the Canadian Kennel Club show in Toronto. It's enormous, held in the MLB stadium. Imagine how many dogs that is! I always enjoyed walking through the back area and talking with breeders (and dogs!). This show has some obedience trials as well as conformation. It was a riot watching a chihuahua do obedience (and win). How do you suppose a BT would do?

holly-the-person said...

Yes! I did know that about poodles! (finally, a post that I know something about!) Also, the standard 'poodle cut' was not just a faddish thing to make them look like silly puffs, but instead designed to increase their swimming and protect the joint areas since poodles don't have that nice waterproof coat that labs etc have. The 'puffs' were left over joints, shoulder, hip, ankles, chest. The tail puff helped the hunters to spot their swimming dog.

We had nothing but poodles growing up and they were not the namby-pamby bits that they seem to have a reputation for. They were *awesome* dogs, just as hardplaying and intelligent as they could be. (of course, I know *you* know this but so many people think of poodles as just highstrung little yappers. Although I've met a few of those too...much like their owners.)