Monday, June 4, 2012

I Don't Understand Dog Shows

"I don't understand dog shows," remarks a friend. I just finished up a 3 day weekend showing my Shetland Sheepdog in our local specialties. I thought hard about her comment all weekend. I used to laugh it off and reply, "Me either." Or avoid the question entirely; but, this particular friend has a standard poodle who is her service dog and it bothered me.

On the surface dog shows seems to be a beauty pageant where we fluff and preen, chalk, and groom until our arms ache. Then, we run around in circles and expose ourselves to the criticism of judges, fellow exhibitors, and breeders. On some levels it is a dysfunctional social event. But, we are showing dogs bred to a standard. The dog in the ring must meet a specific standard just to be exhibited. The judge chooses the dog that in their opinion most closely meets that standard and "showed" well that day.

Why is that important? Because to breed to that standard means we are trying to breed healthy, sound dogs that can do the work the breed is designed to do. Yes, genetics and science factors heavily; but, breeding is an art. No one can never exactly predict what a breeding will produce. Thus, not every puppy is "show quality." That is the goal. The basic health and temperament of the puppies is more predictable making for a versatile dog with longevity.

My friend's service dog poodle may not be show quality but it comes from a reputable breeder who is breeding to standard.  The breeder was able to choose a puppy for her with the aptitude to learn, the structure and health to live a good long, healthy life, and the temperament to withstand the rigors of a service dog's daily life.

Does that mean that getting a rescue dog is a bad thing? No, not at all; but you really don't know what you're getting.  You stand a greater chance of your dog being lame, going blind, having cancer, or having other health problems are a younger age. Perhaps even dying young.  No, that's not true for every mixed breed and sometimes we get lucky. But, showing our dogs is important beyond the sport and social aspect. When we show dogs we put a great amount of our time, money, effort, passion, and faith in a single dog or line. Quality is at the heart of it all.

So, when the chalk dust clears and the ribbons are all handed out, photos taken and grooming equipment stowed until the next show, I take my dogs out to the mountains and we go for a celebratory hike.  They sleep on my bed and under my desk. What's wrong with showing dogs?

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