It All About The Dogs - Observations on the World of Dog Shows

  • May 31, 2018
  • by Janis McGee


From the May Issue of Top Notch Toys. Click To Subscribe. Photo by D. Cartier.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times! Oops—that line may well be a bit of plagiarizing! It could, though, most probably be a line many a dog fancier, one who participates in our sport, would love to use as their own—not because we may make millions, but because it is laden with a heavy truth and a great reality!

The intent was to write an article brightened with levity! Spilling ink, twenty-six letters arranged into words to share very real experiences to bring you, the reader, the breeder, the handler, the judge, the exhibitors and club contributors along with our American Kennel Club, a bit of joy and sparkling light. In our daily challenges, each one of us simply wants to get it all right! An interesting thing happened on the way to the keyboard—life happened and surrounded us!

Thirty-five years ago, I was blessed with my very first Shih Tzu! Many of you have been involved in this sport for much longer than I. The wealth of knowledge each of us carry into the show venues weekend after weekend is undeniably vast and magnificently important! So, the question is, what, exactly, are we as individuals, doing to educate, draw in, assist, promote, expand and share the vast and important knowledge of the world of dogs with any and all those persons who seek to learn?

There’s the “hair of the dog that bit you” and it has nothing to do with your blood alcohol level the morning after a rather celebratory evening! The first time one walks into that show ring with their dog can be the beginning of a long and dedicated passion, or, it can be a short trip into the twilight zone of obscurity! Have we become so rapt into our own egos and self aggrandizement that we cannot look around and notice those who are new, shaky with fear, unsure in multiple ways? Could we just stop whining and reach out? Can we try harder to remember the reason so many of us are here? We continued because someone, a kind soul or more than one, shared enough joy of “the hair of the dog that bit him/her!” It can be an amazing and rewarding experience to watch another person succeed when we take the time to help, in some even small way, a new person!

Today’s atmosphere is so charged with negativity, not just in our world of dog shows, but everywhere we turn, it is very easy to get caught up in every negative aspect of even the least of important factors! So quickly can we forget that it is not about us, it is about the dogs! Our parent clubs, our local clubs, or even AKC, is formed for one purpose to promote the health and welfare of our dogs, to keep accurate and open records regarding our dogs who give us joy unfettered, to hold educational events and specialty shows in accordance with official rules and to openly and honestly do our best to evaluate our breeding stock and to share this knowledge. Sure, the members make a club, but we are all there because of the dogs! This fact seems to be forgotten way too often. Members are far too often willing and insistent upon “biting the hand that feeds them”! If the need is for a kum-ba-yah society where narcissistic tendencies can be satisfied, perhaps a mirror factory would be the place to better serve that need!

In recent times, due to a new position, I have learned that while being so busy delegating important duties and running my own life, wonderful people who volunteer to ‘give back’ to that which has given them pleasure and joy (that is showing their beautiful dogs)—well, their life just keeps on throwing them curveballs too! Life happens, we must adjust and accept that which we cannot change and realize not everything will always run on a perfect schedule and according to that which a few feel they are entitled to! Facts are never going to suit everyone but they will get done, things will move forward, with or without everyone having to think alike!

So, things I’ve learned in thirty 
plus years:

  1. Warm winsome ways of those who surround us will be the likeliest way to continue and increase interest in our sport.
  2. Negative begets negative.
  3. Judges don’t always choose the right dog—it is subjective and it is, after all, his/her decision based on their individual interpretation of the Breed Standard.
  4. Share the knowledge you hold—
    it is not some huge secret or 
    rocket science.
  5. The dog world has short memory—try not to absent yourself for long periods of time. Always, and I mean always, try to hold a high profile and presence at shows, particularly at Group ring whether in the ring or simply supporting the exhibits/exhibitors from ringside and do so with grace.
  6. Do not bite the hand that feeds you! Always, always be gracious to judges and exhibitors alike.
  7. Clubs do not exist to serve any person’s private advancement or private agenda.
  8. You find you make lifelong friendships, near and far.
  9. Promote good sportsmanship and
  10. Last, but certainly not least—remember, it’s not about you, it’s about the dogs!