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The Big Ones

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194 – February, 2020

By Peri Norman

There are so many choices of shows today. People are complaining, with good reason, that there are too many shows. Alternatives include: letting clubs fail thereby creating a de facto reduction in numbers, reducing the number of shows each club can be approved for, withholding approval for new clubs (so as not to add more shows) or even complex ranking systems that mirror those used in horse shows (for years I have used the expression “training shows” for some of our smaller rural shows and I adore them as an exhibitor and a judge). It is a complex problem enveloped in a cloud of factors that includes our current political climate as owners and breeders, plummeting entries, and skyrocketing expenses.

In contrast, there is virtually no disagreement with regard to the big shows. The list of important shows may vary, but it will universally include Westminster Kennel Club, The American Kennel Club National Championship and your breed’s national specialty. There may be others as well; Palm Springs, Louisville, Houston, Portland and Montgomery County are other examples. Perhaps in your breed, there is a particularly well thought of Regional Specialty that consistently hires knowledgeable judges and draws exceptional entries.

The big shows serve multiple functions for us as exhibitors and breeders. One of the primary benefits is to raise the bar. Generally speaking, the competition at these shows is top notch. The best dogs are there! As exhibitors, these are the shows we work toward. Refining ring performance, perfecting the grooming, keeping both handler and dog in the best possible condition, and striving to do well amongst the best in the country are primary goals. Many years ago, my mentor told me that a well-presented loss at the Garden was “worth” a Best in Show at any local show. I didn’t really understand what that meant other than it is okay to go and lose. Now I can see that attending a top rung show broadcasts a clear statement of intention. It tells people you are serious about the sport and your dogs. Last year, I had a puppy buyer with her first show dog tell me she was determined to show her pup in Orlando. I could have tried to talk her out of it. It is a tough show on dogs and people. But I didn’t. I told her I was proud of her and her pup! Then I coached and supported her to the best of my ability. If we are serious, we go. If we encounter others who are teetering on the edge of a serious dive into our sport, we need to encourage them to take the plunge. The big shows are a learning experience like no other. We need new exhibitors and new breeders. We must encourage and inspire them to make a serious commitment to our sport.

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194 – February, 2020

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