Dog Show Daddy
"My Wife is Dane Crazy and I'm Going to the Dogs"

My wife has been breeding, showing, handling and training dogs (our kids) for nearly a decade. As my husbandly duty, I accompany her to many of the shows. Dog Shows and Dog Show People are a world of their own. Here are some random observations on our kids, shows and that world.

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Judging Judges
At Dog Shows, the Judge is a highly respected individual. To become a judge, one must have bred a good quantity of champion dogs. They must also have spent time working around the ring as a Steward. Judges at shows come from around the Nation to use their background and knowledge to pick other champions.

After a recent show, we heard that someone had approached a Judge at the end of the day. This individual, one of those that represented a dog that did not win, questioned the Judge's final pick. The Judge indicated why they had made the call, and used the breed standard to back up their call. The individual then went on to state that the Judge's chosen dog was thought of "poorly" by others at the show and the dog would never have a chance to finish (ie win enough points to become a champion).

To be honest, I was not totally surprised by this. At any event where there are winners and non-winners, the non-winners can be "poor sports". I recall when Julie Andrews won the Oscar for her performance in MARY POPPINS. A number of those who did not win later indicated that Julie "probably" won on a sympathy vote due to her being passed over for a role in MY FAIR LADY.

While it is one thing to grumble about the results of an election, I feel it is a totally different thing to question a Judge at a Dog Show. A Dog Show Judge is not the same as a judicial judge whose decision might be reviewed by a higher court. A Dog Show Judge is more like a sports umpire who must make a call, popular or not, at what they think is correct.

In this case, an experienced Judge was able to quickly state the reason for their call. Even with such evidence, the questioner then brought into question the Judge's ability as well as maligning the dog that won. To me such behavior should be made public and, perhaps, even punished.

In the world of sports, which I admit not being super familiar with, I know that when someone questions or harasses an umpire, the perpetrators are penalized, or fined, or both. Why aren't similar actions considered in this case?

As I said, a Dog Show Judge uses years of experience to base their decisions. They have to take all that experience and in a matter of moments pick Dog "A" over Dog "B". Can these decisions be topics of conversation? Of course, and no doubt they will be by the crowd, by the Breeders, and by those in the ring. However, should the dog not chosen be allowed to bite the Judge? Should the Handler holding a non-winning dog be allowed to kick dirt at the Judge? Should the Breeder of a non-winner be allowed to shout at the Judge?

The answer to all of these questions should be "no". The Judge has issued its final decision and it should be final. The Dog, the Handler or the Breeder who accosted the Judge should be punished.

How Much You Care About Your Dog
At dog shows, there are two types of people showing dogs: Professional Handlers and Breeders. To the casual eye, one doesn't look much different than the other. It is only after watching several judgings that one might notice the dogs in the ring change, but the handlers seem to remain the same.

We fall into the group of Breeders. In fact, there is even a special category for our type - Breeder-Handler. When you look into the ring during this group, everyone holding a dog has bred that dog.

Oddly, at one show I overheard some folks discussing handling. An owner stated they were thinking of showing their dog themselves. Another person in the group stated that the owner obviously "didn't think much of the dog" if they weren't going to use a professional handler.

On one side, I can understand this logic. One pays to have a Professional Handler show your dog. These fees can be quite high, and can easily reach into the $1000s of dollars for a single dog. The person making such a statement might be indicating if you aren't willing to pay someone to show your dog, you must not think the dog is worth the money.

However, there is the other side. If one really does care about their dog, they would be proud enough to stand with it in the ring. I'll state right here that I am biased to this side as a Breeder-Handler. But I would use a parent/child analogy. If a father "really cared" about his son, would the father go to a "father and son" event, or would the father hire some famous actor to attend the event with his son?

As I said, the casual eye cannot discern from the Professional Handler and the Breeder Handler. In fact, I have been at more than one show where the Professional does a lackluster job on a dog. I often wonder if it is because the handler is tired from his earlier dogs, or perhaps distracted by the next dog he has to show. Also, since the Professional Handler's fee increases the better a dog does, perhaps the Handler is biased towards one dog over the other in hopes of getting a high fee on dog "A" at the expense of dog "B".

Of course the one big difference between Professional Handlers and Breeder Handlers is that many a judge suffers from "Handler Bias". This is where the Judge is more apt to pick a dog based on the Handler instead of the dog. After all, the Judge sees the same Professionals show after show. The Judge becomes familiar with the Professionals. Oddly, one of the rules for judging and showing is that the Judge is not to know anything about the dog. That is a key reason for using numbers to identify the dogs in the ring. This allegedly keeps the Judge from making an opinion based on the dog's owner, breeder or heritage. Sadly, there is no similar rule about knowing the Handler.

But back to the main question, "how much" do you care about your dog? I would say if you care about your dog, the way you might a family member and are proud them, you would want to stand in that ring with them and share their victories as much as their defeats. However, if you really care more about "you" or "winning", then I guess a Professional is what you want. Professionals don't care if the dog loses they still get their fee. They only care if it wins, as it increases their bottom line. That way no one needs to care about the dog.

At a recent event, we had the pleasure of seeing one of our "grandkids", a pup from one of our litters. He was also pleased to see us. In fact, even though he left home at 2 months, now at almost 7 months he still responds happily to a silly nickname I called him. In fact, there was even a tune I hummed when the litter was very tiny. If I hum it now, he gets all happy and licks my face. (In fact, any pup from that litter responds to the tune.)

It makes me realize how important those first few months must be in the development of personality and memories. Certainly environment will affect a dog's behavior. But if a silly name or simple tune can make such a lasting impression, think what such things as companionship, loneliness, attention, aggression, pleasure, pain, touching and talking can do.

The more I see our kids and grandkids react well to the world around them, I more I notice puppies and young adult dogs who seem distant, suspicious or even aggressive. I wonder what sort of first few months they had.

smoke gets in my eyes...
An anti-smoking commercial came onto TV, and I wondered why dog shows still allowed smoking. I know at shows, I am bothered when having to sit near smokers. (I get an allergic reaction around cigarette smoke.) True, the shows are usually outside, but even in the "fresh" air, it is easy to know who is smoking and where.

A recent radio report stated tests have shown pets in homes of smokers are 50% more likely to develop health problems with their internal organs - mostly kidneys, livers and such. The reason for the maladies is that pets, unlike humans who only breath second hand smoke, actually ingest the deadly chemicals when they groom their fur. The material builds up in various organs causing cancers.