Friday, March 12, 2010

Purina National Dog Show This Weekend

What happens when you take more than 1,000 dogs and their breeders, add in their handlers – all of whom are competing for Best in Show – and put them before a cheering crowd? "The atmosphere is electric," says organizer Richard Paquette. "The crowd gets into it."

The 2000 film Best in Show parodied the behind-the-scenes life of "campaigning" in the dog show world, but there's serious prestige to be had at this weekend's Purina National Dog Show. Dogs are ranked by how well they do in shows and, as the only national show sponsored by the Canadian Kennel Club, "we're talking high-level competition," Paquette says of the Purina event.

The three-day event includes seven rings for canine competitors and a breeders' village, where the public can pat the purebreds. This is the first time in the four years since its inception that the national dog show has been held in the GTA. It begins Friday at 9 a.m. at Mississauga's International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd.

There's a lot at stake, with $40,000 in prizes and $6,000 for Best in Show. Plus a win in a category here can translate into big bucks for breeders. A 6-month-old puppy with show potential fetches as much as $5,000 while a 1-year-old proven show dog could cost $10,000.
`Dog world' denizen

Like the majority of owners at dog shows, Bob Whitney is a hobby breeder. With a current crop of 15 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, he has been at it for 41 years. "My wife and I say that we have the real world and we have the dog world," the Castleton, Ont., resident says. In addition to shows year- round, the dog world includes membership in several clubs. A one-time professional handler and all-breed judge, Whitney now supports his hobby by doing accounting work.

Purebred breeders rarely make a living producing and showing dogs. "By and large, people spend more money than they make," he says. To participate in an average weekend costs up to $500, and top dogs compete at an average of 140 shows a year.

Whitney likes the level playing field a dog show provides – there could be a surgeon with one dog and a short-order cook with another, he notes. "It's fairly competitive inside the ring but outside the ring it's quite a fraternity." He is campaigning one of his dogs this year, which means going to a show almost every weekend. Last year, he had the top Cavalier in Canada, accruing 3,689 points in 71 shows. "You have to have a passion for the game," he says. "And you have to understand that winning is great – but having the dogs is great, period.

"They're pets first. Whether you win or lose, you go home with the dog you like."
Mentor to others puts Shih Tzus first. Margaret Brown has no idea how many Shih Tzus she has bred and sold over her 35-year career as a purebred producer and competitor. The St. Catharines resident went to a dog show one day. "Then I got a Shih Tzu and started showing it," she says. "Then I got another one and another one. They say if you last five years, you're in it for life."
She took her first Best in Show in 1978, three years after getting into the game. "That dog went on to win 75 more Best in Show awards," she says. One she bred became top dog in Canada in 1988, another was the country's top Shih Tzu in 2008 and 2009.

Being successful usually depends on getting a mentor, and a good breeder should provide guidance, Brown believes. "There are a lot of nice people in this game, people who are willing to help," she says. "I've helped a lot of people, myself, along the way. That's what it's all about – promoting the breed." During her 23 years working at a bank while competing most weekends, Brown says she planned all her vacations around dog shows. Now retired, she still does.

"I would come home from work on a Friday night, bath my dog, head out to a dog show, come home tired Sunday night and get up and go to work Monday morning. A lot of people do that. It's a tiring hobby, but I love it." Her husband and two sons love the dogs, but not the dog shows. Then she adds with a laugh, "He says it's like watching grass grow."
Loving those Labs

Paul Pobega plays Disney movies for his dogs each afternoon. "Twenty per cent of them watch," he claims. That may seem whimsical, but Pobega treats his champion Labradors like family members, same as he does the charges from the full-time Coldwater, Ont., boarding kennel he operates to support his family and hobby. Considered a small-scale breeder, Pobega has guided purebreds from 21 litters to 25 championships over the 14 years he has participated in the sport.

Exhibiting, showing and working on obedience are important, he believes. So is eliminating health risks by carefully monitoring bloodlines. All these endeavours help support the hobby, says Pobega, the Ontario director of the Labrador retriever Club of Canada. Keeping all the dogs exercised and occupied requires two staff and an average 15-hour day – he takes one 10-day vacation a year.

Pobega recently halved the number of shows he competes at, only attending 10 to 15 annually now – but they take place all over North America, like the world's largest specialty show for Labs, which happens in Maryland in mid-April. Sometimes he sends a dog with a handler, otherwise he handles the ring-work himself. And that can get competitive, he says. Bad-mouthing other dogs and owners can centre on whether a rival has a genetic flaw.

"What ends up happening is gossip goes around that makes a mountain out of a molehill. They'll say things that aren't true about a breeder's line or a breeder's dog," he says.

"It's like high school."

**Taken from the Toronto Star

4 comments:

  1. Well written aritcle. I've seen many articles over the years about the fancy and this one provides a realistic point of view, and it was interesting to read. Well done!
    Larisa Hotchin.

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  2. Thanks so much Larisa, and remember, if ever you know of any newsworthy items or event in the city, be sure to let me know :)

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  3. why don't you post a link for the show? throw in some details on going, since, as you report, "The atmosphere is electric," says organizer Richard Paquette. "The crowd gets into it."

    We're on the net, how hard can it be?

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  4. Here is the link to the original article : http://www.thestar.com/living/article/778653--groomed-to-take-centre-stage

    ReplyDelete