by Beth Brown
These dogs don't need anyone to throw them a bone. Their laudable lineage and dedicated trainers make becoming champions feel like a walk in the park.
The Dartmouth Kennel Club is hosting their All Breed Shows and Trials this Saturday and Sunday, May 10 and 11, at Cole Harbour Place. All are welcome to watch the 160 dogs on site---admission for the day is a toonie for adults and a loonie for children and seniors. The junior handlers show from 11:30am to 12:30pm on Saturday.
In Obedience shows, canines pay close attention to their handler, walking in perfect form and obeying commands for sitting, jumping and retrieving. Rally Trials are similar to Obedience shows, but less formal. They allow more interaction between handler and dog, as well as additional agility exercises.
In Confirmation shows, it's all about breeding. Dogs in these classes are not spayed or neutered. Mostly they stand still, or move around the ring "at a gait that makes it look its best," says Kennel Club president Lendra Barker. Dogs learn to stand "four square" and be comfortable with judges going over their body parts and checking for structure. "Originally, the purpose of purebred Confirmation was for people to have their breeding stock assessed by judges and peers." A Confirmation champion has been proved most perfect to its breed.
There are 175 breeds recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club, the registering body for all purebred dogs, which fit into seven groups: Sporting, Hounds, Working, Terriers, Toys, Non-Sporting and Herding.
In competition, dogs compete by breed, then group, and finally the seven group winners shoot for best in show. Dogs gather points by competing. The goal is to garner enough points to place in the country's top ten. Canada's current leading dog for Confirmation is a standard poodle called Grayden, with 2,880 points.
"Dogs that are campaigned on a regular basis are just like athletes," says Barker. "They need lots of exercise, conditioning and nutrition."
Don Wallace, club treasurer for the Dartmouth Kennel Club, is an all-breed judge. In the dog business for over 40 years, he has judged shows across Canada and internationally. Judging takes 10-to-15 years of experience, with extensive studying of up to 200 breeds. Dogs are judged by the rules and regulations of their breed, called a breed standard. "The breed standard tells you what that dog should be, the height, the weight, everything," says Wallace.
Even for best in show the dogs are judged by their breed standard. "You don't compare one dog against the other," says Wallace. "They're not all perfect, but the closest one to perfection should be the one that gets the nod."
Wallace is adamant that you have to experience a show to really understand the dog world. Not only can you follow his advice this weekend, you might see Cole Harbour's junior handling world champion Colton O'Shea at work.
Handlers are responsible for the dogs' grooming and care during the show. "You have to get a rapport with the dog for it to show well," says Barker. Even with perfect training and a talented handler, she says a dog might have a mood swing or get distracted. "They're not robots, they're dogs."
If going to the show gets you thinking of a purebred for yourself, Barker says to choose carefully---a laidback person wouldn't work for a dog requiring hours of daily exercise. "That's the joy of the purebred dog. They're bred on purpose. Hounds for hunting, toy dogs for companions. You can pretty well mwatch your lifestyle to a dog."
Dartmouth Kennel Club All Breed Shows and Trials
Saturday and Sunday, May 10 and 11 at 8am, $2
Cole Harbour Place, 51 Forest Hills Parkway