Sun, 03/13/2022 - 11:39am

Stop the World -- I Want to Get Off!

In an increasingly uncertain world, Vince Hogan asks, “What does the future hold for breeders, exhibitors and dog shows?"

The world (which includes the world of dogs!) has seen seismic changes in the last two years. As we are entering the start of the third year to be affected by the Covid-19, epidemic you would be forgiven if you didn’t know which way to turn, whether to wear a mask or not, whether you can hug someone without fear or whether to laugh or cry at where we are in life right now! "Stop the World I Want to Get Off,’ as the old Broadway musical had it back in the day!

The musical opened on Broadway back in 1962 and actually ran for 555 performances. The central character, Littlechap, would stop the play each time something unsatisfactory happened … heck, it would be a real stop-start of a thing in this day and age!

Sometimes our world of dogs (wherever in the world we are) can seem very enclosed, a sub culture that "outsiders" don’t seem to understand. But in the crisis of the last two years, there has been no escape for the dog showing and breeding fraternity, not just in the U.S. but in every corner of the world as we all struggled to maintain any kind of normalcy in the sport. We have all been affected as in every other walk of life, with shows cancelled, then partially staged, then on and then off again, then relocated to a new venue and date, as in the case of Westminster; it’s been hard to keep pace with it all.




So much has happened since the onset of Covid-19 back in early 2020, or late 2021 depending on who you believe as to when and where the whole thing started. My first early awareness of a virus was in fact when I was covering the Philippines Circuit, where the President is FCI Board member Dinky Santos. That great four-day show, more like an event of an Asian fusion, has not taken place since that time, but is rescheduled for January 2023, all being well. That circuit typified all that was happening in dogs right then … judges flying in from all over the world, exhibitors the same. There is always a sprinkling of American judges, handlers and dogs. Each week, Thursday and Friday postings on Facebook saw judges telling us where they were jetting off to that weekend … how that all changed in the blink of an eye. There were some good points as judges relaxed and started to show us pictures of their gardens as weekends away became weekends at home and domestic chores were tackled as people actually had some free time on their hands … the merry-go-round of dog shows and clusters week in and week out all of a sudden slowed right down. People reflected on life, dogs and how they spent their time.

The impact of the virus began to increase in size as show organizers started to realize that what had become the norm -- regular dates in the calendar, booking the usual venues and the like -- was all of a sudden just a memory. Venues were closed off, restrictions brought in, and the only dog shows you could attend to exhibit were virtual and online only!

Yes, some people actually enjoyed online dog shows; the OUR DOGS team in the U.K. set up a group on social media and ran more than seven online dog shows with all the trappings of groups, BIS, rosettes, sponsors and prizes! Some dog people were desperate for that dog show "fix"! The group grew to 11,000 members from all over the world including America, as the online shows proved to be a welcome distraction from the woes of the world.

Lockdowns in Europe meant that when you actually did go out anywhere you could easily find a parking space, and it was a pleasure to drive on half empty roads and freeways.




Those days now are themselves becoming a distant memory, however, as slowly but surely shows are taking place in various formats. Last year still saw plenty of cancellations even at World Show and European Dog Show level, with Madrid and Slovenia major events being replanned, new dates and arrangements only to have plans changed once more.

Slovenia EDS fell by the wayside, but Budapest eventually went ahead, as did the WDS in Brno in the Czech Republic, but neither could be described as "normal." Lots of judging changes with travel and Covid restrictions affecting the entry and also the numbers of trade stands at these normally "mega" shows. But here we are now in 2022 and Paris European dog show looks like it’s on course in April and the twice (or is it three times postponed) World Show in Madrid looks like it will finally happen later in June.



We also have the unique situation of having two World Dog shows taking place in the same year, so if you fancy a trip to Brazil, you might want to look at Sao Paulo in December! More likely to attract handlers and exhibitors from the States rather than folks in Europe making a 14-hour flight with their dogs! The 146th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show also becomes a focus once more away from the city on June 18-22, 2022, at the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, N.Y. But at least it's on, folks!




So where are we now as we enter the third year of life affected by this virus?

This is where a crystal ball would come in handy! Experience has shown us that things can change overnight, and making too many plans too far ahead is risky … but that’s not so easy if you planning a dog show of any kind with organizational needs and consideration for exhibitors and judges who also need to make plans. There was a fear that people might have abandoned dog shows in favour of other hobbies, sports and pastimes having been away or so long. My personal feeling through observing events from the U.K. and across Europe is that shows will bounce back, and that once exhibitors feel a little more confident (health and risk wise) they will get back to the hobby, which gives them such a diversion from the woes of the world we live in right now. In the U.S., shows seems to have ticked over fairly well, despite all the limitations brought on by Covid-19.

Whatever country you live in, peoples desires and emotions are pretty similar, and if you are a dog-show person then you will want to get back to meeting friends, competing in the ring, going dog show shopping and basically enjoying a day out with like-minded friends and colleagues, masks or no masks!

Judges and international exhibitors are clearly on the move again, although it is important that we all maintain a cautionary approach to getting back to our "new normal."




One show that just crept in under the radar back in 2020 was the world-famous Crufts show (held in Birmingham, U.K.) with many people thinking at the time that it should have been cancelled. It bit the dust in 2021 and has just announced its entry figures for the event in March 2022. These figures show a drop in entries to just over 16,000 from its normal level of around 20,000-plus, and a substantial drop in what Crufts’ organizers call the "overseas" entry.  Leading the field with the largest individual breed entry is the great family favorite, the Golden Retriever, with an entry of 458 dogs. This is just ahead of the Labrador Retriever (456) which had the highest entry back in 2020.



In total, more than 16,000 dogs will be competing for just seven places in the show’s finale representing each of the individual groups on the U.K. system. The highest number of dogs in a single breed set to compete in each group is as follows:

•          Working: Bernese Mountain Dog – 140

•          Pastoral: Border Collie – 253

•          Terrier: Staffordshire Bull Terrier – 306

•          Hound: Whippet – 382

•          Utility: Dalmatian – 202

•          Toy: Pug – 223

•          Gundog: Golden Retriever – 458

The Chairman of the Crufts Committee, Tom Mather recently said, “There is no getting away from the fact that the entry is lower this year, but we live in uncertain times, and Crufts is just pleased that it is able to stage its world-famous event once again. It must also be acknowledged that Crufts is the only show in the U.K. for which dogs must qualify, and there were fewer opportunities to achieve this in 2021, not just in the U.K. but also in the many other countries which under normal circumstances add significantly to the international flavour of this event.”

In fact, the international entry totalled 1,843 dogs, previously being more than double that number and has clearly been affected by the dreaded Brexit and also travel and Covid restrictions. There is only one dog from Asia at Crufts 2022, coming from Indonesia in fact, although the dog is already in Europe with its European handler. Normally there would be more dogs and plenty of visitors from the Far East. As this article was being written, we also heard that the Kennel Club has returned all entry fees to its Russian entrants following the situation in Ukraine.




The world of dogs finds itself at a crossroads once more ... it often does in my humble opinion! Many challenges, outside of the pandemic and Brexit for the U.K. and Europe, exist notably the continued attacks on pedigree dogs by activists, Norway being the latest example with a court ruling on Bulldogs and Cavaliers. Economic factors are coming more into play with the inflationary rises that have suddenly become more evident at the start of 2022.

The FCI World Dog Show 2024 (without General Assembly) is due to be held in Ukraine, Kyiv, April 27-30, 2024 … and that’s a hard one to call at the time of writing this piece at the start of March 2022.

One way or another we must have hope … it's human nature to be optimistic and to have hope. Furthermore, hope is a component of a healthy state of mind, and as we (hopefully) come out of the grip of Covid it is important to hold onto that positive feeling for our sport and hobby and to get pleasure out of everything that our dogs give to us … you can bet your bottom dollar that your dogs are not worrying about Covid or about the price of gasoline in 2022!

I look forward to seeing you at a show somewhere, although you still might have to identify me under my mask ... just in case!



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