Fri, 09/30/2022 - 5:06pm

Who’s Laughing Now?

Change is hard, admits Geir Flyckt-Pedersen

We are all well aware of the fact that trying to change any established procedures or introduce new ideas to the world of show dogs and dog shows is without exception met with differences of opinion, arguments and resistance.

Only recently I heard that new rules will come into effect regarding awarding point to dogs placed in group finals. I have no detailed information about how it’s gonna work, but it brings back memories. Spending time with a certain Mr. George Ward and following him to shows during the summers, I was surprised to find that with so few entries in each breed (we are talking Terriers in general) he was able to make up any champions at all — and then being told that most of their points were achieved by actually winning the group! Initially, it seemed weird. But you had to win to catch in! So maybe it made sense after all …?

We had previously been told that the FCI rules were kind of weird, as you could become a champion without ever beating any dog. So maybe points for the group winners rules made more sense? And it will be interesting to observe if these new rules result in even more titleholders in the “inflationary” world of champions.

Surely a variety of opinions will be heard, but for those in low-entry breeds who in some cases have had to hunt for qualifying points for years, this is considered a step forward?

When you arrive in a new country bringing with you a hobby experienced in a previous country there will always be a number of adjustments required. Some more serious than others, but all require time to get used to. And then also new stuff.

When the Grand Champion titles were first introduced, a lot of people were against it, but the aim and ambition was told to be to keep dogs in the ring longer. Dogs that were not necessary Best in Show material — or simply owned by a breeder/exhibitor with the wish to do it all themselves — found a whole new opportunity of something to aim for.

So now all of a sudden to be awarded “Select” had value and was something to aspire to.

And based on what I have been hearing, to achieve the Grand Champion title in any degree is the drive for so many exhibitors — and when first starting the challenge for an upgrade to the eventual Platinum was natural …

So in my humble opinion: The introduction of the Grand Champion titles? A great success.

Whether you like it or not!

Then we have the owner-handlers. There has always been a feeling among breeders and exhibitors who either chose not to — or could not afford to — hire professionals to show their dogs that they were seriously and negatively disadvantaged.

Disadvantaged for a variety of reasons: Number one, of course, because the skill level of most pros is excellent in general regarding handling itself, and especially for grooming coated breeds. But then of course the feeling that a lot of judges “played it safe” — compensated for their own insecurities by prioritizing well-known faces. Of course, not always the case, but this new section provided a separate playground for a large group of enthusiasts.

It seems to be the general consensus that the current system, in which the owner-handler groups take place immediately after the regular groups, makes a long day at the show even longer. And if you happen to judge any of these, you will find that you frequently spend over 12 hours at a show, which can be tiresome.

But based on observations so far: The owner-handler groups and Best in Show – another success story. And in a few cases, the quality in this group has exceeded the “real” one ….

As many of the owner-handler participants also “qualify” for the regular group, it is of course difficult to speed up the process. Which is probably the most commonly heard argument against this “newer” invention.

One of my most cherished memories from showing in Sweden is when my nearly 11-year-old WFT was placed fifth for Best Veteran in Show — and then an hour later was declared Best in Show! Certainly caused some raised eyebrows, and also led to some heated discussions about whether or not a dog beaten in any class at a show could still be eligible for the ultimate title. I think that discussions still go on, but we were used to some judges who quite frequently reversed decisions from class to class based on change in performance …

Another subject that has been widely discussed: two shows in one day!

I think for the amateurs and owner-handlers this is interesting.

For the professionals who have already spent five days at a circuit, of course an opportunity to make more money, but again there is a variety of opinions on whether or not this is a good thing for the animals involved. Which, of course, should be our main concern.

I must, however, argue that being in the ring is not exactly an exhausting experience for dogs in general. Particularly in this country, where breed entries in general are small compared to most European shows, the U.K. in particular.

What I think can be exhausting, both for dogs and handlers, is the obsessive bathing and blow drying between shows as well as between breeds and groups. If some of my European GSD friends had observed the breed being blow-dried prior to being shown, they would consider it a joke. If bathed at all, we tried to do it with cold water to maintain the proper coat texture …

But returning to the subject of multiple shows in one day:

In some breeds, entries are singular on a regular basis. The dogs are more or less entered for their group and Best in Show potential. If you then as an owner-handler have absolutely nothing to do between 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. (or later), it would in my opinion be great to have a few more competitions thrown in. In the U.K., if my memory serves me right, at one time most of the Stakes Classes were defined as unofficial — so even if losing in any of those did not remove your right to compete in the official finals.

It is so interesting that in England when showing at major all-breed shows, there were multiple opportunities to compete in these Stakes, from Novice, Beginners, Veterans , Puppies , Champions and more,  which could keep you working all day! And the same dog could be entered in as many as he was qualified for, based on age, title or even the owner’s experience. (And actually win prize money!) But never, ever did I hear anybody indicating that this could be harmful for the dogs. And in my opinion, rather the contrary, as most dogs would rather be with their owner doing any activity than spending most of their day on a bench or in a crate …

Well, I don’t think the AKC will ever introduce something similar to the Stakes Class system, but who knows?

And I think that to make some of these looong days seem a little shorter, maybe some new activities could be added?

Until next time …



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