I recently re-watched the fabulous ‘mockumentary’ Best in Show. (If you have never seen this movie you are missing out. You don’t even have to be a ‘doggie’ person to enjoy it as it is, in reality, much more about the people who own the dogs than the dogs themselves.) Anyway, watching it again made me realise that, in spite of my love of dogs, I don’t think I have ever been to a real-honest-to-goodness dog show—and I’m talking a ‘proper’ (note the inverted commas) dog show here, where all the dogs of a particular breed look exactly like each other (at least to me) and you have to have a PhD in Rules and Regulations to fill in the entry application.
I have, however, attended lots of smaller local events, where showing off your best friend is a much simpler, and much less serious affair. In my experience these shows often involve someone having to break up a fight (not necessarily between the dogs), or call for volunteers for a cleanup crew because somebody ate too many sausage sangers, or send out a search party for a mischievous pup who’s gone walkabout. Categories usually include ‘Dog with the Prettiest Eyes’, ‘Dog with the Waggiest Tail’, ‘Dog with the Silliest Smile’, or ‘Dog You Would Most Like to Take Home with You’. (So, more of a Ruffs than a Crufts.)
‘Proper’ dog shows have been around for over 150 years. The first bonefide modern dog show, was held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (England) in 1859 and was an ‘add on’ attraction to their very successful annual poultry and cattle show. It was very much a country affair though, and only setters and pointers were shown. (The prizes were all guns too—although hopefully the actual competitors were rewarded for their efforts as well).
Later that same year the first show to include non-sporting breeds was held in Birmingham and was such a huge success that the first National Dog Show in 1862 attracted 267 entries, 30 breeds, and was judged in 42 classes. The Victorians loved their dogs so much that the next 14 years saw massive growth in this new and fashionable hobby. The Dog Shows themselves were mostly for the city folk, as they were available to people of all classes and popular both with exhibitors and spectators. The Field Trials were mostly popular with those living in more country areas.
(Many years ago I took my first puppy, Harry, to watch some local field and agility trials. I thought it could be a fun thing we could learn to do together, but he showed very little interest and slept through most of it. Thank God for that. Until that day I hadn’t realised just how much running around the handler was expected to do as well. Phew. Dodged a bullet there . . . )
I have never been tempted to show any of my dogs, even at the fun local events. Harry never really considered himself a dog anyway and would have been mortified beyond belief if I had tried to show him off as such. His younger brother Frankie, on the other hand, was very much a doggie-dog but he would have caused bedlam just through his sheer unadulterated joy at being around so many other four-legged friends. (He also had the attention span of a gnat so I doubt anyone could have got him to stand still long enough to be judged anyway. Bless.)
And as for my girls—Mabel is so shy that being in the company of more than two people at a time causes her to hide behind my legs or bury her face in my sweater and refuse to come out. Maudie is far more outgoing and would, I am sure, thoroughly enjoy the whole process. She is also, however, Frankie reincarnated, and her capacity for joy, and chaos, is unmatched. (Oh, and if someone touches her tummy when she is not expecting it she will either shriek or pee—possibly both. I’m not certain, but I imagine she might lose points for that.)
And then there’s Molly . . . well, you would have to catch her first. Molly prefers to stay low key and out of sight—while issuing instructions and opinions from under the sofa.
So no, I can’t really see us participating in a dog show any time soon. But that’s okay. I don’t need anyone else to tell me that my dogs are fabulous, I already know that.
And, truth be told, most people who love their dogs already think they have hands-down-no-argument-best-dog-ever, and nobody else’s opinion (even a judge at a fancy dog show) is likely to change that.
Whether your dog is massively huge and slobbery or teeny-tiny small and dainty . . . or beautifully proportioned, or looks like a keg on legs . . . if her coat is bright and full and shiny or he is going grey around the muzzle and getting bald spots . . . if he’s a picky eater, or she prefers to eat your furniture . . . if she’s quiet and shy or he’s boisterous and madcap . . . or even if he (or she, let’s be fair) is just really old and grumpy and farts a lot . . . no-one should tell you otherwise.
You really do have the very best dog . . .