Tag Archives: confirmation

UKC Obedience – Real Dogs for Real Assholes

Yes, my title is harsh…but read on and you’ll understand.  If you don’t then leave a comment and let’s discuss!

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This past weekend was the 2014 UKC Premier and as is tradition I was there with my mom and friend.  It’s tradition for us to stay in a hotel and enjoy all 4 days of the show.  Usually I show my mom’s Silken Windhounds for her but this year I managed to seriously injure my calf while practicing flyball with my golden.  However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying the show!  I am currently processing the photos I took and will get those up here in the next few days.  I have a few posts to write about the 2014 UKC Premier but I want to focus on something that happened that put a damper on our weekend for a bit.

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The UKC Premier features all major dog sporting events:  confirmation, junior showmanship, obedience, rally, agility, lure coursing, weight pulls, dock jumping, and barn hunts (apologies if I missed your sport).  We had spent most of the weekend ringside watching confirmation and decided on Saturday we wanted to go watch some obedience.  Housed in another part of the expo center, we grabbed our chairs and headed off to watch obedience.  There were several rings for rally and several for traditional obedience which was running novice and open.  My friend and I decided we wanted to watch some Open, walked to the ring,  put our chairs against the back wall about 6 feet from the ring and sat down.  We weren’t sitting there more than 5 minutes when a ring steward came up to us and told us we had to move because we were a distraction to the dogs in the ring.  We apologized, picked up our chairs and moved.  Now mind you, we were a good distance from the ring and were positioned by the garbage can and doors; we weren’t talking and couldn’t have been a bigger distraction then the people coming in and out and walking past us.  The dirty glares we were getting from other obedience exhibitors should have killed us on the spot.  Seriously… you would have thought we were screaming with bullhorns at a ballet.

We tried watching her... I'm sure she did great!

We tried watching her… I’m sure she did great!

We set our chairs up and are promptly told we can’t sit there because it’s a fire hazard.  We were a little perplexed.  There were no signs and no indications of where we could and couldn’t sit.  Another UKC representation comes up and tells us we have to sit behind the yellow line as per the Fire Marshal.  We look around and realize that behind the line means squishing back against where all the obedience exhibitors were crating.  There was very little space so we pull our chairs back and start to squeeze in.  Now mind you, there is almost NO space for us to put our chairs so we’re trying to do the best we can.  As we’re attempting to get settled, one of the obedience exhibitors very rudely says to us, “Don’t set your chairs up there, my friend will be coming back soon and you’ll be in her space.”  We look around, flabbergasted.  There is literally no other space for us to set up.  The obedience exhibitor crates are literally wall to yellow line and then have their chairs set up in front.  You couldn’t squeeze a chair in anywhere if your life depended on it.  So, we picked up our chairs and left.  What a shame!

I remember when I first started I showed in obedience and they were the most welcoming, easy going people you could ask for in the dog sport.  What happened?  We were so unwelcome and treated rudely that it put a little bit of a damper on our Saturday.  The problem was compounded upon by several factors.  First, the crating.  Confirmation exhibitors aren’t allowed to crate in the same building so why should the obedience folks be allowed to?  If it’s literally the only space for them then they should be limited in exactly where they can crate.  Second, there was no set space for spectators.  The exhibitors were literally taking up all available space behind the yellow line so a spectator could not watch.  The UKC needs to set space aside that can’t be used for crating or exhibitors so that someone coming into the show can sit, watch, learn and enjoy this part of the sport.  Third; the absolutely horrible attitude and treatment from the obedience exhibitors themselves.  There was no reason they couldn’t have moved to make room for us.  Instead we were told to not sit because that was their spot.  Last time I checked, obedience was a dying sport and I don’t think having an ultra-elitist attitude is the way to bring people in.

I think what perplexes me the most about what happened is the attitude of ‘being so quiet you could hear a pin drop’ in the obedience building.  I understand not wanting there to be kids running around screaming or other major distractions but since when do obedience trained competitors need a completely distraction free environment?!  I remember when I trained we trained in all types of conditions and made our own distractions to help our dogs learn to focus.  If your dog can’t handle a couple of gals sitting in chairs watching 6 feet from the ring then you probably aren’t ready to be competing.

Now, you might be reading this thinking I’m a confirmation elitist and I’m not.  I have put obedience and agility titles on dogs as well as finished dogs in their confirmation championship.  I have waited two years for a performance Border Collie to show in flyball, agility and obedience.  I love all aspects of the sport and it pisses me off when one type of exhibitor acts like they are better than another.  All aspects of the sport have their own challenges and require training, patience and dedication.  We get enough gruff from those outside the dog sport that we don’t need to be assholes to one another.

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Where Should I get a Puppy / Dog From? Part 2: Responsible breeders: Conformation / Performance Breeders

Edit:  I made an absolutely horrible spelling error which is now fixed.  Apologies!

Welcome to part 2!  This post is going to be a really good look at dog breeders; specifically those who breed their dogs for either conformation, performance or both.  I will attempt to peel back the layers to get at the heart of the matter and arm you with some good knowledge and a deep understanding of the professional dog breeding industry.  This is specifically looking at the more responsible breeders out there and should serve as a guide to spotting one.  We’ll tackled puppy mills and back yard breeders in a later post.

First, let me tackle some common misconceptions that I hear from various individuals and organizations about dog breeders.

  1. Breeders are the reason there are so many dogs in animals shelters.
  2. Breeders only care about money; they view their dogs as a business and nothing more.
  3. Purebred dogs from breeders will have more health problems and genetic issues than a mixed breed.
  4. All dog breeders are bad.

I have heard these arguments over and over again; in fact, I still hear them today. Let me respond in turn:

(1)Breeders are not the reason that animals make their ways into shelters.  Uniformed, uneducated and careless owners are the reason.  As a result of this ignorance states are making blind legislation that hurts reputable breeders and makes it hard to continue doing something they are passionate about and love.  Again, it’s treated like a ‘black and white’ issue.  It’s not (I’m sure you’re noticing the theme here).

(2)Reputable breeders don’t breed dogs for money.  In fact, they typically spend more money on testing, vaccines, food, shelter and a variety of other items that they are often lucky if they break even.  Good breeders simply are not in it for the money; they are in it for the love of the dog.

(3) Yes, purebred dogs can have health problems from irresponsible breeders who are breeding for the wrong reasons.  However, a breeder who knows the breed can inform you of potential issues and you can make an informed decision from there.  Just because we are cognizant about potential health issues doesn’t mean they are less healthy than a mixed breed.

I cannot iterate this last point enough.  (4) Not all dog breeders are created equal.  In fact, we need reputable and responsible breeders to preserve the breed and continue to improve it.

Purchasing from a breeder is right for you if you’re looking specifically for certain characteristics in a dog, want a guarantee on temperament as well as health or are looking to get a specific breed.

If you’re looking for a puppy or starting to contemplate getting one you should first keep the following in mind.

All good breeders should do the following:

  • Genetic and/or health testing specific to their breed.They will also explain in-detail all the potential issues they face and what they have done to keep them out of the lines they breed.
  • Make sure the dogs they are breeding have appropriate health clearances before breeding; specifically look for:
    • Things like hips and elbows if the breed is known to have problems.  They will provide you proof if asked.
  • Provide health guarantees for the life of the dog against known genetic or other health problems for that breed; they should provide such guarantees in writing.
  • Have you fill out a puppy questionnaire or ask you A LOT of questions about where the pup is going.  Expect an interrogation.
  • Let you meet mom and/or dad if they are onsite at the breeders premise
  • Provide you pedigrees for mom and dad so you can track lineage and ensure against line breeding
  • Has only 1 or 2 breeds they work with
  • Let’s you spend quality time with the puppy on multiple occasions before you purchase
  • Breeds no sooner than every other heat
  • Breeds for specific characteristics and can tell you why they bred the two dogs they did
  • Doesn’t just give you a puppy based on ‘looks’ alone.  Tries to match you to a puppy that has a personality you’re looking for
  • Explains in depth the pros and cons of the breed (no breed is perfect for everyone)
  • Will serve as a point of contact for questions or just check-ins through the life of your dog; they should be willing to be a resource
  • Should be the first person you contact if you don’t want the dog; a responsible breeder will always take a dog back

With that in mind, I want to delve more deeply into the difference between a breeder who breeds for conformation and a breeder who breeds for performance.

Yes, I said earlier that a breeder’s job is to improve the breed.  No, it’s not playing god. What it is doing is being responsible.  Dogs make fantastic pets but that’s not what all dogs are bred for.  If you’ve watched a dog show on TV you know that dogs fall into different categories; Companion, Sporting, Non-Sporting, Herding, Hound, Terrier, Toy and Working.  I won’t get into these so if you want to learn more, take a look at the AKC’s website for a deeper explanation.  Companion and Toy dogs are the only breeds specifically bred to be pets, the rest were bred with a specific ‘job’ to do.  Their structure and personality have direct correlation around this ‘job’.  Now, this is where conformation and performance breeders are going to diverge.  Breeders who primarily breed for conformation are attempting to improve the breed by continuing to breed towards the ideal breed standard.  Those who breed for performance do so specifically to improve the breed by selecting for those characteristics that allow the dog to perform it’s job.

Let’s pause a moment.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t purchase a dog that was bred for something other than being a pet to be a part of your family.  It’s these job characteristics that make certain dogs absolutely wonderful family companions.  Just know that there are some breeds out there that still need a ‘job’ to be happy.  Often times the destructive behavior that lands a dog in a shelter or rescue is from neurotic behavior that stems from boredom, not getting enough exercise or by simply not having a job to keep their minds occupied; behavior that could have been prevented with a little history into the breed you’re getting.  This is also a reason many people chose to purchase from a breeder and not a rescue; knowing the breed helps them react and work with their dog properly. Unpause.

Let’s get back to the difference in conformation and performance dog breeders.

Conformation

The dog industry (in the US, I’m looking at you AKC), has forced a divergent split between ‘looks’ and ‘performance’ in purebreds.  While not unheard of, it’s rare to see a dog that conforms to the breed standard while still being able to perform what it has been bred to do.  In fact, special awards are given for dogs that can do both conformation and agility or obedience.  The reasons for this are twofold.  First, since breeders are selecting essentially for ‘looks’, any of the dogs personality or ability to perform is secondary.  Who cares if my Border Collie can’t herd if he looks great and can become a champion?  Second, many breeders don’t work on the duality that their breed presents.  When I bought my dog Blizzard, I asked the breeder about hunting and retrieving.  Her dogs hadn’t even ever been swimming.  She bred purely for looks and while her dogs could potentially been great hunting and retrieving dogs, she didn’t know as she never worked any of her dogs to see if they even had that aptitude.  Sure, you can teach your dog to do what it is supposed to do but let’s be honest here; great dogs have innate ability, drive, and intelligence to do what they were bred to.  Conformation breeders, who breed only to the standards of structure are unintentionally selecting against the reasons for that breed existing.

I’m not saying you can’t take a Golden Retriever that was bred for conformation and teach them retrieving and make then a hunting dog.  You can, with hard work and lots of hours of training.  However, if your retriever is gun shy or doesn’t gently pick up the duck you’re going to have issues.  What I am saying is that if you want a dog specifically to do what it is supposed to do you generally have to find a performance breeder and not a conformation one.

The AKC in the US has turned the sport of conformation into one that relies solely on looks with no brains (this is politics aside, something I’m not tackling now).  As long as the dog conforms to the breed standards it doesn’t matter if they can sit when told, let alone do what they were bred for.  This exaggeration of certain breed characteristics has forever changed many breeds and not for the positive.  German Sheppard’s now have such severe angulations in the hind quarters that they can hardly walk let alone herd or do protection work.  Even many of the ‘companion breeds’ are suffering from such irresponsible breeding.  The French Bulldog and Pug are perfect examples.  This is a breed that, left to it’s own devices, would select against the snubbed nose.  In fact, many of the French Bulldogs born in the US have to be born via c-section due to their heads being too large to fit through the birth canal.  There would be no genetic preference to have such a severely snubbed nose.

Look at the AKC’s breed standard for the French Bulldog:

The stop well defined, causing a hollow groove between the eyes with heavy wrinkles forming a soft roll over the extremely short nose; nostrils broad with a well defined line between them

The standard calls for an extremely short nose but I would argue the breed, as it stands today has a fairly non-existent nose.  What is ‘extremely short’?  It’s left open and as the years have gone by the nose has gone from extremely short to a health hazard.  Unfortunately common sense seems to have left the building for breeders whose livelihood comes from their show winners.

Comparative look at a French Bulldog from the past to today.

Comparative look at a French Bulldog from the past to today.

If you’re looking for a conformation dog to show, good luck to you.  Most breeders won’t sell their shows dogs to someone who is unknown in the industry.  Purchasing a conformation show dog is a lot like gambling; you pay a ton of money with no actual guarantees on the dog actually conforming to standards; in fact, from my experience you’re probably better off gambling the money you would otherwise spend.  While conformation breeders will and do guarantee against health issues they never guarantee that your dog is going to win in the show ring.  Case in point:  I purchased Blizzard for conformation and at the age of 3 I am having him neutered.  He never panned out to be a show dog but I love him nonetheless and he will stay with this family until he dies.  I have a very expensive pet dog.

My advice to you, if you want to get a dog to show, is to network, network, network and be patient.  Many breeders are going to turn you away.  Some might even downright laugh at you.  If you are tenacious enough you might eventually find someone willing to sell you a show dog.  Conformation breeders evaluate the litter’s structure at around 8 weeks of age to get a gauge on show potential.  They then go down a list starting with ‘pick of the litter’.  If you are getting pick 5 out of 6 you likely shouldn’t expect too much from your new show pup in the ring.  I once had ‘pick of the litter’ and ended up choosing the 2nd pick in the litter as I like her personality more.  Even at second pick she turned out to not be show quality either.  Also, expect a contract that outlines the terms and how many shows you’ll need to do.  Most importantly don’t expect to win big time, not in the AKC at least unless you are willing to shell out big bucks for a handler.  Make sure you ask questions and get referrals to ensure you are getting a dog from a breeder who isn’t so focused on ‘looking pretty’ that they are wearing blinders to other issues like temperament.

Performance

Breeders who breed specifically for performance do so looking at drive, ability, intelligence and whether or not they can do a number of different tasks.  Performance breeders aren’t necessarily breeding their dogs to do their specific job but they can be looking to breed for certain characteristics that the breed is known to be good at; agility, flyball, obedience, search and rescue, therapy, etc.  I know many Border Collie breeders that look for that high drive that make them fantastic agility dogs.  My first dog ever was a Golden Retriever that was bred for obedience.  She was everything I could have asked for and we went all the way up to UD training.  She did obedience, agility, junior showmanship and would have learned math for me if I asked her too.  She would have never made it in the show ring; her coat was curly, she didn’t have a straight topline, and her head was a tad too small.  However, she did what she was bred to do an I couldn’t have asked for more.

The Golden Retriever is a perfect example of a breed that has diverged due to the conformation / performance split.  20 years ago Golden Retrievers were one of the go-to breeds for obedience work due to their intelligence and eagerness to please.  Today, unless you specifically find a performance Golden they are often a few nuggets short of a happy meal.  Unsurprisingly there is often a vast difference in appearance between a performance and conformation dog.

Difference between a 'show' Golden bred specifically for conformation and one bred for hunting/retrieving. Notice the difference in head, coat texture, coat color and bone structure.

Difference between a ‘show’ Golden bred specifically for conformation and one bred for hunting/retrieving. Notice the difference in head, coat texture, coat color and bone structure.

Performance dogs are a good bet if you’re looking for a family member or for the dog to participate in a specific sport.  The dogs bred typically have  impressive lineage with multi-titles in a number of different dog sports.  Since they are focused on ‘doing’ and not ‘looking’ you tend to get a healthier more well rounded dog.

There are breeders out there who pay careful attention to both structure and temperament.  A good breeder should always keep an eye on temperament but unfortunately many do not.  When I look for a breeder I look for someone who has champion bloodlines with versatile dogs who can do more than look pretty in a show ring.  The UKC is an organization that recognizes the importance of both ‘form and function’ and their breed standards are being changed to reflect that.  The dog should conform to the standards but should also be able to do what it was meant to do.  More organizations and breeders need to bring conformation and performance back together in the breed.

Check back for Part 3 – Backyard Breeders, Puppy Mills and Pet Stores

 

 

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Michigan Winter Classic – Photos

As promised here are some of the photos I took at the Michigan Winter Classic held in Novi, MI last weekend.  No major reading today, just some eye candy!  Have an amazing weekend and keep your pets warm and cozy!

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Master’s Agility

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Male Berger Picards in the Misc. Class

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Female Berger Picards in Misc. class – Genevieve

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Borzoi waiting to head into the ring

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Borzois

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Antler treats from one of the vendors

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Dobbie’s first time on the treadmill. None of the dogs seemed to enjoy it much; probably has a fairly steep learning curve for them.

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Not only is crack safe to sell to dogs but it’s a great thing to advertise for!

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If you don’t want the real thing, here’s a super cute one that breathes!

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Border Collie duck herding

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Look at that intense Border Collie stare!

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The Border Collies herd the ducks up a ramp which has them go down a slide into a pool.

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The grand splendor of the show ring.

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Irish Setters

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English Setters

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The ‘Detroit Lion Dog’ a Golden Retriever. His tail was even shaved to look like a lion.

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My friend pointing out James Moses (aka Jimmy Moses) in the show catalog. She was REALLY excited to see him there!

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Oh… poor ‘Blue’. We only saw him once. Many of the dogs barked at this big blue furry thing. We have a theory as to why we only saw Blue once and it doesn’t end well.

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Colorful beaded show leads.

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Awesome hoodie! (front)

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Hoodie (back)

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Young Shepard

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This lady was rocking the moose purse.

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It’s a long day! I feel you buddy.

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AKC shows now allow what?

I had the pleasure of attending the Michigan Winter Classic this weekend in Novi, MI.  It’s been awhile since I’ve attended an AKC show but a little shocked at the direction the AKC is headed in.  It’s no big secret that they’ve been struggling the past few years as revenue has dropped significantly from less registrations and a drop in those who are showing and even attending.  I don’t want to focus on those reasons here; perhaps it’s a topic for another post.

As an example, The Detroit Kennel Club will not have their annual dog show at Cobo Hall in Detroit, MI this year for the first time.  This benched show, in it’s heyday was an amazing collection of dogs, vendors, dog sports, educational presentations and a place to go and spend the day shopping, looking at dogs and watching everything from competitive sports such as agility, obedience, flyball and confirmation to demonstrations from K9 police dogs, search and rescue, to herding.  It was the dog show you attended every March in the area.   It was a long day for those of us showing (and I experienced it quite a few times) but ultimately was a fantastic event.  Unfortunately, entry prices started going up which led to a drop in entries; if you don’t have enough dogs for a major why bother?  Ticket sales inside the event also skyrocketed which led to less attendance.  More and more sponsoring and major vendors started pulling out.  I can remember when I was much younger, going to Cobo Hall and starting at one end and working your way to the other end just looking at the vendors and collecting free samples.  You’d get to the end and have multiple bags of things to take home for your dog.  Now, there are no brands and vendors who give out free samples.  Want a small ‘show special’ bag?  That’ll be five bucks for what we used to give out as a free sample.  It also took you 1/2 the day to get through all the vendors.  Recently, vendor quality went down and you started seeing less and less more niche vendors and a lot less vendors; I mean a lot less.  The reason for this was most likely due in part to the extremely high fees that they were charging for a vendor table.  Space ranged anywhere from 1k to 1.5k for a small area.  I know as I looked into potentially getting a table when I was baking treats for Thurston’s.  Then, the final stake through the heart came when agility was no longer showcased at the event.  The crowd loves watching agility and without it a non-repairable hole was created for the DKC at Cobo Hall.

Last year Cobo Hall was bleak.  Vast areas of empty space served as a reminder of what the show used to be.  It’s a vast combination of things that led to this point.  The DKC decided to not run the show this year.  Sad really; it was the one event you saved your money for and marked on your calendar each year.  DKC’s site (http://www.detroitkennelclub.com/) says that they are currently looking for another venue to potentially hold a show but they need to find sponsor’s.  Purina, which was one of their biggest sponsor’s 3 years ago and when they pulled out things went downhill.   I hope they do find a space and if they do I hope they have learned from their past mistakes.

That brings me back to the Midwest Winter Classic.  It had a decent amount of vendors for the size show it was.  It had agility, confirmation, obedience, and rally.  There were demonstrations such as herding, meet the dog, spend time with a handler and junior showmanship clinics.  The floor was bustling with dogs and people, both spectator and show attendee alike and that’s where my issue with what they did comes in.  Typically, at AKC shows only those showing or demonstrating are allowed to bring their dogs.  As a person who shows their dogs they tend to know the ‘rules’ of how you and your dog behave at these types of events.  This even however saw a change; spectators could also bring in their dogs.  Let me let that sink in a moment…  anyone, so long as they paid the $10 entry fee could bring their dog in.  AKC and the show sponsors encouraged this by providing open clinics, and an area called “My Dog Can Do That” where you could come in and try out some agility with the help of professional trainers.

According to their website:

Can I bring my dog to the show without an AKC registration?
Yes, if you would like to participate in the “My Dog Can Do That!” event. You may register at the AKC booth at the show. Participating dogs must be at least 6 months old and have proof of rabies vaccination. Please bring your dog on a buckle collar and 4 to 6 foot leash. No retractable leashes, prong collars, chain choke collars or head halters allowed.

However, no one was stopping them at the door.  You had to register at the table which meant you could easily come in, not register and simply walk around with your dog.  I saw a ton of dogs with prongs, chokers, retractable leashes and a few head halters.  You would think a show chairman would have seen this and questioned it.

I get why they are doing it.  If you can bring your dog you might be more likely to come.  More people coming means more people paying and that’s good for the pocket books.  Also, bringing more people in also means that they are getting exposure to what the AKC is and what they could potentially do by being a part of it.  All good things for them.  However, for those showing this provides a bit of an issue.  While some people have manners and common sense on how their dogs should behave in public with other people and dogs, many do not. As I mentioned,  I saw people come in with long retractable leads (can we banish those sometime soon?).  They often were not keeping a close eye on what their dogs were doing and they had a tendency to just go where they pleased.  Even those who had their dogs on a shorter leash still let them just go up to strange dogs to sniff.  Not all dogs wants to say ‘hi’ nor are all dogs going to take kindly to yours jumping in their face.

If AKC wants to allow spectators to bring in their dogs to these events there are better ways to do it.  For starters, they should require proof of vaccinations at the door, it’s small thing but it should just be done.  A great idea for additional revenue and keeping behavior under control is to only allow dogs with a CGC certificate to come in (I know…I know… we can discuss CGCs another time).  This not only encourages people to make sure they have dogs that behave but it opens up revenue for AKC and testing facilities.   Even better would be for AKC to or whichever kennel club is hosting the show to charge an additional fee for each pet being brought in.  Included with this fee is a small class that they MUST attend directly by the entrance.  In this class an instructor would go over behavioral rules, how to handle their dogs around other people and dogs, and just discuss common courtesy about the event and having your own dog there.  They would then check vaccine records and equipment.  Perhaps a quick ‘aggression’ check could be done as well to ensure the dogs belong out in public.  It doesn’t have to be a long session either; just enough to make sure everyone starts on the same page.  It would also give the Kennel Club and AKC a change to again talk about the merits of joining the club.

I doubt this will happen as at the end of the day AKC is a business and like any other business it needs to make money to stay alive.  I think however, there are better ways to go about it and still stay true to their mission.

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This sign was placed at the front entrance. A great start but they needed signs throughout. They also need to have signs at the back entrances about proper dog handling at these events.

On Thursday I’ll be posting some images from the show.  Make sure to check back then!

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Clackamas Kennel Club Show

I’ll be spending my weekend at the Clackamas Kennel Club show in Canby, Oregon (Clackamas County Fairgrounds)!

http://www.clackamaskennelclub.com/events.html

Blizzard won’t be showing, but I’ll be there to lend my support to other Golden breeders and enjoying the culture of dog shows!  Look for pictures.

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