The Importance of Dog Shows

I love purebred dogs. I breed and show (not surprisingly) Boxers, but that does not mean I see no value in mutts, mongrels or strays.

I grew up a hobby farm surrounded by typical suburbia. We had goats, chickens and ponies/horses, with rabbits now and again and ONCE a gaggle of geese! We also had dogs. My father grew up during the Depression, so he had a difficult time with the concept of “pets.” On the farm, everyone had a job as there was no room for a hungry mouth that didn’t work to help provide. A dog who killed chickens or harassed livestock didn’t last long.

I don’t remember the first two dogs that were a part of my family growing up: my mother’s toy poodle and a lab-type dog that wandered to our place and stayed awhile before wandering off to his next family. That’s typically how dogs (and cats) joined our family – as strays. The dog of my childhood was a little black and white half-toy poodle we named Lady. She was small (like her mother), with a longish body, a tail that curled over her back and a thick black and white coat with the texture of a German Shepherd.

It wasn't until I was an adult living on my own that I learned about purebred dogs and the world of conformation dog showing. Below are two key points in favor of the well-bred purebred dog.

1. Purebred dogs are predictable.

Predictability is the basis of all animal husbandry. You want a cow that has a high milk production – get a Holstein. Want a dog that will live into double-digits, fit in your bag and wear silly sweaters, but you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on regular grooming to maintain their coat? A toy poodle may not be for you, but a Miniature Pinscher or Chinese Crested might be just the right dog.

Any way you look at it, purebred dogs are predictable – size, shape, temperaments, trainability, longevity, health issues. Official breed standards are the blueprint used by breeders and dog show judges outlining the details of breed perfection of FORM and FUNCTION. Border Collies were bred to herd, Dalmatians to run long distances and Standard Poodles to duck hunt; therefore expect a Border Collie to "round up" your children if there are no sheep, your Dalmatian to bounce off the walls if he is cooped up, and your Standard Poodle to fetch and jump in the water when you aren't looking.

2. BUYERS BEWARE - Not All Breeders (or Purebred Dogs) Are Created Equally

Anyone who owns a female dog that has puppies is technically a breeder – whether it’s a one-time accidental litter of mutts, someone advertising "pure bread" puppies in the newspaper or a regular occurrence on a larger scale.

Breeders who also compete with their dogs, whether in conformation, herding or other competitive dog sports, study the breed standard. That standard not only describes how a specific breed should LOOK, but also how it THINKS and how it ACTS/REACTS. Show breeders are heavily invested in making sure their dog(s) LOOK, SOUND and ACT like their chosen breed’s ideal in order to stay competitive. Competitive dogs must have the physical and mental traits to excel at their given profession. They also need to be healthy enough to compete. No matter the sport, training, traveling and competing is stressful physically and mentally.

Show breeders are not interested in the latest canine trends. They do not breed for trendy sizes ( “teacup” Poodles), features (apple-headed Chihuahuas), or non-standard colors (“blue” Doberman Pinschers) that are outside of the breed standard, as these trends are detrimental to the health of the individual as well as the overall breed. Nor will they “doodle,” producing a mutt with a fancy name for profit with the unpredictability of how the traits from different breeds will manifest in any individual. Even Wally Conron, developer of the “Labradoodle,” claims it is his life’s regret opening “Pandora’s box and releas(ing) a Frankenstein monster,” in this New York Times interview. “I find that the biggest majority are either crazy or have a hereditary problem,” he said.

Show breeders spend a lifetime learning about the intricacies of their chosen breed, keeping up-to-date on the latest health research (and apply that to health testing of their breeding stock), studying pedigrees to find that perfect match, spending thousands of dollars and long hours of research/work striving for the “complete package.” Poodles (every size) have extensive grooming needs and are prone to PRA (eye disease); Dalmatians have kidney stones/problems, Golden Retrievers have a higher risk of brain cancer. Working with a breeder who also shows, prospective owners will know the pros and cons BEFORE bringing a puppy/dog into their home.

Show breeders are invested in the success of not only their personal dogs, but EVERY. DOG. THEY PRODUCE. It’s important to them to track the traits found in their bloodlines to make better breeding decisions in the future to eliminate negative traits (such as an inheritable disease) or build on a desirable trait (extraordinary hunting ability).

Caring for a litter of puppies and their dam is a round-the-clock job. There is no way to tell at birth which puppy will be the next “superstar,” so a show breeder understands that EVERY PUPPY (and that puppy’s inherent future promise) is important and great care is given to each, regardless of its future. The difference between a show dog and its companion/pet littermate may be a spot of white hair or being a ¼ inch too tall.

Show breeders also invest in their breed financially. The American Boxer Charitable Foundation raises money to fund research into the health-related issues that face our beloved Boxer such as hemangiosarcoma (cancer) and ARVC (arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy). This research benefits not only Boxers, but all dogs, and many times is the first step in helping people afflicted with the same diseases. Show breeders also support breed-specific rescue. On a national level, ABC holds fundraisers at their national show to donate to rescue and many local clubs and individuals (like my cousin Cindy) financially support rescue, organize transport or fundraise for extrodinary medical care or rescue and place dogs in need.

Because every puppy is important to them, show breeders will have applications and waiting lists; their puppies will be more expensive and more in demand; they will be choosy about where each individual puppy lives; and they will expect - no DEMAND - ongoing contact/communication for the lifetime of that dog. Show breeders take responsibility for every dog they produce and (typically) you will not find one in a shelter or rescue. Show breeders use contracts that include clause(s) requiring neutering and return of the puppy/dog to their care should the need to surrender or rehome the dog arise at any time in it's life.

In exchange, pet owners who insist on a purebred from a SHOW BREEDER receive a puppy with beauty and brains passed down from generation to generation; they have the confidence knowing that their puppy received the very best care, long before he/she was even born; and they know their breeder will be a lifelong resource for help, support and friendship long beyond the lifespan of a single pup.

You want a great dog with predictable traits, solid upbringing and lifetime supportive breeder? Insist his or her parents are SHOW DOGS!

~ Kimberly A.D. Tillman
Kandiyohi Boxers

Boxer Quicks

“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog. It merely expands the heart.” – Author Unknown


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