We've all seen someone say this at least once in their search for their furry family friend. There’s this general misconception that whether a dog is shown or not has nothing to do with its ability to be a wonderful companion. I’m here to talk about how showing fits into a responsible breeding program, and how that affects you, as a prospective puppy buyer.
Dog shows help breeders evaluate the temperament and physical structure of their own dogs by competing against other dogs of the same breed - and comparing them to their respective breed standards. Although they aren’t often talked about, dog shows often have hundreds (or even thousands) of dogs and humans present at the same time in an enclosed area. Sometimes participants are spaced out, but also there are also times when 20 dogs are stacked nose-to-tail in the show ring!
These dogs are trained from a very young age to work with and focus on their human handler, and must have stable enough temperaments to tolerate this proximity to other dogs and being touched by strangers - and the general ruckus of a dog show! Dogs that are excessively shy or aggressive - whether towards humans or other dogs - are likely to be excused from the show ring, or even disqualified from further showing.
Additionally, dog show judges subjectively evaluate dog structure by comparing each dog to their respective breed standards, both visually and by hands-on inspection. Breed standards are the blueprints of optimal structure (based on breed function) for each purebred dog. If you ever have the chance to visit a dog show before choosing a particular breed or breeder, I highly suggest doing so.
Prospective puppy owners can get a great feel for the nature of the dogs, and also decide whether your breeder is someone you'd like to be in constant communication with over the next several years! Many breeders prefer, or even require, consistent communication throughout the lifespan of the dog. This is not only so breeders can keep tabs on their pups, but also for them to see the results of their careful breeding plans!
All this to say - not only are show dogs (and close relatives of show dogs) great as pets, but that you should prefer a kennel that shows consistently. It means the breeder is proud of the work they do, breed to their kennel club standard, and are in touch with their competitive community. But, stepping back – why is this relevant and important to you as a future pet owner?
1) Dogs with unstable temperaments, no matter how great their other qualities may be, pose a much greater risk of injury to themselves, humans, and other dogs.
2) Dogs with proper structure have reduced strain on their musculoskeletal system when doing jobs they were bred for, meaning that joints, bones, and tendons last longer than in their counterparts with imbalanced structure. (For example, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s structure and gait is different from that of a German Shepherd Dog, and that difference in how they move is associated with how they herd stock!)
3) Purebred dogs that accurately represent their breed in terms of behavioural characteristics and personality are essential. Not only does this allow the dog to withstand the job it was bred for, it means that a breeder’s dogs’ personalities and attitudes will generally be predictable and “as expected” for the breed.
Predictability for a puppy buyer means that all your plans for your puppy – purchases, nutrition and developmental needs, mental and physical stimulation requirements, daily time and energy investment, and even scenarios that may trigger a poor behavioural response in your pup – can be set well in advance of “gotcha day”! So, the next time someone tells you they only want a pet, not a show dog, your response should be “Actually, show dogs are some of the best pets out there!”
As 2021 Westminster judge Patricia Trotter aptly put it:
“We love all dogs as dog lovers. Mixed breeds and purebreds.
They’re all pets. Now, every pet may not be a show dog,
But be assured, every show dog is a pet.”
© Copyright 2021 Jieyi Liang
All opinions and statements are mine and mine alone.