The first dog shows took place in the 1830s and 1840s. They were low-key affairs, held in public houses, and probably invented as a result of the ban on dog-fighting and bull-baiting which left dog fanciers with little outlet for their competitive instincts. The idea of shows soon caught on, though, and the first organized dog show was held at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England in 1859. Dog shows grew in popularity with the building of the railways, since breeders could travel from show to show. However, problems arose when people in different areas had conflicting ideas about how a breed should look. No single body or group was responsible for dog shows and standards varied tremendously. There was much controversy over standards and a great deal of faking. Clubs were therefore established to reach a consensus over what were and were not desirable characteristics of the various breeds.
The Kennel club
The kennel club in Britain was founded in 1873 to oversee the showing of dogs. The club registers the standards which describe exactly what the ideals of each breed should be. These standards are set by the individual breed societies but held by the Kennel Club. All pedigree dogs must be registered with the kennel club before they can be shown as such in shows held under club rules.
The main functions of the Kennel Club are to:
– Promote the improvement of dogs, dog shows, field, working and obedience trials
– Classify breeds
– Register pedigree dogs
– Oversee transfers of ownership
– Grant licences to dog shows
– Establish and enforce the Kennel Club rules
– Give awards
Advice for newcomers to showing
Anyone contemplating breeding dogs for shows should appreciate that it is hard work, with little or no financial reward, except for the lucky few. Entering dog shows is something most people do for love rather than money.
Launching yourself into serious dog showing will only be fun if you remember not to get
disheartened. For serious showing, you do of course need a pedigree dog; some of the more light-hearted country dog shows run competitions for mongrels, but only registered pedigree animals may be entered at official shows. The competition is intense, and at times, it will seem as if the same handful of dogs wins at every show.
Much depends on your chosen breed of dog. Of course it is much harder to gain awards in those breeds where many dogs are in competition; a dog has to be that much better to do well.
Grooming for shows
A smart appearance plays a large part in a dog’s success in the show-ring. At any show held under Kennel Club rules, the dogs which do well are sure to be as well groomed as they can possibly be. With long-haired breeds such as Afghan Hounds, Old English Sheepdogs and Yorkshire Terriers, appearance on show day is dependent on their owners’ efforts over the previous six to 12 months.
The Breed Society for your dog can supply detailed information on correct show grooming for the breed. In addition to a coat in top condition, make sure your dog has clean feet, plus clean eyes, nose and teeth.
There are rules governing the extent to which you are allowed to “alter” your show-dog’s appearance in terms of grooming, cosmetic and surgical procedures. It’s worth checking up on these, as failure to comply will mean disqualification and disappointment.
The importance of vaccination
Vaccination is a very important factor which is neglected by many people showing dogs. You should keep a dog’s vaccinations up to date under any circumstances, but dogs visiting shows and mixing with other dogs from all over the country are particularly at risk. Canine carriers of disease do come to dog shows – when the parvovirus disease first appeared, its initial spread was closely linked to the show circuit. The general public are allowed into dog shows and are an enthusiastic audience. However, their desire to pat and stroke the dogs can cause them to transmit disease with the most innocent of motives, so watch for this.