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Big Shows Versus Little Shows

Have you ever played that game “Would You Rather”? If not, it’s rather simple, and when I think about big dog shows and little ones, a lot of “Would You Rather” questions pop into my head.

A win at an extra-big show, like Westminster, is always meaningful. Photo by Rudy Raya.

First off, would you rather go to big shows or little shows? They have a lot of similarities and differences, but, either way, I like to remember that no matter the size, it’s a dog show. Right?

In these past couple of weeks, I’ve realized that mixing the two makes a great combination. Big shows are fun, and a lot of great people show up, maybe some you haven’t seen in a while, and the wins are always meaningful. On the other hand, little shows give you a sort of break from the chaos that can sometimes come along with bigger shows.

Smaller shows, such as this one at Valley Forge, give exhibitors a break from the chaos. Photo by Dan Sayers.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the different energy at shows, depending on their size. At smaller shows, everyone, even the handlers, seems to be relaxed and having a good time, while continuing to be professional and eager. At larger shows, where the points are higher and the pressure is on, everyone seems a bit more tense and focused.

On average, a normal show usually pulls in an entry of about 1,000 dogs, and smaller shows in the 400 to 500 range. And the bigger shows are around 2,000, not including the extra-big shows that are often televised, such as Eukanuba, Westminster, the World Show and Crufts.

So, what would you rather? Sound off below, and tell me what suits you the best: big shows or little shows?

Just in case you forgot…Dogs Freakin’ Rule!

Written by

Kayla Bertagnolli is a 23-year-old from Ogden, UT, who's been involved in the dog show world her whole life. A former junior handler who learned about breeding Beagles from her mother Leah, she assisted several professional handlers and is currently working to become a Junior Showmanship judge. Kayla is passionate about photography and writes the twice-weekly blog, DFR. She plans to continue breeding and showing, and expects to stay involved in dogs "for life!"
  • H A Penny Haynes November 8, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    I don’t do much conformation – so my prospective is from companion events. That being the case I whole heartedly vote for the smaller shows. The Obedience/Rally Trials put on by local Obedience clubs are smaller by the fact that they are limited in their scope. Though they may actually have more dogs entered in these events and more obedeince/rally classes offered, that at many of the obedience/rally events held in conjuction with all breed shows.
    But more important to me is that the environment is calmer, the nose level lower and my ablity to give the dog the focus that it deserves from me much greater. And because they offer more of the optional or non-regular classes they are a great place to bring out a young dog or work a dog that just isn’t ready for some of the upper classes.
    Don’t get me wrong there are some nice perks to big shows (i.e. better vendors) and I will be going to the four (4) ring Agility Trial is Mass. Thanksgiving Weekend. But for Obedience most of my dogs legs will be earned at Indoor Trials put on by Obedience Clubs.

  • Robin November 9, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    My preference is for the smaller to normal sized shows. The logistics involved with bigger shows (where you may have 3 or 4 dogs entered) wears me down – parking is so far away, minimal grass for walking dogs, no spot to set up crates, scurrying around to find someone to take a dog into the ring for you, etc.
    Often I’ve encountered amazing rudeness from people ‘encamped’ in the grooming areas. But each year I do several big shows or clusters – and survive them. Doing those shows remind me why I love a smaller show so much.
    The best shows though are Specialties! Time to visit with friends, see lots of dogs of your chosen breed, dinner with mentors and other students, all in a relaxed atmosphere.

  • Lynda Beam (Canine Candids by Lynda) November 9, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    What has always struck me as funny as people often expect the smaller shows to be lacking in quality when the truth is that often they are even stronger. I’ve seen Best in Show lineups that looked like Westminster lineups at some of the smallest dinkiest shows you’ve ever seen. One year Kankakee couldn’t get their show sight on one of the weekend days so it was held on one weekend day and a week day, I think maybe Sunday/Monday in that year (I can’t remember exactly it was 1995 so sue me LOL). The Monday groups were amazingly strong because it was the only show that day and in December everyone is looking for points. Many many top dogs at a show of less than 500 dogs in a rather dark crowded building.

  • Carol Robson
    Carol November 9, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    Interesting looking at what is a small show in the U.S. We are lucky in parts of Canada to reach the 200 mark. I can remember when Sanctioned matches here in Canada were almost as big as some of our current CKC shows. I love going to the large shows in the U.S. to see breeds that we don’t see here, and to see a number of dogs in some of the breeds when we are lucky to see one up here. The small shows, however, are relaxed and fun

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