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BISD Polls: Nostalgia, Purebred Dog Welfare, Travel Plans and Dog Show Fun

Best In Show Daily readers can share their opinions with the dog world through our topical poll questions. Each week we ask readers to share their views on the widest range of dog-related topics, from training methods and veterinary practices, to presentation techniques and AKC policies and procedures. Today we’re taking a look at your responses to questions concerning the welfare of purebred dogs, the most popular ways for getting to dog shows and how to have fun there. We also have your responses to a nostalgic dog show question. Check out the following summaries to see how your fellow fanciers voted.

Show dogs and their people travel to dog shows in a variety of ways. Photo by Isselee/Dreamstime.com.

The Best of Times

Nobody watches the trends in show entries as closely as our Blogger-in-Chief, Billy Wheeler. Well, surely the American Kennel Club looks at the fluctuations in exhibitor attendance at their conformation events. In a recent edition of The Back Story titled, “Where Have All the Exhibitors Gone?” Billy’s question prompted many readers to share their thoughts on the downward trend in exhibitor participation in the waning years of the 20th century and beyond.

Although “new” breeds and newly instituted competitions have helped to offset the decline, fanciers increasingly refer to the “good ole days” when the dog sport was at its best. Exactly one-half of poll respondents indicated that the years from 1981 to 2000 were the best of times. In 1984, the AKC celebrated its centennial, which likely contributed to the increased interest in purebred dogs and dog shows. Whatever the contributing factors for the growth, many of today’s fanciers surely got their start in dogs back then and share many happy memories of time spent in and around the ring.

Another third, 33 percent to be precise, let us know that showing dogs was a terrific activity to participate in from 1961 to 1980. Collectively, those years were the heyday for many breeders and professional handlers with ties to the sport’s legendary figures. Thankfully, many of their students remain active in dogs and have a wealth of knowledge to share with the rest of us. One in 10 respondents are hopeful about the future and indicated that when it comes to dogs and dog shows, “the best is yet to come,” and another 7 percent recall the pre-1960 era as the golden years for dog shows. Perhaps not surprisingly, the post-9/11 years from 2001 to the present received nary a nod from our readers. Hopefully, our tendency to look back will not prevent us from seeing the future as one filled with possibility.

The Welfare of Purebred Dogs
In “Legislative Updates: BSL Around the World, Senior Editor Christi McDonald examined current trends in many U.S. states and foreign countries to move away from breed-specific legislation with a shift in the direction of judging a dog’s behavior rather than its breed. BSL is certainly a present threat to the future of purebred dogs everywhere, but it is only one of many challenges that confront the fancy in the 21st century. With this in mind, we were curious to learn from our readers what you feel are the likeliest threats to the welfare of purebred dogs today. Fifty-one percent of those who answered the question responded with “complacency among fanciers,” indicating that we have only ourselves to blame for the negatives related to purebred dogs’ welfare. Nearly one-quarter of respondents, or 22 percent, feel that purebred dogs are at risk for “disease and health problems.” Thankfully the community of purebred dog breeders is working hand-in-hand with several agencies and research institutions to identify and eliminate those illnesses that affect our dogs. Only 10 percent of respondents told us that BSL is the biggest problem we face, and another 10 percent are most concerned with local breeding limits. Another health concern, small gene pools, is the priority for 7 percent of the poll’s respondents.

Traveling to Dog Shows
Billy Wheeler admits to a dog show addiction of sorts, and he particularly enjoys attending the big marquee shows where big entries and big winners make for exciting showdowns in the breed, Group and Best in Show rings. In his blog titled, “Road Trip“, Billy takes a look at the dog show as marathon, where handlers and their dogs head out on the road for weeks at a time, competing at a dozen or more events across several state lines. The hours spent behind the wheel can be a great escape for some, and a cup of coffee and a GPS are the only companions that many exhibitors need. We wanted to know if exhibitors travel solo, or if they prefer some companion in the car, van or RV. Nearly half of those who responded to the poll, a strong 45 percent, prefer doing things their way and travel with only the dogs for company. More than one in four indicated that dog shows are a family affair that’s enjoyed by one or more generations of exhibitors. Nearly one in five, or 19 percent, take to the open road with a friend, and 6 percent responded to let us know they go to dog shows to work – as judges. Three percent of respondents took time out from their busy schedules to let us know they put in all those miles because they’re professional handlers.

Having Fun at Dog Shows
DFR Blogger Kayla Bertagnolli stepped back into the ring with her yearling puppies recently, and the experience rekindled her sense of fun while at a dog show. In her blog titled, “Smiles All Around the Ring,”//Link “Smiles All Around in the Ring” Kayla described the experience as “relaxing,” with none of the pressure that’s often associated with attending dog shows these days. Good people and great dogs are the reasons she gave for the ready smiles she saw and the fun experience she shared. Can dog shows really be fun after all? We wanted to know what our readers thought, and so we posited the question, “What is the most fun you’ve ever had at a dog show?” The responses indicate that while exhibitors are certainly a competitive bunch, many like to stop and smell the roses, and some even managed to find true love – or at least a commitment! Nearly half of those who responded to our poll, or 48 percent, had the most fun thanks to a particular all-breed or specialty Best in Show victory. Twenty-three percent said they created memories to last a lifetime thanks to a dog show being located in a city that was on his or her bucket list. Fifteen percent of respondents wondered if dog shows are even supposed to be fun. The folks who answered the question in this manner must either be do-or-die competitors or they’re suggesting that the show scene is largely devoid of good times. Happily, 4 percent of respondents said that meeting their spouse, partner or significant other was owed to the wonderful world of dog shows.

All of us at Best In Show Daily hope that you’re finding our poll questions to be a fun way to participate in the digital dog sport. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and concerns each week about the issues that affect the worldwide community of dog lovers. It takes only a single click on our home page (www.bestinshowdaily.com) for your voice to be heard.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.