The dog sport is peopled with individuals who are generally eager to share their passion for dogs with anyone who will listen. If you ask 20 dog people for their opinion on a topic related to their canine companions, you’re likely to hear 40 different points of view.
A big reason most of us enjoy being “in dogs” is for the opportunity to get together with friends – and “frenemies” – to talk about our dogs, our chosen breed and our sport. Whereas in the “old days” most of us only got together at local events and at specialty shows, social media has expanded our circle of associates to include just about everybody on the planet who owns, breeds and shows dogs. All that’s needed is an Internet connection and a pointed question to start a global “conversation” about the things we love to talk about most – dogs.
Best In Show Daily is helping to engage dog fanciers around the world through a weekly poll question that’s posted in the right-hand column of our home page. By providing a response, readers can voice their opinions on issues ranging from artificial enhancements in show dogs and health checks for Best of Breed winners to the overall costs associated with caring for our dogs. We’ve consistently found the results to be informative, sometimes surprising, and altogether useful as a gauge of how insiders (you!) view the dog sport today.
Most of our poll questions are written in response to comments posted by readers at the end of our articles. While dog people are not known for being reticent about dispensing advice, our readers – and we’re especially grateful for you – contribute to the doggie dialogue in ways that are meaningful to the thousands of judges, handlers, exhibitors and everyday dog lovers who visit our website daily.
How does the saying go? “You’ll never know unless you ask.” Well we started asking questions and we’d like to share your responses to some topical issues that impact our lives in dogs and the direction of the dog sport.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It?
Our first poll question of the year addressed the often-sticky topic of artificial enhancement. When Senior Editor Bo Bengtson addressed the issue in an article titled, “Faking It: Artificial Enhancement in Show Dogs,” our readers responded heavily with condemnation of the practice. More than half of our readers, or 51 percent, voted that cosmetic enhancements are “absolutely unacceptable.” Thirty-eight percent responded that enhanced presentation in the ring is “OK, if not overdone,” and just 6 percent suggested it is only “OK, if undetected by the judge.” One out of 20 respondents, or 5 percent, found nothing wrong with the practice of coloring and dyeing, and voted that to do so is “just fine.” While most exhibitors seem to accept playing by the rules, an unapologetic minority is clearly willing to look the other way when it comes to product-assisted presentation. In any case, you have to wonder if our respondents all actually practice what they preach.
Checking up on Health
As a prelude to Crufts dog show, Bo spoke with Ronnie Irving, former chairman of the Kennel Club, to talk about the controversial “Health Test” concept implemented in the U.K. at Britain’s largest show in 2012. Opinions from our readers varied greatly on the practice of implementing health checks on breed winners at select shows. When asked if they would support such exams in their breed, more than one-third, or 38 percent, of our readers indicated they are “very supportive” of the scheme, as plans are called by Brits. Conversely, 27 percent said they would be “strongly opposed” to veterinary exams in their breed at shows such as Westminster or AKC/Eukanuba. While 12 percent of respondents are “mildly opposed” and 10 percent indicated they are “somewhat supportive” of cursory health exams, another 13 percent said that if implemented, they “would not enter” their dogs at those shows. The diversity of opinion may be owing to personal beliefs on the subject of health testing that view the matter as either a public health concern or a wholly personal matter between a patient and a health-care provider.
‘The Whole Shebang’
It’s no secret that dog fanciers spend a lot of money on the care of their dogs, so we asked readers to examine their credit card statements and tell us how much they think they spend annually on their dogs. Food and supplements, toys and bedding, and grooming expenses and veterinary care are just some of the basic requirements for those of us who choose to share our lives with dogs. Our poll respondents indicated that when handling fees, travel expenses and advertising are considered along with “the whole shebang,” the amount spent can range from a low of $1,000 to $2,500 (9 percent of respondents) to a figure in excess of $40,000 (13 percent). Of course, a single Toy dog is easier on the household budget than is a kennel of Cane Corsos, so the amount spent will vary accordingly. In our poll, the balance of those who responded was: $2,501 to $5,000 (12 percent); $5,001 to $10,000 (21 percent); $10,001 to $15,000 (19 percent); $15,001 to $20,000 (11 percent); $20,001 to 30,000 (8 percent); and $30,001 to $40,000 (7 percent). You have to admit that these numbers represent a heck of a lot of kibble and entry fees!
Getting Started in Juniors
DFR Blogger Kayla Bertagnolli’s biweekly blog frequently features the junior handlers who help to keep the sport of purebred dogs – and the dogs, themselves – moving forward. When you get right down to it, young people are major players when it comes to ensuring that the breeds we’ve inherited are well taken care of once we’ve packed away the whelping box and hung up our running shoes. Many of the young people who participate in the dog sport got their start through junior handler programs, so we wanted to find out how our young readers became involved in Junior Showmanship. Perhaps not surprisingly, 58 percent of respondents indicated they come from a dog show family. Another 19 percent say they were introduced “through a televised dog show,” and another 12 percent were introduced to juniors by their dog’s breeder. Eight percent jumped right into dogs by “assisting a professional handler,” and 3 percent say they discovered the program “online.” Of course, it really shouldn’t matter how young people are introduced to the dog sport, as long as they are encouraged and supported by the rest of us once their introduction has been made. Remember, each of us started “in dogs” at the beginning.
What’s Going On?
As Best In Show Daily subscribers are certainly aware, digital media has made the world a much smaller place than it was a generation ago. Consequently, the dog world has truly gone global, with international exhibitions presented through live-streaming video, and round-the-clock results and information delivered in real time. Breeders and exhibitors in the West are often acutely aware of the efforts of their peers in the East, and vice versa. Since the turn of the century, a cross pollination of information – and frozen semen – has brought together dog fanciers from the unlikeliest of places. So we wanted to know where our readers are most interested to learn about what’s happening in the dog sport, other than in their own part of the world. Our poll revealed a decidedly Anglo bent (not surprisingly, perhaps, since most readers are presumably English speakers), with more than one-third, or 36 percent, of respondents interested in the British show scene. European activities interested 27 percent of readers, followed by North America (17 percent); Asia (11 percent); South America (6 percent); and Russia (3 percent). We regrettably failed to include our Australian and New Zealand friends in our poll, but we know that fanciers Down Under have long understood the value of incorporating a global perspective in all things doggie.
Encouraging Group Participation
North American fanciers have an enviable number of dog events in which to participate, of course, and Blogger-in-Chief Billy Wheeler closely monitors the results from shows held throughout the U.S. A blog that Billy posted in The Back Story titled, “Where are the Herding Dogs?” took note of a disparity in Best in Show wins being awarded to dogs from each of AKC’s seven Groups. So we wanted to find out in which Group exhibitors competed most often, and our poll results provide an interesting comparison with Billy’s examination of the Top 100 Dogs all-breeds. Whereas the top performers (through the end of April) represent the Groups as follows: Working (20 percent); Sporting (18 percent); Non-Sporting (16 percent); Toy (15 percent); Terrier (11 percent); and Hound and Herding (10 percent each), our respondents said that they compete most often in Non-Sporting (17 percent); Hound and Working (15 percent each); Terrier (15 percent); Toy (14 percent); Sporting (13 percent); and Herding (11 percent). If our respondents are representative of today’s exhibitors as a whole, the odds of going Best at an AKC all-breed show are, indeed, greatest for Working and Sporting dogs, with top wins that outpace their overall entries. Toy dogs fare not quite as well, but Non-Sporting and Herding dogs, along with Terriers and Hounds, take home the top prize in numbers disproportionate to their numbers of entries. Although the sheepdogs and cattle dogs are at a disadvantage in the Best in Show ring, it’s the sight- and scenthounds that really seem to come up short in all-breed competition.
One of the benefits of digital media is how it allows breeders and exhibitors to communicate in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. All of us at Best In Show Daily think that having an open dialogue is good for our dogs and for the sport, and we’re always interested to learn what you have to say about the activities and events that you care about.
Stay tuned to our home page for the next poll question, and be sure to share your opinion with the rest of the dog world.