We dog show fanciers live in what essentially seems to be a “BIG world.” To everyone else, however, the idea of dog shows must seem very foreign. Some people who visit a dog show might get the wrong impression or be skeptical about some things that, to us, seem so normal.

On my way home from the 136th Westminster Kennel Club dog show, I met a very friendly woman on one of my flights. She learned that I was returning from the show and asked me all sorts of questions about dog shows in general. Of course, I was more than happy to share with her some of my experiences!

My new traveling companion indicated that she is impressed by our sport as a whole, but also mentioned some of the concerns she has for the dogs. We talked about what dog shows are like from the dogs’ point of view. How is it for them to go to shows every weekend? How do they handle the preparation and training? And what kind of toll might this take on the dogs themselves?

The beauty of most dogs that are shown every weekend is that they flat out love to be in the ring and perform! Believe it or not, that is their “normal life.” In a way, they are kind of like celebrities. They’re on the road a lot, getting pampered day in and day out to look and feel their best. When their time comes to shine, they walk in that ring and just live it up! This is the way it’s been for as long as I can remember, and even before that!

(Photos by Gay Glazbrook and Chris Menealy, courtesy of the AKC Gazette)

In a 1997 AKC Gazette article edited by Josh Adams and titled, “The Great Ones,” two big-time handlers talk about how their special dogs are more than just show dogs. Professional handler Doug Holloway believes the great dogs, like Standard Schnauzer Ch. Parsifal Di Casa Netzer, are born with their show attitude. He said, “He just thought the show ring was the place to be. He thought the sun rose and set there.”

Well I guess he really was “born with it” because that same year, not only did “Pa” win Best in Show at the Garden, he also was the first Italian-bred Westminster winner.

The other handler interviewed in the article was Terry L. Hundt. A particularly dear dog to her was the Doberman Pinscher, Ch. Ravenswood Rain Man V Aquarius. She said of him, “Raymond was so ring-smart, he always stayed one step ahead.”

What a great look back. The same thing applies with many “great ones” nowadays.

There is a bittersweet part that comes when some of these top dogs retire. When they finish up their show careers, they go home and – it seems to me – mope around. It’s like they’re saying, “What do I do now?” To them, their normal routine doesn’t consist of hanging around on the couch or being lazy.

Luckily there are a few ways for the retired show dog to get a quick fix. They can be entered at specialties or nationals as veterans, and now – if you haven’t heard already – they can enter a few shows to become a Grand Champion. The great ones can still have fun and demand attention too!

I want to thank the woman I met on my travels home. She put me right in her shoes and made me look at the bigger picture of our dog show world.

If you get the chance, like I did, to talk to someone unaware of what goes on at dog shows or how they work, just be honest. Share your experiences about how great they really are, and let everyone know how much the dogs really do love it!

Never forget, first and foremost…  Dogs Freakin’ Rule!