Would you consider your breed’s National Specialty “just another dog show”? I think not.

This year, for the first time in many years, my mother and mentor, Leah, and I were unable to attend our breed’s National Specialty. Sadly, this made us both realize how special our National is and how much we enjoy being there.

When you look back on the wins that mean the most to you or those that stick out in your mind, most likely they are from your National Specialty. Of the shows you most look forward to or that are on your “to go” list, I bet your National is right at the top. If not, it should be!

Breeder/owner-handler Gretchen Milke isn’t likely to forget the National Beagle Club 2012 Specialty. Her dog GCh. Bridgehill’s Mr. Mason’s Misbehavin’, ‘Mason,’ was the BISS winner under judge Barbara Scherer-Kidwell. Photo courtesy of Oleg Voloshin.

Yes, of course there will always be more shows, but experiencing your breed’s National Specialty goes beyond just attending your local all-breed show. There are many reasons it’s important to attend your breed’s National Specialty. Your National offers all of the things you want or need to know about your breed. All of the people involved in your breed are together in one place at one time. A National is good both for newcomers and those who have been involved in the breed for years. What more could you ask for?

The following topics are most often discussed at National Specialties, along with many others, among breeders, owners, handlers and even those attending for mentoring:

  • Where did our breed start?
  • Where is our breed currently, and what is to come?
  • What health issues are we facing and what are we doing to create better health within our breed?

And perhaps the biggest question of all:

  • What shape is our breed in overall and what do we need to work on?

Even more importantly, the National is a time for people of like mind to share their commitment to their chosen breed and come together for the future of our sport.

National Specialties offer some unique classes that most regular shows don’t. Many include a Top 20 competition by invitation, brood bitch and stud dog classes, veteran classes and, in many breeds, a variety of performance classes.

It’s so nice to get to see a wide range of dogs from across the country and to have a chance to evaluate many different dogs from your ringside spectator seat. If you’re entered as an exhibitor, it’s a chance to show your breeding program to other breeders and for you to see their efforts as well. You may even get the chance to see littermates side-by-side for evaluation. How often do you get to see that?

A National is a celebration of what we have worked for all year and, for some of us, many years. It is definitely worth the travel, time and sacrifice, that is if you can make it!

Needless to say, National Specialties and Dogs Freakin’ Rule!