GCH CH Downhome Hi-Tech Innovator (Photo by Peggy Mundell-DogBreedz)

Today begins the five-show Celebrate Virginia cluster in Fredericksburg, Vir., I have always found this venue to be one of the most inviting in the Mid-Atlantic region. Housed at the 6-year-old Fredericksburg Expo & Convention Center, the cluster boasts modern facilities, a location supported by dog-friendly hotels, good restaurants & lots of shopping. Clearly show management has thought about what their exhibitors want.

An example of that is their online catalog. Last year they chose to withhold their online catalog until the end of the cluster, reportedly to boost the number of dogs competing and the number of print catalogs sold. However, after hearing from many people unhappy that they could not follow the progress of the cluster, the host clubs decided to put the catalogs up during the shows this year. This kind of responsiveness to exhibitors is not always the practice in the dog show community.

This brings me to the question of the day: “What is the purpose of a dog show?” The original answer to that question is: “Dog shows, conformation shows, are intended to evaluate breeding stock.” However, I think the answer to the question can legitimately vary depending on which of the AKC constituency you ask the question. Clubs might host shows to maintain their official status and/or to derive income. Professional handlers and other frequent exhibitors might see shows as opportunities to pursue titles and records for their dogs. More casual exhibitors might see shows as purely recreational, an escape from the pressures of their day-to-day lives and a chance to gather with friends who share their love of dogs. The general public might attend a show to see beautiful examples of purebred dogs and or learn more about owning an AKC-registered dog.

It’s that last group that interests me. To John Q. Public, dog shows are the fancy’s face. Nearly eight million viewers watch the Westminster Kennel Club show’s TV broadcast. Many people only know what a Komondor is because of dog shows. I was thrilled to see the Harrier, GCH CH Downhome Hi-Tech Innovator, win the Hound Group at last month’s AKC/Eukanuba National Championship show. Not just because Chet is a beautiful representative of the breed, but because the general public will see him on TV and come to care when these rare animals are threatened by animal rights zealots or misguided local politicians.

It all starts with those show-hosting clubs caring about the exhibitor and the public. If show management is responsive, then the exhibitors will come back, the public will come in greater numbers, and our at-risk breeds will flourish. It’s a heady responsibility that show management has and I encourage everyone to join me in thanking them all, especially the show management of the Celebrate Virginia cluster. Well done!