The proliferation of dog shows
and the ensuing devaluation of the American championship title is a subject
of increasing concern to breeders. As the number of dog shows has increased
exponentially in the last two decades, so has the number of champions able
to finish as a result of the lower point scale and fewer dogs per breed
being exhibited at any given show.
Certainly there are a few popular breeds that still have high point
scales due to the entry numbers, and probably these breeds benefit from this
situation. However, consider that in my own breed--the Norwegian
Elkhound--it took 16 bitches for a major in the state of California in
1974. These were the glory days of the breed, when an all-breed show such
as Santa Barbara drew 53 Elkhounds and 129 Afghan Hounds, with neither breed
needing the benefit of specialty or supported shows. Today, few specialties
other than the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America's biannual
national, ever draw such an entry, and all-breed shows are hit even harder
by the dwindling entries in many breeds.
THE LAW OF AVERAGES...
Subsequently, dogs who can beat three inferior dogs twice during a long
weekend become titled and achieve their majors, then minor out. Although
some titles were obtained this way from time to time in the past, it was not
the widespread situation we are seeing today. For one thing, there weren't
that many dog shows, so more dogs in a given area appeared at the shows that
were available. The law of averages indicates that the more dogs you have
to beat to attain the title, the more likely the titleholders are of higher
The correct evaluation of which animals should be selected for
breeding stock and which ones should not is vital to the cause of our
breeds. If the dog show becomes strictly a place to display dogs rather
than serve the cause of aiding in selection of breeding stock, where do
well-intentioned new breeders go to get the answers?
Exactly what long-term effect this current state of affairs has on a
breed's gene pool is unclear. Unfortunately, newcomers to the breed get an
inflated opinion of the worth of certain animals and begin breeding programs
based on them. A recent conversation with a novice exhibitor alarmed me
because his thinking is going in that direction. Not only is he considering
such an animal as foundation breeding stock, he plans to special it.
SO MANY COMPETITIONS TO
CHOOSE FROM, SO LITTLE TIME
It is hoped that this
person in time will realize that
not every dog that does a little
winning belongs in the gene
pool. Only the best of each
generation should get that
worthy honor. The expansion of
the dog show to include
activities such as agility and
rally obedience is heartening
because it allows the novice pet
owner to participate in the
wonderful world of dogs while
learning more about the
process. In time one might come
to realize that it is possible
to love lesser-quality animals
without breeding them.
A recent lecturer at a judges' breed seminar awed us all with both
his love and knowledge of his breed. A top-winning exhibitor whose dogs
have captured all-breed and specialty honors alike, this gentleman surprised
the audience when he stated he was not a breeder. Instead, he seeks out the
quality dogs of master breeders and then conditions and pilots them to the
top. Furthermore, he seeks out the best of his breeds competition in
campaigning these dogs, and this, of course, contributes to the overall
improvement of the breed by educating fanciers. Studying dogs of quality is
how breeders learn to improve their own stock.
Better competition raises the bar for all, lesser competition lowers
it. Do we want a dog-show world where every dog becomes a
champion? Or do we want to protect the championship title for the future
good of the sport? If so, how do we do it? The idea of entitlement is hard
to get around once it becomes accepted. Should the AKC consider tightening
up the point count even if it results in cries of outrage and fewer
champions? Should we consider tiered shows such as those in other countries
where only a select few shows can award the challenge certificate, which is
equivalent to our championship points?
The withholding process is a tool that the American dog show
provides to monitor lack of quality, but it is such a negative thing.
Judges are reluctant to implement it due to its unpopular reception and
depressing message that truly discourages would-be fanciers. Only a few
have the knowledge and courage required to face this ordeal. However,
raising the point count is not negative but is merely setting a higher
standard. Naturally there would be lots of objections to this, especially
in breeds where point counts are already high.
The positive aspect of it is that exhibitors would learn to support
certain shows, encourage stronger competition instead of running from it,
and meet the fellow fanciers in their own breed more often. When more dogs
come together for the evaluation process, it broadens the database for all
of us. Certainly there are both pros and cons to the issue of adjusting the
Nonetheless, we must be realistic and accept that continuing to
devalue the championship title, we risk the permanent loss of its
credibility. Because posterity has no way to determine whether a
championship title was truly valid at a given time in history of the sport,
future generations of dogs pay the price for today's negligence.