DANELINKS.COM                                                                                                                                       6.6.06
Reprinted with the permission of the author.

The pros and cons of so many dog shows.
Patricia V. Trotter


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.

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 quality.

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.
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 point count.
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.

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