I've had several people come up to me asking: "what is a dog show? A competition? What kind of tricks do you teach your dogs?". I always find it kind of hard to describe a conformation show, because in essence, it is a beauty pageant... but I hate that term--it comes with so many bad connotations these days because of the ridiculous beauty pageants held in the human world.
Here is a pretty good overview on what a conformation show is. Basically, all purebred dogs are bred according to a breed standard. These standards are governed by official kennel clubs around the world such as the American Kennel Club (USA), the Kennel Club (UK), and FCI (international). Breed standards are also written/edited/governed by breed clubs such as The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club (UK) and the Papillon Club of America (USA). Dog shows are events whereby breeders can exhibit their purebred dogs--the dogs that conform most closely to the breed standard are considered better quality specimens than dogs that diverge from the breed standard.
Now, it is hard for the untrained eye to tell apart a good example from a bad example of a breed. Generally, a dog purchased from a pet store (who get their puppies from puppy mills where the breeding dogs are bred endlessly to produce a constant supply of puppies) or a backyard breeder (people who own pet dogs and decide to breed them because they're cute, or it's exciting to have puppies, etc.) is not a good specimen of a breed.
Reputable breeders are people who have done extensive research on the particular breed(s), have done health testing on all their show/breeding dogs, do some sort of dog sports with their dogs or show their dogs, and generally have years of experience with the breed. They do not breed solely to produce "cute puppies" or to make a profit. On the contrary, reputable breeders seldom, if ever, make money from breeding. They breed because they are hoping to produce puppies of outstanding quality--puppies who will grow up to be outstanding specimens of their breed. They breed for health, temperament, and looks. They spend hours upon hours of their time researching pedigrees, looking at health certificates, and studying individual dogs.
Breeding is not for the faint of heart. Lots of things can go wrong, as chronicled recently by this Corgi breeder. It is not something you do "just for fun" or "to make money". You could very well lose your beloved pet should something go wrong (as it often does).
Some of the most prestigious dog shows in the world are held yearly in the UK (Crufts), USA (Westminster), and the World Dog Show (various cities around the world). Here, the best of the best dogs in the world are shown and titled. The most famous Papillon in history, Kirby (Ch. Loteki Supernatural Being) won three major international dog shows in the same year--at the ripe old age of 8! He is still the most successful Papillon in history.
Now you might be wondering... what is up with these long show names? "Loteki Supernatural Being", "Riccaval Zeal Me A Kiss". Generally, kennels use affixes to identify themselves and their dogs. For example, Loteki Supernatural Being was bred by the Loteki Papillon Kennel in the USA. All the dogs bred by this breeder will have the affix "Loteki". Similarly, Lyra's name, "Riccaval Zeal Me A Kiss" is a combination of her breeder's affix: "Riccaval", and her show name: "Zeal Me A Kiss". Some kennels prefer to use suffixes, so their kennel names appear at the end of show names instead of at the beginning.
Now I hope that I've covered the basics about what makes a show dog. Stay tuned for part 2!
Blog for the Dogs
Here's where I chronicle the dogs' daily lives, write reviews on dog products, and share tips on everything under the sun.