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Dog Shows and Competitions

For most of dog history, dogs have been bred for their skills - the best hunters, herders or draft dogs possessed the most desirable bloodlines. In the 19th century as the world became more mechanized and people had more leisure time, the role of the dog changed too. No longer required to work to earn its food, the dog as companion became a reality. And so the emphasis on breeding requirements subtly changed - no longer was it strictly necessary for work related traits to be the most important in a dog - consistent physical appearance could be a factor as well.

Thus began the first dog show. Held in England in 1859, 50 pointers and setter participated. The judging requirements are not known, but by 1873 the English Kennel Club was formed and its Studbook, breeding records of registered dogs, begun. Other Kennel Clubs were soon formed around the world.

Today's dog shows are not strictly beauty contests. For each breed, judges assess how closely a dog conforms to the standard set for that breed, and the standards are based on its traditional use (like hunting or retrieving). Physical characteristics such as height, straightness of limb, soundness of muscles and overall condition are evaluated. Behavior is also judged - each dog must possess the temperament required for that breed, and a dog that is snappy, shy or otherwise unsound is disqualified.

Dogs of the same breed are not judged against each other, but against the breed standard. In a show, the dog that is awarded Best of Breed then competes against other winners in its group - Working, Herding, etc. Again, each dog is judged against its breed standard, with the dog that most closely follows the conformation becoming Best of Show.

To ensure that the working characteristics of breeds aren't lost, there are a variety of other competitions in which dogs can participate. These seek to replicate situations that require the specific skills valued for each breed. There are a number of organizations which sponsor these competitions - the following are a few that are sanctioned by the AKC:

Obedience

Your dog performs exercises which test its ability to respond to commands; three levels, ranging from Companion Dog to Utility Dog.

Tracking

Following a human scent, dogs track through a variety of settings, from rural to urban.

Agility

Dogs follow a set course of obstacles, results are timed.

Herding

Dogs herd livestock through a series of exercises, led by a handler (like in the movie 'Babe'.)

Earthdog

Small terriers follow and corner an artificial target 'animal' through a course.

Field Trials

Breeds that traditionally work in the field, such as Pointers, Spaniels and Retrievers, can compete both individually and in groups. They are judged on their ability to follow a scent, retrieve game and a variety of other tasks, based on the skills required for different breeds.

 

In addition, individual breed clubs have instituted competitions that test the dogs unique talents. For example, Bernese Mountain Dogs, who were used by farmers to pull small carts, can still compete in cart-pulling competitions. They are carefully monitored to make sure that loads do not exceed a dog's ability. The results? A dog that can accomplish the kind of task for which its body and intellect are suited. You know how good you feel when you do something really well and people congratulate you? - dogs are no different.


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dog shows competitions information
 
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dog shows competitions information