Dear Dr. Forsythe: I went to a dog show recently and I was really surprised to see how rough some of the handlers were with their dogs. First, I went through the back and I saw them getting groomed. It was terrible to see the process of combs being yanked through the beautiful fur and how harsh many of the dogs were treated. Then, I was shocked to see how some of the crates were stacked back to back and side to side with very little room. These animals looked miserable waiting for their turn to be judged. It was pathetic to see that there were puppies for sale everywhere while I know many animals are being put to sleep in shelters across the country. Even worse, some of the older females appeared to be discounted as “retired brood bitches” that had served their purpose and were no longer wanted. After everything I saw, I decided to put off getting a pure bred dog and I think I’ll adopt a shelter pet when I recover from the experience. – Aghast at the dog show
Dear Aghast: Thanks for your comments. I remember the first time I took one of my little bulldog puppies to a dog show with absolutely no clue as to how things worked, what it would be like or how serious everybody would be. I entered Mrs. Butterworth’s smallest puppy into an AKC show in Lafayette, Indiana. The little boy won First Prize! Then, he went on to win something called “best in opposite sex.” After several blue ribbons, we found ourselves in the “non sporting group” competing against several different breeds of dogs that looked very different.
Well, “Bigelow” (Tea Bag) didn’t win the best in group award, so we left the ring and went on to toodle around the show and snoop in and out of the many rows of activities. And I have to say that I too found it to be a startling and eye opening event which left me perplexed, stupefied, and just plain flabbergasted!
I saw people parked in Winnebagos with literally dozens of dogs in cages all crammed into tiny spaces, each dog with a different name and pedigree, and each dog looking absolutely — yes I’ll say it – miserable. Now, I know I may be projecting, and there are people who will be a little irritated with me for my obvious slant on the dogs show participants, but I did feel that it was a tough life for them compared to “pets” that live on the couch, never have to be crammed into a wire cage, and don’t have to be confined to long hours in crowded conditions.
I have come to appreciate the benefits and beauty of the standards that breeders of the AKC strive to achieve, and the different pure bred dogs are truly magnificent in their own right. However, seeing the conditions of the dogs that spend a considerable amount of time on the road going from dog show to dog show is not something I would want to put my dog through. Although there are many who would argue that top winning show dogs absolutely love the limelight and flourish in their show lifestyle, the behind-the-scenes reality is enough to make me hesitate from delving into that again with a dog I truly love and am bonded with.
In other words, while I think it is unfortunate for us to ‘judge’ others who are passionate in their hobby of showing dogs, your experience totally resonates with me, and I was happy to place Bigelow into a family as a “pet” who would be loved for his personality and flaws and not for his physique — even with his two blue ribbons.