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Dog shows were invented to provide brag- ging rights and an opportunity to see other dogs and compare bloodlines. Barbara J. Andrews, Editor-In-Chief of The Dog Press wrote, “Breeding dogs is an expression of our talent and public appreciation is an affirmation of that ability. Will new age dog shows still be about our creativity and the compulsion to express it in a living master- piece? Like any artist, what we do is more than just a hobby. In our field, talent is now defined by who wins the most points for the year.” Most owners are just as happy


to go for walks in the neighbor- hood or sit quietly at home reading so long as they have a dog at their side. Many are fulfilled by doing rescue work, training service dogs, or competing in Agility and Obedience. “It is the artists among us who


drive the sport, spending years con- ceiving, nurturing, and putting the finishing touches on a master- piece,” said Andrews. However, this family sport has


changed over the years, from a hobby that was once open and affordable to everyone, into a “playpen and pastime for the idle rich,” said Andrews, citing several factors. Visitors to the Florida Gulf


Coast Classic Cluster in Brooksville will come upon rows and rows of RVs. Many of them are large, luxu- rious homes on wheels, housing humans and their canines from around the country traveling the Florida circuit of dog shows. RV parking fees can often exceed those of a stay at a five-star resort. Then there are the entry fees, which


Top photo: Basset Hound in the ring, 2018, Brooksville. Bottom photo: A Basset Hound, circa 1964, before the modern show ring molded the breed into something chunkier and wrinklier.


have gone through the roof, discouraging all but the well-to-do and the professional handler. And speaking of handler fees, Andrews adds, “Handler fees have become status symbols, signifying who can afford whom. I have many handler friends who, being objective, would agree that an owner-exhibitor can no longer win in some breeds and the average family can’t afford to hire a top handler.” Has the concept of showing a pure-


bred dog become unrealistic for most fam- ilies? “The inarguable truth is that today


36 THE NEW BARKER


“high profile breeds.” These are breeds that have been criticized for conformation that does not allow a dog to enjoy full health. If any dog fails the health check, it is effectively given a red card, being withdrawn from the remainder of the competition. In 2012, the pedigree dog show world


was stunned when six dogs, chosen as best of their breeds at Crufts dog show, failed the newly instituted veterinary health check. As a result, the prize-winning dogs (Bulldog, Pekingese, Clumber Spaniel, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff and Basset Hound) were banned from proceeding to Best in Group judging, ending six dog show


only the wealthy can really succeed in the AKC show ring and as the world becomes a smaller place, even winning a Group no longer has the same meaning as winning at the World Show, Westminster, or Eukanuba. It is indeed a new age for dog shows and for purebred dogs” added Andrews. In response to criticism after several


news reports exposed the questionable breeding practices of dogs, England’s Kennel Club (the UK’s equivalent of the AKC) instituted a compulsory health check for all dogs winning Best of Breed in fifteen


enthusiasts’ dreams of winning Best in Show at Crufts. The inspecting veterinary surgeon specifically assessed four areas of concern on the health front: eye disease, respiratory problems, skin disease and mobility issues. The independent veterinar- ian decided that the dogs’ appearances were inconsistent with full, normal health. Dog breeders reacted in fury, declaring that “animal rights terrorists are controlling the judging...” The hope, of course, is that breeders


will want to produce show dogs that are healthy enough to pass the veterinary checks. The fear, used by the Kennel Club in the past, is that the breed clubs will do their own thing. No breed better illustrates this


tragic descent than the English Bulldog, whose short, flattened face makes breathing and cooling down difficult. Its massive head, large even in puppies, makes natural breeding and birth all but impossible. Bulldogs often require cesarean sections. A Boston veterinary surgeon, Nick Trout, said he and colleagues have performed surgery on as many as 30 Bulldogs a year to correct airway problems. Because of the dog’s diffi- culty in panting to cool off, hot days can be fatal to a Bulldog. Troubling conditions also plague


other breeds. The Pug and Pekingese, toy breeds with big eyes and protrud- ing eyeballs, suffer from eye problems, in addition to sharing the Bulldog’s breathing troubles. Breeds with deep wrinkles, such as the Bloodhound and Shar-pei, suffer from skin infections. The Dogue de Bordeaux is similarly at


higher risk for skin problems and lameness. Many of the problems crept up on cer-


tain breeds slowly and quietly over decades. Much of it was not noticed by the general public but chronicled by concerned veteri- narians and geneticists. There have been warnings that breeding for appearance and structure has, as one researcher observed, resulted in the “evolution of purebreds that are caricatures of the original breeds.” A separate problem, the frequent


mating of close relatives to develop a “line” of dogs, has allowed many inherited med- ical conditions to take hold in certain breeds. The problem is not isolated to the United States.


www.TheNewBarker.com


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