So it seems that there are a lot of mumblings among the specialty people about the lack of entries at the Specialty Shows recently. “Give them a show and they will come” is no longer the motto heard around the Specialty clubhouse anymore. Oh we’re all going to blame the lousy economy for the lack of entries. And for the most part this is very true. No money…..no shows. You can’t put on a show with no entries or a very limited amount of dogs being shown. There’s no profit it in for the hosting club. People most of the time only want to drive long distances to a show when the show has pulled a major. (For my readers that are not familiar with dog shows, a major is a show that a dog can win 3, 4 or 5 points at one time). This has become very frustrating for the serious exhibitor that is looking to show their dog this spring season. Where are the majors? We need those majors!
Until the last several years most German Shepherd Dog people only showed their dogs at Specialty shows. There were a number of reasons for this. Most of the time the specialty clubs were the one’s that pulled the major entries. The size of the ring was another important reason they showed at the specialty shows. Remember that this is a dog that will be judged on his side gait along with his other attributes. Therefore, the German Shepherd normally requires a larger ring to appreciate this dogs flying trot.
Most of the time, the only reason the All-Breed shows had an entry for German Shepherds was when the dog only needed a few points to finish his championship. Also this is a nice ring for the novice or bred-by exhibitor to showcase their dogs. It’s a nice show for the owner/handler. In more recent years, the All-Breed shows have seen major entries for the German Shepherd Dog. In fact in some cases, the All-Breed rings have drawn majors while the local Specialty club has not. Why is that? If the All-Breed club is getting the majors, why isn’t the Specialty club able to do the same thing?
From what I’ve been told by my friends that show almost exclusively and successfully at the All-Breed shows is that the people are friendlier at the these shows. Good will and good sportsmanship is the norm here where many feel the Specialty shows sadly lack in this area. The novice exhibitor feels more welcome at these shows. The owner/handler feels more welcome at these shows. Has the Specialty clubs snubbed the very people that help make their entries grow and therefore help make their club prosper? If these very same people can go to an All-Breed show and be welcomed and show their dogs without having snide remarks about their dogs reach their sensitive ears, then which one do you think they’re going to go to?
What is the All-Breed shows doing that the Specialty clubs aren’t doing? From what I’m being told is that the people don’t feel harshly judged by their peers when they show at an All-Breed show. Many of these same people say that they are intimidated when they show at a Specialty show. Many complain that the very same people that love and exhibitor the German Shepherd Dog look down on the new comer or someone that may not have a dog from the most popular stud dog that is fashionable at the time. In other words, the feedback that I’m hearing is that the “newbie” doesn’t feel welcome at the Specialty show so they take themselves and their dog and go someplace else where they do feel welcomed.
I remember when I was taking my girls to the local All-Breed handling classes in my area and the difference in the people there compared to a Specialty club. Most people were friendly and helpful. I didn’t feel the intense competitiveness that I might have felt at a Specialty Club. Everyone was more concerned about socializing and training their puppies rather than comparing who had the “best one!”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved going to my Specialty club meetings and shows. I guess I was one of the fortunate ones. I had many friends. I was on the board or committees. I participated. I joined in. I was asked to help with special things. It felt like we were all on the same page……the betterment of the breed and the enjoyment of our breed. Oh sure there was competition at the shows, but speaking for me, if my friends won, it was never too hard for me to congratulate them.
So now the All Breed shows are attracting more and more German Shepherd Dog people. The entries are becoming larger and more dogs are winning majors at these shows. And how do the All-Breed people feel about the specialty people coming over to “their” rings? After all, these are the very same people that they wanted to get away from. Some are not too happy about it and others don’t really care. They feel that the more entries, the larger the major will be. And still others feel that the good will and good sportsmanship that they love so much at the All-Breed shows will suffer.
Geez……….have we adopted our breeds standard of temperament to our own personalities and temperament? Are we the owners of this fantastic breed……….showing a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships? Can we be criticized and blamed then if we who admire this noble breed so much imitate their temperaments? Is it fair that we be judged so harshly? Are we really “stuck up” or are we just acting aloof? Do we look down on those who are not in our little “clique” or are we just “standoffish” because we don’t make immediate and indiscriminate friendships? Are we really like our beloved German Shepherds after all, or are we the “snobbish, I know better than you” unapproachable stiffs that some have labeled us to be?
So the Specialty people come to the All-Breed ring. You won’t hear their whistles, bells or horns making noise at this ring. You won’t see people being knocked over by the double handlers outside the ring. In fact what you will see and hear is a dog show the way a do show was meant to be. You’ll hear the claps and cheers for the winners. You’ll see people shaking one another's hands. You’ll hear the dogs barking and see them wagging their tails. You’ll see little Johnny eating his second hot dog. You’ll see the vendors trying to sell their dog breed jewelry and t-shirts. Does it mean that everyone leaves an All-Breed show happy? No it doesn’t. There are just as many dogs here that don’t bring home the blue ribbon. Does it mean that you don’t hear a mean word about someone’s dog spoken by a disgruntled exhibitor? No it doesn’t. People are people after all. Some leave happy and others go home sad or upset that they didn’t win. It’s all part of a dog show. Win some……lose some. It’s just that AKC rules are more strictly adhered to at these shows. Many times these shows are judged by All-Breed judges and therefore, don’t know a lot of the exhibitors showing under them personally so they do exactly what they want to do. There don’t feel the same pressure as SOME specialty judges MIGHT feel.
I personally feel that both Specialty and All-Breed shows serve a function. Of course they are both places to show our dogs and to win points toward their championship. My hope is that our Specialty shows thrive and show a healthy profit for their clubs. In my opinion, there is nothing better than seeing a German Shepherd shown in a large ring where ringside can see and appreciate this dog’s most unique gait….the flying trot. You do not see his flying trot when he’s made to walk by his handler’s side. This is something someone told me about the other day that exhibited at an All-Breed ring. The winners dog was a dog that WALKED by his handler’s side in his presentation. This is not a walking dog. This is a movement dog - a herding breed. That is probably my biggest complaint about the All-Breed shows is it’s “lack of knowledge” judges that don’t know the first thing about the German Shepherd Dogs movement. Then they don’t have a right stepping into the same ring with this breed (in my opinion)!
My rating: Specialty Shows: (4), All-Breed shows: (4), kindness & good sportsmanship: (4)
From the book: "On Kindness".....We must value people for what they are, not for what we want them to be. In their last chapter, the authors look at modern kindness, noting that our contemporary " 'enterprise culture' means a life of overwork, anxiety, and isolation," one that "divides people into winners and losers" and breeds excessive heartlessness. Yet without a balancing kindness, our inner lives are disastrously lopsided. People often think that "they envy other people for their success, money, fame, when in fact it is kindness that is most envied, because it is the strongest indicator of people's well-being, their pleasure in existence." Kindness "makes life worth living; and . . . everything that is against kindness is an assault on our hope." "On Kindness" is, as I've said, a rich and provocative book, revealing the complexity of a simple-seeming virtue and showing it to be far more than institutionalized benevolence, ego-gratification or sentimental indulgence. To live the successful modern life, we are enjoined to become less kind and more selfish. That is this small but profound volume’s animating premise. Phillips and Taylor argue that in today’s fast-paced, anything-to-get-ahead culture, kindness “has become our forbidden pleasure.” Kindly behavior is perceived as both dangerous and suspicious, nothing less than empty sentiment and simplistic moralizing. Most of all, kindness is taken as a sign of weakness.