Dog shows - conformation and controversy

Its the way of holidays, busy busy busy, that its been two weeks since I was lucky enough to attend the Royal Melbourne Show with breeder friends to see the Siberian Huskies in the conformation competition. Last night I finally got to download my photos, which are not as lovely as those taken by Catemac photography  but I was pleased to compare my shots with the catalogue and realise that I had a pic of nearly every dog in the competition. Let me share what I learnt.

First round of the competition was Baby Puppy, which was won by a very trendy little red puppy, called Koolmove Son of a Dude, from Shepparton. Baby Puppy is for dogs of three and under six months of age. 

Then there was Junior Puppy, which is for dogs under 18 months of age. This class was won by Canyonlands Wolfgang, who answers to the name Denver. He represents the great cooperation that kennels can achieve; bred by Canyonlands in Geelong, using a Canyonlands dam and an Illahee sire, he is now a cherished member of Taejaan Kennel in Aubury-Wodonga.

Intermediate dog, for males under 36 months of age, was awarded to Birindi Takin Care of Bizness (Radar) with second place going to Ch Taejaan Secret Agent (Bond). Radar is a son and grandson of champions, bred by Birindi Kennels in Melbourne, and has already placed in over fifteen conformation shows. Bond (I have to say it, James Bond) already has a Ch in front of his name for Champion, which means he has already accumulated 100 points in conformation shows. He lives in Wagga Wagga.

The next class was Australian Bred Dog, which is for for dogs six months of age or over whelped (born) in Australia.  This one was a real eye opener to me - the dogs were different heights and builds, different ages and colours. How on earth was judge Mrs Denys Janssen to decide on the result? For myself, I was drawn to what I've been taught to value through my exposure to J's dogs and to racing, so my personal pick was obviously to Ch Snofall Shake Rattle n Roll (Shaker). I've handled for his team at racing on a few occasions, and his tall, sleek lines are what I think of as "husky". There were several other lovely dogs, handlers and breeders in this class who I knew from racing, so I was really confused!

Canyonlands Wolfgang

Birindi Takin Care of Bizness

Ch Bluemooska Silver Shadow

Ch Snofall Shake Rattle n Roll

Koolmove Son of a Dude by Catemac Photography.

Ch Taejaan Secret Agent

Canyonlands Hi Ho Silver 

Ch Snofall Shake Rattle n Roll

The line up at Australian Bred Dog, by Catemac.

Of course, the judge made her decision, not on racing results, but according to the breed standard.  

The most important breed characteristics of the Siberian Husky are medium size, moderate bone, well-balanced proportions, ease and freedom of movement, proper coat, pleasing head and ears, correct tail, and good disposition.

First place went to Ch Bluemooska Silver Shadow, who has been competing in racing events this year - I think we might have raced against him in the NVSDC Classic back at the Queen's Birthday Weekend. Second place was won by Canyonlands Hi Ho Silver (Dallas) from the Aubury-Wodonga Taejaan kennel and third place went to Shaker from Snofall

The Open Dog class is for dogs six months of age or over. First place went to Sup Ch, Am Gr Ch Canyonlands Blk Crusade (Draven) from Kazyon Siberians in Melbourne. Draven is highly decorated after travelling to the USA and competing in shows over 5 months in the US. Second place went to Sup Ch Illahee Danntes Inferno (Dante), 

Sup Ch, Am Gr Ch Canyonlands Blk Crusade

Sup Ch Illahee Danntes Inferno

After judging each of the dogs in their age class, the winners were then brought out to select the best male, called the Challenge. The Challenge was won by Ch Bluemooska Silver Shadow and the second place or Reserve Challenge Dog was Birindi Takin Care of Bizness. 

Then we went through the same classes for the females. The winners list was dominated by kennels that had already placed winning males - Illahee, Canyonlands, Kazyon, Taejaan and Birindi - with a couple of other kennels also taking ribbons home, including Mekalani, Nordicspirit and Suthanlites.

 (Apologies for the lack of photos - my batteries were dying rapidly.)

Conformation shows are all about the physical make up of the dog and how they meet with the breed standard. There are lots of controversies that crop up because the application of the breed standard is done by a judge, and ultimately comes down to interpretation. Mrs Janssen judged six different breeds, from different groups, on the day that I was at the show, and did the same every day for the whole week. How any dog judge can keep the different standards straight in their memories is a mystery to me! Then there are people who think dog shows are ridiculous, and the dogs should be judged on performance. There is a lot of merit to both sides of that argument, and I think that this article by Joanna Kimball sums up nicely the reason why both are necessary. I wasn't sure whether I would like dog showing, but I found the process interesting and I think the ideals are definitely worthwhile. The challenge with any activity of course, is for folks to try and focus on achieving the ideals, and when every person has a different perspective on the ideal, that they hold passionately, there will continue to be controversies arising.