What's all this dog show stuff about anyway?

This week, lots of dog friends are off to the Royal Melbourne Show to have their dogs compete in the conformation trials. I've only been to a couple of trials over the last few years (I think a whole 3) so a lot of the jargon is really confusing to me. My friend E'vette wrote this earlier this year, and I think its a great story, that really explains to non-showies like me, what it means to have a dog reach its Supreme Championship. Thanks E'vette for letting me publish this!

My Alaskan Malamute, Brewin, who I co-own with my good friend Beth McCombe, recently qualified for his Supreme Championship. It sounds impressive and it is. It is also the result of a fair bit of time and effort mostly on Beth’s part as she has done most of the grooming and travelling to take him to the many shows he’s competed at.

"Brewin" BIS Supreme Champion Snowsteeds Rustic Rising WTD

"Brewin" BIS Supreme Champion Snowsteeds Rustic Rising WTD

To be an Australian Champion your dog needs 100 Challenge points.  Challenge points are awarded to the Best Dog (known as the Dog Challenge or DC) and Best Bitch (Bitch Challenge or BC) for each breed at Championship Shows over 6 months of age.  You get 5 points plus 1 for every dog entered (including yours up to 25 points per show).  If you have the only dog of its breed at the show you aren't guaranteed the 6 points though, as the Judge has the right to refuse to give your dog the Challenge if they deem it unworthy of the Title “Champion”.  Once all the breeds are judged separately, the best representative from each breed according to the Judge on that day, go back in to the ring to compete for “Best Exhibit in Group” (BIG) and the winner is also eligible for more points up to a maximum of 25.  There are 7 Groups at Australian Shows.  The groups are Group 1 – Toys, Group 2 – Terriers, Group 3 – Gundogs, Group 4 – Hounds, Group 5 – Working Dogs, Group 6 Utility (which we are in) and Group 7 – non Sporting.  At the end of the show the 7 Best in Group winners enter the ring together to compete for the prestigious “Best Exhibit in Show”.  Most dog shows in Australia have entries from 300 dogs to over 2000 dogs for some of the bigger shows.  Royal Shows can have over 5000 dogs entered.  Showing dogs is very competitive and exhibitors put a lot of time and effort into breeding, training and grooming their dogs for the shows and it is a wonderful achievement to gain a dog's Australian Championship.  I have retired most of my dogs from showing once they've achieved theirs and then I start working on the next one.  I have been blessed however to have a couple of special dogs that have been very good show dogs and for dogs such as these there are a few more titles you can achieve.

To gain a dogs “Grand Championship” you need 1000 points so in essence it is a Champion 10 times over.

To gain a dogs “Supreme Championship” you need 1000 points plus 3 “Best Exhibit In Show” or 10 “Best Exhibit in Group” awards and they all have to have different judges.  This is not easy to achieve with such a lot of good quality dogs out showing each week all vying for the same awards.

In his journey to his Supreme Championship Brewin had won 1 x “Best Exhibit In Show”, 1 x “Runner Up Best Exhibit In Show (with an entry over 1000 dogs I might add which was very exciting), 11 x “Best Exhibit In Group“ and 14 x “Runner Up Best Exhibit In Group”.  So that is the crux of it but that Title means so much more to those of us who were involved in Brewin's campaign.

When I first saw Brewin’s father “Russ” also known as ‘Multi BIS Grand Ch Chimo Power of One’ owned by Tonya Syme and Michelle Watson he took my breath away.  He was by far the best moving Malamute I’d seen, had a stunning head and was every inch a show dog.  I have a background in teaching anatomy and physiology in horses and my passion was for dressage and eventing horses so when I said he moved well, I was pretty sure of what I was looking at. So I approached his owners about using him at stud over my young bitch Genna.  Genna was very sound but a bit of a plain Jane so by matching her to Russ I was hoping to improve on her qualities and I certainly did.  I had Russ at my house for a few weeks while the mating took place and I fell in love with his funny personality and wonderful nature.  He used to bare his teeth and smile up at you and then blow air at you through his teeth.  It was a funny and endearing habit once you realised he was raising his lip to smile not to be aggressive. 

Photo by Tonya Syme, one of the breeders responsible for this multi-championship winning line.

Photo by Tonya Syme, one of the breeders responsible for this multi-championship winning line.

Brewin was my pick show boy of the litter; there were some stunning puppies in the litter but some of them had what we term “soft coats” which are deemed a fault and although they make lovely pets they aren't suitable for showing.  Brewin as a baby was very balanced and had lovely width across his muzzle.  I called him my happy boy.  I went to some shows with a group of friends at Mt Gambier and while we were there my friend Beth said she wanted a show boy.  I had 2 puppies with me so I agreed to let her have my pick boy.  She actually liked the other puppy (who ended up going to live with some good racing friends) but I insisted that she have my happy boy if she wanted a show boy and our friend Julia Jones backed me up so Beth agreed and we arranged for her to take him.  Once that was decided we had a very funny afternoon deciding what his pet name would be.  Beth insisted on a B name and I refused point blank to let her call him Barry, Bruce or Bazza.  It was Michael Higgins who suggested Brewin and Beth liked it because she liked ‘Brewin up a cup of tea’.  We later found out it meant Bear (spelt Bruin) which was also fitting seeing as my best boy up to that point was Bear.  Brewin went home with Beth from the show and there the fairy tale started.

Brewin was a moderate puppy with a big head, big chest and very little hair on his legs which made him look gawky and out of balance.  He was also not particularly confident so his show career really didn't take off until he hit junior class.  From then on though, he consistently took classes in Group and classes in show and started raking in the Challenge points.  He finished his Australian Championship with a Best Exhibit in Show win.  The Runner Up Best in Show from the Adelaide Royal was in front of us and the top winning mini poodle was behind us in the line up and I remember watching the judge looking between those two dogs, then all of a sudden her gaze fixed on Brewin and she asked me to run him around the ring, half way around the ring she announced “this is my Best Exhibit In Show” and waved the ribbon at me.  At that point I had tingles run from the tip of my head to my toes and all the way back again and I remember thinking ‘oh so this is why people show dogs’ (prior to that I thought it was all a bit boring and a chore that had to be done if you wanted to breed good dogs).  From then on I was hooked on showing.  All that week Beth would ring me up and we would relive the moment.   Beth at that time lived in Melbourne and worked a lot so she would drop Brewin off at Clippers pet grooming on her way to work.  The girls at Clippers were very well known and successful Samoyed exhibitors and Brewin always turned up to the shows immaculately groomed.  Beth spent a fortune on making sure he turned up to every show picture perfect but eventually learnt how to groom him like that herself and built her dream property complete with her own grooming room to insure she could keep him in winning form.  We both went through a period of trying out nearly every dog grooming product known to man and came up with our own routines on how to present the dogs to their best.  There was a bit of arguing along the way but we both have our own areas of expertise.  Beth is chief whitener and leg fluffer.  I am chief coat comber and finisher.  Brewin puts up with our fussing and clucking with more grace than most. 

Beth and Brewin in 2007.

Beth and Brewin in 2007.

Brewin, BIS Supreme Champion Snowsteeds Rustic Rising WTD

Brewin, BIS Supreme Champion Snowsteeds Rustic Rising WTD

Before we knew it he had over 300 points so we thought we may as well aim for 500 as the AMCV gave a 500 point award.  Then he was doing so well that we were looking at his Grand Championship in no time.  Beth had bad knees so although she showed him herself a lot when he was young she was unable to run him when he got older.  I know it broke her heart not to be able to show him to some of his wins but she faithfully trained him to self stack using the tiles in her kitchen as a guide.  Because Beth couldn't run and I was also showing Midas at the time we had a lot of wonderful exhibitors offer to help.  Brewin charmed most of them and he took a particular shine to beautiful girls and they to him.  The list of handlers who have shown Brewin reads a bit of a ‘who's who’ of the show world these days.  Beth and I are both so grateful to everyone who has helped, handled and supported Brewin along the way.  We have had so many fabulous trips away with great friends, lots of shiny ribbons and prizes, dinners out, fun and laughter.   He has at times held the spot of Number 1 Alaskan Malamute in Australia, has won show point scores and all competing against some of the greatest dogs we have seen in this country.

E'vette with Brewin in 2013.

E'vette with Brewin in 2013.

In 2012 they brought out a new title “Supreme Champion” so with Brewin achieving his Grand Championship  the new title gave us something else to strive for.  It took a little time to hunt down the last groups he needed.  In the last six months he was shown he consistently took Runner Up in Groups.   So many times he was oh so close to that elusive last one.  Finally on the weekend just gone (May 2013) it happened.  Beth was working and had arranged another friend to take Brewin to the shows but in the end they couldn't take him so I offered too, seeing as he was already entered.  The shows were at Red Cliffs which is a 3 hour drive for me and normally the weather up there is delightful but that Saturday it was freezing cold and raining with the wind whipping up from the South and straight through our gazebo.   There were a number of Mal exhibitors from SA there with some very nice dogs so we were very pleased to be awarded Best of Breed in the morning.  Brewin was loving the cold weather and showing beautifully.  Out we went for Best in Group.  The glamorous-looking Judge went over all the dogs then 'shortlined' a few including Brewin but ‘Best in Group’ went to a lovely Doberman. Then the judge asked us to run around again and she gave the ‘Runner Up’ award to us.  It is always wonderful to win such an award over the plethora of other lovely and worthy exhibitors but many competitors knew just how close he was to that elusive win and commiserated the occasion.  Brewin went Australian Bred in Show later in the morning and with the icy wind blowing he absolutely showed his socks off.  To have a dog so in tune with you that you only have to look and motion with your hip to get him to move into a perfect show stack is a wonderful thing.  Brewin is beautifully trained and a very very fun dog to show.  He smiles up at you, reminiscent of his father with his beautiful face beaming and his tail gently waving.  When Brewin is in form he is a sight to behold.  He isn’t the biggest dog but with his stunning head, deep chest, overall balance and wonderful clean movement he is every inch a Malamute and a great show dog.

At the Saturday afternoon show he was again awarded Best of Breed but this time a lovely Siberian won the group and Runner Up went to our good friends' beautiful young Akita.  An evening of fun ensued and then we were all back bright and early to try again on Sunday.

Sunday the weather had cleared and it was a beautiful sunny day, the rain had brightened the grass on the ground and everything looked glorious as we all set about grooming and getting ready for our turn in the ring.  Again Brewin was fortunate to be awarded Best of Breed over the other Mals shown.  Then the time came to battle it out for Group honours.  The judge looked at all the exhibits then got them all to do an out-and-back.  Then taking the ribbon she stood in the middle of the ring looking toward the  exhibits at the far end. I remember noting that her feet were pointing directly at us so while I was trying to keep my focus on Brewin and not stuffing him up a little voice in my head was screaming “look at her feet , look at her feet, they are pointing RIGHT AT US!!!” then the judge thanked all the exhibitors for entering their lovely dog under her and announced (still looking down the line) “my Best Exhibit in Group today is the ... Alaskan Malamute” whoop whoop WHOOOOOOOPPPPP  YEEEEEEHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA He DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think all I actually said out loud was “oh” as I took Brewin to the judge to get his ribbon.  Mind you I was beaming like an idiot and heard many of the competitors yell out their congratulations so I couldn't help but say, as I shook the judges hand, “thank you, that is also his Supreme” to which she heartily congratulated us and said what a beautiful dog he was.  Later in the day he also won Australian Bred in Show again.  What a ride, what a wonderful way to finish, WHAT A DOG!!  When I rang Beth to tell her “he did it” she promptly burst into tears, so happy and elated that her boy had finally achieved the highest award a show dog can achieve in this country.  I couldn't have asked for a better co owner and friend to share this experience with than Beth.  She loves her dogs so much and does everything within her power to insure they have wonderful lives which also includes driving them to another friend for race training in the winter so they can compete in races and play in the snow.  Actually after the show finished, one of the judges congratulated us and commented on how she thought he was the ideal sled dog and ‘you can just see that he’s built to do the job.’ Of course I was delighted to tell her just how well he does that job, having been the lead dog of Rod Murphy’s team last year which was awarded First Mal team home at Australia’s biggest sled dog race the ‘NVSDC Classic’ and ‘Fastest Mal team on the Mount’ at Falls Creek.  He also achieved his working team dog title in his first year of racing and ran in my six dog team earlier in his career.

Brewin and Sera in harness in 2009.

Brewin and Sera in harness in 2009.

So as you can see to be a Supreme Champion is so much more than just words on paper.  Behind every title is a wonderful story of trials and triumphs, fun times and wonderful memories and truely great show dogs.  I am so thankful to God that Brewin is now known as “BIS Supreme Champion Snowsteeds Rustic Rising WTD” was one of mine and also thankful to everyone who has helped, supported and been a part of this wonderful journey.