Once a year, large numbers of purebred dog owners, breeders, and exhibitors get out the spit and polish, pack up their old kit bags, and head for the breed's national specialty, a celebration of their dogs, an occasion to conduct club business and enjoy social interaction with other owners and enthusiasts, a chance to attend breed seminars, and an opportunity to raise money for breed health and rescue committees.
National specialties are the best places to see many nice dogs of a breed, chat with owners and breeders, and learn about the pros and cons of this breed and that. Some nationals are held in conjunction with an all-breed show or show cluster. They are actually shows within shows and draw dozens or even hundreds of dogs to the show site.
In typical all-breed shows, dogs and bitches compete as puppies or adults in a progression of classes that lead directly to best of breed. At specialties, there are many different classes: futurities and sweepstakes for puppies and young adults; regular classes for dogs of all ages; veterans classes for the over-seven-years dogs, and stud dog and brood bitch classes to show parents and offspring as a group. The show ends with a best in specialty award and some runner-up awards known as awards of merit for other outstanding individuals.
Many specialties include extra events that demonstrate their dog's ability to carry out traditional functions such as herding, carting, hunting, or coursing. Most include obedience classes and some add agility competitions.
National specialties can be held at hotels: the Drawbridge Inn in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky, played host to several hundred Doberman Pinschers this month; Akitas strutted their stuff at a Crowne Plaza hotel in Warwick, Rhode Island; and St. Bernards will take over the Eisenhower Inn and Conference Center in Gettysburg Pennsylvania for two days in 2005. Specialty shows can be held at fairgrounds or other public facilities: the 2004 Poodle Specialty was held at the Civic Center in Salisbury, Maryland; the American Cocker folks brought their dogs to the National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry, Georgia; and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America will take over the Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center in Biloxi, Mississippi in early November. Some specialties are held at private facilities: Golden Retrievers congregated at Calamigos Ranch near Monterey, California, and several clubs use the Purina Farms near St. Louis.
Some breeds are large enough to have several regional clubs organized under the auspices of the national club. These regional clubs may also host specialties in conjunction with local kennel club shows or by joining a coalition of regional clubs for a specialties day.
Some breed clubs schedule supported entries at all-breed shows. This type of breed event tends to draw a substantial entry (although not generally as large as a specialty) because it offers opportunities to get major wins towards championship titles. (See "Here she is - Miss American Bred" at http://www.canismajor.com/dog/conshow.html)
If you are considering purchase of a purebred puppy, a regional or national specialty is an excellent place to see lots of dogs of the breed, ask questions, attend a seminar about breed health or structure, and see some great dogs. The American Kennel Club website (www.akc.org) has a list of national breed club links. Veterinarians, groomers, and boarding kennel managers are good sources of information for the names of local breeders and owners who can refer you to an area club for regional specialty information. If nationals or regionals are inconvenient, ask about supported entries. Chances are there will be one or another within a few hours of home.
It's the party season! Halloween is just around the corner, soon to be followed by Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, and New Year's Day. While families enjoy the hustle and bustle and the festivities, Fido could well get himself in trouble unless owners plan ahead.
To keep Fido out of mischief that could at least require a carpet clean-up and a trip to the vet or even worse, could prove fatal, some precautions are advisable. Prevention is easier, less expensive, and better for the dog than treatment after the fact.
For more hints for happier, more relaxed holidays with the family pet, see our list of seasonal articles at http://www.canismajor.com/dog/ttravel.html
Does Nutmeg play catch-me-if-you-can when you want her to come in the house? Does Dancer dash out the door the second it opens? Does Marble beg food at the table or browse along the kitchen counters in search of dietary treasures?
If so, don't banish him to the garage, a kennel run, or a crate - sign up for an obedience class. If you hurry, he can be well on the way to good house manners before the party season is in full swing.
A dog that has some manners is easier to teach more manners. A dog that lies down and stays when told can be taught not to beg at the table during family meals. A dog that sits and waits on command can be taught not to rush out the door or jump on people. You need a little time, a lot of patience and persistence, a sense of humor, and a reward system. For more information on teaching good manners for the holidays, see "Surviving the holidays with your dog" at www.canismajor.com/dog/holidays.html, "Obedience training: Off to school" at www.canismajor.com/dog/obedots.html, and "Elementary, my dear doggie!" at www.canismajor.com/dog/obedqa1.html
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