To the average person who knows very little about the sport of dog shows it looks like a group of well-dressed women and men running around a ring while a judge picks what they think is the best looking dog out of the bunch.
I’ve been showing dogs for just over a year now, and I’ll admit that before I came to this sport I was of the same mentality. The first time I went in the ring on my own dog I was quite confused as per why my dog didn’t place against dogs that he was far more handsome than. After all, my dog had just won against the same dogs just the day before while my breeder was handling him. Surely he has not drastically changed in that time and should win again today.
Being brand new to the sport what I didn’t see was the more moderate nature of my dogs rear (hind quarters), his less pronounced chest, and pacing in the ring (lazy running style). Against more seasoned handlers and slightly better put together dogs I was indeed leading a lamb to its slaughter. I was also unaware of the individual nature of judging. While overall judging of a dog is in according to that dog’s particular breed standard, each judge has their own set of criteria and preferences they are looking for.
I quickly learnt that there is way more to dog shows than just picking the most beautiful dog. Judging rather is based on a list of structural and anatomical qualifications a dog must meet. And while yes, the dog that wins is most often a very beautiful/handsome looking dog, there are so many layers underneath that beauty that determine whether or not a dog is a winner.
But why do we even care that a dog wins? If it’s not about beauty what is a dog show all about. Well ladies and gentlemen, dog shows are all about making sure you get the best pet you can possibly get. Yes, thats right. Dog shows affect you.
If you've added a purebred dog into your family, you've been affected by a dog show. Remember that list of structural and anatomical qualifications a dog gets judged on? Those aren't just random qualifications picked out of a hat. Each one of them plays a vital purpose in the health of your dog. Weak rears have a higher chance of ACL tears. Improper hip development can lead to hip dysplasia. More developed chests allow for greater stamina and endurance for working dogs. Even a dogs teeth are judged, as under/overbites are hereditary and can lead to debilitating teeth issues and smaller issues with eating and drinking.
All of these things that dogs are getting judged on in the ring ensure that when a breeder decides which dogs to use to create those beautiful little squishy munchkins you get to bring home to your family they are choosing from only the most anatomically sound dogs. We've all heard stories of friends having to replace their golden's hips at 2 years old or their 4 year old German Shepherd having massive issues with hip dysplasia. Dog shows help eliminate these issues by making sure that dogs that have these issues or have the trademarks to possibly develop these issues don't win, and so aren't being bred by responsible, registered, ckc breeders. This is the whole basis for awarding dogs their Championship, and holding dog shows in the first place; to evaluate breeding stock.
So while this all may seem a little confusing and the world sometimes likes to poke fun at dog shows and call them beauty pageants, the next time you see one maybe try and take a closer look at what really is going on.