When he was roughly 11 years old and on a leisurely drive with his dad and the family dog—a Siberian Husky named Chinney—Michael Brown attended a dog show and became inspired. Today, the 42-year-old director of Neighbors Inc., a nonprofit social service organization, resides in historic Lambertville, New Jersey, and competes in up to 70 dog shows per year. He’s bred and shown Chow Chows, English Pointers, and Italian Greyhounds.
Dog shows take considerable preparation. “The first thing I do is get the dog a complete veterinary physical,” Brown explains. Next, Brown finds a handling class at a respected kennel club to familiarize the dog with being in a show environment. There are also weekly coat conditionings and teeth cleanings, as well as practicing postures and walking patterns required for the show.
At the yearly National Specialty, competitors win points toward championship ranking with prizes ranging from $25 to $125—a meager sum compared to the pretty penny enthusiasts invest. A healthy Italian Greyhound pup can cost between $1,300 and $4,000, and show entry fees range from $22 to $50.
“No one does this for the money,” adds Eugene Blake, who retired from showing dogs in the late ’80s after 33 years to become a show judge in 1990. He judges internationally in more than 60 shows per year.
“No award money is given at prestigious shows like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York or Crufts in Birmingham, England,” says Brown. Crufts attracts 20,000 dogs to its three- to four-day extravaganza. “Purists feel that dog-showing should remain an amateur status sport.”
- Investigate genealogy. Lineage is a priority for pedigree breeders. Before acquiring his latest show dog, a 6-month-old Italian Greyhound named Marchwind Miro’ de Ca’nquet, Brown “went back 10 generations, looking at photographs of Miro’s ancestors, reading what owners had to say.”
- Use a variety of sources. Brown recommends that budding handlers join the Owner Handlers Association of America (www.canineworld.com/oha), as well as a club for their specific breed. Dog World newspaper, specialty books, and breed-specific Websites and kennels were instrumental in Brown’s research. He also visited major kennels—including some in England. The American Kennel Club (www.akc.org) offers helpful information.