Dogs prepare to strut their stuff at annual show

Tyler Clarke
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The top of their respective breeds, about 175 show dogs will strut their stuff at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre from March 7 to 9.


Preparing his Finnish lapphund for the annual Prince Kennel and Obedience Club’s All-Breed Conformation Show, Tom Tilford said that he makes sure Rowdy is well trimmed and on his best behaviour.

“He likes going to the shows -- he likes showing off,” Tilford said during the club’s last practice before the event, at the Archie Anderson Pavilion on Wednesday. “If you aren’t touching him he’s not happy.”

Rowdy, with his frizzed tail and friendly demeanour, is a unique sight, with the Finnish lapphund one of only two that Tilford believes live in Prince Albert.

Tilford owns both, who together make up 1.3 per cent of the breed’s Canadian population.

“They’re a fairly new breed in Canada, and they originally were bred and developed to herd reindeer in Finland,” Tilford explained. “Because there’s not much herding done in Finland anymore they’ve become a popular house pet.

“They’re active and yet they’re sedentary when you want them to be, and they’re usually really obedient.”

Joining Tilford and Rowdy on Wednesday were a handful of the local club’s membership of about 30 canines who were training for the annual conformation show, where dogs are judged against others in their breed.

“The whole idea behind showing in conformation is to improve the individual breeds  -- to maintain a high standard and to even improve on that,” one of the event’s organizers Karen Fairbairn explained.

“In the breed ring, the original intent was only the animals to be used for breeding were to be show -- it’s not always about that, now … but they must all meet criteria.

Judges compare dogs to their breed standard, taking note of size, temperament and structure.

Dogs start by walking around a ring, during which judges take note of their walk.

“Usually you’ll see in the dog shows, it’s a trot,” Fairbairn explained. “The right trot will show exactly if they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Dogs also must stand, long time club member Connie Richard said, who plans on showing off Jenner, her six-year-old English springer spaniel.

“He loves to dog show,” she said as Jenner obediently sat down, looking up at her for a command.

“Jenner’s versatile, so he does everything. He does show, he does obedience, he does rally -- he’ll do whatever I asked. And he’s spoiled!”

Each dog breed has a purpose. Jenner’s is hunting, while other breeds’ purpose might be herding or pulling -- and their bodies are shaped accordingly.

We just invite people to come out and talk to the people who own dogs and are showing them. Tom Tilford

Sled dog breeds are better formed to pull weight than hunting dogs, Fairbairn explained.

When it comes to small toy dogs, their jobs are a bit more ambiguous.

“The toys are basically bred to be lap dogs -- loyal companions sitting beside you on the couch,” she said.

The public is invited to attend the Prince Kennel and Obedience Club’s All-Breed Conformation Show from March 7 to 9, during which judging will take place from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, Fairbairn said.

The Prince Albert SPCA will accept admission by donation at the front door, with proceeds going to their efforts.

Although the public is invited to attend, Fairbairn cautions parents to keep an eye on their children, and to ask permission before petting a dog.

“Some of the breeds are really poofed up a lot, so they’ve got stuff in their hair, so if they’re going to go in the ring they don’t really want people to do a whole lot of petting.”

“There’s lots of folks coming to down with their dogs, and lots to see,” Tilford said. “We just invite people to come out and talk to the people who own dogs and are showing them.”

Organizations: Prince Kennel and Obedience Club

Geographic location: Prince Albert SPCA, Finland, Canada

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