Updated: Aug 2
Have you ever watched a dog show like Westminster and wondered what's really going on? In an effort at brevity, many may find it tedious but to us it is exhilarating! We will spare you the history lesson for the most part, in so much as dogs have been an integral part of human history for 1000's of years following their domestication. Their intrinsic curiosity made canines an important part of the evolution of civilizations. In the late 19th century, those that kept dogs and prided themselves on their kennels met together for informal competitions evaluating each other's kennel stock. These early dog shows eventually evolved into the competitions we know and value today.
Our Envie competing at Crufts in the UK (2022)
Our fore bearers would not recognize the pageantry accompanying these competitions, but at the end of the day it truly is an assessment of each individual dog against its written Breed Standard. How close is that dog to the "ideal", so in that sense dogs are not competing against each other, although they will be ranked and placed that way, but they compete against the Standard. The first point of assessment: does the exhibit exude "Type" meaning is it representing the recognizable features of that specific Breed? On silhouette it should be readily recognizable. Function is a key part of type, meaning can that specific dog perform the job for which it was originally bred? How will it fair in the field all day or in the icy waters of spring while retrieving game. Does it have the proper swimming gear and water repellent coat? No specimen is perfect, but the one closest to the Standard as recognized by the judge is given "Breed" or wins the competition at the Breed level. Each Breed winner goes on to compete in its associated Group (of which there are 7 Groups in the Canadian Kennel Club). Whippets are apart of Group 2 and more specifically Group 2 is made up of both sight and scenthounds.
Group 1: Sporting Dogs
Group 2: Hounds.
Group 3: Working
Group 4: Terrier
Group 5: Toy
Group 6: Non-Sporting
Group 7: Herding
The winner of each of the 7 Groups go on to compete in Best in Show of which there is 1 winner and one Reserve Winner. We will not expound more on the various placements available to earn points as that is not really what showing is about. If you are interested in getting involved in showing and keen to learn more, we are happy to discuss this with you. We can point you in the direction of handling classes and offer mentorship should you so choose.
In terms of the semantics of showing dogs, there are "class" and "champions" animals. The winner of the "class dogs" (male) and the winner of the "class bitches" (female) go on to compete with "champions of both sex". The judge will assess the dogs in motion for key breed typical features and how it carries itself and make use of its reach and drive, along with a hands on exam (see picture below).
Renonwned Breeder and Judge Phoebe Booth (Shamasan) judging in VA Beach (2022)
This is to assess for Breed Specific Disqualifications, the alignment of the dog's bite and especially important in coated breeds to confirm with their hands what they suspect is present in terms of structure. Going back to the origins of showing and this still holds true today, the purpose of these conformation shows is for Breeders and Fanciers to evaluate and prove their Breeding Stock. Now that is not to say most of the dog's you are seeing being shown will be bred; a significant number of them will simply be titled but the Breeder may feel they lack merit to be a part of their future Program. One of the hardest and most crucial decision of a preservation Breeder is not whom to breed, but which of their dogs will not be bred! One cannot improve their stock if they don't evaluate their own Program with a critical and insightful eye!
For more information about Dog Shows please check out the information made available by the Canadian Kennel Club or reach out to us.
Watch Whippet Breed judging at Westminster from 2022 below.