The 127th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is over for another year.
A total of 2,605 dogs competed with the goal of winning their breed, their group and then, Best of Show.
Animals from 159 breeds and varieties were represented. Westminster is the second longest running sporting event in the country. The Kentucky Derby is the oldest. Whether one owns or has any desire to own a purebred dog, it is interesting to watch this event and it is amazing how much you can learn about dogs in general and specific breeds in particular.
At Westminster and other dog shows around the country and world, each dog is judged according to his own breed standard. The breeders of these dogs have worked to constantly improve their breed. They strive to develop the perfect dog. They want a dog that in structure, disposition and soundness is the best of the breed.
Throughout the past centuries, breeders have developed these various breeds to fulfill a specific purpose. Dog breeds fall into seven groups: working, sporting, terriers, non-sporting, toy, herding and hounds.
It may appear that the dogs you see at Westminster are just meant to look pretty and be pampered. However, the majority of them still are very good at what they were bred to do.
David Frei, a longtime commentator for the Westminster Dog Show, does an excellent job of explaining the attributes of the various breeds. He lets us know that these are real dogs that sleep on the bed and cuddle up on the sofa next to their people sharing the popcorn. These fancy show dogs also serve as therapy dogs, visiting hospitals and nursing homes. Many have titles in agility, obedience and field work.
Most importantly, Frei discusses the distinct traits that are bred into these breeds and how important it is that people looking for a dog take these characteristics into consideration. Too many dogs are chosen because they are cute puppies. But puppies do grow up. And even the most mixed-breed dogs maintain the characteristics of the breeding behind them. This will determine much about the kind of dog they will become. Many of these breeds are totally devoted to and very protective of their family. Many are strong in body and in spirit. With proper training, they become wonderful family dogs. Without proper training, they too often end up at the humane society. These are the dogs that are adopted and returned and adopted and returned. New owners do not know and do not take the time to find out what it will take to transform this adoptee into a terrific and loyal family pet.
Unless you plan to show or compete in some sanctioned dog event, many people feel there is no need to have a purebred dog. That certainly is fortunate for all the mixed-breed pups and adult dogs hoping for homes at the humane society, advertised in the newspaper and too often being given away in front of Wal-Mart and grocery stores. Some feel that mixed-breed dogs are healthier. Some think that purebred dogs are high strung and fragile.
When planning to get a dog, Frei advises, "Consider the needs of the dog as well as your own."
For more information about breed characteristics and their impact on your pet, breed books are available at the library. The Internet is full of information or you can log on to westminsterkennelclubdogshow.org.
In fairness to the dog and to yourself, study the breeds and make a commitment to training.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 1521, Strawberry, AZ 85544.