An Honest Dog Show

The inane justification for dog shows is to choose the best breeding stock based upon conformation and movement. But it’s really a competition between groomers and schmoozers. That’s why the ranks of exhibitors are dominated by professional dog hair stylists and lawyers. These are two classes of people who are very good at repackaging shit to make it look good or pressuring other people to say that the shit doesn’t stink, even if it does.

If you think about it for a second, the actual objective characteristics of the dogs have NOTHING to do with how well their hair is groomed nor how well their humans have sucked ass. And, both of those traits are more likely to help poor specimens win over better dogs. An objectively better built dog should not need to be groomed to highlight good traits and hide poor ones, nor should it need its human to grease the wheels by getting in good with the judges or the breed club or by out maneuvering the competition outside of the ring.

And if the goal is to pick the best breeding stock, how come very little of the competitions have anything to do with rewarding good breeding practices?

An objectively good dog wouldn’t and shouldn’t need to compete any more than once. It could be evaluated, scored, and sent on its way. Objective traits are unlikely to change.

In the world of college admissions, the standardized tests scores are supposed to evaluate ability in a form that is comparable across the board with all other students, and the idea is to develop tests that are unlikely to change with multiple repetitions. Although judging intelligence or the accumulation of knowledge is much more difficult than judging physical conformation, the SAT and ACT seem to do a much better job at a much harder task than fancy shows do at evaluating dogs fairly.

Dog showing is closer to GPA as a metric, as it’s about endurance and ass kissing and pleasing a judge over and over again, shopping for the right situations and avoiding problem judges or kids who ruin the curve. GPA is much easier to manipulate and game, and thus it’s not a good means of comparing students at different schools from different states.

Part of what makes a good college student is the ability to multitask and game the system, so colleges still use that metric. But gaming the system plays no positive roll in a dog’s ability to pass along good genes. Yet the crappy system remains.

If this really was an objective sport, you would see cameras, calculators and tape measures being used to assess the dog’s conformation and the judges would be engineers and orthopedic specialists. Movement would be assessed by motion capture computers just like golf swings and running patterns are analyzed for human and equine athletes.

And instead of continued head to head and breed to breed competition, your dog would get a score–much like a PennHIP test–which would compare its conformation to an ideal standard and rank your dog against all others in its own breed. This doesn’t preclude such nonsense events like Group placements and Best In Show, in fact it would clearly determine a winner. The Beagle that has a margin of error of 2% from the ideal Beagle Standard beats the Poodle who has a margin of error of 5%.

This system would even allow you to measure breed wide success in improving conformation. You could tell exactly how much better today’s dogs are than those of 10 years ago. There is no such metric today except the observation that many breeds today are horrible shadows of their former glory (or normalcy). I still don’t know why the entire German Shepherd community hasn’t given up and admitted that they have butchered their dogs and that they should no longer be allowed within 100 yards of an animal.

There are some Germans who still deny the holocaust, and there are many German Shepherd breeders and enthusiasts who deny that there is anything wrong with their dogs or that “good breeders” had anything to do with it.

Under my system, you wouldn’t even need to have shows. It could all be done online and instantaneously. You could have your dog assessed once and have a permanent evaluation of where he stood in the entire realm of dogdom. Such information could be shared all over the world and there’d be no need for all the hair spray, chalk, ugly shoes, dremmels, industrial wind tunnel vacuums, and ass kissing.

In these few hundred words, I’ve laid out the perfect solution for the entire realm of conformation dog shows; assuming, of course, that we want to do what they tell us they want to do: specifically: judge conformation against an ideal standard.

Any ideal standard can be put down into numbers: measurements, ratios, and symmetry. We don’t need to leave things open to interpretation, we can set them down in exact proportions.

But that’s not what really happens, so that’s why the system has never changed. What really happens is that uppity, self involved people want to use dogs as a means to aggrandize themselves and they want to feign objectivity while being utterly subjective and obsessed with transient fads. They don’t want to fit their stock to an ideal, they want to get one judge to say that their dog is mystically better than another dog which should earn them ribbons and points and fame and championships!

The fancy would never adopt an objective standard, because objective standards can’t be pressured or cajoled or bribed. There would absolutely be one dog in the breed that would come the closest to the ideal. And they’d have to set down that ideal in firm language and hard numbers. It couldn’t be left up to vague interpretations which could be argued over and
cover multiple dogs.

You’d never need to do research on which judge prefers which style of dog, or which breeder you need to get in good with to succeed. You’d never have to attend parties or travel out of state or pay some dandy to trot your dogs around rings. You’d be able to give your puppy buyers real information that would tell them exactly how ideal your breeding stock is. There would be no more trying to figure out the difference between a Champion who won all his shows running away in one weekend and one who finally earned the points through brute force and shopping for sympathetic judges and shows with sand bag dogs entered only to get the numbers up to earn Major points.

And your dog would never need to be tarted up with expensive dye jobs, perms, eight different styles of scissors, chalk, mascara, or even lead. No more torture devices which would restrain your dog while you exact your lengthy and uncomfortable grooming procedures on their blank canvas of fur.

The fancy hair do would do nothing for the objective standards, as the grooming of the hair has nothing to do with conformation. It wouldn’t matter if your dog had blown its coat (the number one reason dogs are pulled from competitions) or if you were too fat to waddle beside your dog and needed to hire a professional handler. No amount of handling would make a poor dog score higher on an objective test.

Since my ideal, honest, dog show will never come to be, I’ve peppered this post with images from a dog show competition that is based upon grooming and artistry alone, just like conformation dog shows, but in this competition, the artists and the judges are honest and admit that it’s simply how good the dog looks after the groomer has worked their magic.

And just like regular conformation shows, the Poodles are the canvas of choice simply because they offer the hair stylist more to work with.

I personally think that the “Leonardoodle” is the best dog, but the judges gave it to the rideable Harley Davidson Poodle. It seems that even in such frivolous, but honest, shows, you can’t beat the pure blooded Poodle for top honors in fru-fru gaudy “art.”

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.