I’m writing this post in the RV at the United States Australian Shepherd Association National Specialty at Purina Farms. Yup- the wifi in the RV area is so good that I can write a blog post, stream Netflix, pretty much do what ever I want. Did I mention this is the best show site ever? But I digress.
This is the first time we have attended Aussie nationals in many years, but the PBGV national is on our schedule pretty much every year. What is it that is so important about a national? To me, first off a national specialty is a celebration of the breed and all of its qualities. A parent club’s role in any breed is important- to protect and promote all of a breed’s qualities- type, structure, health, temperament, and working ability. The national specialty is a chance to celebrate and support all of those qualities with health clinics; educational seminars; companion events like obedience, rally, and agility; and breed- specific performance events like hunt tests or herding trials.
Unfortunately, those events can be overlooked by some clubs, who feel that the national specialty needs only to be a dog show to promote the breed to people already in the dog show world. Companion and performance events can be viewed as frivolous, especially in breeds that aren’t traditionally competitive in those sports. However, being able to try out a sport like agility or rally in the supportive environment of exhibitors who really get why certain things are harder (or easier) for your dog can go a long way to attracting new people to these sports and to our breeds in general. I found it fascinating that there were more PBGVs competing in triathlon at this years’s specialty than there were Aussies in the Most Versatile Aussie competition, despite the fact that Aussies are a much more popular breed in general. I don’t think this could have happened without the support of the PBGVCA for offering specialty events like agility and hunt tests even when it wasn’t convenient. Really, if you build it, they will come………
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned conformation at all in this article. Honestly, I think attracting anyone new to the dog show world is a hard sell. As the “sport” of conformation has been overtaken by advertising, professional handlers, and ranking systems it’s really much more of a game for the ultra-wealthy than a legitimate means of selecting breeding stock. Like it or not, companion and performance events are the future for purebred dogs and it makes sense for clubs to encourage participation by people interested in their breed, rather than closing doors to those who don’t want to play along with the theater that the breed ring has become.