As I right this I’m pretty focused on getting ready for the 2024 PBGVCA National Specialty. I’m show chair this year, so the preparation is a lot more involved than it usually would be, but this is always one of the most important weeks of my year. I’ve attended every national since 2002 and a few before that. The show has changed a lot over the years and my life has changed drastically from the 20 year old college student who skipped finals to attend the 1996 specialty, but it still feels important to get there each year. 


A specialty is primarily a dog show. Dog shows, at least conformation shows, are a much lower priority for me than they were earlier in my life, but a national is different. There are a lot of reasons, some of which have very little to do with dogs, why I don’t love going to shows. A big one is the fact that almost every time the entire PBGV entry will be me with a class dog or two and one or more professional handlers with top ranked, highly advertised specials. That’s it. Sometimes the special deserves to win, sometimes they don’t, but the vast majority of judges do what’s expected of them, which makes it hard to get excited about going to shows. Specialty shows are different because they are a chance to connect with PBGV friends from all over and to see more than just the same 1-2 dogs that we see at every show. As a breeder, competition at breed level is what interests me. I know group and Best in Show competition matters a lot to many of my friends, I just think too many outside factors are at play at that level to be a true evaluation of a dog’s value in a breeding program. 


We are really lucky that PBGV National also includes a wide variety of performance events every year and that most of these events are limited to PBGVs. Our breed is extremely intelligent and athletic, but there are reasons why the average high level dog sports competitor is more likely to chose a different breed. This can sometimes create feelings of isolation for those of us who have big goals for our PBGVs. I’ve heard the grumblings about why we keep our events breed specific when we would get more entries by opening to other breeds, but then it’s not a specialty, it’s just another trial. Spending the time with others who face the same challenges and cheering each other on is one of the best parts of the specialty for me. Also, in some events it’s the one show each year where the PBGVs get to win- sorry, but whether you agree or not, I think we deserve that. 


One advantage of offering so many events, is that our specialty appeals to a wide variety of PBGV owners. This results in much bigger attendance than if it was only the breed show, allowing the show to remain independent and to feature a lot of education opportunities and other special events. While the competition events might be the reason for coming, I think these other events can be where the real magic of a specialty happens. Whether you use the term low-entry, endangered, rare or (my least favorite) off breed, the sad reality is that there are less PBGVs than there used to be and fewer long term active breeders. I think the reasons for this are complicated and not the result of any one thing, but for our breed to continue to thrive, we need to maintain a sense of community and be willing to welcome and educate anyone with a sincere interest in learning about PBGVs. 


Part of having a sense of community is the chance to share ideas, observations, and concerns. We can all learn from each other, even if our goals are not the same. A specialty should be a safe space to share thoughts and bring up issues.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but it feels like it should be. 


I know specialties vary a lot among breeds. What do you love about your national specialty?