Dog lovers descended on the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre this weekend as Prince Albert Kennel and Obedience Club held its first dog show of 2019.
The club hosts two shows a year, opening and closing the dog show seasons with opportunities for breeders and handlers to show off their dogs.
The Prince Albert shows are opportunities for seasoned owners and dogs to earn more points towards national standings, but also provide a chance for newer participants to learn what it takes to earn dog show success.
One of those newer participants was Kerri Cadman. This show was the first ever for Cadman, who is from Warman but grew up in Prince Albert and for her dog Fergie.
Fergie, an eight-month-old Old English Sheepdog, was lapping up the attention from judges, handlers and spectators during the three-day event.
“She is loving it,” Cadman said. “She is kind of a little diva and loves taking it all in. She loves it on the table, wants to hug the judges and won’t stop smiling in the ring. She’s all about the people.”
Cadman said she had learned a lot from her first experience, such as grooming, what judges are looking for and the differences between showing a puppy and an older dog.
“It’s been awesome,” Cadman said of her first show.
“I’ve brought a wonderful friend along who has experience with sheepdogs, so she has helped me immensely.”
Cadman has always loved old English sheepdogs, and as she searched for one, she learned that many breeders were really into showing their dogs.
“It was made up to be a positive experience. It looked like something I’d like to do.”
Cadman’s first dog show won’t be her last. She’s planning to take Fergie to Saskatoon on May 3 for the Hub City dog show.
Directly across from Cadman was a different sheepdog with significant experience on the dog show circuit.
Mary Kay is a Shetland Sheepdog (sheltie) owned by Prince Albert resident and dog show veteran Liana Maloney.
Maloney has been showing dogs for 32 years. In the past five years, she has had three dogs in the Canadian top ten rankings. While she was grooming Mary Kay, the handler she works with was showing a miniature long-haired dachshund, the top dog of its breed in the country.
A short time later it was Mary Kay’s trip to the show ring, as the dog sought the last point it needed to be crowned a grand champion.
“To get a championship, you need to get ten points under three different judges,” Maloney explained.
“Whatever dog they decide is the best gets winner’s points. Get ten different points under three different judges, which is not as easy as it sounds and you get you Canadian championship.”
Once a dog gets a championship, it competes for higher levels with other champions, to earn grand championship points and breed points for top dogs in Canada.
“We’ve got a lot of top dogs here that are ahead for points,” she said.
Those points are based on the breed’s standard, what Maloney describes as a “literal blueprint” of what the dog is supposed to look like. It takes into consideration the lengths of boning, angulation for everything from shoulders to hip bones, length of the spine, the shape of the eyes, set of the ears and colour of the coat.
“We try to get out of those hundred points as close to that hundred as we can as breeders,” Maloney said.
Judges then look at each dog and judges it against that standard for their breed. The winners get the points.
The judges also observe as the dogs are walked around the show ring.
“The dog’s movement tells the judge their conformation, how well they’re put together,” Maloney said.
“By how well they move and where their foot placement is, that tells you how well put together the dog is. Movement is quite important.
“It’s quite exciting. We start the year building up our points, and then our professional handlers are out almost every weekend adding up points for their dogs. As the end of the year, you get your top dog and top breed standings.”
Competition for Maloney and Mary Kay was steep over the weekend. There are a lot of Sheltie breeders in the province, Maloney said, and others often come from BC and Alberta.
In fact, the show as a whole proves popular entrants.
“Our entries filled in 48 hours, which is really, really quick,” Maloney, who is a member of the host Prince Albert Kennel and Obedience Club said.
“We have exhibitors from across Canada here and we have some of the top champion dogs.”
The judges came from other provinces too including Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia.
For the participants, it’s not about money. It’s about a love for the dogs.
“It’s a passion and a hobby of love for most of us here,” Maloney said.
“People think you make a lot of money selling these dogs, but the breeding and genetic testing and the cost of showing and presentation are pretty expensive. Passion and preserving the breed is what we do this for.”