Another reminder that Elliott and I will be in Mississauga this weekend, at the International Center near the airport, where we’ll be attending that Caledon Kennel Club show. This is a good chance for you to drop by and chat about Frenchies. If you’d like to do so, email me and I’ll give you our entry times.
Dexter will be showing at Lansing, Michigan this weekend with Barb. Again – a good chance to drop by and talk dogs, if you’re in the area.
If you’ve never been to a dog show before, I highly recommend attending one. For some people, this will be their first chance to see some of the more rare breeds in the flesh – and often times it’s the first time you’ll see dogs that really look the way the standard spells out. There’s a great difference between a show ring Frenchie, and that Russian import you’ve seen careening around the park.
You might surprised at how much difference there is between dogs, even within the breed ring. You’ll see super short French Bulldogs, medium length Frenchies and Frenchies that could compete in the Dachshund ring. You’ll see tiny little triangular ears, and great big flapping sail sized ears. You’ll see long noses, medium noses and noses that are punched back into the face (hint: the first and second ones are better). All of this variety can give you a better ‘eye’ for what type of Frenchie you are hoping to find for yourself.
Approaching breeders at shows can be a much trickier matter. First off, you need to remember that while you’re there to socialize, breeders and their dogs are there to compete, an issue taken with deadly seriousness by some people. Approaching breeders as they stand ringside or are running around prepping for their class isn’t recommended. They’re too busy, too nervous, and just generally not in a state of mind to answer questions from people they don’t know. You also need to bear in mind that the person taking the dog into the ring isn’t necessarily – or even probably – the breeder. Many breeders use professional handlers, especially breeders like myself, who tend to trip over their own dogs.
A good piece of advice from breeder Sergio Blois, of Avlis and Bloa French Bulldogs in Argentia, is to grab a copy of the time table when you first arrive at the show. It will list ring times for each of the breeds. Look it up, and you can arrange to be ringside to watch the showing. Give the breeders an hour or so after their ring time is over, and then go find them – they’ll probably be in the grooming area. People tend to be much more relaxed once they’re done in the ring – either that, or they’re outside, kicking the building and cursing the judge’s bad taste. Hint: don’t approach breeders while they’re kicking buildings.
Another good piece of advice: At summertime shows, cruising the RV parking area is a good chance to talk to breeders while they’re relaxing. Bear in mind that most breeders aren’t adverse to a beer or two, so visiting at night when they’re a bit too relaxed isn’t necessarily a great idea (although it can be entertaining).
Once you locate the breeders, check to see if that’s who they actually are – they might be the breeder’s ‘agent’, or handler. In that case, while they can provide some basic information and contact information for the breeder, don’t expect them to know everything. Ask the handler for a business card for the breeder (most will have some on hand), and contact them directly.
Even experienced, polite dog people who follow every recommended protocol about approaching breeders still sometimes run into jerks. The dog breeding world is sadly littered with people who suffer from ‘big fish, small pond’ syndrome – the attitude that anyone attempting to speak to them should only do so while bowing and scraping. Simply put, there’s only one way to deal with this sort of nonsense, and that’s to walk away and take your purchasing dollars elsewhere. Chances are good that this sort of ringside Princess wouldn’t have been interested in selling a dog to you anyways, unless you were looking for an overpriced show potential puppy with a ten mile long contract (signed in blood, usually). Don’t take it personally – jerks like this are rude to everyone.
There are lots of other, much nicer fish in the sea who’ll view you as a chance to natter on for hours about how wonderful all of their dogs are. In fact, the biggest issue with this other kind of breeder is being able to politely get away from them before they pull out twenty years worth of photo albums of every puppy they’ve ever bred, co bred, or admired from a distance. Not speaking from personal experience, of course.
If you’re intimidated by approaching breeders at the show, you can always simply view this as a form of catalog shopping. Literally, that means picking up a copy of the show catalog, and taking it with you to ringside. The show catalog has a list of every dog entered each day. Next to each dog is their ‘number’ – the number used to identify them in the ring. The handler will be wearing this on their sleeve, as an armband. Stand ringside, and mark down the numbers of the dogs that appeal to you. Look those numbers up in the catalog, and you’ll see who the owners and breeders of the dogs are. You can then contact the breeders, either through looking them up in the back of the catalog, or by googling their kennel name.
A final tip – dog shows aren’t petting zoos. Please, be sure to ask permission before touching or petting anyone’s dogs. For coated breeds, this is doubly important, as nothing is more gauranteed to give a handler the vapors than someone mussing up the top knot they just two hours primping.
If you bring young children, make sure that they’re not at a level to grab at dogs without your being aware. Not every show dog is even tempered, unfortunately, and little sticky fingers can easily get bitten (not to mention the stress of finding kid sized ketchup covered finger prints all over your white dog just as you’re walking into the ring).
You can find a list of dog shows in your area if you’re in the USA via InfoDog – http://www.infodog.com/showinfo/showCal.htm
In Canada, you can look up shows on Dog Biz – http://www.dogbiz.com/dog-shows-can/shows-menu-can.htm . Choose your region, then choose the month, and you’ll get a list of upcoming shows. Another, slightly more convoluted option is the Canadian Kennel Club’s calendar of events – http://www.ckc.ca/en/Default.aspx?tabid=87