Getting to nose you: voices from the Meet the Breeds booths

December 13, 2009 at 5:32 am Leave a comment

TreeingWalkerYou will only find me at one or two dog shows a year. One is usually Westminster, which is mainly an opportunity to see my friends in person rather than in cyberspace. The other is the AKC-Eukanuba National Championship, not just because it’s in Long Beach, which is practically my backyard, but also because it’s the most fun and interesting dog show thanks to the agility and obedience competitions and, best of all, the Meet the Breed booths. We’re always telling people that they should go to dog shows and talk to breeders to learn about the breeds they’re interested in before Redbonesgetting one, but this is the only show that really facilitates that. At a typical dog show, breeders are busy trying to get their dogs ready for the ring and then they leave unless their dog is advancing to Group competition. So unless you grab them at just the right time, it’s hard to have a substantive conversation about the dogs while they’re right there to interact with.

Not here. Parent clubs go all out to create interesting booths that will draw people in and staff them with friendly, knowledgeable people and dogs who in their own ways can answer all the questions you may have about a particular breed. Rare, popular, new to the AKC or old-timers, they’re all there: the Saluki people in Middle-Eastern robes and headdresses; the Bloodhound people wearing convict stripes and being sung to by an Elvis impersonator; and the Flat Coats wearing Peter Pan collars (more about that later).

SmoothPyrShepI talked to the Treeing Walker and Redbone Coonhound (I just love those redheaded dogs) people, here for the first time, and finally got to have a real hands-on RoughPyrShep2meeting with a Pyrenean Shepherd. I’m not sure I’m ready for a herding dog, but that’s the one I’d like. The breed comes in two varieties: rough-faced and smooth-faced. Here are pictures of both. The smooth is the one that catches my fancy.

Then I took my recorder and went around interviewing people about their breeds. Here’s the first one, from the Japanese Chin booth.

My name is Sheila Fleming Balter and I’m vice president of JC Care, which stands for Japanese Chin Care and Rescue Efforts. We’re sharing the Meet the Breed booth with the Japanese Chin Club of America to raise awareness about rescue. We are a rather rare breed in this country, but believe it or not we’ve already adopted out 104 Japanese Chin in the calendar year of 2009, and we have 64 in the program at this time. So our numbers in rescue are increasing as the breed becomes more and more popular.

What are some of the ways that the booth helps to educate people?

Meet the Breed has been critical in educating the public. It gives people a good chance to sort of ‘try on the dog.’ They get to pet them and interact with them and find out if the breed is really correct for them. It’s a great way for people not to make some common mistakes. They think they know about a breed and then they come in and meet it and they find it’s either wrong in temperament for them or it has needs they can’t fulfill. The Japanese Chin Club has invited rescue to participate in the booth with them and I hope other breeds will follow suit. We have someone coming in tomorrow to turn in a Japanese Chin and they were able to find out about us because of our participation in Meet the Breed.

So what should people know about Chin before they get one?

They need to know that Chin come in many sizes, from the littlest, tiniest Chin that weigh under four pounds to some that weigh 16 pounds. They are not JChinsuited for every family. They’re a little fragile; I wouldn’t recommend them being with small children. They shed. They have grooming needs. They need to be aware that there are some medical conditions associated with Chin such as collapsing trachea and heart problems that are common in other breeds, such as mitral valve disease. They need to go on the Japanese Chin Club website and on the rescue website and learn about them and what their responsibilities would be as good Chin owners. So many times I think people see dogs as being disposable and I think  if people were more educated before adopting or purchasing a dog, they would be more likely to keep that animal.

What are breeders and the club doing to help solve health problems?

Our breeders are actively testing our dogs for eye problems, heart problems and patellas. I see breeders taking the time to educate people and acting in a responsible way by taking back their dogs that people can no longer own. So I think as a club we are going in the right direction.

I understand that Chin can fly.

I have been told that. I do know that we have a Chin that can scale a four-foot x-pen, so they do climb, they’re very acrobatic, very feline as a matter of fact. We often describe them as cats disguised in dog suits.

So they’re not necessarily just a little lap dog that you’re going to sit around and admire?

No, they’re not. We have two that are performance dogs. They perform in agility, they do rally, they’re all-purpose dogs.

Coming up: Rottweilers, English Setters, Flat Coats, Scottish Deerhounds (you knew those two would be in there, right?) and more. And many thanks to my long-suffering and devoted husband, who took care of the dogs, then came over to the show and took photos for me.…


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