This section is from the book "British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition", by Hugh Dalziel. Also available from Amazon: British Dogs.
The one great object which should take precedence of all others, and the one which is universally professed, is the improvement of the various breeds.
There are many other objects which naturally associate themselves with the principal one and act as auxiliaries to its attainment, and are in themselves not merely innocent, but laudable.
That dog shows are an excellent means of arriving at the end sought for is, I think, beyond dispute, for they are the only convenient, and for most people the only possible, means of comparing the excellence of their own with the excellence of others; and discovering, it may be, faults they were blind to, and good points previously unthought of, and giving a stimulus to the correction of the one, and the cultivation of the other.
When dog shows fail in their highest object, it is on account of that object being lost sight of, or made subservient to other and meaner ones, even the grossest blunder a judge can commit can do no more than prove a temporary check; and frequently, through the publicity given to them by the free criticism of the press, such blunders prove a blessing, being made prominent as danger signals.
So long, however, as men are merely human, it is not to be expected that in carrying out such extensive schemes as dog shows, their objects can be altogether unmixed.
Men, like their dogs, are intensely emulative animals, and dog shows provide a field where that attribute can be exercised in a most interesting manner. Merit, too, has its rewards to look forward to. Prizes and future profit stimulate the exertions of many; some few seek only the glory and honour of being foremost in the race; and for all, the shows provide a medium of pleasant re-union for those of congenial tastes, who would not otherwise meet.
Another object influencing the promoters of shows, and a perfectly legitimate and laudable one, is to benefit the town in which it is to be held. Our great towns compete with each other for the visits of the Royal Agricultural Society and kindred associations, and the getting up of a dog show is often undertaken in the same spirit of loyalty to the interests of a locality, and this need in no way interfere with the higher object generally professed.
Of course there is not the slightest objection to any person or persons getting up a dog show as a mere spectacle and speculation, if he or they pretend to nothing else; but I do not think this is ever done. Therefore, it behoves exhibitors to consider the probabilities of the professed objects being the true ones, and the way in which such shows are put before the public, got up, and conducted, will pretty surely indicate the real object. Those exhibitors who support purely speculative shows, to find they cannot get paid their prize money, are in a similar position to a man who, attending a race course, invests his money with anybody who chooses to hold up an umbrella. Both are pretty sure to get "welched," and instead of receiving sympathy, will be laughed at.
My contention is, that without being behind the scenes, an acute observer and accurate reasoner, from what is open to every one, can easily come to a fairly correct conclusion how far the professed objects of those who take upon themselves the direction of dog shows is true, and whether the means adopted to attain those objects do not confute the profession by rendering such attainment impossible.
I do not expect to find in any case self interest wholly absent. In bodies of men, small or large, we generally find a mixture of the sordid with the pure, the mean with the lofty; nor is absolute perfection to be looked for anywhere.
The cleanest corn that e're was dicht, May hae some piles o' c'aff in.
But it should be the care of all to secure the higher object from being obscured by the unworthy, or even the less worthy.
On the organisation of some shows the following half serious, half humorous, sketch contributed to the Country is not without a broad foundation of truth, and may fairly find a place here.
"First of all we have the organisers - whoever they may be - who first moot the idea that ' it would be a good thing to get up a dog show in Kennelborough.' The first thing needed is
A sort of managing committee,
A board of grave responsible directors,
A secretary good at pen and ink,
And a treasurer, of course, to keep the chink and Mr. Boniface, of the Stirrup Cup - shrewd man - knowing how very dry arguments are apt to be, and how thirst-provoking to their users, gives a room wherein the arrangements and all the coming glories of the show shall be evolved from the inner consciousness of the 'managing committee.' And here, at the very start - human passions - the noble and the mean, the generous and the selfish, come into play, and for the most part the higher natures bear down the meaner and make the scheme respectable; and it is only by cunning devices, undreamt-of by the single minded, that the selfish carry their ends.
"This, I am convinced, is largely true, for in human nature, imperfect though it be, the good predominates, and it is only those people with unwashed eyes who see nothing but the faults of others.
" Exhibitors and others - newspaper reporters not excepted - are apt to enlarge on the shortcomings and failings, and forget the good that has been done, in thinking too much of the good that might have been, but is omitted. Before the show becomes an accomplished fact there has been on the part of many considerable sacrifice of time and money, and much anxiety, to be continued till all is over and the cash book balanced. In the number of active members, no doubt, there is too often the self-seeker, the man who by hook or by crook always manages to get at least one class in the schedule to suit himself; and when a committee is cursed with a few such, farewell to the fair character of the show, for these fellows will so play the game of "Tickle me, Toby, and I'll tickle thee," that, what with classes and conditions to suit certain dogs and a pliant judge, their nominee, the ring parade is worse than a farce. It is an acted lie of the meanest description."
I do not intend to go into mere details of management, but rather to point out as briefly as possible some too common acts of mismanagement that must of necessity defeat the object of shows if that object be the improvement of dogs.
1. The appointment of inexperienced and incompetent judges. Judges should have a wide experience of dogs, except those who limit their decisions to one or a few varieties. Unfortunately there is a craze with many to occupy the position for sake of the kudos it is supposed to give, and social influence is used to attain it, to the great hindrance of dog improvement.
2. The election of judges by a section only of exhibitors.
Members of committee who elect the judges ought not to exhibit for prizes. If they can afford the sacrifice of time and money which they are supposed to do for the furtherance of a great object, it is not asking much from them to go a step further and show their animals not for competition. In the case of a great body like the Kennel Club, who so emphatically declare the sole object of their existence to be the improvement of dogs, dog shows, and dog trials, this unquestionably should be so.
3. Dog shows should not be a mere market for the sale of puppies.
I am of opinion classes for litters, and also for single puppies, at least for those under nine months, should be abolished. The result, especially in shows of long duration, is the spread of distemper and other contagious diseases, and canine mortality is immensely raised after every show - buyers of pups soon lose them; this injures shows, and hinders the development of their chief object in a double sense.
4. Catalogues should in every case prove the means of identifying the exhibits.
In this respect those issued by the Kennel Club are models to others; but scores are published with, in many cases, only the number of the pen and the exhibitor's name, and this often leads to the substituting of one dog for another, and the crediting a stud dog with prizes he has never won.
The Kennel Club catalogues would be improved by the colour and markings being given in classes where this is necessary.
5. Shows should not extend over four days, three would be better, and, if puppies are included, not more than one day.
6. In shows where the dogs are confined more than two days more ample provision for their regular exercise should be provided.
7. The Kennel Club, or some other authority which should be of national character, should adopt a standard of excellence in each breed.
8. The judges appointed by such authority referred to in Clause 7 should be bound to judge by such standard. -
9. The dogs should be judged by points.
By this means only can the judge's reasons for his decisions be seen and understood, but as I shall go fully into this point further on, I pass it for the present.