This section is from the book "Kennel Secrets: How To Breed, Exhibit And Manage Dogs", by Ashmont. Also available from Amazon: Kennel Secrets: How to Breed, Exhibit and Manage Dogs.
The truth of the familiar and crude apothegm "It costs no more to keep a good dog than a poor one" has evidently found wide acceptance, for mongrels are rapidly disappearing and their places are being filled by pure breeds. With this salutary change, and a natural consequence of it, the interest in competitive exhibitions has been steadily growing, until now they are held yearly in goodly number; and so great is the pleasure they afford and their value as furnishing abundant material for critical study of the dog in improved state they may confidently be expected to multiply and eventually become as fixed and popular institutions as the "cattle shows " of olden times.
So rendering the signs the writer feels that his work would be far from complete were he to omit a discussion of dog shows and the special treatment required by competitors.
But before fairly dipping into the subject he would disabuse the reader who is possessed of the prevalent belief that dog shows in themselves are inimical to all competitors and of all ages, and that the dangers threatened are beyond prevention.
This notion owes its greatest force to its antiquity, and like the cobwebs that obscure so many healthful truths has stoutly resisted the broom of intelligence and experience. There are many diseases peculiar to the human family that find their most favorable conditions where children congregate, nevertheless schools exist and must continue to do so until the end of time. Churches might without impropriety be called "head centres" of disease, for in them, also, the conditions are quite favorable for its wide dissemination, yet the non-going never rely upon this fact for an excuse.
And so with dog shows. Were a dog suffering from a highly infectious disease admitted to one of them he could scarcely fail to infect some of his competitors. But dogs are not subject to nearly as many diseases of this class as mankind; moreover, at the present time so much is known as to causation, the mediums of conveyance and methods of prevention, it is possible to hedge around these shows safeguards quite as efficient as those which man employs against his own peculiar infectious diseases.
Children in schools and people in church are in some danger - slight though it be in many instances - of diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, whooping-cough, itch, ringworm, and a number of other diseases of like character, whereas scarcely more than two such diseases threaten dogs at shows; and these are distemper and sarcoptic mange. That the former has found many victims at these gatherings is a deplorable fact which no attempt will be made to disguise, but there was a time when small-pox yearly destroyed thousands upon thousands of the human family, yet in these days, in civilized countries, death from it is of extremely rare occurrence; and if the well-known means of prevention is universally employed this once terrible scourge must in time be stamped out of existence.
No other disease has declined with a rapidity approaching this, but all of the same character whose true nature and inner workings have been uncovered have taken a downward course - thanks to the means of prevention that are becoming better and better understood every year. Distemper is no eminent illustration of this, still it is not a notable exception, and evidence is not wanting that at shows, at least, it far less often intrudes than it did even five years ago.
The idea is popular that all must have scarlet fever or measles some time in life, and not a few parents who cleave to it deliberately expose their little ones to victims of these diseases that they may be off the anxious seat at once. A similar notion about distemper exists among dog owners, and this, with its kindred shadow from the musty past, scarcely more opprobrious, should have long since been dispelled.
As a matter of fact no age is exempt from scarlet fever or measles, and the same is true of distemper, but all these diseases have a very decided preference for young subjects, and the danger of "taking" them lessens gradually as maturity approaches, and very rapidly after that period. In other words, a puppy - especially if not strong and hardy - is always an easy victim to distemper, whereas an old dog stoutly resists infection.
Fully alive to this fact some breeders keep their puppies, of all ages, away from shows; and this is an admirable rule, but the need to enforce it is much less than it was a few years ago, for at the present time a fixed requirement at all shows held by clubs comprising the American Kennel Club is, that every competitor shall be examined by a duly qualified veterinary before he is benched. And when this is strictly complied with a dog suffering from distemper is not at all likely to gain admission, whereas once dogs in its early stages were frequent sights at these exhibitions.
Another important action of this club is, that no puppy under six months of age can be accepted for competition. The highly salutary provision is also made by nearly all managements that older puppies may be removed from shows at the expiration of the second day, or the day they are judged. Again, reputable breeders, alive to the dangers of distemper infection, have quarters for the sick, in which they at once place and isolate all victims of distemper, and in this way preclude the possibility of their show dogs being carriers of contagion. More than this, there are now generally employed in shows methods that are to a considerable degree obstructive to infection; and these appear in the painstaking efforts to maintain cleanliness and in the lavish use of chemicals.
All these precautions have greatly lessened the danger of distemper infection at shows; and their influence must be wide-spread, for beyond the dogs that congregate at these places the rate of mortality from this disease plainly appears to be falling every year.