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Dog-eat-dog world of competition
by Terry Dempsey
Mar 15, 2011 | 3978 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Grand champion shiba inu Copper stands outside his home in Sparks. Inside the fence are Cooper’s companions, Callie (left) and Abby (right), who also are show dogs. Below, Cooper’s owner, Glenna Elrod, takes him for a walk.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Grand champion shiba inu Copper stands outside his home in Sparks. Inside the fence are Cooper’s companions, Callie (left) and Abby (right), who also are show dogs. Below, Cooper’s owner, Glenna Elrod, takes him for a walk.
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Tribune/Nathan Orme - Glenna Elrod walks her grand champion shiba inu Copper outside her home in Sparks. Inside her fence are Copper's companions, Callie and Abby, who also are show dogs.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Glenna Elrod walks her grand champion shiba inu Copper outside her home in Sparks. Inside her fence are Copper's companions, Callie and Abby, who also are show dogs.
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RENO — The best dogs in the world strutted their stuff last month at the renowned Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York. But closer to home there is a lively community of competitive dog owners vying for barking rights.

On Saturday, dog owners from around the area gathered at the Grand Sierra Resort for a match in which local kennel club members could cut their teeth.

“Basically it’s a practice show, to get some ring experience for the dogs with less experience so they can get to the level where they are comfortable competing,” said Glenna Elrod, president of the Reno Kennel Club and a resident of Sparks.

The show drew 69 entries and more than 200 people attended, said Vickie Swarowski, DVM, a board member with the Reno Kennel Club and associate doctor at Dayton Valley Veterinary Hospital.

Just like their Westminster counterparts, the local dogs competed in such groups as sporting dogs, hunting dogs, working dogs and toy dogs.

Owning a competition dog involves a big investment in time and money. Elrod said she and her husband have spent $10,000 and have traveled all over the West Coast to make their best dog, a shiba inu named Copper, a champion.

“We actually started getting active in 2009,” Elrod said. “We were rescuing dogs and I had a pedigree when I was a child, so this seemed like a fun thing to do.”

Area kennel club members travel throughout the region to compete in multiple dog shows. Elrod said each registered dog wins a certain number of points at American Kennel Club-sanctioned events depending on the event’s size and level of competition.

Copper had to win 15 points to earn a champion title, and then 25 more to earn a grand championship title, Elrod said. Dogs can earn as many as five points in a show depending on the competition, Elrod said, but that many is difficult to come by all at once.

In the dog show world, good breeding trumps all.

“If it’s not a good dog, if it doesn’t have good structure, movement or temperament, then it isn’t getting bred, it’s as simple as that,” said Swarowski, who breeds pugs and owns a show briard, a French sheep dog. “I only choose (to breed) the best of my dogs.”

Dogs are judged according to different standards set by national clubs for each breed, according to the American Kennel Club website.

The breed clubs recommend standards to the American Kennel Club, which then adopts them for its sanctioned events, Swarowski said.

“You don’t judge a dog against another dog, you judge it against the standard,” Elrod said. “The one that matches best wins.”

Dogs are judged by the movement they display in the ring, the structure of their body and by how well their coat meets the standard, Swarowski added.

If one is looking to break in to competition, Swarowski said the person needs to be willing to research the right breed for them, invest in a well-bred dog and have the patience to train them.

“Joining a kennel club is a good idea,” Elrod advised. “There is a lot of wisdom and experience built up in the membership. … In the end you just have to remember that it’s just a dog show and just have fun. Some people expect to win right away and get discouraged quickly.”

Kennel clubs in the area include the Reno Kennel Club and the Bonanza Kennel Club in Carson City. Elrod said there also are several area clubs for specific breeds.

The Reno Kennel Club has been in operation for about 75 years and has about 50 members, Elrod estimates.

“The club has its highs and lows in membership and activity, right now we’re on an upswing,” Elrod said.

Reno also attracts many national kennel club conventions. The Boston Terrier Club of America will be holding its convention at the Grand Sierra Resort from April 11 to 15. The Reno Kennel Club will host its annual show, which attracted 1,100 competitors last year, in August. Elrod said she spends about $800 to attend an out-of-town dog show, so visitors to Reno’s show contribute their tourism dollars to the area, she said.

“We’re lucky the Grand Sierra is dog-friendly,” Swarowski said. “A lot of the hotels in town are not.”

For more information, call Elrod at 378-2265.
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