The Value of Attending a National Specialty

June 2012 Editor's Page

By Allan Reznik | June 1, 2012

Having just returned from two national specialties in two weeks, in two different parts of the country, I feel incredibly energized by the experience. If you haven’t attended your national in a few years, I encourage you to do so, with or without dogs. It allows you to put your finger on the pulse of your breed and identify the issues, the strengths and the weaknesses that are affecting it now.

One of the breeds whose national specialty I attended has very low entries in my area, and quality is poor in the few dogs that are shown. It’s easy to assume the same situation exists everywhere else. What an eye opener, then, to travel to a show with a large entry of lovely, typey dogs and be reassured that, nationally speaking, the breed is in good shape.

A breeder-judge not approved for at least an entire Group isn’t likely to get many assignments through the year at all-breed shows. National specialties give us the opportunity to watch knowledgeable breeder-judges and authorities in the Group sort through large classes — an invaluable experience. With sweepstakes and perhaps a regional specialty to round out the week, we get to see multiple breeder-judges assess the current crop of puppies, class animals and specials.

Dog shows began as the place to evaluate our breeding stock and it is at specialties that we can see what our peers are accomplishing in their breeding programs. Puppies and adolescents are not always looking photogenic so it’s great to see them in the flesh. Most grow more confident each day they are shown so it’s a wonderful learning experience for them as well.

Veterans hold a special place in our hearts. National specialties allow us to pay homage to the great dogs of the past and see them once more. It is an education for new exhibitors and a moment of pride for longtime breeders to have the veterans take center stage. Most love the applause and are excited to be back in the ring.

Judges’ education and ringside mentoring allow for a healthy exchange of ideas while viewing some of the top dogs in the country. Presentations have become more sophisticated in recent years but the hands-on component is still a must. At a national, dogs from around the country and representing a variety of acceptable looks within a breed are available to maximize the value of the seminar.

Our lives have never been more hectic and our free time has never been in such short supply. Showing in our own areas isn’t conducive to forging long-distance friendships. You may know hundreds of people on Facebook but how many have you had dinner with? A week in a different part of the country gives us the chance to enjoy meals and social events with people who share our passion but about whom we might know very little outside of dogs. Few places offer the opportunities for bonding that national specialties do.

If you never miss your national specialty, more power to you. If you’re feeling a little jaded about the sport, attending a national specialty — for your own breed, or one that you judge or have great interest in — could be just the pick-me-up you need. 


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