Dog Shows in Finland
Finland is a purebred dog-friendly country with huge, well-organized shows held under the rules of the FCI.
Paula Heikkinen-Lehkonen |
Posted: January 16, 2015 2 p.m. PST
READ MORE ABOUT FINLAND'S DOG BREEDS>>
Being 125 years old, the Finnish Kennel Club is one of the oldest kennel clubs in the world. We have a long tradition in breeding and keeping purebred dogs. While the interest toward shows and pedigree dogs seems to be fading in many countries, that’s not the case here. The vast majority of the dog population, more than 75 percent, have pedigrees, and most owners want an activity to do with their dogs. The Finnish Kennel Club has about 150,000 members, which is a lot in a country of only 5.4 million inhabitants.
One of the peculiar features in the Finnish dog world is the amount of breeds. The FKC has registered 322 different breeds in the past five years, which probably is more than any other country. The most popular breeds are, like everywhere else, the Labrador Retriever and the German Shepherd, but for some reason Finns are also very interested in rare breeds. The Finnish Hound was for many years by far the most popular breed, but recently the numbers of this hunting breed have gone somewhat down, and it has given up the leading position. There are a lot of forests and wildlife in Finland, so hunting and hunting dogs still play a very important role in the dog scene. Elk hunting is a national sport, so the various elkhound breeds are popular.
Because of the cold climate, there are no stray dogs here. Dogs are kept as members of the family, and there are very few big breeders. Most of the breeders, even the most famous ones, have just a couple of bitches at home and one or two litters per year. Most breeders and owners understand the importance of the health of the dogs, and we certainly do more health checks than other countries. We believe in openness, and all the results of these checks are published in the FKC database and breed club magazines.
Because most exhibitors are more or less ordinary dog owners for whom showing dogs is a hobby, they usually have only two or three dogs to show. The Best Veteran in Show contest is always very important and impressive, with many big stars of the past taking part. Also the Breeders’ Groups final in the big shows is fantastic, when dozens of teams of four from various breeders are parade into the main ring. Many overseas visitors have noticed that there are a lot of young people showing dogs. We don’t have professional handlers, although many of these youngsters may have professional skills.
We do have a lot of shows, but compared with many more densely populated countries, our shows are big, and the entry figures don’t seem to be shrinking, although the registration numbers have gone down somewhat. The main shows of the Finnish Kennel Club are the Finnish Winner Show and the Helsinki Winner show, which are held in the Helsinki Fair Centre in November or December, are bigger than you may expect in a country with a small population. These shows regularly draw an entry of 7,000 to 8,000 dogs. Nowadays we never have all-breed shows with less than 1,000 dogs. If there are less than 2,000 dogs, it is considered a small show. There are about 20 international all-breed shows yearly, plus the same amount of national ones. (International shows are well attended because CACIBs are offered for the best dog and bitch of each breed, and the certificates earned at these shows go toward a dog’s FCI international champion title). The local clubs can organize shows for one or two Groups of their choice, and these are very popular and usually draw a remarkable entry.
In the winter, there aren’t many indoor venues that are large enough to accommodate so many dogs. We are luckier in the summer season, when the shows are held outdoors, whatever the weather may be. The Spitz breed specialties are held outdoors even in the winter. These dogs are used for outdoor life, usually not trained to have good indoor manners, and the enthusiasts don’t like the indoor venues with slippery floors. So when attending one of these shows, you must be well equipped to stay outdoors in the snow even when the temperature is -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit). Only then can you really understand the importance of the good coats of these arctic breeds!
"At shows in Finland, every dog gets a written critique, and sometimes, especially in the domestic breeds, the judge will also give an oral critique, explaining his decisions to the audience."
Finns are famous for their organizational skills. Even the biggest international shows are well organized, things go smoothly and punctually, and everybody knows what to do. There are thousands of volunteers working to make it run. Our competent ring stewards are often praised by the overseas judges. In fact, those ring stewards travel nearly as much as the judges, and you can meet the same personnel in the ring in various parts of the country. And because we Finns are so used to the fact that nobody understands our language, we learn all possible other languages, so the staff is able to help and give information to foreign exhibitors and visitors.
At shows in Finland, every dog gets a written critique, and sometimes, especially in the domestic breeds, the judge will also give an oral critique, explaining his decisions to the audience. This also means that one judge cannot do more than 85 dogs a day, so we need quite a lot of judges and ring stewards for our shows, which is why the entry fees are higher than in the US. On the other hand, exhibitors get more for their money. But this is actually the reason for owners to come to the shows: to get a judge’s expert opinion of their dogs. There are many exhibitors who know perfectly well that their dogs are not big stars, but they collect critiques from various judges. They really read them, and this is how they learn. In all the FCI countries, we use grading, and each dog is graded as Excellent, Very Good, Good or Sufficient.
Nowadays technical and electronic devices are used in Finnish dog shows, and at the World Show, all the ring stewards used iPads to put all the results directly on the Internet. The database of the Finnish Kennel Club is for sure the best in the world. There you can find all the pedigrees and results of all kinds of events. You can even plan your future litters by making a pedigree and count the degree of inbreeding. It is open to everybody, and you easily can spend hours there studying your breed.
READ MORE ABOUT FINLAND'S DOG BREEDS>>
From the January 2015 issue of Dogs in Review magazine.
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