The dogs have their day

February 20, 1993|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,Staff Writer

Some dogs were destined to be in the limelight. Others are born to be house pets. For those canines that like to show off, the Maryland Kennel Club will hold its 81st annual All-Breed Dog Show tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Howard and Preston streets.

More than 1,800 dogs from 130 breeds will strut their stuff and compete for best in show.

The Maryland Kennel Club was established in 1890 by a group of businessmen wanting to promote dog obedience and responsible pet ownership. Today, the group is one of the oldest kennel clubs in the country.

Owners and breeders have been training for months, getting ready for the big day. But with all that grooming, training and practicing to stand still for long periods of time, do the dogs ever have any fun?

"People always think, 'Oh, those poor dogs,' but the dogs really enjoy it. They have to enjoy it, or they wouldn't participate," says Billye Ward of Roland Park. She and her husband, Tom, breed terriers and frequently put their dogs in shows. She says the dogs don't seem to mind the constant brushing, combing, trimming and primping that take place right before the competition. "The dogs really take to it . . . they treat it like they are getting ready for a big day. It's part of the fun for them," she said.

But not all dogs cooperate. Helen Baker, vice president of the club, said she remembers one dog that just didn't want to be there. "He was one of the most gorgeous dogs. I took him in the ring, and his feet were like cement. He wouldn't move. When the judge looked at him, the dog wouldn't raise his head. . . . You took him out of the ring, and he was happy again," she said.

"Some dogs just don't like it, and others will prance around and say 'Look at me! Give me the blue ribbon,' " she said.

It's that blue ribbon that gets people hooked on dog shows. Over the years, Mrs. Baker said, she has bred more than 100 champion dogs. Many dog owners and breeders will hire professional handlers to show the dog in competition, but Mrs. Baker said that she would rather handle the dogs herself.

Ms. Ward agrees. "I tell people if they're willing to put time into learning how to handle the dog themselves, there is a great sense of satisfaction, especially for breeders. What you're trying to do is breed the perfect dog, which is impossible. There's no perfect dog, just like there's no perfect human," she said.

And, just like humans, dogs have good days and bad. The dogs are judged on how they look that day, not what they might look like next week. So if it's a bad hair day for the pooch, he's going to have a tough time winning over the judges.

The judges will also look at the dog's body and muscle structure and see how the dog looks when running, which is called gaiting the dog. "If a dog gaits well, then that means it is put together right," said Mrs. Baker. She also says it takes months of training to get the dog to gait properly and stand at attention when being judged. And if that fails, Mrs. Ward says, a little bit of boiled liver waved in front of the nose or a squeaky toy in the pocket will work like a charm.

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