Man’s best friend will strut its stuff for ribbons and recognition Saturday and Sunday when the annual Fulton County Kennel Club Dog Show is held at the Fulton County Fairgrounds.
This year, 771 dogs have been entered for the Saturday proceedings, 774 for those on Sunday, the largest number of entries to date for the show. They will include 140 breeds from across the United States that will vie for points toward an American Kennel Club championship designation and bragging rights in their classifications.
The show has free admission; parking is $5 for one day and $8 for two days.
Judges from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania will rate in seven categories: sporting, hound, working, terrier, non-sporting, toy, and herding. Competitions at the fairgrounds will take place in Spangler Arena, the 4-H Sales building, and the Merchants building.
Each dog – all are entered as a specific breed and class – that wins its breed returns later in the day to compete in its group. At breed level they’re judged on structure, type, and movement, at which time the judge determines which dog fits the standard of the breed.
Mornings are best to watch the dogs in action, said Bill Sahloff, president of the Fulton County Kennel Club. Each dog per breed is examined for two to three minutes by the judges, who qualify for their position only after attending seminars and being tested on each dog breed. A number of rules and regulations they abide by include having bred champions of their own.
The dog show will include a demonstration by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 dogs. Their handlers will sell T-shirts funded by the county Kennel Club. The non-profit club uses proceeds from the show to purchase $1,000 bullet-proof vests for the sheriff’s dogs.
The show also will include a demonstration by Josie’s Agility Angels, a Toledo group of autistic children who guide trained dogs through an agility course. “Through this program, they learn self-confidence, they learn to communicate by being with the owners’ dogs going through these trials,” Sahloff said.
The 25-member Kennel Club, which formed in 2000, also supports the Angels, as well as the county’s Junior Fair. “We try to give back to our community as much as we can,” Sahloff said.
The number of competing dogs has almost doubled at the event since it was licensed for the fairgrounds in 2006. It’s an expensive hobby that can require owners to spend anywhere from thousands of dollars to $100,000 annually. The entry fee to show a dog is about $28 on each occasion. Attaining the 15 points necessary for a dog to reach championship status can alone cost as much as $1,000.
Dog shows are held across the nation every weekend of the year except at Christmas and the new year.
“The sport of purebred dogs is a multi multi million dollar industry,” said Sahloff, who acted as a dog handler at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show in New York City for many years. He added that each year Americans spend about $1 billion on their pets.
Sarah Armstrong, the county show’s assistant chair, has shown Gordon setters, a Scotland breed, since 2000. Her dogs have won hundreds of ribbons, and of her three youngest setters one is a champion and the others are working on championship status.
Armstrong, who works in sales, spends approximately $5,000 to show the dogs 12 to 20 times a year, and considers it much more than a hobby.
“It’s a love for the breed,” she said. “It’s just a passion you have. It is my job to make sure I maintain the integrity of the breed for hunting and to maintain the look of the dog as outlined by the standards.”
And while the dogs’ maintenance requires lots of time, “it’s worth it, because I love the dogs,” Armstrong added. “I love being with the dogs, spending time with them. It’s amazing the partnership you can share with your dog when you’re out in the ring, the bond you can form.”
Sahloff said showing dogs can become an integral part of some owners’ lives.
“Obviously, everyone loves to talk about their dog,” he said. “And it’s a great place to learn about various breeds. But we all started with the love of our sport, our dog.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.