Friday, March 4, 2011

Which will be top dog?

Old dogs really can learn new tricks.

The Faith City Kennel Club, the old dog in this scenario (it's celebrating the 50th anniversary of its all-breed shows), is always touting something new.

After all, the American Kennel Club adds new breeds to its ranks every year.

"There are more than 150 in the American Kennel Club," said Margot Klingler, 2011 show chairwoman with Sandy Mueller. She added, "I'd say 100 would be represented (at this year's show)."

This weekend is prime time for dog-lovers. Activities get going today at the J.S. Bridwell Agricultural Center with the Texoma Bulldog Club Specialty. The bulldogs-only show is a sweepstakes event for dogs 6 to 18 months old.

"And this is definitely bulldog country," said Klingler, who has been involved with the Faith City Kennel Club for 20 years and owns mini schnauzers herself.

Then the all-breed dog show gets going Saturday and Sunday at the J.S. Bridwell Ag Center, and canine connoisseurs should keep their eye out for some of those new AKC breeds.

"I looked at the entries, and there are some Cane Corsos," said Klingler.

The Cane Corso is an Italian mastiff — a muscular, athletic-looking dog whose distinguishing features include its head, with a hanging lip descending past the bottom of the jawline.

Another new breed that should be making its way to the show this weekend is the Swedish vallhund, known more popularly as the "Viking dog" or the "little cattle dog of the Vikings," since it distinguished itself during the Viking age. The dog was bred as a guard dog and to herd cattle.

Klingler said the kennel club is expecting around 1,023 all-breed entries this year (that's dog entries, not people) who will be shown by their handlers — sometimes their owners, though oftentimes trained professionals.

Judges award points to competitors according to standards mandated for each dog breed.

Dogs are judged based on their breeds and then the top dog in each breed competes in groups, like the hound group, terriers, toys and sporting dogs, to name a few. The top entrant in each group will then compete for the big daddy honor, best in show.

Of course, as the show approaches, so does the big buzz surrounding some of the entrants.

"One of our girls here in Wichita Falls owns the bichon that came in second in the Westminster Dog Show," Klingler said (bichons are small, white powder puff-looking dogs).

One special thing that will go on this weekend is that Sue and Richard Hooper will return to Wichita Falls, where their van — and their show dogs — were stolen during a stop in town in 2010. The Humble, Texas, couple were on their way to a national specialty dog show in Arizona when someone stole the van and their seven dogs, two beagles and five Swedish vallhunds.

"They're driving all the way up here to say 'thank you,'" said Klingler.

The dogs were found on the east edge of Wichita Falls.

Besides all the dog show action, dog-lovers can expect several vendors at the event, about 15 of them. They'll be selling jewelry, collars, T-shirts and dog grooming.

The Faith City Kennel Club was founded in 1958, though it presented its first all-breed dog show in 1961 at the MB Corral with 300 dogs participating. The show moved to several other places, including the Farmers Market building, 4-H complex and even Kickapoo Bowling Lanes before settling in at the Wichita Falls Activity Center for 16 years. Now the show calls the J.S. Bridwell Agricultural Center home.

If you plan to attend the show, do not bring pets, which can be a distraction to competing dogs. Also, don't bring strollers. Klingler said strollers will bring small children right in line with dogs' faces, which the club wants to avoid.

Also, she said to try to attend the show Saturday or before about 1 p.m. Sunday. Afterward, the show starts winding down, and the Kennel Club definitely wants the public to see as many breeds as they can before the entrants' owners, who come to compete in the show from all over the country, start to make their way back home.

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