Janine Starink has a hair dryer in one hand and a brush in the other. She softly hums to the music playing on her portable speaker as she gets ready to carefully brush. But it’s not her hair she’s doing. Today isn’t about her. It’s all about Manny.
Manny is her beloved pet, but he’s also a show dog. He’s getting ready to go in the ring, his fourth show in two days. For Manny, this is all part of a day’s work.
“He’s currently the number one Giant Schnauzer in Canada,” Starink says proudly as she brushes the dog’s right paw while he casually rests his left paw on her arm.
Starink is one of nearly 100 dog owners who participated in the Yukon Kennel Club Dog Show held over the weekend at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre. Dog handlers, owners and breeders from all across Canada and Alaska participated in the three-day event. They’re connected by one common thread — their passion for dogs.
“Once you find that breed you connect with that matches your lifestyle and is just the right match, it’s like finding your soulmate and a partner,” says Leslie Joannisse, President of the Yukon Kennel Club Association. “It’s like your soulmate in dogs.”
The kennel club’s 46th annual event had dogs compete in three events — conformation, obedience trials and rally trials. In conformation shows, judges evaluate the dog to determine whether it conforms to the written breed standard as set out by the Canadian Kennel Club. Winners are named best in breed, an honour for breeders and owners.
“It’s very important, if you’re planning on breeding your dogs, that you adhere to the breed standards and you need that objective opinion from a judge,” says Joannisse, a breeder herself. “It’s just a validation that you’re doing the right thing.”
Joannisse breeds Bernese mountain dogs, a working dog that originated in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. They were originally bred to drive cattle, cart milk and protect dairy farms, says Paul Bagnall. He and his wife Lynne drove from Edmonton with their three Bernese and a Newfoundland.
“We love participating in this show and hanging out with other dog lovers and owners. Everyone here is really nice and helpful,” says Bagnall. Bagnall and his wife handle their own dogs, meaning they show their own dogs in the ring. This isn’t the case for everyone. Some owners hand over their dogs to professional handlers. But it isn’t as easy as just walking the dog around.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it. People think it’s easy but it’s not. It takes years to train a dog and you normally start as a puppy,” says Amy Netzel, owner and handler of Felicity, the only Great Dane to compete in the show. Four-year-old Felicity refuses to be handled by anyone else and has a special attachment with Netzel.
This makes them a great team in the obedience and rally trials, where the trust between handler and dog is paramount. Handlers walk their dog through a course that includes a figure-eight and specific signs with instructions for sitting, staying, heeling and standing. The map for the course is distributed 10 minutes before each show and handlers are allowed one walk-through before the event.
“It’s an ultimate test of trust and connection between the dog and handler,” says Netzel.
This year’s show also included an extra day of the junior handling event, an attempt to encourage more kids to participate and encourage interest in the sport. Joannisse hopes that this will help combat the dwindling participation numbers that the sport has been seeing the last few years.
“We have some really, really, cool kids up here that are keen on dogs and showing their dogs. They’re the future of our sport,” says Joannisse. To keep the momentum going, she hopes to add more kids events and classes later in the year.
For now, the Yukon Kennel Dog Show is going strong, organizers say. The number of obedience entries is going up and there are enough overall entries to ensure the event happens again next year. Planning, Joannisse says, is already underway.
See video of the event online at yukon-news.com/multimedia.
Contact Sharon Nadeem at email@example.com