by   David Hancock

Shows where dogs are judged solely on their appearance became a social feature in the 19th century, but way before that, as Hound Shows or part of an agricultural show, they were very much a feature of British country life. The first indoor shows were held in pubs and clubs then in big city venues, as widely separated as Islington and Birmingham. Now a top dog show is very much 'show-biz' and their staging and choice of venue illustrates this. This development no doubt suits the humans involved but it's definitely not better for the dogs. The happiest dogs that I see at shows are not exhibited in some prestigious metro or trade centre like the NEC in Birmingham or even in some isolated village hall but in the open air, like the annual Bath Dog Show at a show ground north of Bath, moved here from the Pavilion exhibition rooms in the centre of that city -  where I went to my first dog show, with the show vet I worked for as a kennel boy. Since then I have attended countless dog shows ranging from village and breed club shows to Game Fairs and Crufts itself; abroad I have visited seven different venues for World Dog Shows.

The so-called World Dog Shows, but mainly for the developed world, are becoming annual fixtures in the show calendar for many British exhibitors, especially since quarantine regulations became more reasonable. I describe them as 'so-called' because it seems to me to be an inaccurate title; most countries of the world are not represented and the entry is not that of the world's best dogs. It could in time become the annual international show for the wealthiest exhibitors; they are held as far away as Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. However overcritical it may seem, it is only honest to say that I have never seen so many handsome but unsound dogs in one place as at the 2003 World Dog Show held at Dortmund. We all like a handsome dog but dogs are at our whim and deserve greater respect than this. Anatomical unsoundness affects their well-being and, amidst all the frenzied acclaim of new international champions, we need to ponder the inflictions which ensue when humans are striving to achieve success; it must never be at the expense of the dogs. Sadly, this was not an exception!

  At the World Dog Show at Brussels in 1995, there were dogs there from most European countries, over two and a half thousand from Belgium and from Germany and nearly as many from Holland and from France. As there were also participants from Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rica, Canada, South Africa and the United States, the British absence through our near-hysterical subjection to the great rabies myth, was even sadder. We may be importing and exporting good dogs but we are not truly players in the greater game of widening gene pools, breeding out stubborn faults through well-planned international programmes or getting to grips with the wholehearted pursuit of excellence.

An English visitor to the show must have been impressed by the representatives of those breeds irrationally outlawed from our country by the ill-conceived Dangerous Dogs Act. I was struck by the anatomical soundness and faultless temperament of the Dogos Argentino - and there were plenty of them, over 80. The Filas Brasileiro too looked impressive, again apparently with stable friendly temperaments. I saw just one Perro de Presa Mallorquin, wearing a spiked collar, but sound asleep most of the time - not exactly eating the bars of its cage or slavering with rage! I do wish however that the French version of this title were not Chien de Combat; the breed title in Spanish means 'holding' or 'gripping' dog, rather like our Bullmastiff, and has little to do with fighting. Regrettably, some owners of big powerful seem to need to extol their fearsome appearance even at a big city dog show, perhaps to compensate for their own shortcomings in manliness!  

It was enlightening to see breeds from the Eastern European countries, ranging from the rather proud Russian Black or Tchiorny Terrier, the formidable mid-Asian Owtcharka, the charming Sarplanninac, the highly individual Pumi from Hungary, a variety of Laika breeds, the Chart Polski (which I wrongly identified as the Chortaj or West Russian coursing hound) to the Karelian Bear Dog (which I had thought was so much bigger). Other countries provided the very attractive Iceland Farm Dog, the impressive Greenland Dog, the magnificent Great Swiss Mountain Dog, the rather nondescript Kromfohrlander, the distinctive Spanish Mastiff, the imposing Pyrenean Mastiff and the modest Pyrenean Sheepdog in two types of facial hair.

I was intrigued to see the Eurasier (a cross between the Chow and the Keeshond), a really handsome breed, the somewhat self-conscious Mexican Hairless Dog, the Landseer Newfoundlands as bred on the continent (not so heavy-coated or lumbering), the Portuguese Podengos (in varying sizes), the Jamthund (which I often confuse with the Elkhound), the Hanover Scenthound (a type of dog not usually brindle) and the stunning Bolognese, a bichon now available here. I was not impressed to be told that a rather moth-eaten Thai Ridgeback Dog was a "World Champion". One of the best dogs I saw was a little Cirneco dell'Etna from Sicily and one of the worst, a Bloodhound being displayed by the host country; it had the worst feet I have ever seen on a hound. 

My thoughts on breeds well known or created here included these: the Pugs were seriously overweight; the Boxers had more substance than ours; the Great Danes were heavier boned; the Bullmastiffs had better movement and longer muzzles; the Mastiffs were simply appalling; the Akitas were a bit shelly; the Labradors appreciably overweight and the Wire-haired Fox Terriers weren't wire-haired at all! To my great regret, it was not easy to find any breed in a hard-muscled, well-exercised, fit and in (now perhaps old-fashioned) show condition. My own dogs have their faults but they are supremely fit. Exercising them gives me as much pleasure as it gives them. World Dog shows should fly the flag for the very best in show condition.

What disturbed me about British breeds exhibited at this show was the departure from true type in far too many specimens. This was especially noticeable in the gundog and terrier breeds. Untypical heads, wrong length of back, incorrect set-on of tail, inappropriate coats (i.e. not what our breed standard demands) and poor feet were particularly visible. Why don't judges look at feet any more? Have feet suddenly become unimportant? If so, what has justified such a foolish change? Just as sad is to witness whole classes being completed without the judge once looking inside a dog's mouth. For any breed of dog, whatever its function, sound feet and mouths are crucially important. In sporting and working breeds, the dogs are virtually worthless without them.

It was fascinating to look at the manufactured breeds and spot the signs of their ancestor breeds, e.g. the Great Dane characteristics in the Dogo Argentino, the Bloodhound features in the Filas Brasileiro and the heavy Bulldog look in the German Bullmastiffs. The winning Bullmastiff was an impressive animal but very, very different from the early Bullmastiffs that provided the foundation stock in the United Kingdom. The latter were much more hound-like and lacked the Bulldog head. One of my Bullmastiffs is built like a Hunter, the other like a Suffolk Punch. The former is the better country estate patrol dog, the latter tires too easily. If the Bullmastiff is supposed to be a gamekeeper's night-dog, it is clear to me which type functions better.

This show, frankly, wasn't organised as well as our top shows but it was somehow more interesting. It was illuminating to come from an allegedly deregulated Britain and enter the home of the dreaded EC bureaucracy, Brussels. There, paradoxically, it wasn't an offence to import a Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro or Tosa and free passage of dogs across adjacent national borders was assured. It was a Euro-sceptic's worst nightmare - more freedom under Brussels!

The term 'world class' is so often the ultimate superlative but sadly there wasn't much world class about the 1996 World Dog Show, staged simultaneously in two countries. It was comforting to attend however, not because it was comfortable at either show venue, but because it made me realise how much better organised our own dog shows are. An international show should be bigger and better than Crufts; neither of these were. The first half, in Vienna, could have been described as a show for Austrian pet dogs. The second, in Budapest, could have been described as a show for distressed dogs. It was very hot at both locations, exposing both the facilities and the lack of common sense of many exhibitors. The exhibitor who continued to show his Bulldog in later classes after it had collapsed in the ring, leading to the show vet carrying his wretched dog off for resuscitation, should be banned for life. His dog could so easily have lost his. (Two Schnauzers did die in a camper-van in the car park.) It was deeply distressing to witness and did not arouse the public anger which it deserved. Far too many exhibitors at dog shows are exhibitors first and dog-lovers a poor second. Such stupid callousness undermines all the work of honourable caring owners and discredits the whole dog show scene.

In Vienna, there were many exotic breeds, little known in Britain but mostly of doubtful quality. The most impressive breed by far was the American Staffordshire Terrier or Amstaff, banned here by type if not proscribed by breed. With no sign of aggression, they were the fittest, soundest dogs on show, with quite admirable movement. The simply dreadful specimens of our Mastiff breed in the rings made me wince; why do some Mastiff breeders hate dogs? In any breed, in any country, to produce, as a deliberate act, an animal which cannot walk with comfort, move with ease, see through healthy eyes and enjoy a natural life span, is a betrayal of our alleged superior intelligence. The German Mastiffs, our Great Dane, were of high quality and seemed to have more substance than ours. The best behaved dogs were the Japanese Tosas, the Filas Brasileiro and Dogos Argentino, all banned here. The worst behaved were the terrier breeds originating here.

The overall standard of stewarding was quite poor. Members of the public wandered into the show rings during judging. Dogs changed handlers during a class. Double-handling marred the classes featuring breeds which originated in Germany, usually upsetting the other exhibits rather than making the subject dog alert and attentive. The technique of the judges varied enormously. Some ignored feet and mouths; others overlooked poor movement; most spent more time recording their critiques than concentrating on the job in hand. Few breeds attracted large class entries; both the Pyrenean Mastiff and the Spanish Mastiff won in Vienna mainly because they were the sole entries in each of their breed classes.

It was good to see once again the unusual (i.e. to us) breeds I had come across whilst working on the Continent: the smaller Munsterlander, the Stabyhoun, the Lagotto, the Langhaar, the Braque Saint-Germain, the Korthals Griffon, the Entlebucher and the Dutch Beardie, the Schapendoes. But I am strongly against very young puppies being taken to shows. There were several Schapendoes puppies in a cage at the equivalent of our 'Discover Dogs' section. There was a six or seven week old Bullmastiff puppy at the Vienna show, understandably ill at ease in the heat and bustle. There were at least a dozen exhibitors selling very young puppies from the backs of their cars in Budapest, clearly having driven a long way with them. Such a practice must be stamped out by show authorities in every country or dog shows will forfeit their standing. It was depressing to see so many indifferent specimens of our native breeds at these two shows: Irish Setters with no power in their hindquarters, overweight Labradors with Rottweiler heads, Cocker Spaniels with upright shoulders, Golden Retrievers with untypical heads, West Highland Whites with strange round heads, Staffordshire Bull Terriers with extremely short dainty little legs and English Springers resembling Welsh Springers in a liver and white jacket. Twice I had to ask a Bullmastiff exhibitor if his dog was a Mastiff or a Bullmastiff. The Germans, allegedly, desire their Bullmastiffs to be not just big but "the bigger the better"; the breed standard however does not.

If you want to see breeds of dog little known in this country, then this show has some appeal. Impressive breeds like the Tosa, the Fila Brasileiro, the Dogo Argentino and the American Staffordshire Terrier are not welcome here, because of our wholly misguided Dangerous Dogs Act. But they draw my admiration at each world show I attend because of their equable temperaments. They are always amongst the best behaved breeds on show, with the Amstaff usually appearing to be amongst the best for physical soundness. Emergent breeds like the Eurasier, the Kromfohrlander and the Czech and Saarloos Wolfdogs, and breeds being restored, like the Aidi, the Broholmer, the Rafeiro do Alentejo and the Smoushond are always of interest.

The World Schnauzer Show, sorry, the World Dog Show was a pleasure to visit in Helsinki in June, 1998. I jest about the title because I had never seen so many Schnauzers at one venue or indeed so many well-bred Schnauzers previously. (What did surprise me about this admirable show however was the subsequent reporting of it in Britain in a number of different publications. Reading these made me wonder if those correspondents and I had actually attended the same show!) Finland is a friendly but under-populated country, inhabited thankfully by charming courteous people. After suffering the overcrowded aisles of Crufts, it made a pleasant change to enjoy the ease of walking freely and moving without a struggle from one hall to another. This show would however never have coped with the attendance level of Crufts. The Helsinki attendance made it an enjoyable visitor experience but also made one realise the problems facing the Crufts organisers in coping with sheer volume.

There were disturbingly a large number of exhibits in far too many breeds that were not of show quality and an even larger number of exhibits not in show condition. A huge black Neapolitan Mastiff was so far down on its pasterns as to interest the RSPCA; it won a prize! Frankly, in so many breeds, the award of the title World Champion was farcical; unworthy dogs were placed in high positions by unwise judges, demeaning the whole stature of the exhibiting sport. It was strange to see breeds customarily displaying shortened tails possessing a full tail. For me, there are many more important aspects of canine welfare than tail shortening. Docking undoubtedly affects breed type; tail-carriage in some breeds is a key element in the manifestation of type itself.

It was worrying to see some British breeds in foreign hands so lacking in typiness, but this was true at the World Shows in Brussels, Vienna and Budapest too. I am not talking about exports but British breeds foreign-bred. I was saddened to see the Gaiting and Striding Dogs (GSDs) looking so bent-backed, shelly and poorly timbered. I was disgusted to witness the double-handling being conducted unchecked in the German breeds' rings: the use of whistles, mouth-organs, flutes and childrens' rattles, accompanied by unsavoury yelling and blatant name-calling from outside the ring; this behaviour itself belongs in a different ring - a circus ring. The FCI and foreign KCs must stop this degrading spectacle without delay. Once again at a World Show, the most impressive breed for me was the American Staffordshire Terrier, despite the obvious quality of so many of the Schnauzers. I was not impressed by Bulldogs being proudly exhibited with deformed jaws, strangely whippety Border Terriers, seal-like Labradors, Airedales with woefully narrow fronts, Owtcharkas so savage they had to be permanently muzzled and the ever-increasing practice of handlers throttling their charges on a choke chain. I do wish judges would have the wisdom and the 'bottle' to tell exhibitors that they simply cannot judge front movement unless the dog's front legs are actually touching the ground when they are moved. How too can a dog become a World Champion when the judge fails to assess its bite, its feet or its movement from side-on? Does jaw construction or soundness of feet no longer matter in animals designed to function? If some breeds are going to be judged solely on their coats and others solely on their heads, we will soon have breeds which cannot walk or even eat effectively. Is that really what we want?

There are two other worrying aspects: one, the grooming fetish (surely Alaskan and Siberian sled-dogs don't need a hair stylist such as Vidal Sassoon to get them into the ring) and the 'cheering the judge's placing' phenomenon. I have come to associate a polite round of applause with spectator admiration of the judge's decision and an outburst of cheering with the celebration by a clique of the success of 'one of theirs', irrespective of merit.

To learn that a country of only 5 million people has a Kennel Club membership of 105,000 was heart-warming. It highlights the ludicrous situation in Britain where in a population of around 56 million the Kennel Club has a mere 750 members. The Finns unlike us have a national breed too, the likeable Finnish Spitz, now well known here, although it is only ranked fourth most popular in its native land. I was impressed by the Finnish Hound, their most popular breed, but it could so easily have been a scenthound breed from another Baltic country. I gathered that at a Finnish show, a critique has to be written for every dog, only after this come the competition classes.

It is a condition of registration for the progeny of many breeds in Finland that their parents undergo hip X-rays and/or eye tests. The Finnish Kennel Club provides training for its active members and breeders. Its magazine reaches a third of a million readers; rather more I suspect than our own Kennel Gazette. The Finns have much to teach us about such matters and I fear we are being left behind in many crucially important areas of activity. We all want to be proud of our national institutions, of which the Kennel Club is rightfully one, but we seem to be being outpaced and even shown up by so many overseas kennel clubs.

With an entry of well over 15,000 and over a thousand from both Sweden and Russia, the most numerous breeds at the Helsinki show were Miniature Schnauzers: 306, Great Danes: 281, Rottweilers: 259, Dobermanns: 255, Dalmatians: 192 and Giant Schnauzers (black): 178. But for me the greatest value was in seeing little known breeds like the Kopo Hound of Hungary, the Posavski Gonic from the Balkans, the Brazilian Terrier, the Cao Fila de Sao Miguel from the Azores, the Austrian short-haired Pinscher, the Istrian Hounds, the very similar 'beardies' of Portugal, Spain and the Pyrenees, the Saarloos Wolfhond, the Cane Corso (easily confused with a Neapolitan Mastiff), the distinctive Hungarian Pumi, the Beauceron, with its strange double dew-claws, the Lapphunds  and the Lapponian Herder.

Oporto in June is worth a visit in any year but 2001 saw the World Dog Show staged there, an added incentive for any dog enthusiast. It was pleasing to see the host nation taking the opportunity to promote its native breeds. Discover Dogs in Britain never does, specifically, and unlike Denmark, Japan, Korea and Portugal, we have no organisation to promote our own breeds. The Portuguese breeds span a water-dog, a number of flock guardians, a rabbit-dog in three sizes, a couple of cattle dogs, a sheep herder and a partridge dog. Each had a promotional stand with an example of the breed in attendance. I had hoped to obtain information on the Cao de Gado Transmontano, but it awaits recognition by the Clube Portugues de Canicultura, the Portuguese Kennel Club. I had not seen an Estrela Mountain Dog featuring the shorter coat before this show and was intrigued once again by their cattle dog, the Castro Laboreiro. I first saw this breed some twenty years ago in a Portuguese mountain village. It closely resembled a brindle Labrador with the obligatory otter tail! Looking like that, with 'laboreiro' in its title, and then linked to the Portuguese presence in the Newfoundland/Labrador area in past centuries, it should surely one day encourage some original research by a Labrador Retriever enthusiast. The Azores Cattle Dog, the Fila de Sao Miguel was impressive, resembling the Italian Cane Corso, also a cattle dog but listed with 'the molossers'.

This leads me to my first 'worry'. When are the canine authorities of the world going to get their act together on the classification and grouping of breeds of dog? We place the Great Dane, the king of the 'par force' hounds in the Working Group. The international body, the FCI, puts it correctly in the 'Molossians' category. But they also put all the broad-mouthed mastiff breeds in this category, despite the Molossi having only a huge hound and a big flock guardian. The words 'shepherd dog', 'mastiff', 'terrier' and 'cattle dog' are used by kennel clubs  almost recklessly, without any system. This must confuse not just newcomers but also those enlightened breeders striving to relate to a breed's function.

The FCI places the terriers in a group of their own, but includes Toy breeds too. They place the terriers of mainland Europe, pinschers and schnauzers, in a different group. The Tchiorny or Russian Black Terrier can be over 30" at the withers and could never act as an earth-dog. But the same could be said of our Airedale Terrier, which the French would have called a Griffon. The FCI place cattle-dogs in three separate groups and have one group devoted to Dachshunds but not embracing Basset breeds. We place the Ibizan Hound in the Hound Group, the FCI does not. It's all a bit of a mess and must be sorted out so that an improved service to exhibitors is delivered.

The Portuguese staged this show in their impressive Exponor complex, possessing excellent exhibition facilities but being no place for dogs. This leads me to my next 'worry'. When are we  going to put dogs first? It is not a pretty sight to see dogs defecating on marble floors or urinating against marble pillars. Such a sight on national television only feeds the anti-dog lobby. We are just as much to blame. In my view, the NEC is no place for a dog show when we have Stoneleigh just down the road. Dogs at shows held at agricultural show grounds, like Builth Wells, Malvern and Stafford always seem more relaxed, perhaps because their owners are.

There are Expo sites all over Europe and beyond; they are superb venues for large exhibitions and commercial promotions. Dogs are not products like tractors or computers, they are our companions on this earth, with distinct needs of their own. This was a show with only 7,000 entries and could so easily have been staged somewhere more dog-friendly. But it did attract 290 breeds from 50 countries, many of these breeds not seen in Britain. The show also embraced the World Obedience Championships. The Portuguese deserve good marks for the conduct of the show itself.

The British breeds exhibited by foreigners ranged from those which were rather better than our current crop, such as the Bullmastiffs, and others which lacked true breed type, as many of the terrier breeds and our Pointer, did. One English Pointer, bred in Spain, was only 18" at the withers as a fully grown dog, with the bone structure of a sighthound. The West Highland White Terriers were absurdly 'halo-headed' from carefully sculpted hair-cuts. The Skye Terriers were very much over-furnished and both the Dandies and the Sealyhams presented rather like canine hovercrafts. The saddest sight was our Bulldog, struggling to cope with the humidity, whilst breeds developed from it, like the Ca de Bou and the Boerboel, showed no distress. It was sad too to hear the Continental Bullmastiff fanciers state that they would not buy stock from Britain because "your Bullmastiffs are too wrinkled, too short-muzzled and too prone to cancer". Most preferred to praise Bullmastiffs from Finland. It is strange to hear our Bullmastiffs criticised for being too wrinkled when a German dog won Best in Show at the Brussels World Show with a heavily wrinkled foreface, albeit under a British judge. As at the previous world shows I have attended, our Mastiffs, as exhibited, were just low grade dogs, with appalling movement and quite awful hindquarters. But this was true of the Spanish Mastiffs (so-called) too.

On a happier note, there were plenty of high-class dogs on view. As at previous world shows, the most impressive breed for me, both in conformation and movement, was the American Staffordshire Terrier. There were over 100 entries and they could all have come from the same dam, they were so uniform. It is an enormous pity that we are never likely to see them here. They are genetically the same as Pit Bull terriers and would be forcibly sterilised here even if brought in as pets. All the Amstaffs, as they are known, behaved impeccably at this show. The breed-specific anti-dog legislation in Britain which denies us these admirable dogs came as a direct result of advice given to the Home Office by our Kennel Club. Our Kennel Club also advised against allowing the Tosa here, a breed excluded by name in the wording of the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991. The Tosas at this show behaved quite beautifully, as did the handsome Filas Brasileiro. This was in marked contrast to the performance of the Owtcharkas from Central Asia, huge dogs with an apparent eagerness to fight every dog that neared them. Some of their handlers wore special protective gauntlet gloves. These dogs can be freely imported into Britain, mainly because they do not resemble American Staffordshire Terriers - which behave immaculately! So much for the advice on breeds given by the Kennel Club when the DDA was being drafted!   

Less well known breeds like the Ca de Bestiar from Majorca, the Czech Wolfdog (very much like the Saarloos dog), the Schapendoes, the Smoushond, the Drent Partridge Dog and the Stabyhoun from Holland, the Poitevin from France (one being exhibited with a wounded thigh from hunting), the Rafeiro do Alentejo from Portugal, the Pyrenean Mastiff, the Swiss Laufhund and the Jindo from Korea were on display. Some of the Neapolitan Mastiffs being shown were carrying quite grotesque heads and many, as with the breed here, had unsound movement. Another of my 'worries' is our importation of foreign stock only available because it isn't good enough for the home market.
In 2003, Dortmund staged its fifth World Dog Show; the first one in 1956 drew three and a half thousand entries, this one drew over 18,000, over 7,000 from outside Germany. There were around 900 dogs in the crossbreeds competition, but I really cannot see the point of such an entry at this show. These shows are either about the display of the best-bred pure-breds or they are nothing. With exhibitors from 55 countries and 169 judges from 35 countries this show had a wide appeal. It you want to know a Puli from a Pumi or your Entlebucher from your Appenzeller, this is the show for you. It can also provide a variety of surprises! Until attending this show, I had never seen a lady with the head of a black Schnauzer tattooed on her shoulder, or a formidable-looking Bullmastiff bitch bearing the name 'Grace Kelly' or observed such brazen double-handling as at one Rottweiler class. For me the latter is the height of bad behaviour and has to be eradicated.

Once again I was dismayed to see our native breeds looking so untypical. It was difficult to tell the Golden Retrievers from the blond Hovawarts. There were Cairn Terriers with round eyes and no stop. There were Shetland Sheepdogs like 'walking coats', with snipey muzzles and eyes far too small. There were Airedales there with fluffy coats, round eyes and Fox Terrier fronts. The halo-headed Westies I didn't like, the shelly Beardies were not impressive, the Manchester Terriers looked more like black and tan Whippets. The entry of dogs from our breeds was high; the top two in the show were the Golden and the Labrador Retrievers, with 13 of the numerically top 30 breeds entered originating in the UK. Are we exporting inferior stock or can the continental breeders not appreciate true breed type? I have every respect for foreign breeders, after all at Crufts in the Working Group in 2003, foreign dogs won three out of the four prizes on offer.  There were many really good dogs of course amongst such a substantial entry. I liked the look of the Sarplaninac, the Entlebucher Sennenhunde, the Hovawarts, the Schnauzers, the Cane Corso, the Do Khyi (our Tibetan Mastiff), the Landseer Newfoundlands and the Great Danes. I was depressed to see so many Pyrenean Mountain Dogs with flat feet, so many Dogues de Bordeaux with poor movement, so much variety in head-shape amongst the Bullmastiff entry (when is this breed going to decide what the breed's head should look like?) and so many low-quality exhibits being rewarded. Such a nominally prestigious show should not become degraded by unworthy winners. These shows should be founded on the pursuit of excellence not the recognition of mediocrity. Winning dogs get bred from; most of the entry I viewed was hardly world class.

What is the value of these world shows? They certainly don't do much for animal welfare; the exhibits travel very long distances in cramped conditions on a purely human whim. They are not judged to a uniformly high level. Type in so many breeds seems to have been lost, sadly due to indifference in the country of their origin too. The condition of far too many of the entry is below standard. They are usually staged in an Expo or National Exhibition Centre, far away from grass! This makes dog look like just another commercial product rather than a precious companion in our lives. But, there are good aspects too. International cooperation can be enhanced. I have learnt a lot at them - about little known foreign breeds, about emergent native breeds in the country they are staged in, how overseas breeds are developing away from Britain, of different approaches to nutrition, of books not available in the UK and quite often how another country views the showing game - with the Finnish Kennel Club impressing me hugely. It was always worth my going - but I'd never take a dog!