by Karl DonvilGENT 2019
The relativity of Championship titles
With only 1061 dogs on Saturday and 972 dogs on Sunday this edition of the once prestigious show of Gent was the poorest ever. Several years ago this show was held only every two years. Then it changed to every year and only one year later, the show changed into a double show. And what do we see? A decline with 1/3 compared to last year when the show still had 1504 dogs on Saturday and 1470 on Sunday. How painful can that be! And how alarming! We may not forget that we are talking of a CACIB show! People need certain qualifications to breed a dog and for a lot of people shows are only necessary to get them. But these qualifications were drawn up to guarantee minimum requirements of health and confirmation to the standard. But what if there is nothing to compare with? What if there is no choice? What if there are no options? How can we still say that a dog corresponds to the minimum requirements of a breed? I counted the number of IB’s given away to dogs that had no other dog to compete with. About 90 CACIB’s were given just like that. One dog in one breed, is that enough to get a CACIB? What about a champion dog that never had any competition at all in his ring and that can claim 20 or more CACIB’s and is called a “Multi Champion”.
Not only are the criteria poor but double shows make them even more relative. A Champion Braque D’Auvergne and a Champion Golden Retriever are supposed to be both splendid examples of the breed with maximum a couple of minor deviations from the standard. Imagine how long it could take and how good a Golden needs to be before he can show of with the predicative of “Champion”, while the Braque only needs to participate on 3 shows of two weekends if a double show is involved. It is time to review the criteria for Champion titles and to ban the double shows that kill all competition. I found 4 Bassets Bleu de Gascogne, all 4 entered by the same person from the UK. He will take home at least 2 CACIB’s for every day and if he just enters another show somewhere in Belgium, he can add ‘Belgian Champion’ to his palmares. And can we blame this person for taking advantage of the weakness of the system? Of course he cannot help that there are very few owners of this breeds, let stand owners that participate on dog shows. But would it not be a big achievement if this very same owner could add “BOB winner at the Championat du Club des Bassets Bleu d’Auvergne de France (suppose this club exists), then we can suppose that this owner has been seeking stronger competition in the country of origin, we can suppose that such a show brings more than just one specimen to the show and probably the owner will be more proud of this title than of the numerous CACIB’s he can show.
Gent has always been a well organized show. When this show was still held every two years it was the only one-day all breed CACIB show in Belgium. Many exhibitors were looking forward to come back every two years and the show was thriving well. The Flanders Expo Halls are vast and at that time some of the side halls were used to store all the dogs. I remember when it was so crowded by visitors and exhibitors that I was worried what could happen in case of panic broken out. There are no worries anymore as only 2/3rd of the big hall is used now and it is easy going around the rings. Trade stand holders depend on the number of exhibitors and visitors and their number decreases from year to year. Their turnover is no longer sufficient to cover the renting of the place that gets more expensive from year to year. And without trade stands dog shows are not very interesting to visitors as most visitors are not after a dog but want to shop for their dogs. Good results generate in general more good things, but negative evolutions should be countered as soon as possible before it becomes a cascade.
Organizers of dog shows should put themselves more in the place of exhibitors and ask themselves “would I enter my dog for a show like this one? What is worth the title and how interesting is the judge? Is he a reference for the breed? “ With an entry of only 29 Rhodesian Ridgebacks, 25 Golden Retrievers and the same amount of Labradors, with 23 Bernese Mountain Dogs and 24 English Bulldogs, to name the 5 best scoring breeds of Saturday, then it is clear that there is something to be seriously worried about! It is not just coincidence. You have to invite judges that are accredited for a lot of breeds in order to cut the costs and you need much more of them as most of these judges have judged recently on other and often double shows. There is no room for expensive breed specialists that can also be used for other breeds the next day. All rounders are officiating too often, making it difficult to fit in the judges schedule, exhibitors need more variation in order to validate their CACIB’s in order to become a champion.
What more do we need to realize that a very destructive evolution is going on and that we need to counter it with all means we have, if not organizers risk bankruptcy. In 2016 it was Gent's last single show with an entry of 1966 dogs, spread over two days. The number of judges was the same, 20. There were 10 judges from Belgium in 2016 while now they could only use 5 that were qualified enough for many breeds on both days. And moreover in 2016 there was a lot more competition for the titles. There was no judge with 70 entries or more, only 3 judges with more than 65 dogs on Saturday and 3 judges with 65 on Sunday. And that is OK if we look at the dogs/ judging day rate that was 52,1 (for both days). A double CACIB show with around 1000 dogs per show will automatically attract a lot of foreign dogs as it becomes relatively easy to gain the title of Belgian Champion. 15 Nationalities were here and that includes 78 dogs from the UK, but also entries from Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and Finland.
I was very happy with the podium setup. Only 3 dogs and no longer a podium for each place, but large nicely build numbers 1, 2 and 3 with place to attach the rosettes and that was it. Simple but very comfortable for the dogs. No stress for them to climb a podium. I was a little worried with all the special categories like Best Belgian Breed etc, but the timing was very good and the program progressed smoothly on both days. There could have been a little bit more uniformity in the way the judges made the dogs run, not listening to the ring steward who in fact is the boss in the ring.
Best In Show judge on Saturday was Mr.Eberhardt from Germany. His 3rd place was the Dachshund "Minidogland Take After Sun" owned by Meier Philippe from the Netherlands. Second place was for the Lagotto Romagnolo "Sem Di Casa Cleo" from Katrien Van Gemert also from the Netherlands. ANd his Best In Show also went to the Netherlands, it was for the Bouvier des Flandres "Cash-Uschi Van de Vanenblikhoeve" from Hennie Bruintjes-Schaap. Mr.Jos De Cuyper from Belgium was on term on Sunday. His 3rd place went to the Japanese Akita from Martens-Pittoors, called "Hiromitsu Q'Dai Go. The Reserve went to the Whippet "Shiny Sensation's Rich and Famous" owned by Veenstra-Scheerens. The Best In Show went to our 3rd place from Saturday, "Minidogland Take After Sun". Another consequence of double shows. But I was very pleased that a Dachshund got the honor as too often they don't get the attention they deserve when it comes to picking Best In Show.
I can only hope that the Belgian Kennel Club soon will no longer allow double shows but by highest exception. Many good shows struggle with entries going down and try to solve that with having double shows. But that creates an reverse effect. Gent has so many potential and has proven to organize fantastic shows in the past and in fact it still does. Use creativity to re-invent your show, come up with something new like a new title or an extra sub- competition, something like a special title for dogs who win an extra title in case there were more than 10 entries, or dogs that win a CACIB or CAC for 3 consecutive years, or a voucher that gives them a free entry in that case. There are many options to be the first to put shows in a new outfit. Gent had plenty of good ideas in the past, so that cannot be a problem. Try to find ways to attract visitors again, that will create the interest of the trade stand holders and that can cover already a big part of the financial costs.
Still, Gent is a good show and things can get better again, it is not too late to turn again 180°.