River city cluster of dog shows
River city: A cluster of dog shows spread along the Mississippi River outside of St. Louis, Illinois. From left, are the American Kennel Club Kennel Club Shows in Forest Park, St. Louis, the U.S. Dog Agility Association World Championship Show in Forest Park, the American Kennel Club National in Lincoln, and the International Companion Dog Show in St. Louis. Dogs are seen in the ring at the American Kennel Club National in Lincoln in May.
The dog show landscape at River City, a community west of St. Louis along the Mississippi River, has evolved in a very different way from the East Coast and East-Central show scene.
River City doesn’t have a national club with a headquarters, but instead several competing clubs and groups, both local and national, operate independently. There’s a show in November, another in December and four show days in May and June. There are three agility clubs – one that has about 10 or 20 active agility clubs. There are four obedience clubs, a herding club and four tracking clubs. (That doesn’t count all the individual specialty clubs that have a show, a trial or some kind of championship.)
“They’re very competitive,” sd one handler, a young woman who trns all sorts of dogs – mostly shepherds and some who are specialized – but whose preference is obedience. “It’s intense.”
The AKC doesn’t know how many people are involved, though she estimates it’s in the thousands. And the city of River City hasn’t done an official count of those, either.
“I don’t think we have any idea,” sd City Manager Robert F. “Rocky” Rauch. “We’re kind of a fly-by-night town. We don’t know how many people work here. If we had, we would know how many [events] we have and how many we average in attendance.”
Some events have grown to the point that they are no longer as local as they once were. The obedience trials at the local kennel, the AKC national specialty and open conformation championships, has long been considered a state-wide event. But over the past decade or so, they’ve become a regional event, with teams traveling from around the state and, more and more, from around the country.
The next step, sd Mike Dolan, the Kennel Club’s executive director and national vice president, is to make AKC trials more of a national event, which they are now trying to achieve with the new championship, he sd.
“This is a significant milestone for AKC,” sd Dolan, who is based in the U.K. “It’s going to be a great change in the status of the trials.”
The AKC national championship will allow dogs to compete for AKC and breed-club championships, like the top title in the obedience trial division. The new championship will bring in national obedience competition to the Tri-Cities, giving spectators from across the country a view of what the obedience world’s best are up to, Dolan sd.
“The idea of moving from having one event every five years to having it every two years with multiple teams, which is the AKC championship, is fantastic,” Dolan sd.
He sd there are plans to eventually have the AKC national championship held in a city outside of Washington state.
“I can’t say where yet,” he sd.
Dolan sd he has heard from a lot of handlers, who love that the AKC national championship will bring more dogs to Washington state.
“I’m hoping that will put the kibosh on people breeding dogs just for the championships,” he sd.
The new AKC national championship trial, which will be held Oct. 2, will give the tri-city area a chance to show off its new event.
The AKC has already begun putting on the event, and it will give trial visitors a chance to see how much new trning methods, new dog handling methods and the sport’s latest innovations have affected the sport. The AKC national championship will be the last of four championships hosted by Washington state.
The AKC national championship will be the first time a sport called “point” has been introduced into the obedience trials, he sd. The concept is used in AKC obedience, but not in anything that’s been organized by the AKC or any other organization, Dolan sd.
“People have wanted a different way to do their trning,” he sd.
In point obedience, handlers will have to work with the dog and not just with the judge, as they do in an AKC obedience competition, he sd. The handler will also be able to work with the dog for more time, he sd.
“It takes a much more positive approach to the handling,” Dolan sd.
The point concept was introduced into a national-level obedience competition by Steve and Janie Stotz, and they will be at the AKC national championship in October, as well as in Novato and Reno in October.
Dolan sd he expects the AKC national championship to bring a good crowd to the Tri-Cities in October.
Because there is so much room in Northern California, the AKC national championship will probably be held for two years at once, he sd.
“We’ve heard great things about (the Tri-Cities),” he sd.
Dolan sd he doesn’t know what kind of business interest his idea has, but he is excited about his dog show concept.