Saskatoon

Some of Canada's top dogs on display at Saskatoon's annual dog show

Organizers with the Saskatoon Kennel and Obedience Club say interest in the events is shrinking across the country, but say a new generation is getting introduced to the tradition.

More than 200 pups converged on Saskatoon's Prairieland Park this weekend

Canada's top Old English sheepdog, Stormie, was just one of the award-winners present at the Saskatoon Kennel and Obedience Club's dog show on Saturday, along with breeder Betty Fast. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

More than 200 dogs and their owners gathered in the city this weekend for the Saskatoon Kennel and Obedience Club's annual dog show, but organizers say events like this are actually seeing a downward trend in participation.

"Shows throughout the country are declining, as it's becoming more expensive for kennel clubs to host these events," said Susan Mogenson, president of the Saskatoon Kennel and Obedience Club and 2019 show chair.

"Twenty years ago, this show would have had 300 dogs," she said. "This year we have — with the baby puppies on today's date, which is our busiest day — 225."

Despite the trend, there was no shortage of wagging tails, buzzing blow dryers and eager competitors at the show on Saturday, the second day of the four-day event at Prairieland Park.

Some of Canada's top dogs were in attendance, including a majestic looking Old English sheepdog named Stormie. Resembling a large cotton ball with a friendly attitude, Stormie currently holds the No. 1 spot for his breed in the country. 

A number of competitors line up to be observed at the show at Prairieland Park. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

"It's a lifelong work that you do," said his breeder, Betty Fast. "It's not that you can just buy this dog off the internet or whatever. I started in the breed in 1975 and his pedigree can be traced back to one of the first dogs that I owned."

She said while sheepdogs make great pets as they're good family dogs, that description doesn't fit Stormie.

"This is not a pet, this is a work in progress," said Fast.

Although pressure may be high on competition day, much of the work necessary to produce a champion dog takes place weeks and months before an event. 

Gilda, an 11-month-old Shetland sheepdog, looks ready to impress at the Saskatoon Kennel and Obedience Club's 2019 dog show on Saturday. She was one of four dogs being handled at the show by professional dog handler Terry Bernier, from Vancouver. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

"On competition day, it's actually not as much as you would think, because we've done all the hard work for weeks and days before the dog show," said professional dog handler Terry Bernier, who came to the show from Vancouver.

"On competition day it's all about just prepping your dog, getting it ready, making it look as beautiful as it can and then we have 2.5 minutes in the ring to just try and impress the judge, and hopefully we do our best."

The dogs are examined based on the ideal standards outlined for the breed, with judges looking at things like head size, coat thickness and consistency, and body size.

The next generation of dog handlers were also present — and some up-and-comers were already starting their careers as winners. 

That includes handlers like 10-year-old Brynn Guenther, who was working with Clicquot, a six-month-old flat-coated retriever that belongs to Margareta Berin. The 10-year handler won first place in the best of breed event, fourth place in best of group and first in puppy of group. 

"I like it because you get to spend time with animals and you just get to see all types of the breeds that dogs have," she said. When asked if she plans to continue handling as she gets older, her answer was yes, for a simple reason.

"Because I just love dogs."

Holding up a ribbon she won while handling six-month-old Clicquot, a flat-coated retriever, 10-year-old Brynn Guenther was one of the younger handlers present at the Saskatoon Kennel and Obedience Club's annual dog show. She says she hopes to keep up the tradition as she gets older. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

While participation in the shows may be waning, Saskatoon's love of dogs was clearly on display over the weekend. Mogenson said there's a good reason why so many people continue to treasure their furry friends: unconditional love.

"They're always there," she said.

"They have a sixth sense of knowing when you need them. They're right beside you when you need them most and they don't talk back."

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