We attend the occasional Exhibition show but choose them very carefully.
We will only show our dogs under a well respected judge and never under a judge who has his winner before the show begins.
Too many people show under their best friends, there is too much cheating in our breed so no point in entering those shows.
We have now shown our dogs for many years and have learned a great deal during this time. We have had many enjoyable days out with our dogs, sometimes we get placed, others we don't but we have special time with our dog whatever the result. We mainly show our youngsters and use shows as an opportunity to socialise our pups and get them used to large and noisy environments. We are not serious enthusiasts and we won't ever train our dogs to be robotic in the ring. If they don't like it then they don't get shown.
We now understand the difference between hobby breeders/exhibitors and the die hard show enthusiasts. There is a distinct difference!
We would prefer that dogs that we have bred are not shown. It is not a pleasant environment to be in. Those who have shown in the past have all been disappointed with the Leonberger showing community.
The hobby show enthusiast will enjoy the shows as a way of spending quality time with their dogs; regardless of the results (although it's always nice to get placed) continue that enjoyment outside of the ring as well. This dog win or lose; will most probably share the sofa with his owner following a tiring show day and have lots of love and fuss for being so good, his owner shows with pride and always takes home the best dog! These dogs are usually well loved family members who spend their lives living alongside their owner; showing is a very small element; and being of show or breed quality is a bonus, not an absolute requisite. They remain a very much loved and valued pet for life, sharing in every aspect with their loving owner. This owner feels great pride in achieving the smallest award as this was a very enjoyable joint effort.
The die hard show fraternity go to a show with only one purpose in mind; to win at all cost, this is not about having fun with their pride and joy. This dog will have been carefully selected and has a huge task in front of him for his demanding owner. He will be show trained and groomed to within an inch of his life, his future depends on his ability to bring as much success to his owner as is possible. This is not about the dog! If he fails to bring in the all important accolade, he will soon be replaced by a better dog.
Do not be fooled by the convincing show of affection shown to him in the ring by his owner. He is grateful to be released from the boredom of his kennel where he spends most of his days. A large proportion of show people are full time workers, these dogs spend many hours alone and locked up without any human company day in, day out. He will grasp at this short burst of unexpected contact while doing his very best to please his owner who is not happy with a simple place, they show no love to this loyal dog, they have to keep at the top of their game to stroke their own egos.
We were once told that you either have a pet or a show dog, he can't be both.
When this dog leaves the show, he goes back to his kennel alone while his owner will celebrate their win. It's solely about them! This dog leads a very lonely and loveless life.
Before we had Leonbergers, we always had pedigree dogs and having a pedigree with several champions was something to be very proud of. Having seen exactly how the show system works, we now realise that many of the Champion dogs are owned by top kennels/breeders who are often judges themselves. While there are many good dogs and worthy Champions, the law of averages would say that it's not possible for every dog owned by one person to become a Champion, but this does happen to the selected few. Some people have shown for decades and they stand out to all judges who repeatedly judge the same people, albeit, a different dog. You can see a new puppy being shown and know that within two years it will become a Champion, simply because of it's well known owner/breeder. The average show person may never make a dog up to Champion status. To us, this once considered high accolade has become a farce!
This trend only changes with all round judges who usually don't know people, this is when we see the average show person gain a top award and it's refreshing to witness.
In recent years, we have seen more professional handlers in the ring. We were all impressed by the professional Russian handlers in suits and pumps, like watching ballet dancers. The combination of handlers and excellent specimen of dogs were eye catching and for a few years they took Best of Breed.
We now see this fashion emulated by British breeders/owners. Professional handlers can make any dog look the best in the ring and they do it to perfection and often take Best of Breed. As we saw with the Russians, it gives an unfair disadvantage to the average handler just enjoying working with their dog.
There is a growing trend now to sculpture dogs being shown. This arrived from Russia around 2015, with many big breeders here following this after seeing these perfectly manicured dogs winning World shows. They do look fabulous in the ring and it's always great to see what the trend is in other countries.
Some are so severely groomed, every strand of hair is in a perfect line. It gives an unfair advantage if we don't all follow this pattern but Leonbergers were never meant to be groomed this way. We have never owned a Leonberger dog like that. Maybe we are heading in the same direction as Newfoundlands who are now professionally groomed for a show and all look the same. We much preferred the European way of "Eau Natural" where all dogs were groomed for a show in the same way.
One of the worst things is to see is a dog strung up so tight that is barely able to breathe, this is more common now in the UK than it has ever been.
Our dogs are not robots, they enjoy their short time in the ring and are encouraged to show their characters. We pay for the judge to give their opinion of our beloved pet, and hope that they will give us the curtesy of this and advice where necessary. We wish to be judged as an outfit of dog and handler, not on who we are or who we used to be friends with; we expect decent honesty and integrity from the judge. It is very satisfying when a judge will make the effort to point out both attributes and faults to allow us to improve on our presentation in the show ring. It is these professional judges who have our respect and will always secure our entry at shows in the future.
For a few years we showed our lovely boy Aslan at Crufts with great pride, even with the knowledge that he is too big and his movement was too bouncy as he enjoyed himself. It has never been about big accolades for us, it's about the enjoyment for us all.
It's an honour to take part in Crufts, the biggest dog show in the world, it's a bonus to get placed. This is the only exception that we will honour an unworthy judge with an entry and so far, it's happened only once.
We have written an article about our experience with LPN1 DN dogs, and why we prioritise breeding with those dogs who conform to the standard as opposed to LPN1 clear dogs. We feel to not use these dogs in breeding is detrimental to the breed overall and reducing the gene pool further. We are fortunate that we have enough girls to choose only the best for breeding but most breeders do not. This lack of choice could also introduce different types of dogs in the show ring which will consequently, change the standard if judges continue to award unworthy dogs belonging to friends etc. The dogs may change but the standard does not.