Dogs have been working beside humans for up to 30,000 years according to a recent archeological find in France. Dogs have helped us acquire food, protect other domesticated animals (food), haul supplies and announce the approach of strangers. Dogs and humans have been together for so long, it’s no wonder dog is called man’s best friend.
Dogs are so important, their very existence is a matter of public policy. Over the centuries, land owners restricted tenants from keeping dogs at all to prevent poaching. Governments required licsenses and taxes for dogs, permits to raise dogs, inspections for kennels and separate agencies to handle unwanted dogs.
With Westminster right around the corner, people often say they don’t understand the dog show anymore. Dog shows are what we have left from a time when most of us couldn’t get by without the help of a canine. Everyone needed a dog for the farm, for travel, or for protection. Finding a good one, meant evaluating differnt kennels. Selling a good one, meant proving your dogs were worthy. The dog show was the place to do both.
With the move to city living, many of use grow up without ever leaning on a dog for any of his more serious jobs, thinking of dogs as a luxury or companion rather than the partner in survival they were destined to be.Today, the dog show is seen as a marekting tool for promoting a kennel name rather than the competitive ground for finding the best dogs.
This is far from the true value of a good competition. In the early days of the American Kennel Club, kennel managers employed by the wealthy land owners, brought dogs together to be judged by experts. In the 1950’s the average family man could purchase a quality hunting or protection dog and compete for points sufficient to sell some puppies of his own. But this is where the battle lines may have been drawn between the professionals and the wannabes.
There are many more dog owners now than those who actually work with their dogs. Dog owners are more likely to employ a PR campaign, professional handler, and enter 30 shows per year minimum. Throw in social media and full color magazines to advertise in and the dog show game may be back to a game for professionals only. But the professionals are not the dog men of the past. They are marketing gurus.
Are we living up to role that man’s best friend deserves? When was the last time your retreiver got so swim or your Beagle to hunt? Granted some of these life skills seem frivilous to us now and there are those conerns about the treatment of the hunted, but we can offer dogs all that they need to enjoy life while resting on some well earned laurels.
NoseWorks is a great simulation of dog work for hunters but any dog can play. Agility trials fit the competitive drive and energy level of the average herding or protection dog. Traditional obedience competition or Rally-O can be enjoyed by any sporting or working dog. If you are harboring a canine companion, and are not involved in dog shows, no worries. You must be camping together or hiking and biking. But if not, consider what you are aksing of your dog. 30,000 years of partnership must be honored by continuing the tradition of working together.
Tune in on Monday and Tuesday night to see which dogs your dog resembles. What were they born to do? Dog is man’s best friend. Everyone knows that. Is man worthy of being dog’s best friend? Get to know what your dog can do and find a way to do more of it.