Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Peggy Tyler’s dogs are more than just family pets and companions – they’re also her hobby.
Since 1974, Tyler has competed her animals in dog shows.
“This is my sport. I own and handle my dogs,” she said. “I have more fun doing it myself.”
Her three Japanese Chin – Ni Kokoro, Kanoko and Koke – all showed at the Charleston Kennel Club Dog Show at the Ladson Exchange Park on Jan. 25 and 26.
Roughly 900 dogs were entered in the show, most of them from all over the country. Tyler, of Ladson, was one of the few locals competing.
The Ladson show consisted of three competitions – Conformation, Obedience and matches.
Tyler’s dogs compete in the Conformation rings, which are based on a standard of perfection for each breed. The more similar that dog is to the standard, the more points or ribbons they will earn. “Each judge knows the standard and he judges each dog against the standard. They’re never judged against each other,” Tyler said.
The competitions form a hierarchy with “Best in Show” at the top and “Best of Breed” at the bottom. The dogs compete by sex and age group within the breed, and then within the group. When winners are selected they continue to complete through the bracket.
There are seven groups: sporting dogs, hounds, working dogs, terriers, toys, non-sporting dogs and herding dogs. Tyler’s Chin compete in the toy group.
The larger competition winners receive trophies, but on the smaller levels dogs can earn ribbons and points. The points accumulate over time toward a dog’s championship.
Ni Kokoro earned her grand championship during the competition.
She and Kanoko, both 4 years old, competed in the Conformation rings. Koke, who is still a puppy, competed in a match. Matches are designed specifically for puppies; the animals go through the motions of competing and being judged, but without any points. It’s also a chance for more inexperienced owners or handlers to practice showing, Tyler said.
“[In the match] Koke took the toy group over four other puppies, took the breed by class on Sunday, and was reserved to Winner’s Bitch. She did very well for only six months old.”
Before working with Chin, Tyler showed Siberian Huskies. She worked with the breed for 40 years, but after the death of her last Husky two years ago, Tyler was looking for a new breed.
“I couldn’t keep up with the Huskies because of my age, so I was looking for a smaller toy dog that I could pick up and carry with me. Having 40 years experience, I’ve watched and know a lot about most dogs, I know their personalities … I didn’t want a high maintenance dog, but I still wanted something fuzzy.”
That’s how Tyler settled on the Chin. “They turn men into marshmallows,” she laughed, referring to her husband’s affection for the dogs. “They do it and I don’t know how!”
“If you have a Chin you’re going to have more than one because they’re like potato chips, you can’t have one, you just can’t.”
Tyler said all of her dogs love competing just as much as she does. “When they walk in the ring their tails are going, they’re spinning around, they like what they’re doing. If they didn’t I wouldn’t put them in.”
The competition of the shows mostly stays in the ring, Tyler said, and she’s made many friends from competitions over the years.
“Some of it is political, some people are cutthroat, but the majority of dog people are just a fun bunch of people who love their animals and also like the camaraderie and competition.”
Lorna and Daniel Roush, of Summerville, are some of those dog people; they prefer to show their Portuguese Water Dogs casually, for fun and as a hobby.
At home they have three Portuguese Water Dogs, two of which – mother and daughter team Tequi, 7 years old, and Isabeau, 3 years old – compete in Conformation rings.
“We’re relatively new to dog shows. This is something we started about seven years ago when we got Tequi as a puppy,” Lorna Roush said.
Isabeau was awarded best for the class of girls and earned one point toward her grand championship. Roush said Tequi competed casually in this show, to “get her out of ‘momma’ mode” after just having puppies in October.
Roush admits she and her husband are very laid-back when it comes to putting their dogs in competitions. She said they started it as a hobby.
“We don’t have any children, so it’s rewarding when they learn new things,” she said.
Portuguese Water Dogs were originally bred to assist fisherman in their boats, so the Roushes put their dogs through water training exercises to train their natural instincts. And so the couple gets their exercise, she joked. “A dog is more than just something cute, it’s a companion, a family member, a representative in the community.”
But training and breeding is not without its challenges. Roush said her breed in particular is very active and requires a lot of maintenance.
She said the rewards are worth it, though.
“They’re very bright dogs, and all they want to do is please. You really have to be one step ahead of them in the way they think, so they keep us busy, they keep us on our toes, and they reward us with affection.”