Dogs from around the U.S. came to the Delaware County Fairgrounds primped and primed to impress judges at the Delaware Ohio Kennel Club competition over the weekend.
Breeders, handlers, owners and canine lovers gathered to watch more than 900 dogs representing 135 breeds compete for the coveted Best in Show awards.
“The judges are looking for dogs that conform to their standard,” assistant show chairwoman Cindy Niles said. “Each breed of dog has a standard that defines what the dog is supposed to look like and how it’s supposed to move; the performance of the dog and the way it’s built coincide.”
The weekend events included an all-breed puppy match on Friday afternoon, followed by all-breed shows, on Saturday and Sunday. Dogs competed for Best of Breed and in groups against other breeds for Best in Show, hoping to win in order to earns points that go toward their American Kennel Club (AKC) ranking. The seven competition groups included nonsporting, sporting, terrier, toy, herding, hound and working.
The highly sought-after Best in Show went to handler and co-owner Robert Urban’s black and tan coonhound.
Elena Gugino from Buffalo, N.Y., brought her 3-year-old cocker spaniel, Jimbo, to compete Saturday.
“We enter the ring and all you feel is, ‘If I don’t win this, I don’t go to Westminster, and if I win this, maybe I’m a step closer to Westminster,” Gugino, 11, said.
Saturday proved to be a good day for Gugino, who took home her sixth win for Best Junior Handler and also received the Dennis J. Kniola Memorial Scholarship awarded by Delaware Ohio Kennel Club.
Gugino said Jimbo’s best features are probably his neck and head. She said one of his lowest features — panting — calls for an easy fix.
“Lick your finger and put it in their mouth and they’ll stop panting because they don’t like the taste of your mouth.”
Gugino said winning Saturday means a lot because the show is dedicated to another cocker spaniel handler, Dennis Kniola, who died in 2013. It also means she’s one win away from competing at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February.
Niles, who first began competing in 1967 with a wire-haired dachshund, said entering a dog into a show goes far beyond paying the entry fee. Not only is it time-consuming, it can become expensive after the veterinary bills, travel, food, grooming, advertising and countless other costs are added up. Still, she said, “once you’re in there it’s kind of addictive.”
“To me, to take the dog into the ring, present it and have it win is a compliment to my achievements,” said Niles, a breeder for more than 50 years. “That’s what all these people are here for; coming to the dog show and winning is proof that you’ve done a good job.”
Shyla Nott is a freelance writer.