Underdog to Champion: The Making of a Show Dog

Pamela Fricke

Most people in the US are familiar with the National Dog Championship that is televised every year after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and worldwide even more know of the most prestigious dog show, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Who doesn’t like to watch the perfectly groomed canines parade around the ring and try to guess which dog will win in its class and who will receive the most coveted of honors, Best in Show? But just how does a dog become a champion show dog? My project will document the quest of earning a championship title. I will photograph dogs and their owners at home, at dog shows, and competing in the ring to show all that the owners and trainers do to train, groom, and keep their dogs healthy to be competitive in the ring. I will interview the owners, trainers, handlers, and judges to find out what it takes to be a champion show dog.

Why is it Worthwhile and Why Me Specifically?

We all love our dogs and many of us quite subjectively think of our own dogs as champions, but have never thought about what it takes to raise a dog destined to be an actual champion recognized as one of the best upholding the breed standards. This project will result in the reader being more informed on the process of raising a show dog and the logistics of showing that dog in the ring.

I am not raising a show dog, and in fact, my dog is a “doodle” (audible gasp from those in the show dog world). However, my daughter owns three Golden Retrievers and shows two of them who are on their way to earning their AKC champion status. I have been following this passion of hers and have traveled with her to dog shows for support. I have come to have a better understanding of this subculture and through my daughter I have access to breeders, handlers, trainers, and judges who I can gain information from and photograph. I will attend dog shows where I can use my documentary photography skills to show all that occurs before, during, and after the events, and I also have access to dogs in their homes with their owners where I can document grooming and training. Finally, I would love to make my daughter proud and present a story that helps others understand better the world of championship dog showing.