ST. GEORGE — Washington County Regional Park’s fairgrounds went to the dogs Saturday and Sunday as the Red Canyons Kennel Club hosted their first-ever American Kennel Club-approved dog show in Southern Utah.
Nearly 1,000 dogs of all breeds, along with their handlers, descended on the grounds to show their skills in three different AKC classifications: Conformation, Obedience and Rally.
Over the course of the two days of shows – one full show each day –awards were handed out in multiple events and classes. This included the coveted “Reserve Best in Show” and “Best in Show” titles.
The Red Canyons Kennel Club of Southern Utah is an all-breed, AKC-licensed club serving Washington and Iron county dog breeders, owners and fanciers.
According to their website, the club is dedicated to “protecting and advancing the interest of all purebred dogs.”
To that end, the kennel club conducts matches, shows and events, and supports the AKC code of ethics.
Saturday and Sunday’s show was the first AKC-approved event for the Red Canyons club, an occasion that was 2.5 years in the making, club president Dave Showalter said.
“There’s a lot of work and time and effort for us to put on a show because we have to be able to handle all of it,” Showalter said.
Exhibitors showing dogs came from all across the country to participate in the shows, Showalter said, adding that nearly every state west of the Mississippi was represented as well as a few handlers from as far as Virginia.
Showalter said that things had been going fairly smoothly, particularly with the actual showing of the dogs, but that they were already planning ahead for next year so they could be bigger and better.
“Like anything that’s new, we’ve had some growing pains and we’ve learned things that we’ll change or tweak differently for next year,” Showalter said. “We’ll be bigger with more days next year and more dogs, but the feedback from exhibitors that literally have come from all over has been mostly positive.”
Savannah Stokes, an exhibitor from Ogden, said that she was happy with the show, adding that her German shepherd had received her first points Saturday.
Stokes has been showing dogs since she could walk, she said, noting that her favorite part of showing dogs is the connection that she gets to build with the animals and the opportunity it provides to help improve the breeds that she loves.
Breeds such as her German shepherd, a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever and a Clumber spaniel.
“If people weren’t responsibly breeding them (the dogs), we’d lose them,” she said, “so making sure that the dogs are up to the standard and improving future generations is what it’s all about.”
In addition to the logistics of putting on their first AKC show, the club also had to contend with putting together a show that adhered to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Showalter said.
Masks were worn throughout the two buildings where the show rings were set up and one key component of a show of this caliber – spectators – had to be left out, Showalter said.
“COVID caused restrictions. Normally a show like this, one of the things that makes it fun for us is to be able to allow spectators to come in and see something that they are not really familiar with,” Showalter said.
Because of COVID the only people attending were those who were running, vending at or exhibiting at the show which was an unfortunate way to hold a first show as it denied spectators the chance to learn more about an event they might not have much knowledge of, Showalter said.
Showalter, who has been part of the dog show world for five decades, said that even he will sometimes see a dog and not know what breed it is, making it all that more exciting for spectators who get to experience and learn something new about the world he is so passionate about.
“Spectators get to see something that’s fun, but also get some knowledge when they come,” he said.
Saturday’s and Sunday’s winners were as follows:
- “Reserve Best in Show”: Golden retriever.
- “Best in Show”: Miniature schnauzer.
- “Reserve Best in Show”: Ibizan hound.
- “Best in Show”: Shetland sheepdog.
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