Just a PET?

© Susan B. Lybrand, brandmar@verizon.net

I can’t count the number of times that I have heard this phrase describing a dog who is not primarily being shown in conformation or in any performance venue for that matter. I don’t know about you, but it tends to rub me the wrong way when used in this particular context. Aren’t all our dogs pets first and foremost? Didn’t the majority of us get our first dog as just a beloved member of the family and then some of us chose to evolve from there to an area of competition that interested us?

What concerns me the most about this “label” is the fact that it tends to divide fanciers into two distinct groups — us and them. Those that do not participate in conformation tend to believe they are second class citizens in the dog world. I feel very strongly that it should make no difference whether you choose to participate in conformation or one of the many performance arenas available, there should be no “us or them” as the bottom line is we all love our dogs no matter how many titles or awards they have had bestowed upon them or lack of any at all.

The show career of any dog is very short when compared to his overall life span. On average, two to three years is about the maximum most people will regularly show any one dog. There are exceptions for those few really exceptional dogs that come along, but there is nothing worse then watching a dog who has past his prime in the ring continuing on and losing more times then he is winning. When he comes home, does he not just become a beloved pet with a memorable show career?

For the performance dog, some areas of competition take a toll on the dog as they must continue to be in top condition to perform and score well. Agility immediately comes to mind as one of those arenas, but the AKC has instituted some less demanding classes to keep those once top competing dogs active as they age. With the introduction of Rally Obedience, it has proven to be an excellent venue in which to compete with any age dog and a lot of fun for those who seek a less stricter arena than regular obedience competition. Despite one’s success in competition, your dog definitely couldn’t care less about the color of a ribbon or lack of one at all.

For those of us who lives are devoted to our chosen breed, Bearded Collies, we have always prided ourselves on the versatility of our breed. There seems little that Beardies cannot be trained to do. It may take a bit longer than some other breeds as Beardies are known for their independent thinking, but once they get the “hang of it”, their enthusiasm knows no boundaries.

We are a much stronger group of fanciers if there is no “us or them”, but work together for the betterment of our breed. Whether you choose to actively compete in a conformation or performance arena or just enjoy your beloved companion, all of our dogs should be pets first! Just a pet you say? Well, yes he is and I’m proud of it!