The competition is tough. Hundreds come from across the country for a chance at a blue ribbon. The two-day event is a November tradition in Turlock and brings out the top dogs, literally, as the Golden Valley Kennel Club prepares to host its annual shows.
"We get people from all over different states...there are professional handlers that travel all over the country that you'll see at Westminster and other national shows," said Golden Valley Kennel Club member Karole Britton.
The American Kennel Club licensed show draws over 2,000 contestants and 300 to 400 attendees for the two shows set for today and Saturday at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. The all breed shows feature conformation, where purebred dogs compete against each other based on their breeds' standards; obedience trials; and rally, which combines obedience and agility in a specific course designed by a judge.
For the novice dog show attendee, conformation is the most familiar competition. Dogs in seven different breed classes compete to be the best in their group, and then each group winner competes for the coveted "Best in Show" award.
At last year's Golden Valley Kennel Club shows, the Best in Show winners were Fox Terrier Wire, GCH Afterall Painting the Sky, and Basset Hound, GCH Blossomhil's Hello Dolly. Despite smaller dogs taking the top prizes in 2012, Britton has seen an increase in larger breeds competing at the Turlock show.
"My experience seems to be large entries in Doberman, Great Dane and Rottweiler breeds," she said.
Whatever the breed, getting competition ready begins at birth. According to Britton, normally only one puppy in a liter from purebred parents is show quality. Those born with the best traits of their breed are then trained from a young age on how to behave in a ring, through obedience classes and puppy show matches. Once a canine is fully grown and ready to compete in the big shows, it can take hours of grooming each day to get the dog perfect for the ring.
Those looking to find a show dog, Britton recommends AKC breeder lists or parent clubs.
"Northern California has many parent clubs. That's a good way to go about looking for a show-quality dog," Britton said.
Before investing the time and money in a purebred pooch, a trip to this year's shows may be a good start.
The shows begin at 8:30 a.m. today and Saturday in Buildings E1- E7 at the fairgrounds, 900 N. Broadway, in Turlock. Admission is free, but there is a $5 parking charge. Food and pet vendors will be also be available. Britton recommends picking up a show schedule and contestant program at the front gate, for better information on what events will be happening in what rings.
For more information about the Golden Valley Kennel Club, visit www.goldenvalleykc.org