This year I decided to see the German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada’s National Specialty, or at least part of it. I hadn’t been in years, and the first thing I saw was a large, mostly empty parking lot. I remember there being a lot more cars last time. Wretched weather could account for some of that, but this was the day the specials were judged. Walking into the arena, I could see the stands were mostly empty. Scanning the intrepid souls who had turned out, it occurred to me that in ten years or so this show will be hosted on the grounds of Shady Acres Retirement Home. The entry wasn’t impressive either: 27 males and 18 females I believe. I didn’t see the males, but the females were mostly a reiteration of the extreme theme of the last thirty years. See pictures below.
The show itself is, and always has been, a lovely show, with a beautiful sod ring and all the trimmings. It has always seemed very well organized. A lot of people spend a lot of time and effort putting on a very professional presentation, but I wonder if they ever step back and look at the big picture that is looming over them.
Recent economic conditions have certainly taken their toll. Things are improving of course, but the price of oil is not coming down. The cost of showing dogs is considerable, and will only increase, especially in a big country like Canada.
The sport of showing dogs followed the fortunes of the Baby Boomers. As the boomers’ affluence expanded they could afford the space, time and expense of raising large dogs. People entering their golden years naturally tend to downsize. Younger people are not so attracted to a hobby that is so consuming of time and cash.
The breed itself is no longer the splendid animal that the Boomers inherited. The breeders, handlers and judges of the last thirty years seem to have become oblivious to how the breed appears to everyone else. It has become a long, low, slinky, in-bred looking creature, not the powerful, upstanding dog that built the breed’s reputation.
So, it is hardly surprising that interest in showing the breed is withering, and it’s not about to turn around any time soon.