From the mighty Alaskan Malamute to miniscule toy breeds, man and beast alike sniffed out the scent of victory Sunday at the Spartan Mid-Winter Match.
The Ingham County Kennel Club hosted the event at the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education. The annual show acts as the starting point for anyone who wants to train their purebred puppy for later shows.
The MSU College of Veterinary Medicine uses the proceeds to fund the MSU Pure-Bred Dog Endowment Fund, which finances studies on the health problems of purebred dogs.
The fiercely competitive nature of American Kennel Club-sanctioned dog shows requires both participant and dog to be at their finest. From intense grooming to perfecting “the walk” in front of an official, for each breed there is a long road to take before reaching the top of canine matches.
With an otterhound named Gabriel at their side, trainers and Marshall residents Nancy Lange and her daughter Karmen, stood outside the ring as they waited to compete in the puppy class. “A lot” of training goes into each dog when preparing to compete, Nancy Lange said.
“We start working with them as soon as we get them as puppies,” Nancy Lange said. “I got (Gabriel) at 8 weeks and (on) the first day, he was up on the grooming table. We take him to obedience, puppy matches, you name it — we’re constantly (training him).”
Although the event itself is open to everyone, organizer Vickie Roberts said only those who have the drive and passion to compete at the early stages of these types of matches will perform well and outlast other participants.
“At a regular AKC show — like what you’d see on TV — puppies and adults compete together,” Roberts said. “Here, it’s fun as we keep them separate. Everybody’s working. Somebody is learning, whether it’s the dog, the owner or even the judge. It’s just practice.”
The competition consists of multiple stages with a range of breeds and age, Roberts said. The overall winner of each level will win a rosette — a symbol that both the dog and trainer has performed well at the show — giving them encouragement to continue in later matches.
“The (dog) goes (into the ring) and competes against their breed,” Roberts said. “Then we get best puppy, then best adult — say Labrador retrievers — then they will go in and compete in group. (The winner) of the group will go to best in match, which is like best in show.”
After winning the first stage of competition with his Neapolitan Mastiff, trainer and owner Troy Stroud, of Dimondale, Mich., waited as his daughter posed for a photo with their giant dog.
“The main thing of a puppy match is to see other dogs in the same age group, but as well to socialize,” Stroud said. “Especially with younger dogs, it’s good to get them to meet a variety of people, younger people, those in wheelchairs, older people.They get the full gambit of meeting everybody so they’re not ever surprised as you keep them well-socialized.”
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