In praise of . . . the amazing, all-embracing world of dog shows

At the Irish Kennel Club’s flagship show, a microcosm of life will be on display

1,700 dogs across 186 breeds take part in the Irish Kennel Club's annual flagship event, the St Patrick's Day Show at the National Show Centre in Dublin. Video: Bryan O'Brien


It’s a funny thing, the dog-show ring. For a small child, it’s a microcosm of life, an introduction to politics, an insight into personality types, a course in discipline and a full-colour biology lesson. For an adult, it’s . . . actually, it’s the same.

You learn that people who look like their dogs don’t always behave as nicely as them.

You learn to keep your nose quietly in your upside-down book when you hear your mother’s slight edge at a committee meeting, and see her hackles bristle when she writes the minutes later.

You learn that nature is cruel when your beloved one whelps late into the night and one or two of the squeaking, unseeing, silky wriggles are not there in the morning.

You learn that doggy people are obsessed, and can spend hours comparing and quoting from pedigrees with their chums.

You learn the hierarchies of houndship; that gun-club, field-trial, obedience and agility people can read their working-dogs’ minds. (So can show people, but theirs is a different breed of bond.)

You learn that junior handlers manage their affairs very well, until the grown-ups interfere.

You learn not to be late, because if you miss your class, the judge can’t judge your dog. (But they might judge you. It’s a pity dogs can’t voice their judgments of people.)

You learn to navigate the negative-marking system in the obedience ring, as well as every country mart, GAA ground and school hall.

You learn to be an organised steward, lining up the exhibitors for the next class and asking someone to find the person who is due in your ring but is showing a different breed in another.

You learn to be a diplomatic judge, explaining to a runner-up that their dog has a very typical head and expression, and a sound conformation, but that it didn’t move well on the day.

You learn that doggy people’s friendship is loyal and long-lasting, and that they will always lend you a topknot elastic, a tenner or a listening ear.

And today, at the Irish Kennel Club’s flagship show, thousands of them will be preparing, practising, showing, stewarding, judging and loving the 1,600-plus entrants: brushing, combing, powdering, patting, lifting, coaxing, running, mincing, rewarding, and celebrating the dogs’ lives they lead.

The Irish Kennel Club show takes place at the National Show Centre, Cloghran (just north of Dublin airport) from 9am today. Admission €5.

On Tuesday, St Patrick’s Day, there will be a family fun day and dog expo at the same venue from 11am. Admission also €5. See