Story and photos by Kyle Reynolds
If you’ve never seen a Xoloitzcuintli (“show-low-eats-queen-tlee”) or the rare Polish Lowland Sheepdog, here’s your chance. The annual Wine Country Circuit Dog Show will be held Thursday, September 24 through Sunday, September 27 at Sampson State Park in Romulus. It features more than 6,000 dogs representing 147 different breeds.
Now in its 30th year, the AKC-licensed event is one of the largest circuits in the country, because it’s really four shows in one. The Elmira Kennel Club, the Onondaga Kennel Association, the Kanadasaga Kennel Club and the Finger Lakes Kennel Club each hold their all-breed dog shows and obedience, agility and rally trials on consecutive days. Other national and regional groups devoted to specific breeds also participate.
Best in Show
The main attraction – and the one that’s probably most familiar to spectators – is the Conformation event. It’s the best place for spectators to see sheer numbers of dogs and unfamiliar breeds. The 147 dogs (one for each breed) strut around the ring with their handlers while the judges evaluate them to choose one that best represents the AKC standards for its breed. He or she is the Best In Show. (A Portuguese Water Dog won Best in Show on each day of the Wine Country Circuit Dog Show last year.)
Also during Conformation, dogs stand still as the judges examine them with their hands. Anyone who has taken a dog to the vet will understand that not all dogs like to be handled like that. It is a credit to the hard work of the handlers and the dogs that they are able to accept this examination.
Another event, in which dogs are guided through obstacle courses by their humans, showcases Agility. While Australian Shepherds and Border Collies are often associated with this event, competitors can include dogs as large as Great Danes and as small as the toy breeds. That’s what makes it so endlessly fascinating. It shatters all illusions about what a dog is and what it can do.
Participants range from beginners to expert levels, and there are a variety of course types. Training for it is a great activity for anyone looking to work with his dog in a new way and to develop a closer bond.
It’s fairly obvious that dogs can jump, so hurdle jumping at an Agility event is not so surprising. What is, however, is seeing a dog run up one side of a teeter-totter, ride the other side back down, and then continue running. Tunnels are included on obstacle courses, and they often curve so that the dogs can’t see out the other end as they enter. It’s not a big deal for smaller breeds, but it is monumental for dogs as large as Great Danes, who must go through the same size tunnel.
Perhaps the most mentally challenging part of Agility courses is the table. It requires the dog, who has been running full speed, to stop on a dime on a specific target, then pause until it is released to continue running the course.
Obedience trials show the range of what dogs can learn with instruction from their humans. The dogs are given cues that indicate the behavior they are to execute; they are expected to complete the behavior without any further guidance from their human. You’ll see them walking side by side with their humans and shadowing their every move, plus jumping, sitting, lying down, and staying on command, among other tasks. It is fascinating to see the tasks a dog can complete with a simple hand gesture or verbal cue.
During one part of an Obedience trial a dog may be given a cue to “stay” while the human leaves the area and goes somewhere out of sight. The dog remains where it is until the human returns and gives it a cue. Then and only then can it resume movement. That’s impressive.
In Lure Coursing the dogs do the exact opposite: they run as fast as they can for as long as they can to try to catch a lure. It takes place in a large, open field where a lure attached to a string runs through a series of pulleys. It maps out a course around which the dogs will chase the lure. The dogs can run individually or in groups.
Lure Coursing is ideal for sight hounds, but can be enjoyed by dogs of all sizes and kinds, from small dogs like dachshunds to large dogs like Leonbergers. It’s a great opportunity to see a dog run at its top speed in a wide-open area. They can really move when they’re allowed to open the throttle.
The Wine Country Circuit is inspiring – the dogs perform in such different ways. Afterwards, you may be inclined to go home and start training your own dog. Working together helps dogs and humans develop better communication. Without realizing it, you and your pet will form a closer bond and get even more out of your relationship.
The Wine Country Circuit Dog Show is simply paradise for a dog lover. It offers opportunities to see dogs doing things that many might consider extraordinary.
Wine Country Circuit Dog Show – 2015
6069 Route 96A
Romulus, NY 14541
Show Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday, September 24
Finger Lakes Kennel Club, Inc
Friday, September 25
Elmira Kennel Club
Saturday, September 26
Onondaga Kennel Association Inc
Sunday, September 27
Kanadasaga Kennel Club, Inc.