Nine-year-old, Dusty Berthold of Cave Creek is a dog show veteran.
When she was four-and-a-half years old, Dusty began showing her Chihuahuas at matches and worked her way into the open junior class.
"A match is practice and a dog show is the real thing," Dusty said Sunday afternoon at the Prescott Arizona Kennel Club Dog Show in Chino Valley.
Dusty and her mother Randi Berthold attend the PAKC show every year. Their two Chihuahuas joined more than 1,300 other dogs competing Saturday and Sunday.
"I like the fact that everyone is so friendly and willing to help the 'newbies,'" Randi Berthold said.
The Bertholds are the perfect example of what PAKC members said again and again‹the dog show world is a family-oriented and family-friendly circle.
"The dog show is the only sport where owner/handlers compete against professionals," said Show Chairman Sue Spahr.
Spahr knows what she is talking about after logging 35 years in the dog show arena. Spahr raises and shows Affenpinchers and Welsh springers.
"The best thing about the dog show world is that there are so many nice people. We are almost like gypsies traveling from show to show," Spahr said. "Dog show people come from all walks of life."
The dog show is conducted according to American Kennel Club regulations and open to all 153 recognized AKC breeds.
"Most of the dogs are family members that sleep in bed with their owners," said PAKC member Pat Robinson.
Kathy Gilbert, of Laughlin, Nev., and her daughter Sinclair, have participated in the PAKC show for the past seven years. Kathy Gilbert shows toy poodles and Sinclair shows Gilbert dalmatians.
"We started with handling and confirmation classes," Kathy Gilbert said.
The Gilberts travel a lot; attending one or two matches, or shows, each month. For Sinclair, "the best part is being outside with the dogs."
Walt Turanski and his 12-year-old daughter Maggie enjoyed their first dog show Sunday. The Turanskis, of Paradise Valley, attended the show to visit a Westie puppy they recently purchased from Peoria breeder Deana Schuster.
Although she thought the dog show was "cool," Maggie Turanski said her Westie would be "just a pet." She selected the Westie breed because they are obedient, calm, relatively quiet, and small.
Judges Cindy Vogels, Charles Trotter and Everett Dean know exactly what they are looking for when they step into the show ring.
Each dog should conform to the standards of its breed, said Vogels.
"Also," said Trotter, "Each dog should perform at the level it was bred to perform. Every dog was bred to do a job for man, even if it is sitting on someone's lap."
Vogels said, "We are looking for breed-specific anatomy along with temperament and showmanship."
Vogels, Trotter and Dean have all served as judges at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
In fact, Dean, who started judging in 1978, said the most exciting thing to happen to him was judging a group and Best of Show at Westminster.
Vogels said she loves to judge National Specialty Shows. The shows feature one breed and one dog is selected as Best in Show.
PAKC member Diane Malenfant said breeders "really shine at specialty shows. The handlers are important, but the breeders bring only their best dogs."
Vogels, Trotter and Dean, as well as the other 13 judges at the show, started their judging careers the same way.
Dog lovers and former show ring contestants, they got their first taste of judging at matches and sweepstakes.
Dean said judges participate in seminars, attend judging institutes, submit to written and oral interviews, and must have hands-on experience.
Malenfant said dog shows are a "family sport that promotes harmony and camaraderie. There are events for kids, and it promotes wholesome activities for the entire family,"
Anyone interested in more information about PAKC and dog shows can visit azdogs.com and click on Prescott Arizona Kennel.
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