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Cool under pressure: Pampered pups put on a show at Clarke fairgrounds

By Linwood Outlaw III -- loutlaw@nvdaily.com

BERRYVILLE -- Linda Madden says her two Scottish Deerhounds are generally relaxed pets, even when all eyes are centered on them at dog competitions.

Three-year-old Serena and 10-month-old Caramel are used to being in those environments, and Saturday's annual All-Breed Dog Show, hosted by the Shawnee Kennel Club, seemed like more of the same for the deerhounds as they caught some shade underneath a tent earlier in the day.

"This is a pretty laid-back breed. They don't cope with the heat terribly well," said Madden, a Scotland native who lives in Spotsylvania County. "They take most things in stride."

Madden said she uses simple techniques to prepare the dogs for contests. "With these guys, the grooming is fairly minimal. [Training them mainly involves] nutrition and good exercise. You spend more time focusing on their exercise than grooming," she said. "These guys are fairly low-maintenance."

It was a dog-loving affair on Saturday as Old English Sheepdogs, Basset Hounds, Siberian Huskies and a host of other breeds permeated the Clarke County Fairgrounds. The event was sanctioned by the American Kennel Club. More than 850 dogs representing 124 different breeds were entered in the show.

The judges traveled from as far as North Carolina, New York, Oregon and California to take part in the event, said Jerry Howse, chairman of the dog show. Labrador Retrievers and toy breeds were judged indoors, and all other judging occurred in the sunny and humid outdoor weather.

"It's basically a conformation show. We don't do obedience at this particular show," Howse said. "The judges are looking at how well the dog conforms to the standard for that breed. All breeds that are recognized [by the American Kennel Club] have an official standard."

The American Kennel Club registers 157 breeds, the newest being the Beauceron and Swedish Vallhund, which were accepted by the organization in June 2007.

For owners, getting their pets ready for dog shows is "a lot of work," said Sharon J. Howse, Jerry's wife and president of the Shawnee Kennel Club.

"It depends on the breed," Mrs. Howse said, adding that preparation can take anywhere from three to six months.

The dogs competed in nine different rings throughout the fairgrounds on Saturday. In between judging, owners were seen giving their dogs some extra grooming and words of encouragement.

Many of the dog owners came from outside of Virginia, something experts say is key in helping dog shows draw enough money to stimulate the economy. The average amount spent by an owner who travels more than 100 miles for a weekend dog show is $337, according to American Kennel Club officials.

Joannie Clas made the drive from her home in Thurmont, Md., to enter her Bichon Frise and Portuguese Water Dog in Saturday's show.

"These dogs have been doing this since they were young. They know what they're doing," Clas said. "Most of them know what they're supposed to do."

Madelyn Warcholik, meanwhile, brought her Briard, Brighton, all the way from Hillsborough, N.C., to participate in the dog show.

"She loves taking these road trips, especially when they get to stay in hotels," Warcholik joked.

About 874 dogs were expected to participate in Sunday's dog show at the fairgrounds. Winners of the "Best in Show" contest received an etched bowl on a heritage walnut tray, and "Best of Breed" winners were awarded rosettes with medallions.

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