The title of this post came out of a direct question asked on Facebook.
The National Dog Show is the show that gets televised every year after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on NBC. It’s filmed in Philadelphia and hosted by The Kennel Club of Philadelphia. It’s considered one of the big four dog shows (Westminster, Eukanuba, The National Dog Show, and Detroit) and while it’s not the largest show (numbers wise, that goes to Eukanuba, I think) or the most prestigious (Westminster), it’s televised and one of the most popular Thanksgiving Day activities.
Side note — I had some friends proofread this post for me, and they pointed out that for the West Coasters, the big four shows usually drop Philly and add Santa Barbara. And even for us East Coasters, people occasionally choose to attend Syracuse or some of the VA shows instead of Philly. Thanksgiving two years ago had a really poor entry at Philadelphia, because people went to Syracuse instead.
So … sure, if there were a Canaan Dog there, it would be some good publicity for the breed. But it’s not as simple as “Hey, why isn’t there a Canaan Dog at The National Dog Show.” Conformation is in some ways one of the most egalitarian sports, where amateurs can go directly head to head with the professionals — and win. It’s also got a relatively low bar for entry, assuming you live in an area of the country where there are a lot of local shows to attend. (That’s not a given for everyone …)
I got to thinking about it, and decided to tally up the costs for me to go attend The National Dog Show, with the assumption that the cartilage in Clover’s ear hadn’t broken and she was actually showable. I’ve included links to where I sourced my costs, when available.
In the past, I’ve not been able to find people to pet sit for me, so I went with the assumption that Jackson and Loki would be traveling with us, even though we were only showing Clover. That means I have to rent a minivan, since our cars are not large enough to accommodate three crates. Pickup on Friday, return on Sunday … so three days of rental. I’d love to use a pet sitter instead, but that hasn’t worked out for me so far.
Speaking of crates, I also had to include the cost of buying a few new crates, because I don’t have enough to be able to set up crates at the show site and the hotel room. Normally this isn’t an issue for me, because for the local shows I can leave Nathan at home with the dogs, but being this is an overnight show, and one that’s televised, Nate wants to go with me to see Clover in front of the cameras. I need 42″ crates for Jackson and Loki (Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not small dogs …), but fortunately I have two of those already. I need six total (three for the hotel room, three for the show site), and the one-door crates cost around $129.00 each. They have to be wire crates so they’re foldable, and because we know from experience that Jackson doesn’t respect a soft-sided crate, plus soft-sided crates are not allowed for containment at conformation shows. Maybe I’ll get lucky and can find some local people to loan me a few crates.
Now, this sets up an interesting situation, because Philadelphia is a benched dog show. If they are like Detroit, there is no space for unentered dogs. They check your dogs at the door and cross reference it to your entries. Not to mention the whole standing in a line to enter/exit so they can be certain you’re not sneaking dogs in or out, and the whole hassle that is loading/unloading your crates, grooming tables, chairs and other equipment for your setup. Syracuse does a similar thing. So my options are:
(1) Pay for entries for Jackson and Loki, and if the schedule works out I can show them just for fun. No guarantees there — the fourth day of Syracuse the year we went, I was standing in the Ridgeback ring with Jackson and craning my neck to see the Canaan Dog ring. But … this sets up a complication because the benched shows are by breed, which means now that Nate and I have to split up, with one of us with Ridgebacks, and the other with Clover in Canaan Dog. Good luck going to go pee.
(2) Leave Jackson and Loki in the hotel room, and send Nate back and forth to the hotel periodically to let the dogs out and give them time outside of their crates.
Neither of these are particularly good options, but let’s pretend we came up with a plan that works so we can show Clover and have a Canaan entry at Philadelphia.
Food for the dogs — fortunately I won’t incur any extra costs there, and I already own a cooler so I don’t have to buy one. Food for humans, though … have to include that. We’ll call it $20 per meal, and I can save some money here because the hotel includes breakfast, and we pack in our own lunch food in the cooler. So dinner Friday and Saturday means we can get away with $40, if we eat fast food and don’t go to a restaurant. Throw in another $20 for incidentals like Cokes, etc.
Gas for the van, tolls, time off of work for Nathan because we need to drive in on Friday to get set up for the show on Saturday. It’s 320 miles from where I live in MA to Philadelphia, each way. It takes about 5.5 hours to drive, assuming you get lucky with traffic. (Incidentally, that’s about the same drive time as the person who asked the question on Facebook …) I used the Trip Calculator on GasBuddy.com to find out how much for gas but that ONLY includes the trip to and from MA, and not any additional driving for food, or to and from the hotel and show site. I’m not sure how much the tolls will be between MA and PA, but there are a few … Let’s estimate that at another $10, each way. Nate has some vacation time accrued, so no costs incurred there.
Entry fees: $34.00
Rental van: $165.00
New crates: $516.00
Human food: $60.00
As it happens, that one dog show is part of a larger cluster of dog shows — I could leave on Wednesday and show Thursday, Friday, and Sunday too… with all the extra costs that go along with the hotel room, rental van, extra food, and so on. Now, I show Clover myself (owner handled, baby!) but what if I didn’t handle her myself, and had to pay for a professional handler? Well, normally they charge anywhere from $75-$100 per day, but this isn’t a local dog show. It’s a premium show, and it’s televised. Now we’re looking at $500-$1000 for handler fees, PLUS their travel costs and lodging as well.
So, just a ball park figure for what it would have cost me, personally, to attend the National Dog Show this year? $615.00 without buying new dog crates. Almost $1100 if I had to buy new crates and couldn’t find anyone to loan me a few. Around $2000 if I needed to have a professional handler. That’s for a SINGLE day in Philadelphia.
Now, I hear you whimpering from here — Rachel, I can’t afford that much for a single dog show. Neither can I. Local dog shows (for me, that’s Springfield, Worcester, Wrentham, Providence, some Maine and NH shows, some CT shows like Hartford and Woodstock …) are a whole different calculation. For fun, let’s pretend I want to do a single day in Springfield, MA — although in the real world, I’d never do a single day in Springfield. I would do two days minimum, and all four if I can get away with it. But apples to apples, let’s look at one day.
Okay, right off the bat we can drop the hotel rental, the van rental, the extra crates, because it’s a local show and I will drive out dirt early Saturday morning, set up a single crate for Clover, and then drive back. That means I can use our Kia (hell, or even the Audi which has a big trunk) instead of having to rent a car. No need to take all the dogs because Nate thinks dog shows are pretty boring, and he’ll stay home with Jackson and Loki. Just me and Clover for this trip.
Springfield charges parking, but it’s a relatively cheap $5.00 for all day. I can get lunch at the food court for about $10 — and honestly if I’m doing this as cheaply as possible, I can pack in lunch, but they have good clam chowder there … Gas will be about $25 according to GasBuddy.com.
Entry fees: $34.00
So, $75.00 a day if I drive out to Springfield and back just to show Clover for a single day.
Now, none of this takes into account whether or not you even own a Canaan Dog who has the temperament to handle a big show like The National Dog Show. It’s a benched show — your dogs have a designated area that they must be in when they are not in the show ring. They are expected to meet and greet the public when not in the ring. It’s a LOT of people and it’s very stressful for the dogs, even a dog like Clover who loves the public. Then there’s the issue of camera crews and television lighting, which is not something that most of our dogs get an opportunity to be socialized to. Those TV cameras are SCARY things for most dogs.
Hell, TV cameras are scary for most people. Do you think you could hold your cool on national television without transmitting any of your nervousness down the lead to your dog? Pay close attention to the dogs on TV sometime. You can SEE them freaking out about the cameras, and pulling back from the judges. Clover would have been the only entry at Philadelphia this year, so guaranteed she’d be in the group ring (like the lady with her Chinook), and I’m pretty sure I would be a nervous mess. I’d be happy just to be able to remember to run in the direction the judge pointed, much less actually keep ring procedure straight in my head. And since it’s televised, if we’re being honest, I’d want to shop for a new suit, and those are not cheap, even if you are a pro bargain hunter like Amy. Add that to the list of costs.
And for what result?
They don’t have enough time during the televised show to show each individual dog being examined by the judge. The most that some breeds get is a 2-second blip when the camera goes down the lineup and has the breed named by David Frei. That’s it. $600.00 just to have a camera on my dog for two seconds. Wow, what a bargain for breed publicity that is!
(Fangirl moment: David Frei! OH MY GOD, YOU’RE DAVID FREI! Alan Kalter is feeling so left out right now …)
Watching the show on Saturday, Nate and I weren’t even sure that there WAS a Rhodesian Ridgeback in the Hound Group lineup, because we couldn’t see them during the wide-angle shots of the group ring.
These big benched shows are basically a cross between Meet the Breeds and a regular dog show. People especially are attracted to certain breeds because they share an ethnic heritage — the Irish people look for the Irish breeds, Jewish people come looking for the Canaan Dog — and breed judging happens early in the morning, with the group rings late in the afternoon. By the time Clover has been manhandled by the public all day, she isn’t going to show her best for the group ring anyway, and your dog needs to make the judge’s “cut” just to be shown during the examination on television. That means they need to be rested to be “up” and ready to show, and NOT freaking out about the cameras, lights, and television crew.
So, basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s easy to sit back and hand wave and pretend like it’s no big thing for someone to take their dog to Philadelphia in the name of “breed publicity”, but no one is being fooled here. It IS a big thing. It’s a lot of work and a LOT of money.