When Virginia Ann Dowty sadly died last January, the number of Bolognese being shown at championship shows reduced dramatically. Virginia was always a great champion of the breed and almost never missed a major show. Added to that we had Covid-19 to contend with. In 2020 all championship shows were cancelled after Crufts that year; 2021 saw many shows also being cancelled which did not help the situation. Things have finally got going again, but the number of Bolognese being entered and shown is much lower. Added to that, there may be some people who, because of their health, are reluctant to get back in the ring while Covid-19 is still rearing its ugly head.
These circumstances are worrying because there is a chance that the Bolognese may be given CC (Championship Certificate) status in the near future. This can only be accomplished if we are able to keep the show numbers up and get more judges coming forward who wish to qualify as specialist judges in the breed.
Many of us currently showing our dogs, myself included, are getting a bit long in the tooth. We need to get some younger people interested in showing. It is my belief that many people do not go into showing as they fear the grooming this entails will be onerous and it certainly can be. Also, many may feel a shyness about coming forward as they don’t know how to show a dog and are afraid to ask. I do think it should be possible at some of the Bolognese get-togethers to have a fifteen minute session to show those who are interested what to do. You also might find a Ringcraft class near you where you can enrol for a few sessions (Luigi only went twice, but my other two needed more). These sessions are conducted like a proper show and will give you an idea if you think you/your dog might enjoy it.
For those of you simply not interested in showing, read no further. For those of you who are tempted to have a go, it may help to tell you how I got into showing, which was quite by accident. Luigi was one of two surviving puppies in a litter of three. Both were dogs and the breeder and her husband were undecided which one to keep as they were both of good show quality. When they did decide, I got little Luigi. I was not at all interested in showing, but I offered to show him so they could see whether or not he had any potential in the ring. On our first outing, Luigi and I were disqualified as his coat was full of knots! I was mortified, but determined to do better and at the next show, he came second. The Italian judge suggested I get a groomer as he was still knotted and not looking his best. Fortunately, I found a lady called Pauline who knew what she was doing, and at his first show at Crufts, Luigi got a creditable third in a good field of dogs. Sadly, not long after this, we moved South and I no longer had Pauline to help me. I tried a few groomers, but in the end took on the job myself, and ever since have groomed Luigi and now, little Bijou and Alba, without help. I know that many of you who keep Bollies as pets, usually get them clipped out as it is so much easier. I contend that if you find the right groomer to groom rather than clip your dog, if you take the dog at, say, six to eight week intervals, with a bit of practice you should be able to maintain his/her coat for showing in between visits. In 2011 Luigi got his first ‘first’ at Crufts in a very strong field of eight dogs. This time I had groomed him myself, so I was unduly proud.
There are more things to consider, of course. Is your dog of show quality, for a start? If it has an upright tail, walleye, an undershot mouth, or poor pigmentation, you will be disqualified from the ring (see the Bolognese Breed Standard for other eliminating faults). If your puppy has come from a reputable breeder they will already have pointed out any major defects to you. There are few perfect specimens of the breed and chances are your dog can go in the ring without disgracing itself or you. Talk to the breeder and see what they say. Those of us who show do not all have top class winners as much as we would like to, but you can still have fun showing your dog. Generally, you also meet like-minded and pleasant people when you are showing dogs. Most are generous with tips and help if you need it.
Another incentive for newcomers is that most of the larger Kennel Club shows now include a ‘Special Beginner’s’ class for each breed. At present these are under-subscribed for the Bolognese and offer a good opportunity to introduce yourself and your dog to the ring without feeling self-conscious. It is a great thrill the first time you qualify for Crufts and even more of one when you go in the ring there for the first time!
If I can convince just one or two of you to try showing I shall be very happy. In Luigi’s case, he continued in the show ring for thirteen years, coming second at his last show literally a few weeks before he died. When he graduated to Veteran status at the age of seven, he became a real show off and always gave me his very best in the ring without me doing anything. Apart from disqualification at his very first show, in all those years he was placed in every show he attended – not bad going for a dog whose owner was reluctant to show him in the first place!
Bette Hopkins, September 2021