A local kennel club will host one of the nation’s largest dog shows this week in Louisville.
The Mid-Kentucky Kennel Club, which meets in Elizabethtown, will host one leg of the Kentuckiana Cluster.
“In the dog world, the show has a lot of status,” said Debbie Hibberd, show chairwoman for the club. “People come here from all over the country and some from outside the country. A win here is a big win.”
The four-day show begins Thursday when the local kennel club hosts the first day of the cluster at the Kentucky Exposition Center’s West Wing, West Hall and the Pavilion in Louisville.
To put the show in perspective, Hibberd said its entries rival that of the world’s most famous dog show.
“This cluster is bigger than Westminster as far as entries,” she said. “We have some of the same judges as Westminster and a lot of the same dogs. It’s a chance to see the same dogs you saw on TV compete in person.”
The show features 3,200 dogs on Thursday and reaches nearly 4,000 on Saturday on its busiest day, Hibberd said.
Dogs and their handlers compete in a variety of events each day including conformation, where dogs walk around a ring and are judged based on how they conform to the breed standard. Dogs who compete in this event have to be AKC registered.
“The concept of a dog show first started with the idea of evaluating breeding stock, which is called conformation,” Hibberd said. “Most of the show is devoted to conformation.”
Club member Jonathan Thomas, who shows Dalmatians, said because the show has so many participants, it can be overwhelming.
“It’s like Westminster. It’s the big show without the big city,” he said. “So many breeds will be shown. Some you may have never seen or heard of.”
Club President Cathy Clapp said if spectators are interested in seeing a specific breed show, they should check the schedule at infodog.com for times.
“Each breed will show at a different time,” she said. “But if spectators come later in the day, they may see group judging, which will have one representative from each breed in the seven groups.”
Hibberd said apart from conformation, dogs compete in a variety of other events, such as obedience, rally, dock diving, barn hunt and agility. Dogs competing in these events can be AKC All-American dogs.
“This show is for everybody who loves dogs,” Clapp said. “Dogs of all kinds participate in every thing, except conformation.”
Clapp said these events offer a different spectating experience.
“In conformation, dogs are led around a ring and look pretty,” she said. “But in obedience and rally, dogs follow the commands their handler gives them and in barn hunt, dogs look for rats hidden in hay. The rats are in plastic tubes and are not harmed. It’s fun to watch.”
Clapp said many handlers, which can be professionals and owners, will be willing to discuss their dogs and some might let you pet them.
“If you want to pet someone’s dog, ask first,” she said. “Some will be open to it once the dog is done showing.”
The show also will have a variety of vendors for dog lovers, Clapp said.
“We have great vendors,” she said. “You can get anything for your dog or the dog lover.
“You can buy anything from a dog biscuit for 50 cents or a necklace for $1,000,” Hibberd added.
And for the younger dog enthusiasts, Clapp said the Saturday show features an itty-bitty contest, where children ages 2 to 5 show plush animals.
“Participants can bring a plush dog of their own or one will be provided,” she said. “It is a chance for kids to learn about showing dogs.”
And while the show is for all dog lovers, Hibberd said visitors should keep their dogs at home.
“No unentered dogs are allowed,” she said. “The show is large, very loud, very overwhelming and crowded, which could scare a dog that’s not used to it. It’s not worth putting them through that stress.”
Parking is $10 and shows on Thursday and Friday do not have an entry fee, Clapp said.
For more information about the dog show, follow the Kentuckiana Cluster of Dog Shows on Facebook or go to thekentuckianaclusterofdogshows.org.