« ForrigeFortsett »
THE DOG AND HIS MASTERS
In the companion volume of this work I endeavoured, when dealing with non-sporting dogs, to trace the development of the twentieth century dog and indicate the forces that operated in shaping it-namely, the skill and enthusiasm of the fancier, the impetus and encouragement given to dog-fancying by dog shows, and the beneficent and successful despotism of the Kennel Club in its conduct and control of the dogworld. In the following pages I propose to touch on those who are indirectly the masters of the destinies of the show-bench dog, and record as briefly as I can the opinions, in the concrete, of my many contributors, contained in their replies to the question I circulated, “ Have you any remarks or suggestions to make about dog shows, dog - judging, dog - legislation, or kindred subjects ?”
Several hundred fanciers had remarks and suggestions to make, and I have spent some days in tabulating and arranging them for treatment in this chapter. To confess the truth, I appear to have aroused a sort of hornet's nest, for some of the remarks were strong and several of the suggestions stinging! The first thing was to weed out the "unconfirmed complaints ” — those artless criticisms which appeared to be the result of unhappy individual ex
perience, and could not be regarded as propounded for the public weal. There were not a few of these, and I wish I could have included some on account of their humorous aspect — albeit very seriously represented. Next, the frivolous objections went by the board ; these were many, and conveyed the impression that pinpricks take a longer time to heal than those who deliver them would suspect. The elimination of these two categories left me with the papers of the "conscientious objector," who may be right or wrong, but ventilates his views on public not on personal grounds. This reduced my material to about a hundred contributions, and included expressions of opinion from the very highest in the dog-world down to the “poor-man one-dog” fancier. The following pages are, in practice, a digest of these papers.
Before proceeding to deal with them I must give a little elementary information for the benefit of those of my readers who have no knowledge of dog shows and the dog - showing world, their principles and their politics ; for an acquaintance with existing conditions is necessary in order to appreciate the criticisms on them.
The dog-showing world is governed by the Kennel Club, which, like the Jockey Club, is a private institution, and its administrative committee amenable and answerable to none except its own members. Like Cromwell, the club usurped the governing power, and has justified it by its rule. Without the Kennel Club, or a similarly strong institution, the dog-showing world would probably be a chaos worse confounded. The club assumed the reins in the absence and improbability of a similarly strong institution, as I have elsewhere explained ; and we have to deal with it as an existing fact, for it is folly to waste time in trying to get behind
the fact, and criticise the materials of which it is the outcome.
The Kennel Club is the despot of dog-showing, and master of the dog situation. It tells you (having a practical monopoly of the business) that you must acclaim it king or be outcasted. If you enter your dog in public rivalry with a neighbour's without the Kennel Club's sanction, you do so at your peril. For never may you enter that dog to compete with dogs belonging to owners who have given the Kennel Club their allegiance. In the dog-showing world you must either be an obedient subject or an outlawed rebel. This, on the face of it, appears a little arbitrary, but then the Cromwells of the universe, who legislate for the benefit of their fellows, are nothing if they are not arbitrary. Nor would they deserve the confidence of their subjects if they had not the confidence to be arbitrary.
Every reputable and “recognised " show in the United Kingdom is held under the "rules" or "license" of the Kennel Club, which charges a fee for the latter privilege. I do not think it is necessary to reproduce the "rules” or the "regulations” applicable to licensed shows, for one or other are published in the show catalogues held under either conditions. The main differences between them are that in a show held under “rules” every dog entered must be registered at the Kennel Club,“ to furnish evidence of the identity of the dog, and a record of its pedigree"; whilst under "license" a dog need not be registered. The former are “directory” dogs, with a pedigree; the latter may be very small fry, and nameless, whereby they are accorded less preferential treatment. Thus at a licensed show, which may not last longer than a day, where the entry fees do not cover the prize-money, classes may be
amalgamated, or the sweepstakes system introduced, which means docking the amount of advertised prizemoney. Thus, supposing a competitor enters three of his own dogs in a class in which the advertised prizes are £2, £i, and ros., and the class is not cancelled (which the show authorities may decide to do), and wins the three prizes, he would, under the sweepstakes system, only get his entry fees back, minus a deduction for expenses, or less than 30s., instead of £3:10s. In a show held under "rules” no sweepstakes, amalgamation, or diminution of the advertised prize-money is allowed. Again, under "rules,” a date is fixed by which all entries must be made, and none can be accepted after it; but in a licensed show it is common to "extend entries” for a few more days, which hints an unsatisfactory state of affairs. In short, in a show under “rules” you know where you are and what you are going for ; under “ license” you do not, and sometimes you may be disappointed.
The fee for registering a dog is 25. 6d., having been raised from is. to that amount in February 1903. Other fees demanded by the Kennel Club are 5s. for transferring the ownership of a dog, 5s. for cancelling the registration of a dog that has died without having been bred from (should you wish to use a favourite name for another), and ios. for changing a dog's name. It will thus be seen that the Kennel Club imposes a fairly heavy taxation upon the dog-fancier, and taxation without representation has ever been a ticklish experiment in the government of the Anglo-Saxon race. The fees for "licensed” shows range from ros. to £3; there is no fee for shows held under “rules,” the profit to the Kennel Club being derived from the compulsory registration they entail on dog owners.
About two years ago, in response to a demand for
“ representation,” the Kennel Club created a “Council of Representatives " and dowered them with advisatory powers. It was composed of a representative elected from each of the different breeds of dogs, generally through the Specialist Clubs, and from a few Canine Associations. This Council holds quarterly meetings, and its proceedings are duly reported in the dog-press. There are several of my contributors who would work out salvation, according to their lights, through the electoral system, which brought this Council into being, and some of the more radical ones would substitute it, as the administrative body, for the Kennel Club itself.
So much for the senate that governs the dog-world -masters of the dog to the extent that the three estates of the realm are masters of the people.
We now come to dog shows, and here the dog is subjected to show committees, who impose several strict conditions on it when exhibited ; to the dog-press, which wields the power of the pen ; and to the judges, who decide the dog's prospects.
The regulations of dog shows naturally give rise to much criticism from my contributors. I think I may say that to the exhibitor the show is the judge. There are two sorts of judges—the professional and the amateur. The former is nearly always an “all-round" judge, and held to possess an expert opinion on a variety of breeds. Thus one hour he may be adjudicating on St. Bernards, the next on toy spaniels, and anon delivering himself on the respective and comparative merits of dingos and hairless dogs. The amateur judge is generally a specialist in one breed, and elected a “club judge” by his particular fancy; he is rewarded by the honour of his office, and may or may not accept “expenses” as his idiosyncrasy dictates.
As the wheel in practice revolves on its axle, so does