Nigel is ‘setting’ the standard in his class Caledonia business owner participating in dog show

English Setter, Nigel, runs in the CKC Dog Show with his owner Julia Crawford.
~ Contributed

By Clay Schuldt
The Caledonia Argus

Every year for the last 58 years The Coulee Kennel Club has hosted an Annual All Breed Dog Show. This year the event was Aug. 4 and 5 at the Equestrian Center in Winona.

Caledonia business owner Julia Crawford once again entered her English Setter, Nigel, in the show. Crawford has been a member of the Coulee Kennel Club ever since Nigel came into her life over a year ago. She owns Pawsh Pet Grooming.

“Nigel’s breeder encouraged me to join the area all breeder club,” Crawford said.

As a purebred, Nigel is one of the few dogs qualified to take part in CKC affiliated events. The CKC is an affiliate of the American Kennel Club (AKC) and follows the same codes. Seven distinct classes of canines are recognized by both the CKC and AKC.

•  The first category is toy breeds, which includes Toy Poodles and Pekinese.

• The second category is the hound group with breeds like the Greyhound and Beagle.

•  The third group is the working breeds, which is made up of animals bred for jobs like pulling carts, such as Huskies and Bernese Mountain Dogs.

•  The fourth section is the terrier group, including the Cairn Terrier and Airedale Terrier.

•  The fifth group is the herding dogs, such as the Collies and Shepherds.

•  The sixth group is the non-sporting category, which includes Bichon Frises and Miniature Poodles.

•  The seventh and final class is the sporting class made up of bird dogs like the pointers, retrievers and setters. As an English Setter, Nigel falls under this category.

The individual sections are further divided. After being placed in one of the seven classes, the dogs are separated by gender and age.  If a dog wins in their breed they go up to the next level, which eventually leads to best in show.

The CKC annual dog show consists of two showings under two separate judges. The first show is on Saturday and the second on Sunday, which doubles the chances of each owner being awarded the coveted title of “Best in Show.”

This year represents the first year in which Nigel has been shown as an adult. Last year Crawford entered him as a puppy.

“Maintaining a show dog is a lot more than the average pet animal,” Crawford admits. Simply keeping Nigel groomed is a yearlong ordeal.

“English Setters need to get a good amount of exercise and have a good diet. Nigel has to be bathed once a week and groomed twice a month.” This regiment is necessary to keep Nigel’s coat healthy, Crawford explained. “If his coat is stained or is missing hair, he loses points.”

When asked how she manages to bathe a large animal like Nigel on a weekly basis, Crawford said, “He’s been groomed most of his life. He just stands there. He knows what to do.”

Crawford is fortunate in that bathing and grooming dogs is not just a hobby, but a career.

Of course proper grooming is only half the battle. The average show dog requires proper socialization. “Nigel has to be able to let a lot of people and dogs near him without reacting.” Nigel attends special conformation classes to teach him proper obedience for formal events.

It’s not just the dogs that need to primp for the big event. There is also a dress code for their human handlers. Back in the Victorian age when dog shows first became popular it was considered a formal event, and the Coulee Kennel Club wishes to maintain this formal atmosphere. In fact, some owners of show dogs hire professional handlers to show their animal. However, Nigel prefers to stick with his owner.

In order to enter into the CKC and most other AKC affiliated events, the owners need to provide papers for their dogs to prove purebred status. Dog shows are frequently restricted to purebreds as it would be too difficult to establish standards for the endless list of crossbred canines. However, obedience trials, rally, agility and tracking competitions are open to hybrid dogs.

At a year and a half, Nigel is still something of an underdog in the CKC Dog Show. Crawford explained that Nigel’s coat is still growing, and he is competing against other more experienced dogs. In time, Nigel could earn enough points to earn the grand champion title.

Technically, Nigel could earn the grand champion title without ever finishing as the top dog.  While there is no cash award for winning best in show or grand champion, Crawford said the show is a chance for dog enthusiasts to share their animals with the public. Of course, the prestige of having the best animal is attractive as well.

The Coulee Kennel Club meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in or near La Crosse.  Members of the CKC meet to discuss future shows and talk about different issues that affect dog owners in this area, such as new animal ordinances.