Show Dog is a nonfiction work by Josh Dean that takes the reader on a journey through a year of living like a show dog. By show dog I am referring to the archetypal dog shows known as confirmation shows.
I must confess first of all that I came to this book as someone who has been in and out of the dog world for most of my life, and probably most importantly for this particular book someone who has owned Australian Shepherds and considers myself a die-hard ASCA person (more on that later). My wife and I don’t do anything with our dogs now, but as a youth I was involved in competition level obedience, competition disc dog, and my feet have gotten wet in everything from flyball to dock diving. We’ve also served as rescue people transporting dogs across state-lines to find better homes and obtained our quite beautiful Shetland Sheepdog through the same rescue. The one area of the world I have never experienced is confirmation, and I will say this book did not motivate me to change that!
Aside from all of that, the book is an excellent review of the dog world and the people that often reside within it. It follows a young Australian Shepherd and his owner as they navigate the waters of confirmation showing. It also gets into the strange and bizarre politics that often make up the purebred dog world including the still seething dispute between the AKC and ASCA. Not many people outside of the dog world and very few people outside of the even more niche Australian Shepherd community know about this dispute but this book does it justice without going in too deep. To summarize the dispute for those of you not interested in chapters of dog politics: ASCA is more interested in function while the AKC has always been more interested in form. A quick google search of ASCA Australian Shepherds vs AKC Australian Shepherd will show you what is meant by that, the two breed clubs have quite a different look.
The book does a fantastic job of explaining the confirmation system of earning points and titling a dog and also explains some of the underbelly of the world of dog shows without painting them in an overall negative light. The author does not shy away from the fact that there are all breeds of crazy that accompany a dog show, but he also doesn’t paint dog people as lunatics either.
Aside from confirmation showing the book also goes through the sometimes very difficult process of dog breeding, a brief overview of the history of showing, and the politics behind the AKC, ASCA, USASA trio. It is extremely entertaining. I also found it to be a very fair assessment of what its like to commit to such a crazy world.
Overall I’d recommend it to anyone interested in dogs, history of dogs, and/or dog shows. There are some parts that go into more detail than the average person would want or more detail than anyone very versed in the dog world would need. It holds its own in a middle ground being very accessible to people who know very little about dogs while also offering a lot for someone who’s been around for a while. It’s a good book!