K-9 trials


Competitors and their handlers prepare for the final round of judging for the vizsla breed at the Kern County Kennel Club’s All-Breed Dog Show on April 1, held at the Kern County Fairgrounds.

Nicholas Sparling, Reporter

The end of March brings a long-held tradition to the Kern County Fairgrounds: the Kern County Kennel Club’s All Breed Dog Show.

The Kern County Kennel Club has been in existence since 1947, running two dog shows back-to-back annually – one complete show on Saturday and one on Sunday.

The point of a dog show is for dog owners to “showcase their breeding stock,” said Margie Haarsager, president of the Kern County Kennel Club.

The winners of the show are determined by judges who are considered experts.

“They’ve seen many top quality champions. These people are giving the people showing the dogs their opinion on how representative the dog is of that breed,” said Haarsager.

She then went on to explain the qualifications for being a judge.

“The qualifications to become a judge are to have produced ‘x’ number of champions in that breed and have shown the champions, to show you have developed enough knowledge of that breed to have a judgment on it. Every breed has a standard that’s written and every dog is judged against that standard,” she said.

The dog show recognized around 170 breeds, including “the tallest breed, the Irish Wolfhound, to the smallest breed, which are the Chihuahuas. [They’re] all there to be representative of their breeds,” said Haarsager. Haarsager attributed the size of the dog show this year to the economy.

“This is probably a medium size dog show. The economy has certainty hit the dog shows in California. Let’s be honest, if you have a finite number of bills, what are you willing to cut out?” she said.

In the past five years, the dog show has been cut from 1,800 dogs to having under 1,000 this year.

Kim Estlund, who showed English Cocker Spaniels this year, enjoys the technical aspect of the dog shows.

“I show my dogs because I love them. It’s about trying to get them to conform to some standard, how they look and how they should present themselves. It’s everything about their structure because structure equals functionality,” she said.

A large part of the dog show is the groomers.

The groomers are the precursor to the events for the dogs. Camille Walker was one of the groomers at the dog show. She got the job by mentoring someone. Another way to become a groomer is to have a natural talent for it. Many of the groomers also show dogs.

“It’s all about putting the dog together and enhancing the positive qualities and trying to cover up the bad points of the dog,” said Walker.

Gary Allison has been going to this particular dog show at the fairgrounds for 17 years now. He is the proprietor of Redbarnguy.com, a website that sells dog treats, which is another large part of the dog show.

“The Kern County Kennel Club has worked really hard to keep up the event in spite of the weather,” he said.

After the show on Saturday, a storm came through and ruined many people’s camps.

To Allison, this dog show is one of the better ones in Southern California.

“The fairgrounds are really clean, the show is really well managed, and the people are really hospitable.”