One for the Dogs: Annual Dog Show Back After the Pandemic Gap

For three days the Linn County Expo Center had well and truly gone to the dogs. 

On the lawn, dog owners walked their bullmastiffs, Scottish terriers, coiffed poodles, and St. Bernards in embroidered drool bibs. 

Inside the Expo Hall and Santiam Building show boxers and samoyeds pranced and posed for judges. Meanwhile in the Calapooia Arena, German shepherds, border collies, pugs and corgis demonstrated their agility by weaving in and out of obstacles, walking over seesaws, and leaping over hurdles. 

After a one year absence due to the challenges of COVID-19, the Linn County Kennel Club Dog Show returned to the Linn County Fair and Expo Center. The schedule of events was packed for the entire three-day show. Each day more than 1,500 dogs were judged for conformation (how well they conformed to the standards of their breed), or competed in obedience, rally, or agility trials. Activities were held in all four buildings of the Expo Center. 

Susie Shearer, the Linn County Kennel Club president, said that in addition to creating fun and community among dog owners and dogs, the show raises money to fund the club’s activities and donations each year. The club provides dog owners with services such as free eight-week obedience and new puppy classes. They also provide scholarships to Oregon State University veterinary students and donate to a number local non-profit organizations and their events. 

Shearer said that dog shows also provide an economic boost to the community by attracting people from long distances. She cited an American Kennel Club study that found that exhibitors at AKC dog shows spend an average of $512 per show weekend and can inject more than $1.5 million into the local community. 

One such long-distance traveler to the show was Amy Denton, 65. She drove nine hours from Omak, Washington to compete in agility trials with her Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Carbon. Denton has shown and competed with her dogs for more than 40 years. During that time the farthest she has ever driven for a show was Missouri.

Denton said, “I like the activity because I love my dogs. I have five corgis … and they’re a big part of our lives and they seem to enjoy it.”  

Stacy Dickinson, in her late-40s, has been showing dogs for more than 20 years. She said she continues because, “I like the relationship it creates. It’s something special that you do with your dog … and they’re beautiful dogs so you show them off!”

Running the shows, however, requires an army of volunteers. Usually they are gleaned from the ranks of the people who show their dogs, but according to Shearer “a lot of the people who show are older and dog shows are kind of fading. We want to get young people showing, but they’re more interested in videos.” 

Jesse Questchke, 33, the Obedience and Rally chairperson agrees. “I am fresh blood, and a lot of clubs are looking for young people to join. A lot of clubs are aging.” 

This is a problem in part, Questchke said, because the show requires that some volunteers serve as “stewards” that can do physically demanding jobs such as setting up agility equipment to match dog heights and re-setting competition fields between trials. 

Recently, Questchke was able to enlist the help of some teen volunteer stewards from the 4-H club, Guide Dogs for the Blind-Corvallis. One volunteer, Jesse Lalley, 16, is in the process of training her third puppy as a guide dog but this was her first time at a dog show. It was clear that she was already hooked.

“It’s amazing! I love watching all the dogs. It’s definitely different than what I imagine because I’ve never been to anything like it before, … especially watching the obedience trials. I feel like my guide dogs are learning to do half of this stuff,” said Lalley. “I’m definitely going to be stewarding again in the future!”

The dog show also has a mission to help improve the health of individual dogs and their breeds. Over the weekend the show hosts eye and cardiac veterinary clinics. According to Gail Hill, 77, chair of the Eye Veterinary Clinic, the clinics are “a low-cost way for a whole lot of dogs to be screened all at once” for potential genetic disorders by a specialist from the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

Hill, who is also a volunteer, says that the dog show is “a labor of love.” She said it shows that “there are so many different kinds of ways that we human beings connect with these animals. We’ve been hanging out with these guys for 100,000 or more years. For some of us they are an integral part of our existence.”


What: The Linn County Kennel Club Dog Show

When: Feb. 25-27, 2022 and annually every Feb.

Where: The Linn County Fair and Expo Center in Albany, Oregon

For more information contact: The Linn County Kennel Club, (503)394-3693