Received Argus's Top Twenty invitation last week, the 4th time he has been invited. The Top Twenty is held with the National, this year in Tulsa, and the Top 20 Dalmatians in breed/all breed competition are invited to compete. It's a big deal to many, everyone in formal dress, and the dogs all have appropriate music played during their performances. The dogs come out as a group, then individually, and are judged by a Group of three "judges" whose names are kept secret until the event. Spectators buy tickets to the event, and the competing dogs have their cheering sections. Drinks and snacks are served and everyone has a good time. Most of the dogs enjoy it, although some are intimidated by the non-show atmosphere.
Top Twenty is a big deal to many exhibitors and being invited to compete is often the goal of those who campaign their already-champion Dals during the previous year.
Me? Not so much. Because the judges judge to a score sheet rather than just judging the overall dog, the results are sometimes a bit odd. I've heard many judges say that they ended up giving the highest score to a dog they don't particularly like - which is one of the reasons AKC does not want standards to contain point schedules - but the Dal standard still has one and it is used for Top Twenty judging.
The biggest problem is no accountability. If a particular judge really likes a dog (or it's handlers or owners) it's really easy to "fix" the judging. Because the winner is based on an "average" of the three scoring results, all a judge has to do is score two dogs very low, and give the dog they want to win the maximum number of points, and it can easily affect the results. And it obviously happens. The person compiling the score is a non-dog person, and no one ever gets to see the ballots. If the individual scoring was made available (even without any judge names) it would be a lot fairer. A handler friend of mine who has judged a number of these events in other breeds mentioned that as an option to make things more fair.
I've competed with Argus for the past three years - well actually, Jess showed him the year I had a broken ankle. It can be an expensive proposition if you have to go out and buy a new outfit you may never wear again, and can be exhausting. It is also very nerve wracking, not like a real dog show.
I'd sort of hoped that Argus would NOT qualify for this year as I did not want to have to make the decision on whether or not to show. He was only shown for a couple of months, but winning a big Specialty BoB pushed him over the top in breed points.
Will I show again? Probably not, but we'll see. Argus is going to compete in the breed ring and the stud dog class, and that's probably enough.