© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Top dogs in the spotlight

Annabel Kean
There were 26 Dalmatians all in one place in Swannanoa on Thursday.  Annabel Kean

The 43rd Dalmatian Club Show attracted pet-owners from all around the country to compete in Swannanoa this week.

Dalmatian Club President Pam Norman said interest in the annual show was on the wane.

She remembered mixed-breed championships three decades ago bringing in 20-25 Dalmatians, whereas now you would find just six or seven. Dalmatian-only shows once attracted about 70 entries - Thursday's event  had just 26.

Norman believed this stemmed from a change in attitude towards pure-bred dogs, a view she rejected. Pure-breeding was actually better for the dog because you "know exactly what's wrong with them, what diseases they get. It's just so much better to buy a pedigree, that way you know what's behind it". 

She said Dalmatians were misunderstood, often mistaken for being stupid. In reality, they just didn’t like repetitive tasks.

"They're not getting your ball anymore - you threw it away, get it yourself."

Having so many Dalmatians in one spot was apparently no problem for the club, because "as long as there's a person there and food, they're happy. If the people aren't stressed, the dogs aren't stressed".

She said there was an influx of Dalmatians in animal shelters after the film 101 Dalmatians was released, because people bought them as puppies and did not want them once they matured.

"[101 Dalmatians] is probably the worst thing that happened to us. Any breeds that have films like that, people just start breeding them for the money."

For nearly 10 months after the film came out, Pam said she spent half her life finding homes for the dogs and was adamant that "we don't want 102 or 103 or 100 and any more really. We're over them."

Dalmatian club secretary Beryl Prentice got involved with the club at the same time as Pam and owned her first Dalmatian in 1981. She peaked when she owned five Dalmatians at one time.

Prentice said she loved the spotted breed for their gentle nature and intelligence, "They're full of fun, they're lovely to look at. They're very loving dogs".

The show had groups of baby puppies, puppies, juniors, intermediates each in individual categories. Best gog and best bitch went face to face for best dog in show, and this year's winner was Timba.

Owner Suzanne McKandry said it had been an amazing year for Timba.

"He's actually number three in the country of all dogs that are shown".

Winners received anything from wine and cheese, to chew toys and a dog made of towels. Best in show went home with a trophy with their name and their dog's engraved on it, alongside the previous 42 winners.

Pam had one warning for aspiring Dalmatian owners.

"If you have them ... They have hair. It's a single coated breed so it has a hair with a barb. So if you have them, even if they're gone for 15 years, you've still got Dalmatian hair in your house."