Champion pups on their way

Has your life gone to the dogs? Joelle Kaminski’s has.

Kaminski, a senior music major, spends some of her free time competing alongside her German Pinscher, “Zen,” at dog shows. Kaminski has been training and competing with Zen since last summer. The pair have begun to improve.

Currently Zen is near the top in points for German Pinschers. If their success continues, Kaminski and Zen could receive an invitation to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.

“I couldn’t do it without her,” Kaminski said. “She could probably do it without me though.”

Westminster is the most prestigious event in terms of dog shows. Until recently, German Pinscher dogs weren’t eligible to participate in the show. This changed when the American Kennel Club fully recognized the dogs, making them able to compete.

For a show, the dogs are judged in their breeds. Each breed is categorized into different groups of dogs including sporting, hounds, working and terriers. A dog is picked from each group and is chosen as the best. Those dogs then compete for best in show, the top honor at a dog show.

Kaminski learned about showing dogs from her mother. According to Kaminski, her mom would not share the other dogs with her. She was bored with going to competitions to cheer on her mom. She wanted to compete and show a dog of her own. Kaminski used special techniques to quickly bond with Zen. One technique used was the umbilical method, which kept the dog by her side in its first months of life. Zen was leashed to Kaminski at all times following her around. According to Kaminski, the house is full of animals and it was important to have Zen identify and trust her.

“It has worked because she’s always following me around now; I call her, among other things, my little shadow,” Kaminski said.

Preparing a show dog takes great care and training. All of the dogs in the family receive grooming on a regular basis. To build Zen’s muscles, Kaminski occasionally runs on a treadmill with the dogs in order to keep them in shape.

The dogs are continually being trained on how to act in a show. Kaminski uses treats to reward the dogs to increase their obedience.

“It’s a constant process from the time they are babies,” Kaminski said.

This constant process does not interfere with Joelle’s student life. She is able to manage her commitments between her dog and finishing her last year of college.

“I just make sure that I get everything done the week before we have a show,” Kaminski said.

This month Kaminski and Zen will be competing in a few shows. They will compete in a standard dog show sponsored by the Saginaw Valley Kennel Club. At the end of April, Zen and Kaminski will participate in the Canine Good Citizen Test. This is an obedience competition for the dogs. Dogs are judged on how well they behave for their owners.

Win or lose, Kaminski enjoys competing with Zen. Showing dogs is something that her entire family is able to take part in.

“It’s an exciting thing for my whole family,” Kaminski said. “This is the first thing that all three of us have actively participated in.”