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In the beginning …
– a brief history of the Scottish Kennel Club


The Best in show line-up at the SKC show in May this year, the GSD Hughes & de Souza’s Lindellas Good As Gold, handler Gary Gray, President Mr Ian Butchart, Deputy Chief Steward Mr Tom Johnson, judge Mrs Jayne Wilson Stringer, Convenor Mr Robert Crawford and Vice Convenor Mrs Eleanor Bothwell.

The Scottish Kennel Club was ahead of its time. From its early beginnings at the turn of the last century, the strategy was to create an organisation which had authority as well as responsibility. There was a recognition that the welfare and improvement of dogs could be best served by means of a centralised approach to the running of the canine world through London, but with the devolution of authority for certain aspects of the Scottish scene to itself as an independent body.

Thus, the Club has full authority to administer the Kennel Club event licensing system in Scotland with the exception of championship events and to deal with disciplinary matters.

The creation of an authoritative body with a clearly defined organisation is not, however, sufficient to justify the forward - looking definition. Openness, Customer Care and Innovation are also vital ingredients.

Open club

Anyone may apply for membership and it is rare indeed that anyone is refused. The members elect the Executive Council as the policy-making body and the Council elects a number of committees to carry out these policies. Non-Council members have also been co-opted and consulted as the occasion demands.

The membership structure was recently revised to encourage new members and this Open Approach extends to all parts of the Club’s activities. Members (and even non-members) are encouraged to assist with many of the Club’s events, including the championship all-breed shows.

Members receive a ‘warts and all’ Annual Report, which is also available to anyone interested. This is a full and detailed report on the Club’s activities and finances during the previous year.

Benefits for breeders

There are many benefits of membership but admission to the breeders’ register is perhaps the most desirable. The Breeders’ Register is now the major source of pedigree puppies in Scotland and its establishment has severely dented, if not eliminated, the powers of the few puppy farmers known to exist. Although the club could not guarantee quality, the fact that a strict declaration must be signed by the breeder offers a strong control. Thus, the Register serves dogs and breeders alike.

Organisation of Events

The club, of course, runs two general championship shows in May and August, with, uniquely, the dual remit of continual quality improvement and the generation of funding for the club’s other activities.

A complete classification of obedience, including championship, is run as part of the May General Championship Show and finals of a Scottish Beginners’ Obedience Competition and a KCJO Obedience Competition are attached to the August Show. Two open agility tests (one with championship status) are also attached to the shows and they attract a considerable following.

It is a fundamental part of the club’s strategy that these disciplines are not promoted as disciplines apart and that the attributes of show dogs often extend well beyond the show ring; indeed, if it were not for practical reasons of space and suitable ground, spectators would also be able to enjoy the fascination of the working trial world. That said, the club’s working trial enthusiasts have run a full programme of events over the last few years, including championship and open trials, Working Trial Dog of the Year and training days.

The Top Dog Event is an event designed to present the best of Scottish dogs in the SKC Show Dog of the Year and offers junior handlers the chance to achieve the Scottish Junior Handler of the Year title. Thus it can be seen that the full spectrum of the canine world is more or less covered.

Education and Training

The club’s new office premises offer modern training facilities in the shape of a meeting room which doubles as a seminar and conference facility. The availability of a range of canine books and videos provides a resource which is used by canine clubs as well members for research and other purposes.

From time to time, a seminar will be organised for judging, stewarding or club administration but these educational activities are naturally somewhat restricted by the extent of the Club’s resources.

Customer service paramount

There are many organisations concerned with dogs in some way and many of them carry out a valuable service; however, the wealth of experience within the membership demands that the club presents itself as the prime source of information in Scotland on all canine matters.

This is achieved through the medium of telephone, fax and e-mail in addition to the walk-in service offered five days a week. The range of advice asked for and given is limitless. The web-site also provides an immediate information source and its new shopping site enables customers to apply for membership, obtain details from the breeders’ register and purchase goods in a fast and convenient manner.

The club is constantly working to improve the quality of facilities at the championship shows to ensure that exhibitors and spectators receive value for money. Great care is taken over the selection of judges as well as the suitability of the classification and a safe and welcoming environment is provided on the days of the shows. Much effort is put in to identifying and servicing the practical needs of the exhibitor and his dog.

Innovation

Many ideas do not appear to be innovative after the event. The recent establishment of the Scottish Parliament was hailed in some quarters as a new approach to serving the people in this country but The Scottish Kennel Club has been practising devolution for over one hundred years! The Breeders’ Register was a unique idea when it first started but it is now regarded as an integral part of the club’s activities and it has even been copied by others!

The championship shows, in particular, have been the subject of a number of innovative ideas. The combination of canine disciplines at one event is still relatively unknown among general championship shows; the best of breed tent was a new idea and the recent facility of making entries on the internet was also a ‘first’ for the club.

How it all works and who does it?

The Club’s office is manned by four full-time staff, under the guidance of Secretary General, Treasurer and Show Manager, Allan Sim. He is the only ‘part-timer’ on the staff, since he is principally the managing partner in his accountancy practice. The staff has a history of considerable loyalty, borne of a genuine interest in dogs. Anna Fox has been with the club since 1980, whilst Helen Duffield has recently completed eight years’ service. Gail Chumley and Clare Ann Blackie are more recent recruits.

They look after and administrate all aspects of the Club’s affairs and activities and they are all generally conversant with the entire range of services. All have their own dogs and although the Scottie is definitely full time at the office , she is often accompanied by Siberian Huskies, Cavaliers and others!

Some volunteer assistance is received around show time and, of course, all Executive Council members play an important part in many of the activities not least the Championship Shows. These are run under strict organisational lines and require the co-operation of over thirty key officials as well as a host of other helpers.

Over forty meetings a year take place, with the Executive Council and the main committees coming under the chairmanship of Convener, Robert Crawford and his deputy, Vice-Convener Eleanor Bothwell. The selection of judges and event classifications is undertaken by the Show Scheduling Committee under the guidance of Irene McManus. There are, however, no stars since the emphasis is on teamwork at all levels.

Wider issues

The improvement and well-being of dogs is at the very core of the club’s existence and any matter which has any bearing whatsoever on this will involve the Club in some way or other.

Whilst the club may wish to lead in such matters, there is the recognition that other organisations have an interest in dogs and co-operation is therefore important. The club has good relations with the SSPCA and Canine Concern among others. It participates in the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on animal welfare.

The club will surely continue to be at the core and the forefront of canine matters in Scotland for many years to come.