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The Collare D’Oro - Italy

Text & photos by Gábor Szalánczi

The Collare D’Oro is one of the most important events in the Italian dog year. It was held in April, at the Forum, a big sportshall in Assago, just south of Milan. It is not simply a dog show as such, but a Television show that is all about dogs. They talk about them, and present the different areas in which dogs compete. This is all kept at quite a light level, with music, and humour. It tells the viewers what dogs can give and do for us, but also discusses what we can do for them.

When it comes to the dog show section, it usually follows it’s own system, and is judged on quite different lines than those one encounters at a real dog show. One important difference last year, was the chorus line of very pretty dancing girls. Most of the men were rather dissapointed to discover that they were not part of this years programme! Last year there were 120 dogs entered, and these represented the very best in Italian show dogs. These went through different rounds of judging, until the final 12 top Italian dogs were left. These were to meet 12 invited dogs, who were selected as the most succesful show dogs at a world wide level.These were to meet on the final night of the show. Last years finale was recorded in December and went out on Television during the Christmas period.

This year the event was run on rather different lines, as the organisers, sponsors and TV people had some minor disagreements. For this reason the show was recorded much earlier in the year, and the knockout system that had been used in previous years to determine the finalists was stopped. Instead the ten top Italian dogs were invited directly, as were the 10 worldwide winners. Most had already been recognised as the top dog of the year in their home countries, or had been top winners at the most prestigious shows, like the European Dog Show.

Last years sponsors were the “Friskies” company, and the set was therefore decked out in their colours of red and yellow. This year however it was the turn of Friskies parent company”Purina” whose colours are white, red and grey. The organisers of the show were some of Italy’s best known dog breeders, Mr Manilo Masa of the world famous “Cayuga” Newfoundlands. Richard Hellmann, one of the top Italian professional handlers, and handler of the BIS winner at the 2003 World show, together with two of Italy’s best known judges Guido Vandoni and Piero Renai della Rena.

The Assaggo sportshall is big enough to hold 10,000 people seated on chairs, and the show was recorded with many cameras, on the playing field alone there were five cameras in use. At one end of the playing field they has built a wide. but quite low stage, and there was a big screen about 32 meters high and 12 wide. On the left hand side at the front of the stage sat the show judges, Jean Lanning (GB). Lisbeth Mach (Switzerland); Riborde Olfi (Italy), Susanne Blum (D), Hassi Assenmacher-Feyel (D), and Claudio de Juliani (I). Opposite them, on the right hand side of the playing fied, in a small “one person stage” sat the main judge of the show, Dr. Tamás Jakkel.
The Italian dogs that had been invited to take part in the show were: Active del Biaggo Alaskan Malamute (1999 Europe Dog Show BIS), Gustavo di Villahermosa Standard Smooth Dachshund (2003 Dortmund World Dog Show BOG), Hemingway del Gotha Wire Miniature Dachshund (2003 Bratislava Europe Dog Show resBOG), Dialynne Gambit Beagle (Crufts BOB, 2003 Bratislava Europe Dog Show BOG), Pennywise Patriot Games Dandie Dinmont Terrier (2003 Dortmund World Dog Show BOG and BIS3), Balboa Ben Hur Kerry Blue Terrier, Xenos Joselito Afghan (TOP dog Italy 2003), Mack von Aducht German Sheperd, Ludstar Tamburello Gordon Setter, Set’r Ridge’s Audacious English Setter (2003 Bratislava Europe Dog Show BOG). The dogs invited from other countries were: Flo-Jo from Valvasor’s Land, Great Dane from Slovenia, Averno de la Gran Aldea American Cocker Spaniel from Argentina (2003 Bratislava Europe Dog Show BOG); Milwaukee de Ngorong-Ngorong American Staffordshire Terrier, from Croatia (2003 Bratislava Europe Dog Show BOG and BIS), Kudos the Knockout Black Miniature Poodle from Norway (Crufts BOB, 2003 Dortmund World Dog Show BOG), Merriveen Silver Sailor Bulldog (Great Britain), Merry Mac Xtra Irish Terrier from Sweden (TOP dog Sweden 2003, Crufts BOB and resBOG), Kócziánpusztai Hatalmas Alfréd Komondor from Hungary (2003 Dortmund World Dog Show res BOG), Lida di Greko Attikis Pointer from Spain; Gloris Larion Giant Black Schnauzer from Russia, Karnovanda’s Beatrisa Siberian Husky from Portugal.

Those of us from Hungary, were very pleased to have the opportunity for a rematch between our Komondor, and the Australian Shepherd from Italy, since the latter had beaten the Komondor at last years World Show, but this time the Aussie would not be handled by Richard Hellmann, since he was one of the organisers.

The show began at 9pm. All the dogs had been put into groups of four, and each groups was called to appear before the judges, who awarded points (maximum 60).These were recorded on small pointing machines, and immediately transferred to the big screen. The five dogs with the highest points in each group then went forward to the final. These had an opportunity to rest, or receive further grooming etc; whilst the show moved onto a different part of the production.
The presenter of the programme sometimes came on with a Labrador named Joss, Unkown to the public Joss was controlled by his trainer, who was backstage and thus out of sight of the camera. Joss sometimes obeyed the presenters commands, and at other times did something quite different, which always seemed bo make the audience laugh. There were more discussions which took place in the centre of the field, and these were led by a lovely blonde presenter. Subjects covered were important issues like care of the older dog, feeding, the responsibilies of dog ownership, and the work dogs perform for blind or disabled people. There were displays by the Italian Carabinieris (police), with Rottweilers and Great Danes. They showed how the dogs were trained for obedience and general dexterity. There was a quiz for members of the public, and the first prize was a three to four month old German Shepherd puppy!

There were small agility competitions which included such breeds as the Border Collie (naturally), the Lagotto Romanola. Belgian Shepherd Malinois, Labrador Retrievers, Wire Fox Terrier, Sheltie, Miniature Poodle, and a Chihuahua.

At midnight it was time for the ten dogs to come together for the show final, but before this started the children had an opportunity to vote for their favourite dog. They chose the Komondor, - Alfred, and they were allowed to come up and make a fuss of him. There were children everywhere, patting and hugging him, and he obviously enjoyed the attention.

The Best In Show final was judged in the same way as a normal dog show. Dr Tamás Jakkel went over all the dogs very thoroughly. He then gave third place to the Russian owned Schnauzer Gloris Larion (this dog had been awarded the highest points by the judging panel). Reserve Best In Show went to the public, and the childrens favourite, the Hungarian Komondor, Kócziánpusztai Hatalmas Alfréd. The Best In Show award went to the Afghan Xenos Joselito. This Afghan was top dog in Italy 2003. As this dog stepped forward to the winners plate, the dog show ended. As the cameras moved back a lot of members of the public surged forward so that they could see or touch the winning dogs. Although the programme is called the Golden Collar, that is sadly not an item amongst the winning dogs awards.

Of course all the exhibitors were aware that this is first and foremost a TV show, and that the presentation and judging of the dogs will be in the style of a TV show, but none of them seemed to find this a problem. Sometimes it is good to have a show where the public can see all areas of a dogs’ life. So often dogs are seen only on various TV programmes and soaps. It is rare to see any serious programmes about dogs. Although sometimes the world’s top dog shows like Crufts, or Westminster are televised. From these, and the Golden Collar programme pure bred dogs have become more popular in Italy. And when one sees dogs walking in the streets, one sees many and more varied pure breeds than in the past.. There have also been more people buying dogs so that they can take part in the various sporting activities and, for dog shows.

Owning a dog has become more popular in Italy, not just a pedigree, but mixed breeds too. The most popular breeds, based on the puppy registration figures for 2002 are as follows: the GSD with 23.755 puppies; second the English Setter 20.999, third the Labrador 8.080, with other breeds (in order) Britanny, Rottweiler, Boxer, Segugio Italiano (Italian Hound), Pointer, German Wire Haired Pointer, Dobermann, Cane Corso, Golden Retriever. In Italy there are about 6.900.000 dogs, owned by about 3.500.000 people owning one dog, and more than 800.000 keeping more than one do. About 1.750.000 keep both dogs and other pets together.

This show has an important place in the Italian dog life and does a lot for the dog keeping culture. It is very interesting from an international viewpoint. Perhaps more countries would benefit from this kind of sensible TV coverage.