Upward of 1,500 dogs, and their people, have come from far and wide for the Celebrate Virginia Cluster Dog Show.

The dog show, running daily through Sunday at the Fredericksburg Expo Center, can lead to bigger things for the dogs, their owners and their handlers, said Becky Heubi, past president of the Greater Fredericksburg Kennel Club and assistant chairman of the dog show.

In fact, several dogs that have won best in show over the years in Fredericksburg have gone on to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“A lot of the handlers and owner–handler exhibitors use our show for more exposure prior to Westminster. We’ve had dogs show here that have shown at Westminster,” Heubi said. “We get a very, very good representation of top-quality dogs.”

Patti Staub, the current chairman of the Celebrate Virginia Cluster Dog Show, also said the show at the expo center can serve as a training ground.

“One of the things that makes this show attractive is that there are not any big, indoor shows before the Garden,” Staub said. “It’s also nice to start young dogs who have not shown very much, and it gets them used to a dog show.”

People who have only enjoyed watching dog shows on television would get a kick out of seeing one in person, Heubi said.

On television, only a few dogs are featured. At dog shows, people can see all of the different breeds, take advantage of educational tables to learn about different breeds, and find unique items at vendor booths.

“You get to see all of the dogs,” Heubi said. “On TV, they will highlight two or three dogs in the breed and then they’ll go over and show another breed.”

The Fredericksburg show, with more than 160 breeds, from 37 states, has 10 show rings. The large venue offers people the chance to see different breeds and maybe find their favorite breeds at the expo center.

People will also get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into preparing for a dog show, since dog grooming will be taking place all around the rings, Heubi said. “You see these beautiful dogs on TV, and you have no idea how they got that way. It’s not just a bath.”

Sometimes the owners and handlers have time for the public between the shows that run between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

“You can walk through, and you can stop and see owners or the handlers getting their dogs ready to show. Occasionally, if you catch them at the right time, they may be able to answer questions,” Heubi said.

The show—hosted by the Northern Neck Kennel Club, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Kennel Club in addition to the Greater Fredericksburg Kennel Club—is very popular among the owners and handlers, Heubi said.

“We’ve been very successful with our show, and people love Fredericksburg, and they like the expo center,” Heubi said. “It’s exciting.”

Mark Walker is a freelance writer from Stafford.

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