With spring, come most of the Belgian National Specialties. These shows are held in different areas of the country each year and act as showcases for the Belgian breeds. You can see all four varieties in conformation at the Canadian National in London, Ontario in June. The Belgian Malinois meet up in Montana this year. Belgian Sheepdogs are gathering Oklahoma. Belgian Tervurens will travel to Ohio. Travel and entry fees do add up as well as hotel fees and meals. So why would you go to the effort and expense of attending your National?
First, the National brings together dogs of your breed from all over the United States and often other countries as well. This is your chance to see, up close and personal, dogs from other lines and other kennels. You might be "stud shopping" for your bitch or looking at lines to figure out where your next puppy will come from. In between organized activities you will see breeders and fanciers out gaiting dogs and doing hands on evaluations.
For performance advocates, this may be your only chance to see that top herding Belgian or watch a world ranked Belgian fly through an agility course. Once performance event competitions are over, Belgian trainers meet up to informally to exchange tips for training. Who better than another Belgian competitor to help you with a weave pole problem in agility or advise you on driving techniques in herding. Obedience, rally and tracking competitors all share notes as well.
Most National Specialties also include seminars on training, breeding or health issues in the breed. Sometimes there will be arrangements for donating samples for health and genetic studies. Health screenings may be available at discounted prices.
Award banquets are a part of the National Specialties as well. The top performance, conformation and breeding dogs will be honored. Often the dogs themselves are present for a viewing.
For any serious fancier, attending the National Specialty is a must - even if only every couple of years. Start planning now for next year's Belgian Nationals!