AUGUSTA — Finn, a year-old berger Picard with a wet chin, a kind face, and a coat that comes closer to telling the world “I’m having a bad hair day” than “I’m a blow-dried show dog with champion bloodlines; don’t touch,” was more interested in sniffing who or what had come before him at Capitol Park than in winning ribbons there Sunday morning.

The friendly pup wasn’t actually having a bad hair day. His wiry, low-maintenance, double coat is a trait of the French herding dog breed, a breed which was featured in the 2005 movie “Because of Winn-Dixie,” because it looks like a mixed-breed.

And the proof that Finn comes from champion bloodlines wandered over for a sniff after he, too, had his time in the show ring at the Acadia Belgian Shepherd Dog Club’s annual United Kennel Club dog show at Capitol Park. That’d be Caspian, Finn’s father, named a UKC champion in 2011.

The dogs, rare in the United States but fairly common in Europe, are known for their ease of grooming and natural look. They don’t need to be bathed or otherwise fussed over, even for a dog show.

“It’s not the typical foo-foo kind of breed,” said Finn’s owner, Deborah Skoglund, of Bristol.

Celestia Lensky, of New Hampshire, Caspian’s owner, said the six-and-a-half-year-old is certified as a therapy dog and goes with her to local elementary schools for “Winn-Dixie” events in which students read the book, watch the movie, and get to meet Caspian.

The athletic dogs are known for their high energy and warm personalities — warm but strong personalities, as Finn revealed when he pulled his head away gently when judge JoAnne LeFear, of Windsor, tried to get a good look at his teeth as she examined his conformation to breed standards.

“Obedience is not their forte,” Lensky said later, smiling.

About 100 dogs and their owners were on hand for the weekendlong annual dog show in Augusta, which featured three events over the two days.

“It’s a great venue,” said Scott Catell, of Dover-Foxcroft, whose wife, Debby, is president of the Maine-based Acadia Belgian Shepherd Dog Club, which has members throughout New England. “It’s got parking, beautiful views, and it can get hot but there is plenty of shade. And it’s centrally located.”

The Catells have four Belgian Shepherds but only brought one — the black, long-haired champion Bear — to the Augusta show. They got their first Belgian in 1989 and have had one, or sometimes up to six, ever since. Six of the high-energy dogs, Scott Catell said, were a handful.

He said they consider their dogs pets first and show dogs second.

Like most herding dogs, Belgians need to be socialized young, and their minds and bodies do best when they’re kept busy.

Kristine Barberri, who came to compete in the show from Massachusetts with her two Belgians, Dante, 8, and Arazi, 4, had her minivan stuffed full of things for the pooches, which sat in crates with buckets of water hanging off the side of each. Each of the dogs had a fan pointed at its cage, and a special reflective sheet was draped over the end of the van to help keep them cool. Each also had stuffed animals in their cages with them. Dante favors stuffed elephants.

She said her dogs are intelligent, loyal, great family pets and protective, especially so when her husband is away. She said she competes in dog shows because she likes spending time with her dogs and likes getting to know people with the same breed.

Belgians, unlike the other seven breeds judged in the weekend’s shows, undergo “assisted animation” judging, in which the judge approaches the dogs and watches to see how they react. A second person takes notes as the judging goes on, noting how the dog reacts to the animation test and noting how its physical characteristics match the breed standards. Those notes are made available to dog owners later.

Owners said their dogs love coming to shows. Many of them strut around the ring, tails wagging, heads held high.

Adam and Cindy Lester, of New Gloucester, had several English springer spaniels in cages in the shade outside their van, and one Rottweiler. The spaniels included champion adults and several soft-furred puppies just getting their start in dog shows in the novice puppy category.

“It’s a class where they can get used to being in the ring, get the puppies used to being handled and touched by a judge,” Adam Lester said after taking pup Jubilee for a walk, with the dog wrapped in a towel held on by a diaper safety pin, to keep its coat from getting frizzy.

Other breeds in the weekend’s shows included Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Leonbergers and Shetland sheepdogs.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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