They’re often regarded as playful companions at home, who double up as guard dogs. For others, however, they are more than pets as they give pride and bragging rights to their humans.
Such is the case of Lupo, also known as “Anthem Goodtime Law & Order Rests his Case at ZPD,” in his registration papers. Dog enthusiast and breeder Arby Estolano got this Philippine Grand Champion when he was just 2 years old. Today, the mild-mannered Goldie, originally from the US, is on top of his game, having won numerous conformation shows for Golden Retrievers. And Estolano, who started joining conformation shows in 2012, couldn’t be prouder.
In conformation shows, a dog earns points by besting other dogs in terms of overall appearance, build and movement according to their respective breed’s standards. Think beauty pageant for dogs minus the Q and A portion.
“Every breed has its own standards, like this is how a golden retriever should look,” explains Estolano. “So they are judged based on that—how they conform to that breed’s standards when it comes to how they move, the correct angles of their feet, their chest, head size, height and build, their coat, everything.”
Are the dogs also made to do tricks?
“No, they just have to pose. Then they have to know how to walk around, so the judges can check their movement,” says Estolano who, with wife Rina, has seven dogs under their care: five Golden Retrievers, a Beagle, and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
Lupo, who has a trainer and handler, trained for two months during his first competition back in 2012 on how to walk according to his breed’s standards. “Just so he won’t be too frisky and excitable,” says Estolano. “And then after that (he would practice) just once a week, a refresher so he won’t forget his previous training.”
Now that he’s older and has grown accustomed to joining dog shows, Lupo has become calmer and no longer undergoes training. He’s a natural, even in front of the camera, and patiently holds his “stacking” pose for several minutes. He gamely catches the ball again and again as our photographer tries for a better shot. Between shots, Lupo would go around the Estolanos’ balcony and playfully nudges people for a pat on the head. Of course, they’d oblige every time.
In the Philippines, there are three levels of conformation shows: the Philippine Champion, Philippine Grand Champion and Philippine Hall of Fame. Right now, Estolano says six-year-old Lupo is working on his hall of fame title before he retires next year. The dog already has the titles Philippine Champion and Philippine Grand Champion under his belt—or collar, in his case.
Set to follow Lupo’s pawsteps is 10-month-old Gordon who competed in his second show last weekend in Pampanga. Estolano waited for nearly a year for Gordon, who is from a breeder based in Cebu. It’s like waiting for your own baby to be conceived, he says.
Lupo himself has fathered a lot of pups. With his good genes, he’s much in demand for stud services. One of his pups is Cooper, Inquirer Central Desk editor Juliet Javellana’s pet.
Cooper was only two months old when he was given as a birthday gift to Javellana’s daughter Julianna. The family was naturally curious about his background. Where did this sweet pup come from? Knowing from Cooper’s papers that he descended from a champion, they searched for Lupo on Facebook and were able to reach Breakout Golden Retrievers kennel owner Estolano.
Since Lupo is from the US, does that mean he can only understand commands given him in English? Does Lupo understand Tagalog? “He’s gotten used to it,” Estolano laughs. “But there are some dogs from Italy who won’t follow commands unless they’re given in their language.”
Estolano has another champion in his pack, a corgi named Stark. The two-year-old is a Philippine Grand Champion, a Southeast Asian champ and a Junior Champion that Estolano got from Korea. “Stark is meant for Koreanovelas,” he jokes.
Compared to Lupo who is laid-back most of the time, Stark is a boundless (furry) ball of energy. All seven dogs take turns sleeping with the Estolanos, but Rina says that Stark has first dibs because he is the smallest. He is also the favorite among the Estolanos’ in-laws who would always ask the couple to have Stark over at their place. Rina’s mom and dad even get upset whenever the dog fails to visit them.
Stark was 6 months old when Estolano first entered him in a conformation show. “When I get a puppy, I make sure he gets used to being in a show. The main advantage here is that they’d get used to the show ring, even if you hold back on your expectations initially.”
So, can Cooper follow in Lupo’s steps as dog show champ?
Estolano believes any dog has the potential to join conformation shows—but at a hefty price. Pet owners need to set aside at least P5,000 to cover training, grooming and registration fees. A dog may require a month of preparation—depending on his or her needs—including two to three weeks of training.
Some dogs also take more time to be groomed than others. Long-haired breeds such as Shih Tzus and Poodles are prepped six hours prior to a show. “Cotton balls are placed under the (dog’s fur) so they’d have a certain shape,” explains Rina.
And once you’re in, it helps to you have your own equipment like a grooming table, pet carrier, hair dryer, the works. “It’s easier,” said Rina.
Any advice for pet owners who are thinking of entering their furbaby in dog shows?
“Training is important,” says Estolano. “Be patient because the competition is stiff. I’ve been showing Lupo for four years and I have yet to get the title I want for him,” he adds.
Except for meeting people who share the same passion for dogs, Estolano says there are no cash rewards for winning dog shows, only titles and ribbons. And that sense of pride. “You really just have to enjoy it,” says the kennel owner.