A Penchant for Bling

    Bedazzled dog show leads

    A Penchant for Bling

    It’s no secret, I like bling. I named my first two Toy Fox Terriers Sparkles and Shimmer. I used to show my horses in western events and wore show shirts decorated with crystals, and rode a saddle accentuated with silver trim.

    So, where do I find bling in dog shows?

    Bedazzled leads.

    I am in love with pretty show leads. I have more show leads than dogs. I can’t walk past a vendor’s booth at a dog show without stopping to look at the glitzy show leads.

    Bedazzled dog show leads
    Photo by Vicki Youngquist

    It didn’t start out that way. For many years, while I was showing in the Sporting Group with Vizslas, Cocker Spaniels, and English Cocker Spaniels, my leads were Simplicity, Resco, or plain nylon with slip/choke collars. Utilitarian, plain and boring—we usually just color-coordinated with the color of the dog’s coat around its throat latch. When I was particularly daring, I bought a pink lead with a slide clip for my Cocker, Bunny, who I showed to multiple championships and wins around Europe and in the US. I had a matching pink skirt I often wore. I still have the lead to remember Bunny, but I couldn’t fit in the skirt anymore if I tried, so its long gone.

    I showed my first Toy, a Japanese Chin, on a plain white nylon slide clip lead. That was back in the mid-1990s and I don’t remember there being a lot of fancy choices for show leads then. I quit looking for leads with the Vizslas when I had so many sizes and shades of rust-colored plain leads and collars in my tack box that I didn’t need to shop for more.

    Bedazzled dog show leads

    When I got my first Toy Fox, my biggest decisions were how thin should the lead be and deciding between white and black. I was stumped that I couldn’t find Simplicity leads anymore, but there were a variety of Rescos available to choose from. As we went along in Sparkles’ show career, and she displayed the intelligence and cleverness of her breed, I discovered I would need to change her to a show chain and lead. That’s when I discovered bling existed in the dog show world. Who knew? When did it start? I didn’t know and didn’t care—I was hooked. The Toy show leads were so pretty!

    Bedazzled dog show leads

    There was a certain difficulty in buying fancy leads. They were so pretty, but many had adornments that were too heavy for a seven-pound dog. There were so many choices, from paracord to nylon to kangaroo leather, and different lengths and widths, and not all were a perfect choice for a Toy dog. But my collection grew. As I got more Toy Foxes and Toy Manchesters, I bought more leads. Along the way, I discovered I am not alone in my attraction to the bling and sparkle of the pretty show leads.

    My friend, Fran, doesn’t have Toy breeds but reports she has about twenty bedazzled leads. A dog show exhibitor with Papillons and Russian Toys reports that she has about fifty leads and probably forty of them are fancy with bling. Another friend has about twenty leads of which fifteen are blinged-out—but like many of us, she finds that she only uses a couple of them on a regular basis.

    Sue Lavida of Chihuahuas and Toy Foxes reports that in 46 years in showing, she has 67 leads and 17 are jeweled or custom-made, not counting the ones that she’s lost, had stolen, or given away. Kathy Lowery with Pekingese reports she has thirty leads, at least, and all are bedazzled. While the respondents to my question on social media about blingy and glitzy leads showed most of my female friends have at least one fancy lead, my male dog show friends tend to stick to plain leads with no bling.

    Unfortunately, theft is an issue with fancy leads. More than one exhibitor has had from one to all of their leads disappear at shows, and one well-known vendor had thousands of dollars of leads stolen from their booth. I keep my show leads out of sight in my ring bags to be less tempting to passersby.

    Bedazzled dog show leads

    While I love the bedazzlement, I start my puppies on plain, simple leads. I will use one with the “kindness” collar to protect the trachea if the puppy is particularly small. After a time, almost inevitably as Toy Foxes are maniacs for food and are super-smart, I find that I change them to one with a collar that won’t allow them to lug on the lead as they try to put their heads down to graze the dropped bait around the ring. My current five-month-olds have already learned about food in the grass after we camped for three weeks of outdoor shows and I walked them around the show grounds.

    Though I am addicted to pretty bling, I find that for my specials I’ve tended to use plainer leads with less decorations. For Ricky, my veteran Toy Manchester, I have a leather lead with some minimal bling with a leather collar. For the now retired Flyer, I had a braided leather lead and collar made for him with no bling. I wanted a specific width and weight as he wanted to lug into the lead and race around the ring, but I was cautious about his throat and trachea, since he is a Toy. Shimmer needed a tiny chain; anything heavier and she would throw a temper tantrum. After trying a variety of leads and collars, including some new pretty ones with bling, her granddaughter, Treasure, is now using the same show lead that Shimmer was shown on.

    A Black and white picture of a girl petting a dog.

    It seems that many people have concerns about the weight of the added decorations, and many prefer they be placed high on the lead so that it won’t droop and interfere with the dog. Several folks stated they struggle with the crystals being lost. Mandy Halsey, a Toy Fox person, stated she finds that bedazzled leads bounce around more, and she’s concerned that they impact how comfortable the dog is on the lead. So, while she has leads with bling, she uses plain leads for showing.

    It seems that many people have concerns about the weight of the added decorations, and many prefer they be placed high on the lead so that it won’t droop and interfere with the dog.

    Another issue is storing them. Many exhibitors use a small, compartmentalized plastic box, fishing lure box, or jewelry organizer bag to keep the decorated leads separated. As a person who has the bad habit of dropping them into my ring tote with the intention of organizing them later, I can ruefully report that the leads will always get tangled, and when you are in a hurry to get a dog to the ring, the lead will have knots to be undone. I do keep the nice mesh bags that most vendors provide when you buy the fancy leads, and I do eventually put each one in their individual bag. One note if you have leather leads: Be cautious of storing them in plastic or vinyl if they are damp, as they
    will mildew.

    A beige belt with a metal buckle on it.

    As we approach the big indoor shows with the plethora of vendors with shiny bedazzled show leads, I know I will find myself running my hands through the jeweled leads on display, turning them into the light to see how they would shine if I was using them in the ring, feeling their weight, and checking the colors and sizes of the decorations. I’ll have my credit card in my pocket and will more than likely add to my collection of show leads even though I don’t really need another. As exhibitor Caitlyn Johnson says, “Some of us just have a penchant for shiny things.”

    I have developed an addiction for blingy show leads and I know I am not alone. Some folks try to have a reason to get a new lead. My friend, Janet Weerts, uses big wins as a reason to buy the bling, and her collection is growing with at least ten fancy leads for her dog, Dickens. Some exhibitors buy a new bedazzled show lead when they start a new dog, and some buy just because they walked past a pretty one hanging in a vendor booth. What’s your reason?

    Susan Thibodeaux

    Susan Thibodeaux began showing dogs in 1978. Ten years ago, after decades in the Sporting Group showing primarily Vizslas, Cocker Spaniels, and English Cocker Spaniels, she made the decision to segue to the Toy Group and now has Toy Fox Terriers and Toy Manchester Terriers. She is President of the American Toy Fox Terrier Club, on the Board of the Brevard Kennel Club, Secretary of the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs, and a member of the American Manchester Terrier Club. In addition to showing, Susan can be found having fun in various events such as Rally, Fast CAT, and Barn Hunt, stewarding, teaching handling classes for BKC, and judging Sweepstakes and Matches.

    • Susan Thibodeaux began showing dogs in 1978. Ten years ago, after decades in the Sporting Group showing primarily Vizslas, Cocker Spaniels, and English Cocker Spaniels, she made the decision to segue to the Toy Group and now has Toy Fox Terriers and Toy Manchester Terriers. She is President of the American Toy Fox Terrier Club, on the Board of the Brevard Kennel Club, Secretary of the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs, and a member of the American Manchester Terrier Club. In addition to showing, Susan can be found having fun in various events such as Rally, Fast CAT, and Barn Hunt, stewarding, teaching handling classes for BKC, and judging Sweepstakes and Matches.

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