By Jeff Martin

Sandie Holly, president of the Olean Kennel Club, understands that many dog owners just don’t get it.

Dedicated to what club members have been touting since 1923 as the advancement of purebred dogs, the club aims to make perfect showings of various dog breeds that are already, in many dog lovers’ eyes, perfect already.

“The people who come here, and the people who are members, love their dogs beyond the normal level of love,” said Holly.

A member of the club for over 20 years, Holly is gearing up for another spring and summer season, one that involves regularly offered classes in obedience and agility (among many others) to point and conformation shows.

In 1975, the club held its first American Kennel Club Conformation Show at Bradner Stadium in Olean, according to information on the club’s website. Clubs at that time were starting to form cluster shows. The Olean club held one more show at the stadium and then moved to Alexander, N.Y., as part of a three-day cluster. The spring show continued there for many years.

The club is preparing for the Olean/Conewango Valley Kennel Club show, scheduled for May 30 to June 2 at the Chautauqua County Fair Association in Dunkirk. Several shows are scheduled throughout the Western New York area throughout the year, Holly said, but the Dunkirk show is special because Olean partners with Conewango and, in year’s past, has proven to be one of the biggest and best.

“We put a lot into the show,” Holly said.

Originally called the Enchanted Mountain Kennel Club, the Olean Kennel Club has become a popular — and in many ways necessary — route for dog owners who want the cull the best qualities out of their canine. While there are an estimated 25 active members in the club, dozens of others come to the kennel for services, which include obedience training, agility, therapy, rally, junior handling and American Kennel Puppy STARS and other forms of training and enhancement that makes dogs better dogs — but also trains them to participate in conformation, or point, shows.

Competing in several categories, dogs amass points at each show. Cumulative points determine winners (15 points to become an American Kennel Club champion), and Holly said amassing points can take a weekend or many years.

“It depends on your level of effort and your dog,” she said.

The club also offers classes for puppies, which can be rare within the club circuit.

Some dogs that have passed through Olean Kennel Club have competed in prestigious competitions, including Westminster. In the Western New York area, Holly said there have been several dogs that have become internationally famous, including an Irish Setter that has won national shows.

An owner of three Irish Setters herself, Holly said the club also offers basic services that a dog owner not necessarily interested in competition can benefit from.

“Really it’s all about responsible dog ownership,” she said. “That’s what we promote. People need to be the best owners they can be for their dogs and the community.”

In many cases, customers discover that services benefit more than just the animals.

“People find that the whole family benefits,” Holly said, adding that it’s the only sport where amateurs can compete against professionals. In addition, youngsters can learn dog handling and training.

“A lot of families find that they grow closer by getting closer to their animals,” Holly said. “There’s a connection there in the end they didn’t have before.”

For more information about the club and events, visit or The club meets at 7:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month. Visitors are welcome and those interested in joining the club must fill out an application found on the club’s website.

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