My show dog is becoming a show dog.
Anyone can own an AKC registered dog, all you need is cash. I've owned a few myself in the past, but never considered that registration paper to be anything more than just a piece of paper that said my dog was a purebreed. Showing a dog in the ring hasn't ever really been something to grip me by the short hairs until now. Now we've got a dog who was bred to be shown, who has the basic physical layout to be shown, and she was sold with the caveat that she be shown. And quite frankly, I've been a little unsure about her ability to succeed in the ring. And I've realised that my uncertainty was more due to my own ignorance of my dog's ability and assembly, but more about that in a bit.
Last Thursday night at Puppy Behaviour Class I really started seeing some of the 'show quality' that the judges are looking for in our dog, you see. When Mrs. Irrelephant suggested that we sign up for a puppy behaviour class at our local PetSmart, honestly I almost laughed. I thought we could do any sort of behaviour training ourselves. I've trained dogs to come and sit and stay and all that, but the first night I attended the training class with Belle and the missus, Nancy our trainer said that since we were going to show Belle in the ring we needed a different sort of training, and told us that she would train us and Belle in how to SHOW, and modify the behaviour class to match what WE needed.
Naturally, I was thrilled. And after eight or so classes I, at times, was up and down emotionally about it. Some days it seemed that Nancy's training was superb stuff, really important, building block sorts of things, and then other nights it seemed like a wasted hour. We have books on how to show dogs, and she was covering the same stuff. Then last Thursday it all changed.
Nancy always chats with us throughout the hour-long class, and we've learned a bit about her professional breeder/handler background. It's from this experience that she's been teaching us, and we've sort of trusted her on her authority and ability to tell us what to do. Thursday evening she asked if we were going to enter Belle in the local show at the end of January, and we said yes, that it was going to be our big coming-out into the world of showing. She asked if we had signed up yet, we admitted that we didn't know WHERE we were supposed to sign, so she gave us a stack of entrance forms.
Now, we know Nancy as this lady who has professionally shown dogs from Rotweillers down to her current crop of Chihuahuas. She's a little goofy, a little serious, a little fun, in general a nice lady, but no-one to get genuinely worked up over, if you follow me. But last night the serious side of Nancy started coming out. Show Dog Handler Nancy. She started show-and-telling us the real nuts and bolts of dog showing.
I watched Belle as the wife lead her up and down the aisles, then Nancy showed me what to look for, how she fit the standard, what the judges were looking for. I could SEE what it meant when the standard says that Borzoi should be "rear driven," and "track straight" and all sorts of little things, and she showed us how to stack her for the judge's inspection, how to start her off on her pace, and how to stop her the right distance from the judge. I really started seeing her as a show dog, and Nancy was very impressed with her and with it all, and how well the pair of them were 'showing.'
So we finished the class, got home and started reviewing the entrance papers, and something interesting came to light. Seems the same lady who gave us the registration paperwork, the same little middle-aged silly Nancy who was teaching us how to walk and stack and pace Belle just so happens to be the Chairperson of the local branch of the AKC. We remembered that she had asked earlier that night who our judge was going to be in the ring, and Mrs. I. said she didn't know, and Nancy replied "I think it's Cunningham, I think that's who I picked." We didn't realise until that evening what exactly that statement MEANT. As chairperson, SHE picks the judges. SHE sets up the goings and the comings of the show. She masterminds the whole show.
So. We've got the Chairperson's vote of confidence. Talk about a nice reassurance!