All About The Show Dog
How to use a Show Lead, Free Baiting, Table Training, Gaiting, Handler Tricks, Stacking, and Show Ring protocol
Ready.... Set.... Go!
When I was first asked to do a column, I had to stop and consider the commitment. Producing two or three articles a month is a lot of work for the average hobby writer.
But I also saw a real opportunity to have input into shaping the tone and nature of our sport. A column, unlike hard news, is primarily opinion, and it gives one the flexibility to address issues, without the confines of having to keep pace with recent events.
I suppose I should begin with a little introduction. At least that way I can justify either dazzling you with my vast experience, or nonetheless give you a better excuse to use these pages for fish packing.
My journey with purebreds began in 1989 with a small Shetland Sheepdog named Tyler. To say he was nothing to write home about would be akin to acclaiming the baseball accomplishments of the Chicago Cubs.
But what he did was to introduce me to Joan Clark, a well-respected breeder to whom I brought my little gem for evaluation. Her appraisal, “Yup, he’s a dog,” basically summed up the total of his virtues. But I loved him just the same.
As we chatted, I admired the big rosettes and show pictures on her walls, and I asked what it all meant. She informed me a little about the sport, and then met my intrigue with a challenge.
“If you’re truly interested, go learn the dog’s skeleton, then come back again and we’ll discuss.” From there, she wouldn’t talk with me about anything related to dog shows. Frankly, her abruptness sort of irked me. So – not being one well suited to back down from a challenge – I went home and studied all 200 or so bones, returning in a couple of weeks for her scrutiny.
I must have done something right, and over the next few years, Joan entrusted me with more than two and a half decades of time hewn experience. While she honed my hands and sharpened my eye, she most of all, imparted to me a breeder’s heart.
You can buy training, but there’s no amount of money that infuses discernment. And that’s what she bestowed upon me; molding my impressions, ethics, expectations, and most of all, my appreciation for what it means to truly engage and compete in one of the most demanding, yet fulfilling, sports I have encountered.
She was on the phone with me as I brought my first Sheltie litter into life. She has been there when I laid some of my most beloved companions to rest. And even when we go for years without conversation, she is still always with me in my every action, opinion, judgment, or lesson as a breeder, exhibitor, judge, and mentor to those who wish to follow as her legacy.
As for my story; suffice to say that you can see in my bio that I am a UKC conformation judge, breeding champions in more than one venue. I am owner and benefactor of Aircastle and a well-worn but little known Poodle fancier.
I’ve spent the majority of my years in the sport working just about every aspect of both AKC and UKC conformation. Of course lately, my wife – an AKC Rally-O judge – enticed me to expand my horizons in regards to self-humiliation . . . aka, “obedience”.
There’s plenty for commentary there, as it’s an odd experience to be skilled in one regard, and yet so utterly helpless in the other. Friends laugh at my nervousness ringside; openly noting that all those years conformation should be doing far more toward developing as a reasonable performance handler.
Only time will tell, as they say.
And let’s not forget my beloved rabble of Poodles and Dobes. Barb and I have a reasonably sized house in the suburbs of Cincinnati that could use a good cleaning and a rearrangement of the crates that substitute for furniture.
Like most of you, I live my life for my dogs. I spend my Sunday mornings at church; that is, when I’m not ringside praying for a win or standing in the center substituting for the devil himself. Weeknights are for grooming, as we prep during a show season that would drive any rational person into therapy. And Saturdays are usually devoted to the Ronald McDonald’s House, where my precious therapy dog Dottie reflects a splinter of sunshine into an all too dismal experience.
Our cars are “crate sized” and more than a year or two past the latest models. All of our clothes are comfortable with plenty of pockets, and our shoes fit snugly for gaiting. My wife and I even married in the Best in Show ring at UKC’s Premiere back in 2007. Of course, all of our social strata were present.
What can I say, except it’s a life gone to the dogs? But I suspect you understand, and that’s why you’re sitting here reading some off-opinionated column, instead of cleaning the kitchen or having tea on the veranda with friends.
What will you find here? A lot will depend on you. Send me your news, ideas, and subjects you would like to see covered and I shall do my best to keep up with the trends, avoid gossip, and paint my opinion over all things canine. Good or bad, agree or disagree, my hope is that it will at least make for good discussion around the grooming room.
Either way, I think Joan Clark would approve...
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