Sunday, September 20, 2015

Best Practices for a Dog Show

We're back from the dog shows. We took first place in our class all three days but were beaten out by another gorgeous German shepherd for Winners Dog each time. For those of you keeping score, Jedi still has zero points. I blame his bad handler (me). However, I ran into another novice handler that I met back in April. Her dog, Enzo, looked really good and she told me some of the conditioning tricks she's been using with him. I think I'm going to try them myself. Wish us luck!
Dog shows are hectic, and can be nerve racking for dogs and humans alike. On Saturday, there were nearly 2000 dogs registered in the show. That's a lot of dogs! I like to be on site two hours before we actually have to be in the ring. Jedi is so overwhelmed by all the sounds, smells and excitement that it's really hard to get him to focus. After the 45 to 60 minutes it takes for him to de-spazz, I start warming him up. We trot up and down the sidewalk, practice making left turns and do some stacking. I'll show him the bait -- usually chicken or steak -- and give him small bits to get him excited. (I keep bait in my cheek. It's harder for me to lose and it keeps him focused on my face.) Then I put Jedi back in his crate for about half an hour so that he can rest. About 15 minutes before we go into the ring I pull him out for some last minute primping. Then I get him pumped up and ready to go with a little playing and happy voices. -- I guess you can say we have a routine. I never thought of it that way.
We had a series of incidents and inconveniences this weekend that got me thinking about "best practices" for a dog show. Here's what I came up with:

Jedi prefers this type of crate
Take a crate. Dogs need somewhere quiet and familiar to decompress. Hertz Rental Car really screwed us this trip. I'm not going to go into details because I'm still pissed off. However, their ineptitude prevented us for bringing the crate. Instead, Jedi was kept leashed the entire time we were on the fairgrounds. I think his inability to relax before entering the ring showed in his performance. I feel bad about it. And I'm never renting from Hertz again.

Keep an eye on your dog at all times. One of the nice things about a crate is that your dog is safely tucked away so you can focus on other things -- like socializing, picking up your number or watching the judge with other dogs. However, if your dog is on leash you must be aware of what he's doing. ALWAYS. I see far too many dogs sticking their faces in crates or up other dogs' butts because handlers aren't paying attention. This is just a fight waiting to happen.

Follow the rules. With 2000 dogs and even more people, rules must be followed else pandemonium will break out. Rules are put into place for the safety and well-being of all involved. One rule is no flexi-leads on the show grounds. Here's why: Just after we arrived on Saturday morning a full grown lab broke its flexi-lead and charged right at us, teeth bared. Fortunately, Hubby had Jedi. He stepped between Jedi and the ass-lab and firmly yelled "NO!" The lab didn't care and still tried to get to Jedi. A man was running from one direction and a woman from another, both yelling at the dog, but the dog wouldn't stop. In desperation, Hubby karate kicked the lab in the head. HARD. The man finally grabbed his dog and we quickly walked off to hear a second woman yelling "That's why the rules say no flexi-leads!"

See the knee behind Jedi? That's the "Man." Grrr . . .
Be your dog's advocate. Like I said, the show environment can be overwhelming. Your dog needs to know that you will keep him safe. Sometimes that means asking someone to move a dog away from your crate. Or karate kicking a lab in the head. Or risking being rude for the sake of your dog.

On Sunday I was chatting with a couple sitting ringside before it was my turn to go in. They gently reached out and patted Jedi. He didn't mind and I thought that was that. As we were getting ready to leave for the day, I handed Hubby the leash and went over to gather up our stuff. Behind me I heard barking. Without even looking, I knew that was Jedi, and I knew he wasn't happy. I turned around to see Jedi standing between Hubby's legs with his butt leaning against the ring. The male half of the couple from earlier was encroaching on them both. I couldn't hear what Hubby was saying but his body language was tense. I pushed through the crowd and ran over to my dog. Through clenched teeth Hubby said "Let's go."

In the parking lot I got the rest of the story. Man had come over to talk to Jedi and Hubby. During the conversation, Man had leaned over the dog. Jedi growled. Hubby asked him to back off saying "He doesn't like people in his face." Man said that it was okay, because he has a German shepherd. Hubby asked the man to back off a second time, as Jedi backed between his legs. Jedi was pinned in by the ring. I'm sure he felt trapped. That's when he started to bark. Hubby told Man a third time to back off because he was going to get bit. Instead of backing off, Man crouched down at eye level, still in Jedi's face. Hubby centered himself and tightened up on the leash, hoping he could stop Jedi from lunging. Fortunately, I showed up at that very moment. I pushed Man out of the way and gave Jedi the rest of the hot dog we used as bait that day. Yes, my dog was rewarded for not biting.

Buy this sign here!
PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG. Of all dog owners, dog show people should be the most conscientious when it comes to poop. Unfortunately, they are just as rude as everybody else -- if not worse. What kills me is that I hear dog show people moan and groan all the time about not finding venues willing to hold shows and hotels not allowing dogs. Am I the only one who sees a correlation here?! If word got out that dog show people are clean and considerate then more places might be willing to let us in. The kicker: Hotels and hosting clubs go out of their way to leave bags and trash cans in conspicuous places so people can dispose of the poop. But. They. Don't. It just chaps my hide. Can you tell?

It's been a long weekend and I still have to unpack and do laundry. 5 AM comes way too early on Monday mornings. Ugh. One of these days I'll take off the day after a show weekend so I can recoup before going to work. (My friend kindly reminded me that I say this after every show, but never do it.) Later, -- K

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