Question: I watched the big Westminster Kennel Club show over the weekend and I wondered about the mishaps, the bloopers and the embarrassing mistakes that inevitably have to happen.Do you have any experience with showing?
Amy’s answer: Great question! At the Westminster level of competition, you won’t see too many mistakes but had a camera been running at my first dog show, you’d get a good laugh.
My beloved Rottweiler puppy Maura was my first partner in crime in the show world. So convinced was I in her superiority that at the tender age of six months, I decided she was ready for her first show. Since I was already a full-time dog trainer, I confidently entered her in puppy conformation and obedience.
First: conformation. This is when the judge looked at my dog’s general appearance, including body style, eyes, ears, teeth and girlie parts. I had taught Maura to stand without me propping her up, and she stacked rather nicely, with back legs extended behind her and head held straight. All went well until the judge, a no-nonsense woman in a powder-blue pantsuit, cupped her hand under my puppy’s aforementioned girlie parts. My cute little Rottie let out something between a belch and a growl that only lasted a second, but I felt it resonate all the way up the leash. The judge paused, cocked her head and cupped between Maura’s back legs again. I actually coughed loudly to try and cover up any sound that may come from the puppy’s mouth. The judge looked balefully in my direction and moved on. OK, I thought, onto the obedience ring, where we’d really shine.
Luckily we redeemed ourselves in the obedience ring, crushing the competition with our slick Heel, Sit and Come. But we still had the long down-stay.In this exercise, the dogs are lined up about three feet away from each other and asked to lie down by their handlers. Then the handlers leave and helplessly observe from about twenty feet away for a full three minutes, which feels like an hour when you are outdoors with the breeze blowing and ten puppies lined up within a few feet of each other. My Maura was placed between a mastiff puppy, all floppy legs and heavy head, and a peppy cocker spaniel puppy. Witness what happened during this seemingly brief period: A lab puppy began to whine, and eventually got up and simply left, the handler hustling after the puppy before he got to her car. Another pup, this one a tiny Chihuahua, stood up, walked over to the German Shepherd puppy next to her and began to lick the dog’s ear. The German Shepherd pup groaned happily and laid over on his side. Meanwhile, my puppy was holding her down-stay beautifully until a fly began to buzz around her head. Only I knew that insects of any kind were an intolerable interruption in Maura’s world. Flies must be snapped at repeatedly until caught, chewed, and loudly hacked up onto someone’s shoe. This is exactly what she did, snapping so precisely and with such gusto that the puppies on either side of her began to creep away in terror so that Maura was soon by herself. In spite of her mission to catch, chew and release, she held the down-stay and completed the exercise. We collected our ribbon and made haste back to the car before the other handlers could run us out of town. Now I watch the handlers at Westminster and feel their pain. Dog showing is no walk in the park!
Confused? Confounded? Just plain clueless? It’s not you. Dog trainer Amy Robinson answers your burning questions about what the heck your dog is doing. Email your questions to email@example.com or tweet to @sniffandbarkens #AskAmyRobinson