A Practice Show

I haven’t shown a dog in conformation in almost 12 years, so I’d forgotten how much needs to be packed up, even for a day. A couple of weeks ago, we took Tegan to a match for practice. Because we were all going, that meant supplies for two humans and two dogs. It’s never just a dog and a leash.

The two crates are permanent fixtures in the car, as are space blankets for the windows, but I also added some fine netting that can also provide shade. We took a gallon jug of water, as well as collars and leads for both dogs. Sandwiches and sodas were for humans, and, because this would be an all-day journey, we took the dog’s food bowls and their food as well as the turkey that I would use in the ring to get Tegan’s attention. Our car is always stocked with paper towels, so we were good there and I always keep a box of small plastic bags in the car for picking up after the dogs. We just needed to add two chairs and make sure we each had a hat (humans only). At the last minute, I added my tack box. Tegan doesn’t need much grooming yet, but the box also contains waterless shampoo and small towels in case he somehow got dirty.

I had printed directions to the show, as well as our GPS device, and Jim and I both had money. If we’d been going to a show, there’d have also been a grooming table, towels, more water and extra folding crates for our motel room, as well as rain gear and umbrellas because I’ve learned over the years to be prepared for anything.

If a show is held at a state or national park, shot records are included. I’ve never had anyone ask to see these records, but proof of rabies vaccination is required and I’d rather be safe than sorry. For this match, we traveled light.

The match was in Burt, N.Y., north of Buffalo, and was just under a two-and-a-half hour drive. It was a much larger match than I’d anticipated, with all kinds of activity. Besides obedience and conformation, there was a “meet the breeds” opportunity, as well as rally, agility and flyball demonstrations.

In spite of the crowd, we managed to get a parking space in the shade, where we opened up the car doors and set up our chairs. We took the dogs for a brief walk, but Tegan just wanted to return to the safety of the car after a dog in a van barked. This didn’t bode well for his first experience in a show ring, especially since I had neglected his leash work. He is not yet convinced that a leash attached to his collar means anything at all.

After several false starts, with Tegan sitting down after only a few steps forward, I picked him up and carried him ringside where he was re-introduced to a litter-brother, as well as three adult Corgis. Tegan took it all in stride and wasn’t a bit bothered by all the other people and dogs.

Finally, it was time to enter the ring. Again, I picked Tegan up to get to the ring entrance, hoping he would follow me in on lead because dogs have to enter the ring under their own power. I think it helped that his littermate went first. Tegan happily trotted around the ring after Dylan. Next came the examination on the table. Short dogs are placed on a table so the judge can more easily see them without developing an aching back.

Practice at home is not the same as in a ring, but, while not perfect, he warmed to the judge and even put his paws on the judge’s chest. I was happy that he was relaxed enough to do that. Then came the instruction to move Tegan in a straight line. That’s when lack of leash training showed. Tegan sat firmly and indicated that he was no longer interested in anything other than sitting. He did agree to move back into line with his brother, and came in second in a class of two.

But, the match wasn’t about winning a ribbon. It was about introducing Tegan to a strange place, with strange people and strange dogs. From the way he reacted to all three, the day was a success. Becoming socialized is, for now, much more important than walking on a leash or winning a ribbon.