Monday, May 06, 2013

We're Moving!

The blog is dead; long live the blog!

Dog Show Newbie is moving, and will be revived Real Soon Now because I finally have stuff to say. To get to the new site, go here:

Not only will the new blog have news, stories, and other goodies, but it also features a fine and funny new header from cartoonist Michele Trifiro of Kabuki Cartoons on Facebook and a completely new look.

Come on over and see!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Every Dog is a Journey

Couldn't have said it any better myself. Every dog is a journey. Every ribbon is a story — even the ones the new puppy chewed up.

I hope this junior got an A+++ on this essay.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Newbie Q&A: Entering the Classes

Q: Which class is the best one to enter?

A: It depends. Remember that Winners Dog (or Winners Bitch, if you have a girlie) is the place where you want to be. That's where the points are awarded. To get there, you have to get first place in your class.

When you enter a show, your objective is to find the class that gets your dog to Winners.

That might sound simple, but there are lots of factors to consider. First, you have to make sure you're entering a class for which your dog is actually eligible. Next, you have to consider classes where other dogs are also contending for the coveted first place. In addition, you need to think about which class might be the one from which the judge will pick Winners Dog/Bitch.

If your dog is younger, there's a lot to be said for entering in the age-appropriate classes (for example, 6-9 Month Puppy). Your dog would be competing against other dogs his own age, instead of against more mature dogs who have already gone through their awkward puppy growth stages. Most judges will cut some slack for the younger puppies who might have less ring experience, too — and above all, you want your dog's ring experiences to be positive ones.

All class dogs may enter the Open class — which is both good and bad news. You'll probably have to defeat more dogs in the Open class to finish first, but many judges like to pick Winners from the Open class. Remember, getting to Winners is key, but what you really want is to be picked as Winners Dog (or Winners Bitch). The Open class might have the most competition, but it's also the class you might want to enter if you want to get Winners Dog/Bitch.

On the other hand, many other judges like to pick Winners from the Bred By Exhibitor class, but if you're not one of your dog's breeders, you can't enter that class.

You might try some of the less popular classes, such as American Bred (assuming your dog was born in the USA). Even if you're the only person in that class, a first place there is still your ticket to competing for Winners.

How about Amateur Owner-Handler? If you're not a professional, you may enter this class with any eligible dog, from puppy to adult. Some people feel that the AOH class is a good place for non-professionals to compete against other non-professionals, and that it's good experience. If no one else enters that class, you finish first and — guess what? — you get to compete in Winners. Other folks feel that simply entering this class is equivalent to hanging a huge sign around your neck that says I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING. Remember that the comfort of being in AOH is short-lived; after your 2 minutes are up, you'll have to face experienced owner-handlers and professionals in Winners anyway.

Entering a dog show is a big guessing game. You will not know for certain who else has entered the show until entries close and the numbers are added up. In addition, you won't know who the competition is — or how many points will be awarded to the Winners Dog/Bitch — unless everyone counted in the entry breakdown shows up on the day of the show.

What can you do? Just take all the information available, think about it, and do your best. That's all you can do, and you can't be faulted for trying.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More Newbie Q&A: Amateur Owner Handler

When AKC announced that it was phasing out the Novice class in favor of the Amateur Owner-Handler class, reactions from the more expert handlers ranged from yawns to snickers. People have, however, been entering the class, and we've all failed to see the AOH through the eyes of the very folks the class was created to serve: the Dog Show Newbies.

Here's a question based on not one, not two, but several examples observed over the past few shows.

Q. I entered my dog in the 6-9 Month Puppy class because that's how old he is. I also entered the Amateur Owner-Handler class because I am one. I got 2nd place in 6-9 Puppy, but then I wasn't allowed back in the ring to compete the second time for AOH. Why?

A. When you enter the same dog in two classes at the same show on the same day, it's called double entry. Although it's perfectly legal and everyone is more than happy to take your money, it's probably not the best strategy. Here's why...

In order to compete in Winners, your dog must win his class (that is, get first place). If you don't win, you are not eligible to compete any further. (Even if you got Reserve, you will not be eligible to compete any further because the Winners Dog [or Bitch] defeated you.) Once you are not eligible to compete any further, you cannot compete in another class in the same show because you've already been defeated. (The system does not allow for do-overs.)

If you win your first class, you may compete in your additional class, but since you've already won, you run the risk of being defeated in the additional class. If you are defeated, you can't compete further even though you won the first time around. Save your money and keep things simple — just pick one class.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Newbie Q&A

This idea occurred to me while working at the local kennel club's cluster a couple of weeks ago. I actually overheard these questions asked at the shows — and if newbies are asking them here, then newbies must need to know elsewhere. Not that I'm such an old hand at the conformation game that I know all and can tell all, but every little bit helps, right?

If you have a Dog Show Newbie question, or you overheard a good one asked at your local show, then please let me know. I don't think there are any advice columns out there dealing strictly with dog-show stuff, so it might be fun to feature some here.

Q: My dog just got Reserve. Am I done for the day?

A: Yes. You can take off your glad rags, pack up, and be home enjoying a cocktail long before the folks waiting around for Groups can get to their cars. You can even throw in a nice, long, hot shower or soak in the tub while you're at it.

A lot of people refer to Reserve as "Best of Losers," but think of it as "Second Best of Winners" instead. Chances are pretty good you'll never hear anything else about this particular show ever again, but on the far-outside chance that the Winners Dog (or Bitch) is disqualified later on, you'll be pretty glad that the judge liked your dog second best.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

PSA: Summer Handling Classes in Fryeburg

Telling Tails in Fryeburg has just announced its summer handling classes with Beth Collins.

The Beginner session lasts 3 weeks and runs from 5:45 - 6:45 PM on Wednesdays: 7/11, 7/18, and 8/1. Cost: $75.00.

The Intermediate/Advanced session, which meets on the same three Wednesdays, meets at 7:00 - 8:00 PM.

Cost for either session is $75.00. FMI: call 207-642-3693 or visit

Sunday, May 27, 2012

June is National Adopt-a-Newbie Month

(Bad cell-phone picture of the Beardie ring at the Southern Maine Coastal Classic. I only had time to shoot photos on the non-weekend days.)

Everywhere you look — especially if you look on Facebook — there's a post about it being National Something-To-Do-With-Pets Month. Obedient fans will Like and Share all posts about it being National-Something-To-Do-With-Pets Month until it's time to do the same thing for National-Something-Else-Pet-Related Month.

I thought to myself, Why not join in the fun, too? After all, the outdoor showing season has begun in earnest here in the Frickin' Arctic, and lots of people have new puppies just old enough to show this spring. You might have spotted a Dog Show Newbie at the local shows: Wiggly puppy on one end of the show lead, deer-in-the-headlights look on the other. These folks are the future of the sport, and it's up to us to bring them gently into the fold and give them the tools they need to enjoy being here.

(What about the juniors? you ask. Junior handlers are a precious natural resource, and we have far too few of them in the sport nowadays. We've lost most of a generation to XBox, and we need to encourage the ones who still get out there on the weekends with the dogs. One of our local kennel clubs offers a college scholarship to local juniors. Our local kennel club has exactly one junior. She's the great-granddaughter of one of our founding members, and they come to meetings together.)

The other local kennel club recently surveyed its members and determined that the average age of members is 60. 60! That's the average age! Next year, when it's time to set up for the shows again, the average age is going to be 61. If we're not bringing our kids into the sport, we're going to need to encourage young adults to join the fancy. Otherwise, at some point in the scarily-near future, all the old dog-show survivors are going to be hanging on to their walkers with one hand and pounding stakes with the other.

Back to the newbies. I'm happy to report sightings of a few at last weekend's show cluster, and I hope they had a great time and plan to return. One nice lady, who never stopped smiling all day despite the ohmygod look in her eyes, wandered into the club tent with her adorable Corgi puppy and was adopted by the show secretaries. She couldn't have made a better choice of mentors; between the two of them, they'll make sure she goes to the Cumberland shows armed with all the knowledge she needs to join the army of weekend warriors at the shows. Sure, you can show solo and have a perfectly OK time of it, but most people stay for the dog-show community. Everybody needs a hand to hold a leash, help setting up an EZ-Up, help making sure you didn't leave the area after getting 2nd in your class, so you'll be ready to go back in for Reserve if needed. If you received this kind of help when you were a newbie, then June is the perfect time to pay it forward.

Next time you're at a show, try to take a little time to play Spot the Newbie. Look for the person struggling to hold a puppy's leash with one hand while trying to set up a grooming table with the other. If you're able to at that moment, volunteer to hold the puppy's leash, introduce yourself, and introduce the new handler to folks you know who have the same breed, or breeds in the same group. With any luck, the new handler is going to see a lot of those folks, and she might as well get acquainted now.

If you're stewarding in the ring, try to keep an eye out for the newbies. They're generally pretty easy to spot, since the time in the ring is the biggest challenge of all. Do what you can — and give what advice you can — to help the newbie get into the rhythm of things, and to keep your ring running smoothly. If you're an exhibitor in that same ring, be patient with dropped leashes and struggling to stack wiggly puppies. Someday, that newbie might just hold your walker for you while you're pounding stakes.