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 www.TellingTailsTraining.com/conformation.

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.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

2012 AKC Points Schedule and Division Changes

If you're showing a class dog, the appearance of the annual AKC Points Schedule is as much a sign of springtime as the crocuses and peepers. Each May, the Points Schedule dictates how many dogs and bitches are needed to make a major in every breed in different regions of the country.

For example, we here in Maine are in Division 1. Starting in mid-May (and just in time for our regional Bearded Collie club's supported entries the following weekend), it will take 4 class dogs and 5 class bitches to form a 3-point major. Last year, we needed the same number of dogs, but 6 bitches were required for those elusive majors.

This is a big deal for those of us with breeds uncommon enough that often it's an event to see another dog of your breed at a show in Maine. When Dinah was a puppy in the classes, the only other Beardie we ever saw at most Maine shows was Traveler. We couldn't do anything for each other points-wise, but at least we were able to get in a lot of handling practice. Show entries were cheaper than handling classes back in those days.

A friend of mine is a judge who can judge the Miscellaneous class. I asked her, "So just how many Miscellaneous breeds do you ever get to judge at a given show?" She replied, "Oh, maybe 3 to 6, unless I'm judging at a place where there's a big concentration of a breed." It must be difficult when your breed is so rare that you have to bring all your own competition.

On the other hand, it's no picnic for the owners of very popular breeds. The 2012 point schedule for Labs calls for 17 dogs and 19 bitches to make up 3 points. If only 16 class dogs show up, you're just as sunk as we Beardie people would be with 3 class dogs. That can't be easy to take.

But There's More News!

AKC is realigning the divisions to try and smooth out some imbalances in breed populations in some regions. For example, New York state has long been part of Division 1, but they have way more Beardies there than we do in Maine. This has meant that we've had to follow the New York point schedule for our own shows, despite the fact that we hardly have enough Beardies showing in the state to make an entry, let alone a major. For this coming year, New York has been moved to Division 2 to keep company with the more Beardie-populous states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. This helps us here in New England field a more realistic number of dogs for our region. If you have to leave the region to hunt for majors, New York is a heckuva lot closer than Delaware.

Best in Show Daily has an excellent graphic with before-and-after maps so you can see just how the divisions shake out.

This also means that our out-of-state friends can easily help us build majors in New England. If you were thinking of joining us at the Supported Entries in May or at our Regional in June, please keep this in mind!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Westminster Come and Gone

What? A show-dog blog without a report on Westminster? Talk about behind the times — or maybe I'm just early for Crufts. The show is old news now to most people — the newspaper stories about it are languishing in the recycle bin — but it's still February for another day and a half.

I can explain, though. My two favorite February events collided this year: the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York and the Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade in New Orleans. When my friend Jody (Charlie's breeder and a traveling buddy of many years' standing) suggested we return to New Orleans for the Barkus parade, some gumbo, and a change of scenery from northern winter, I was powerless to refuse.

More about Barkus later. Let's talk about Westminster!

Congratulations to CH Palacegarden Malachy, a 4-year-old Pekingese who has been a contender for the top honors at the Garden for a couple of years now. Yes, we've heard all the "footstool" jokes — but he won, and that's that.

The Best of Breed-winning Beardie, GCH Daybar Blew By U, is a handsome bluey who has done well for himself, winning at least one Regional Specialty that I'm aware of. He was at the 2011 BCCA National but, like Dinah, was dumped early on. (It was not our winningest show ever, but at least Badger Blue got his HIC.)

Our buddy Beanie (GCH Highlander MacBean) made a good showing, and folks had better watch out for him. He's coming back again, and he's going to shine!

Big Changes for Westminster 2013

Next year's Westminster will take place on February 11-12, 2013. Because of ongoing construction at the Garden and expanded entries, next year's show will be split across two venues.

Breed judging and benching for both days will take place at Piers 92/94, located at 55th Street and the West Side Highway. Groups, Best in Show, and the finals for Juniors will be held back at the Garden in the evenings.

This sounds like a tremendous pain in the tuchus, but this should free up some breathing room in the benching and grooming areas. With the expanded number of entries (increasing to 3200 dogs from roughly 2000), it probably still means that you'll have to leave the above-ground pool and BBQ at home, but things should be much less cramped.

Yes, More Dogs! Maybe Even Yours!

You might have heard old-timers in your breed wax rhapsodical about the days when you could finish a class dog at Westminster. "Now THAT was a finish!", they'd say. Westminster has been open only to Champions of Record for a number of years now, and having your entry accepted in the first place is like winning the lottery (unless you're lucky enough to have finished in the Top 5 in your breed, in which case you're invited).

If that sounds like a story you dream of telling someday, you're in luck. Westminster 2013 is expanding entries to include class dogs and bitches who have won at least one major. You'll still need to enter and keep your fingers crossed that your entry gets picked, but at least you can try. Winners of a breed's National Specialty will be invited to enter along with the Top 5.

The official Westminster press release that details the changes can be found here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A PSA and a Very Good Idea, Too

Because I live in Northern New England, I usually try to limit my PSAs about local handling classes and events to this area. However, this morning I received a notice in my email box with one that was too useful not to share. If you live in southern MA, RI or northeastern CT, listen up...

(snipped from the announcement of the Providence Kennel Club's upcoming shows and trials)
...We want to make this a grand event, and we would love to have you come and steward for us. We will have a stewarding clinic on Monday evening, May 14 at 7 PM at the Rocky Hill Grange on Rt 2 in East Greenwich, right off of Route 95. It is right near Ocean State Vet if you know that location. You may work with either or both OB and breed stewarding

As all of you know, capable stewards make a trial a success. SO I would be hugely grateful for your participation.

For more info, contact Jenny Dickinson.
(end snippet. I removed Jenny's phone number, but you can click her name to email her.)

All kennel clubs and obedience clubs should borrow PKC's idea and run with it! Experienced stewards are in short supply, and you'll see more and more pleading announcements on the email lists on the Thursday before a weekend of shows: "Stewards wanted. Any shape, size, or species. Breathing optional. Pleasepleaseplease!"

Time was when gas was so cheap that people would hop into the car and drive a few hours to help steward at shows, so it was easy to ask a favor and get the real stewarding diehards to respond. You'd get breakfast, lunch, and a $20 bill for gas and tolls — and then, when it was your club's turn to need help, you'd call in favors from all of the clubs you just stewarded for.

These days, you still get food and sometimes get paid, but the $20 bill just barely covers the cost of the gas you burned to get there. Show-giving clubs' budgets have shrunk, so they can't really afford to be more generous. You can still call in favors, but people are less apt to drive long distances to steward. Clubs increasingly have to rely on more local talent.

The problem is, you can't get local talent until you train the local talent. Sure, you can offer on-the-job training, but unless your ring is reasonably calm, yet diverse enough so your stewards-in-training can see a variety of different ring scenarios, they'll all be so busy focusing on one task that they'll never have a chance to observe the whole shebang. They'll need to help out with different tasks in different rings at least a few times until they've acquired enough experience to take on rings of their own. Not that this is a bad thing, but you won't get newly-minted, take-charge stewards right away. This process takes time, so you can't wait until the Thursday before the show to get started.

If you combine on-the-job training with a clinic, though, you have the time to explain all the many tasks, rules, equipment, points of etiquette, and so on that every steward should know. You can show a sample steward's book, explain how to mark it so other stewards can take over for you during rest-room breaks, and even run through some simple exercises without the stress of needing to keep things moving at all times. "Okay, I'm judging. The dog who went Winners Dog just went Best of Breed over all of the specials. What ribbons do you lay out for whom, and how many Selects do you add?" (Trick question. If a class dog goes BOB, none of the Specials get Selects.) If you're an obedience steward, you'll learn simple-sounding, but very important, concepts such as what to do with your hands when acting as a post in the Figure 8. (Not in your pockets. It might look as though you have a treat in there.)

When I was an actual newbie, my local kennel club offered the best of both types of training. The chief conformation steward from our neighboring club attended one of our meetings and gave us a lecture and demo on stewarding. She and the chief conformation steward from our club took on some apprentices (including me) for a few shows' worth of OJT... and then one day, we were turned loose to run our own rings, with experienced stewards at the tables on either side of us. It was scary, but we got through it. Both kennel clubs received educational credit, and our clubs had more warm bodies to man the rings. I was awarded my very own bag of stewards' rocks (try stewarding outdoors on a windy day, and you'll see why rocks make a valuable gift!) and welcomed into the fraternity.

This year, I'm the chief conformation steward. It's my first time wearing the big hat, but our club's chief steward is now the show chair. I have my list of local talent, thanks to my counterpart in the neighboring club. The next thing I'm going to recommend is that we borrow PKC's stewarding-clinic idea and hold one of our own. I'm going to need to start collecting rocks, too. If you're experienced and not too busy on the third weekend of May, I can offer you a very nice hot lunch, sandwiches, and a breakfast groaning board inside the club tent — plus camaraderie and the undying thanks of not one, but two kennel clubs. If you're not a club member, you'll get gas money, too.

Stewarding is the perfect way to get a judge's-eye view of the ring. You'll get to meet some truly nice, hard-working experts in their breeds — and if they have time, they'll happily talk dogs and process with you. You'll gain experience in managing the smooth running of the show, and you'll be initiated into a special group of diehards. If you think you might want to be a judge someday, stewarding is a required part of the training you'll need to apply.

Most of all, stewarding is a great way to give back to the dog show community by taking on a demanding — but rewarding — part in making sure that everything runs smoothly. It's not glamorous — you'll meet more than your share of ungracious people, and you might have to double as in-the-ring ceanup crew — but the nice people you'll meet and the good karma you'll create will be more than worth the occasional craziness.

If your kennel club needs stewards, go to a clinic, or start one for the newbies in your club so you'll have a new "generation" of diehards to help out. That's good karma, too.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

PSA: New Handling Classes in Fryeburg

Telling Tails in Fryeburg is offering two levels of conformation handling classes with Beth Collins, plus something new called Organized Mat Time.

Organized Mat Time is akin to a show-'n'-go for conformation handling. The hour-long session is run like a dog show, complete with classes, groups, and a judge. (The basic flow depends on how many participants and which breeds show up.) Even if you have private or small-group handling classes, "dog show practice" like this is invaluable for you and your dog. You get to work on your handling technique and get comfortable with the basic flow of a show -- and you'll have your instructor there to help. I wish more places offered this type of instruction, since matches are so hard to find these days. (The large group handling classes at It's a Dog's World come close.)

Here's the class schedule:
  • Beginner Handling: 3 weeks on Mondays, 2/20 - 3/5, starting at 5:45 PM. Cost: $75.
  • Advanced Handling: 3 weeks on Mondays, 2/20 - 3/5, starting at 7:00 PM. Cost: $75.
  • Organized Mat Time: 3 weeks on Mondays, 2/20 - 3/5, starting at 4:30 PM. Cost: $10 per session.

Pre-registration is required, even for Organized Mat Time. You can book online at the Telling Tails website, or call 207-642-3693.

For more information about the handling classes, see the Conformation page on their website or send an email.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

PSA: New Handling Class Sessions

It's a new year, all righty. If one of your resolutions was to get into a handling class to get ready for the spring shows, you're in luck — opportunities abound at training centers everywhere! Here's a short collection of training classes local to southern Maine. It's not an exhaustive list, so please send information if you know of others.

Saco: Penny Cary of PETIQUETTE hosts her classes at Finish Forward Dogs. Classes start(ed) Thursday, Jan 5th at 7:30pm, then Jan 12th at 6:30pm for remainder of session. Contact FFD for information about current openings or to register for the next session.

Also in Saco: Penny hosts handling classes on Wednesdays at Paw-zn-Around. Contact Penny for more information.

PSA: Conformation Handling Seminar in York, ME

The information in this PSA was pretty much borrowed wholesale from IADW's announcement. If you'd like to know more, call It's a Dog's World at 207-363-0099.

Conformation Handling Techniques with Sue Burrell

Wonder why your dog seems to always place a certain way in the show ring?

What was that judge thinking?

Bring your dog to the top by learning how to be a better handler with improved techniques.

National/International handler Sue Burrell will present to you handling techniques which will help you accentuate your dog's best assets while covering up minor flaws. She will explain how to show your dog to the best advantage. Take this opportunity to study with Sue Burrell and gain from her years of knowledge and insight in the show ring!

Concerned you may not remember everything presented? Not to worry! Katherine Burrell will be on hand and can video tape your session, if you wish, for purchase so you can refer back to Sue's advise again and again.

Seminar Details

When: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Time: 9:00am - 3:00pm
Cost: Participant: $75.00/handler Auditor: $37.00
Seminar Includes: Full day seminar (30 minute lunch break), handouts, and light snacks

*** it's a dog's world encourages attendees to bring a brown bag lunch as there will be opportunity to ask questions during the lunch break. There are several sandwich shops located within 4 miles of this seminar site. ***

****Special Offering****
For those of you not able to attend the seminar, Bill Burrell will beavailable for private evaluations after the seminar.
When: Sunday, March 11, 2012 Time: 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Cost: $50/evaluation
Pre-registration Required — Call to secure your evaluation!

it's a dog's world
3 White Birch Lane
York, Maine 03909


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Your Feedback is Needed!

The Dog Show Superintendents' Association released a survey today asking what people think of the new Group Realignment proposed by the AKC. If you haven't been following this story, AKC has been working since 2008 on this initiative. Basically, it splits the current 7 groups into 11 groups by subdividing the Hound, Working and Sporting Groups according to function, and then shuffling around some breeds to more closely fit their functions to the group descriptions. The Miscellaneous group would disappear entirely, and breeds currently in that group, or awaiting admission to it, would be assigned directly to the other groups.

For example, the Hound group would be divided into Sighthounds and Scenthounds. Looking at the proposed realigned groups by breed (current as of July 2011), the Scent Hounds look pretty much as they have, with the addition of the Treeing Tennessee Brindle. The Sight Hounds include some breeds that have been in FCI and/or CKC shows for years (the Azawakh and Sloughi), plus a new breed called the Cirnecco dell'Etna, or Sicilian Greyhound. The CdE is currently an AKC FSS (Foundation Stock Service) breed, and has been admitted to the current Miscellaneous Class this month.

Here in Beardie-land, the Herding Group remains largely unchanged. Some of the breeds that had been added to the Herding Group would be moved to other groups after realignment. We get to stay right where we are.

As with every change to the way dog shows are held, the repercussions reach farther than to just the name of the group you're showing in. Remember that the change affects everyone from judges to hosting clubs to parent clubs to ring stewards. Speaking just as a humble ring steward and as a newly-minted Chief Steward who already has her work cut out for her finding enough warm bodies to cover seven rings every day... all I can do is cry "Uncle!".

Not that these changes will show up right away. The implementation date for the realignment would occur in 2015 sometime.

(And, as with every change, we all know that the ultimate aim is to give more money to the AKC. We know their employees have to eat too, but geeeeez.)

With all the repercussions in mind, the DSSA survey attempts to capture the concerns of a wide variety of dog fanciers, from the ringside spectators to the handlers to the judges. They'd like to hear from you, too!

Take the survey here.

Background Reading

If you'd like to catch up on the proposal and how it affects your breed/group, here are some links to follow. All of these are PDF files from the AKC website.

So... What Do You Think?

What do you think of the Group Realignment? Will your breed be affected? Is your all-breed club prepared to cover the additional expense and need for warm bodies? Is your Judges' Selection Committee tearing its collective hair out? Growth and change are inevitable, but that doesn't mean that they're always easy.