Armed only with a brush and some doggie treats, a long-time fan of dog performance events stumbles into the world of competitive conformation showing. What was I thinking?!
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.