Monday, April 4, 2011

Me and Conformation (hint: Scott Sommer's got nothing to worry about)

I posted how our conformation classes went over the weekend, but I never posted what it was like to be "on my own" at a conformation show.

The stuff that I took to the Show:
  • Lots of towels
  • A metal crate, and an old sheet to cover it
  • Grooming table & arm
  • Training bag - including treats, tug toys, chew toys, poo bags, and a clicker
  • Water for me & Rip
  • Show collar & lead
  • Show clothes for me
  • My "human" dog show bag (which has things like chapstick, a comb, mints, tissues, hand wipes, a pen, a granola bar...)
  • Grooming tools (brush, nail grinder, chalk, chalk brush, pet wipes.  That's it.)  I know, you conformation pros are probably thinking I'm crazy.  But who are we kidding?  I could bring a dryer, but Rip hates it, and I end up making him look like a husky, so what's the point?  And really, I don't own any other grooming supplies.  
The Stuff I wish I'd taken to the show:  some chocolate, reading material, and lint/pet hair remover.

Crating Space
When I got to the show I had no idea where to set up.  I hopefully pulled up to a sign that said "grooming."  I thought this would be a good place to start (clever girl that I am).  

I opened the door to a sea of empty crates and tables, with not a lot of spare room available.  I stood there for a while.  A nice woman walked up to me and I explained that I'd never shown there before, where do I crate?  She shoved a few crates over, and made some space for me.  Thank you, nice lady!

I set up, then went to get Rip.  He and I wandered around a bit, looking for our ring.  In the process of opening doors to buildings we managed to set off a whole pack of English Toy Spaniels who were on their tables being groomed -- that was kind of fun ;)

We finally found our ring, so I took Rip back to our grooming space.  I put him up on the table and thought, "hmmm, what do I do now?"  I tried to remember all of the pieces of advice Dawn gave me when I met her in Des Moines.  

Unfortunately the only one I could remember was "Cardigans are supposed to look natural."  I took that thought and ran with it.  Meaning I put Rip on the table, stared at him a while, then brushed his neck, body, and tail.  That took about 10 minutes (including staring time).

I now had lots of time on my hands, so I wandered back over to our ring, to see if I could pick up my number.  It was still 40 minutes before our ring started, so no luck.  I looked around and saw other Corgi people furiously grooming their dogs.  That worried me.  I saw a Pem woman I know from our club, and asked her how she planned to keep the loose dirt off her dogs.  She said she was going to make sure they were really dry so the dirt didn't stick, add some chalk to the paws to try and keep them white, and hope for the best.  

Ah ha!  There was something else I could do.  I had some chalk and a brush.  I went back to Rip, and added some chalk to his paws.  Thankfully Dawn had warned me about chalk's tendency to get everywhere, so I had extra towels, a dog wipe, and a hand wipe ready.  I needed them all.  

In the Ring
I've taken conformation classes.  I've watched conformation.  I showed Dawn's lovely girl Grace.  I still have no idea.  I can walk in a straight line.  I can follow basic ring procedures.  That's about as nuanced as it gets.

On Saturday, I sought out some handling advice after I was in the ring.  The conformation veterans I was talking to didn't really know what I was asking.  Truly.  They were very nice, but just too far removed from being ring novices.  I see this in agility & obedience, too.  The hard core competitors just can't relate at all to the beginners.

On Sunday, a woman I know from performance gave me some feedback - don't touch my dog so much. I appreciate knowing what I can do better.  I used to have a riding instructor who yelled things like, "Dear God, you call THAT a sitting trot?!"  I can take advice.  Bring it on.  Sans yelling is appreciated.

In the End
The weekend was nice.  I survived.  I learned some new things, and I met some nice people.  Rip had fun.  

Oh, and Penni, Mandy & Carolyn - you have a lot of training to do at the Specialty next week.  And I'm talking about me, not Rip!


  1. What I've been doing is making sure I have someone ringside to video tape my performance. Then I send the footage to my mentors and ask for advice. I've learned A LOT by doing this. Still photos are helpful as well. If you can get multiple people in different places around the ring to watch they will all see different things too. A National is a great place to watch a lot of people who are experts in handling our breed. Using the catalog, look for names you recognize and watch those classes - especially bred by. You'll be a pro at this in no time!

  2. At Nationals, a handling seminar is offered -- as I recall, Sherri Hurst is doing it, and she is one of the best. I'm going and you should come with me. You will learn lots of little things that make life easier. I will try to videotape you in the ring with Rip in Sweeps and then in the puppy dog class -- each time in you will feel more comfortable and in control. You already know this little guy is happy, happy, happy -- now you have to be happy as well.

    You will finish your own dog's Championship -- that's something to be proud of!

  3. I can't really add anything since I have never shown either of the boyz, but it is really interesting reading your experience. Rip is such a sweet and happy boy that I imagine showing him would be so much fun!

  4. Builder Mama - Eventually we'll get you in the ring :) There's a show in Richmond in July and there's almost always someone who needs an extra hand showing. You could do it!

  5. Penni - I'm for sure going to the handling seminar at the Specialty, so I'm happy to join you.

    Regarding showing Rip at the Specialty - that will be done by Carolyn or Mandy. It was part of the deal that got me to trade an easy plane flight to Houston for a 20-hour-one-way car ride through the Southern Midwest.

  6. There is no mention of either of the grass stains in this post. Something to do with the cardi's natural look?

  7. It sounds like you did great--I have never been brave enough to venture into the conformation ring and doubt that I ever will! Congrats on your debut and your first conformation ribbons!

  8. I don't know anything about all of that "ring" stuff, but I sure enjoyed the story about you and Rip. Sounds to me like you did 'good' all by yourself.

  9. You did a great job for your first solo show! Rip is a natural too - that helps.

    I'm still a newbie too - I may have been around dog shows much of my childhood, but all that gave me was a semblance of knowledge on ring patterns and absolutely no help when it comes to the table. Every time in the ring Emma and I learn something new. Luckily she is pretty forgiving and I don't have grandiose expectations until she fills out more. We're mostly just there for "expensive practice." Being on the dirt was a good experience for her and also being in the small building the next day was good. She didn't like that ring, but I was determined when we went back in for WB that she would have fun, and we did.

    Have fun at nationals! I'm jealous but my I have to stay home to take care of my mom's collies while she goes to Tulsa. Next year we'll be there for sure! See you down the road!

  10. Hey we all have to go into the ring by ourselves. Sounds like you did OK. You will learn tons at the Nationals. It is almost here! Whoopie!

  11. It sounds like it went very well. Rip got to have a good time which mean next time he will still be a happy dog. There is nothing sadder in my opinion than those cardigans that are slinking around the ring terrified, looking like they expect to get beaten. Rip had fun, he definately looked good and you got more experience. Good luck at the National. You will learn lots and come back and kick my butt again!

  12. ...planning to get lost right before ringtime....jk

    The best way to learn is by doing. Eventually your dog will figure it out (vbg). Heck his dad is supershowdog and he was trained by Henry, who was a total novice...but I couldn't tell him anything so he had to do it himself.

    I can't wait to see you!


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