Showing Your Dog (Part 2)
OK! Having found a show and negotiated the entry tomorrow is the big day, your first Open Show. Is everything ready? Is your dog clean? Every exhibitor has their own idea of when and how to prepare a dog so you will have to try various programmes and see what works for you.
How Clean is your dog?
Some coats are better bathed 3 days before a show as the coat needs time to settle, others need to be done as late as the day of the show to get some volume into a dog who is out of coat. I believe that for a Championship show the dog MUST be bathed (I need all the help I can get!) but for an Open show, clean will do and in dry weather a bath once a month with a blast and groom the day before is often sufficient or if the coat is generally clean wash tums and bums, dry and groom. We do own a working breed after all.
I have never found my dogs coats to suffer from getting wet either swimming or in rain but they do lose their oil if they are shampooed too often.
Trimming is another art best learned gradually - you can’t stick it back on after all. The Breed Standard calls for ears to be ‘covered with short hair without a fringe’ and feet to be ‘well shaped’ so those parts definitely need tidying up. The rest depends on the particular dog, compare it with the description in the Breed Standard and pay attention to how other dogs are trimmed for showing, speak with other exhibitors, they are usually quite happy to discuss their dog.
Before you set off
Before it became automatic I used to keep a list in the grooming box of must have's for showing and I checked it before leaving the house. Here is the list I used:
- Schedule with directions and map if needed
- Any entry tickets/car park passes/removal orders issued
- Dog – I know one Papillion exhibitor who took the bitches and forgot the dog!
- Collar & lead – Proper set with tags and show set with spare in case of breakage
- POO Bags – Have some everywhere, car, pockets and bag
- Grooming bag – Essentials for the day only I am not a pack horse
- Water bowl & water – Spray bottle in hot weather
- Blanket or vet bed – My dogs are taught to settle on their bit of blanket anywhere
- Bum bag – I am often alone so need to keep car keys and credit card close – I like to get home!
- Dog treats (food if the journey is long or the dog is young)
- Slob cloth / bib
- Showing clothes with ring clip – Spare fastened to show bag
- Spare pair of pants – A dog peed down my leg at Crufts before I went in the ring!
- Waterproofs – We are a working breed and we can stay out in the rain in summer
- Umberalla – To keep the rain or the sun off the dog
- Food and drink for me – It is thirsty work!
- Sense of humour – It is after all FUN!
You can add your own ideas to the list but to start with write it down and check it. It is too easy to forget something and too late when you find out at the show.
It is best to sort it all out the night before so that you can have a relaxed start. Give yourself plenty of time but Do read the schedule. If you entered in AVNSC and it says a not before time - it does mean it. Other than that, the schedule order should be followed. Usually the show management reserve the right to change the order. This is not arbitrary, but if you were the 7th breed in a ring and your ring is slow you can be changed to a ring that has finished. After all they didn't know when they sent out the schedules what the entry would be.
At the Show
The Show at last! Having found your way and parked let the dog out to relieve itself, then, if it is an open show it can be a good idea to pop him back in the car and collect your catalogue (make sure you are in it). If you are not, speak to the show secretary who will sort it out. It is the Secretary who does this following the Kennel Club rules so don’t bother the ring steward. If you got a proof of posting when you sent the entry this could mean the difference between showing today and going home.
Check where your ring is and where the judging is up to. You can also check the lie of the land and look for any hazards. Narrow passages, cages in the way, lack of Newfie space near the ring. Don’t leave your baby too long they get hot very quickly. When you take your dog into the show use the same sort of collar and lead you would use to go to the vet. Keep the dog close – scything down the opposition with an exuberant Newf. will certainly get you noticed! Always be aware of what is going on around you. Some dogs of any breed can be having an off day and if puppies are frightened they take a long time to forget. Adolescent males are quick as lightening to leap on the back of a likely female who will be just as quick to snap her disapproval.
Having found a spot near the ring take your time to watch a couple of classes. You will then see how the ring has been set out and what the judges routine is. Is he moving the dogs in a circle at the beginning of the class? Is he then having each dog stacked so he can go over it? Then moving them? How? A triangle or up and down twice? These are the most common patterns but there are others. The trick is to let the judge see the dog moving away and towards and allow him to assess the side movement. Try to move directly towards the judge. The trick here is to take a deep breath, hope your dog will behave and look at the judge as you head towards him. This is a guaranteed way to keep straight! The handler should never get between the judge and the dog so you may need to change sides. With a young dog don’t bother. If he is not used to it he will just trip you up.
Now it is your turn. The steward will call the class. You should have changed leads by this time and given the dog a final brush. If there are several of you try to be second. It will give you time to settle yourself. The only exception is a variety class where most judges will ask for table dogs first. A Newfie is not normally assessed on a table. It gives the exhibitors hernias. Check your ring number in the catalogue, walk up to the steward and tell him your number. If your mind goes blank, ask to look at his catalogue rather than yelling out your name and the dog’s name. The judge is not supposed to know until after the class. Take your ring number, clip on so the steward can see it and line up on the mat.
Stack you dog, and try to relax. The dog will be calm but you won’t be. The judge will be writing up the last class so keep an eye on him so that you are ready when he is. If your dog is messing about turn him in a circle and try again, don’t start fighting to make him stand as he will think this is a great game. Watch the first dog move, the judge should leave you room to stack your dog behind him whilst he finishes the other. Take this opportunity as it gives you a few extra seconds to get a good stand. You may be asked “ How old?” Other than that don’t expect much chit chat as the judge has about 2 minutes to go over the dog and move you. Listen carefully to what he asks you to do and if you don’t hear or understand Ask. As you return to the judge on the final move stand the dog. He will then say thank you. You turn and gait back to the mat you could well be being watched.
In bigger classes don’t switch off. A lot of judges will run their eyes over the dogs they have already gone over to mentally keep them in order. You also need to be aware of what is going on so you don’t get in the way of other competitors. If you are stood like a sack of potatoes when the judge looks round you could ruin your chances at the last minute. Being second you will know when the last dog is being seen because there is only one in front of you. Be ready to stack your dog again as the judge will turn immediately back to the line to have a final look before placing. Keep one eye on the judge, he will call out his winners and stand them in the middle of the ring with the 1st dog on his left as he faces them. Keep showing! the placings are not final until they are written in the judges book.
When the winners are placed the usual signal for dismissal is ‘Thank you’. If you have been placed at an open show the first place only will have a write up. The others leave the ring hopefully after congratulating the winner of the class. At Championship shows it is the first 2 or 3 for whom the judge writes a critique.
If you got 1st in your class the judge will want you again. When the steward calls "all unbeaten dogs", you return to the ring. The Steward should indicate how the judge wants his class winners lined up. You will probably be moved again up and down the mat. Then the Best of Breed will be selected and the Best Puppy. There may be a Reserve Best of Breed.
Now back to the rules, if there was no puppy class there is still a best puppy. The judge will want all puppies unbeaten by another puppy.
Another scenario is an owner who has 2 puppies and put one in the puppy class and one in the next higher class be it junior, yearling, novice, or graduate. This dog could have been 3rd or 4th in the class but if the dogs in front were adults he is still an unbeaten puppy and can challenge for best puppy. Be guided by the ring Stewards, ask if you are not sure, but try to give them space to do their job of assisting the judge.
Assuming you win, your job is then over until best in show/ best puppy in show. You can withdraw from any variety class to remain unbeaten if you want to. If you enter the varieties remember to take off your winning rosettes before going into the class. You now have a long wait, so rest your dog, have a drink and watch what is going on. Best in Show is just a repeat of the ring class with more dogs, You need to know if your dog has been ‘seen’ by the Best in Show judge as new dogs and seen dogs line up separately. The only class in which you can wear your Best of breed ribbon is best in show.
Disasters in the ring
The only unforgivable sin is for your dog to ‘go for’ the judge. I don’t mean wriggle or be nervous I mean Bite. Such a dog should not be shown.
If the dog leaves a big puddle or pile in the middle of the ring during showing—OOPS! It has happened to all of us. It is your responsibility as exhibitor to clean up, but in practice the ring stewards want to keep things flowing(no pun intended). Try to catch the eye of the steward for help to get the bucket and mop, if it is a solid offering use the bag in your pocket. It is polite to offer to clean up whilst they hold your dog not click your fingers and point to the mess then turn your back as if it is nothing to do with you. It happens unfortunately!
If due to excitement your dog is bouncing round like Zebedee (Magic Roundabout fans will understand) and will not move off at a trot, circle him and try again, you don't lose points for a restart.
All exhibitors should be courteous but some will crowd you, box you into a corner, or stand in front of you. Smile and ask them to move over a bit, keeping your cool makes them look silly.
It bears repeating. This is a ‘for fun’ sport. Your dog will have done its best to please you all day. It is not cunning, malicious or out to show you up. It is a baby who is responding to your training. Patience and rewarding good behaviour will succeed in the long run. For many of us our Newfie’s will be stronger and heavier than we are and remember they hold the world record for pulling 56 times their own bodyweight.
You know you are taking the best dog home so whatever the outcome praise and a hug is his reward, even if you need more training!