Sunday, December 12, 2010

And now for something completely different...

Last weekend, I did something I never in a million years thought I’d try: conformation. And you know what? I had a great time!

A few weeks ago, I asked my friend Dawn to let me know the next time she had a conformation event coming up so I could go watch. Not only did Dawn have one planned, but she was also looking for a handler, and would I come and handle her bitch Grace?

I refused. I told her that I didn’t know anything about conformation, and there’s no way I could do it. But Dawn assured me that it was okay, especially since she wanted Grace to lose. See, Dawn wanted to get a few more points on her bitch Peace before the end of the year, but to do that, Peace had to defeat another dog. Unfortunately, Dawn’s breed, Cardigans, aren’t very common in our area, so Dawn had to enter them both so that Peace would have someone to beat.

So I went. I figured that since my job was to lose, there was absolutely no pressure. I could pick Dawn’s brain about cardigan structure (and I did learn some interesting things), learn how conformation shows work (I understand them now, even if the judging still mystifies me), and generally just have fun.

And I did. I loved that there was no pressure. All I had to do was trot Grace around the ring a few times, lift her on a table, pretend to stack her, and smile. Oh, and did I mention that I won? I guess I’m not very good at losing, but Dawn didn’t mind- after all, it was her dog that won either way!

In fact, I’m so bad at losing that not only did Grace win her class, but she was also the de facto best in breed. That meant that we got to compete with all of the other dogs in the herding group who won. I didn’t expect to win in group- and we didn’t- but Grace did get Group 3, which is the conformation way of saying third place. We beat another dog! (Okay, so I really had nothing to do with Grace’s win- all I did was hold on to her leash and lift her on the table. In fact, I didn’t even do that right, because the judge manually restacked Grace.)

I had a lot of fun though, and if I get a purebred dog, especially a puppy, I will definitely show in conformation. Since I don’t plan to breed, I’m not particularly worried about winning or putting a championship on my hypothetical dog, but participating seems like a great way to introduce a dog to the trial environment. I got to take treats in the ring, and I was allowed to use them any time I wanted!

Plus, it was really fun to go in the ring, to play with dogs, and to hang out with friends. Just so you know, Dawn, I expect that the next time you need a handler, you’ll call me first!


Katherine said...

Oh fun! I was thinking about showing Byron in conformation, even if I can't breed him, just for practice and experience. Unfortunately the only club that teaches conformation around here is super forceful. Glad to hear it isn't as hard as it looks! I might still consider it.

What did you learn about Cardigan structure and stacking? Any tips?

Dawn said...

Crystal you did a great job and can show with me anytime. I am really glad you enjoyed it, because if your going to get the pick pup from the next litter, you might have to do conformation.... Thanks again!!

Crystal said...

Katie, Vicki Ronchette has a clicker-confo video out now, witha 20% discount if you use this code: NEWRL20

That might be a better alternative to a force-based class if you learn well through video. (I really like hands-on stuff, personally, so a class would be better for me, but I'm still thinking about ordering that video anyway.)

Crystal said...

Dawn- yay! Let me know when your next show is. Did you say you're showing at Land O Lakes? (Not that I want to handle then, but I'd love to come watch!)

Raegan said...

Congratulations to you and Dawn! Group placing is great, it's my understanding that the Herding group is really tough.

Ashley Hiebing said...

That's interesting, what you said about conformation events preparing a dog for obedience trials. I never thought of it that way. I'm hoping in the future to get a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and achieve the UKC Super Dog title, and that requires conformation, so that makes me feel better about it.

Anyway, HOW 'BOUT THAT SNOW?! We got a fair bit here, along with some freezing rain, but I know your area really got hit. Hope you managed to shovel everything out ;)

Crystal said...

And in UKC, you can take puppies in as young as three months. I'd be cautious about putting too much pressure on such a baby dog, but it could be a GREAT socialization experience.

As for the snow: UGH. I'm already tired of it. My fence has been rendered worthless. It's a good thing Maisy isn't the kind of dog to run away, because she could step over the fence if she climbs up on the snow banks. That picture in my last entry? Yeah, that's my backyard.

How much did you guys get?

Ashley Hiebing said...

We got about 9 inches here... glad I don't live up by Eau Claire, they really got dumped on.

I actually really enjoy snow--we just got a skijoring package in here at work... if only I had skis!! I just don't like driving on icy streets.