Takoda Takes Third


Oh Wow. I think I just had my first, and last, conformation dog show. What was I thinking? The experience was beyond humiliating. In fact, I was borderline tears more than once. It wasn’t the people there; or the judges. It was the scene. I was so out of my league and clueless; and, of course, it showed. Maybe if I was 8 like a few of the girls handling their Aussies, it would have been a different day altogether.

Two days ago I got wind of an ASCA dog show in Murray Park. I figured what the hell? For 10 bucks I could have a judge look over Takoda and tell me what kind of aesthetic shape he was in. I didn’t know that it would be as much about me as the dog. I had to borrow a collar and leash (I’ve never ever used what they had); someone trimmed up his ears and rear for me; another nice woman gave him a quick brush; I happened to have a Lickety Stick in the car so at least I wasn’t begging for cheese bits as well.

All of the ladies there were super and I got a crash course in conformation handling. I’m betting this is something you and the dog can’t learn in an hour?

We quickly taught him to stand instead of sit in front of me (which is what he does for obedience) but I neglected to learn what I was supposed to do in the ring. Apparently you always stay behind the other dogs even if one stops or goes off course. I trotted past and was ordered to get back in line.

You don’t run, you walk fast to get your dog to trot alongside of you. I looked like I was running.

When the time came to go up against two other male pups, Takoda did decently for his first time and I sucked bigger than a teenager getting a helium hit. I struggled to keep him standing. At the end, he placed third- out of three.

I did ask the judge for feedback which was the whole reason I chose to do this in the first place. He said, “An experienced handler can make a new dog look like a champ. An inexperienced handler can make a champ look like a [loser].” I was that inexperienced handler. L Did I mention that I was in jeans and everyone else was dressed for a corporate job interview?

To his credit, the only thing the judge saw as a negative was that my dog’s chest wasn’t as “full” as it could be; but he said it wasn’t a dealbreaker. So I guess Takoda could be a contender if I wanted him to be. I don’t. We’re going to work on obedience, rally and agility instead. Perhaps I won’t feel like such a complete loser.



  • Anonymous

    Sorry for your experience, Jill. But it looks like you learned some things anyway and that is your gain if not some satisfaction. Showing dogs is a syndicate, if not a racket. I’m cynical but I used to work for a professional handler and boarder on the east coast when I was young. Showing dogs has little to do with the dog and its personality, though it can be trained to look good. Showing dogs is often about ribbons and trophies that gather dust for the owner. On the professional circuit, the poor dog is just property. When not in the ring or being groomed, they often just sit around in a kennel without love or proper exercise. Unloved dogs sometimes develop quirks and eating disorders. My opinion is you will reap much more satisfaction loving your dog and training him yourself (with as much guidance as you wish). Stick with obedience. There is nothing like a dog/master relationship where they work as one…out of love. Especially with an Aussie as they are so smart and willing to work. Maybe field trials or the like later on. But don’t neglect your Aussie, they are too smart and can get in trouble if not kept active and obedient. Keep him working and by your side and love him. He’s a cute dog.

    • You’re spot on. I tried the conformation thing as I thought it would be something we could do together. I’m not knocking those that were there. They were lovely people. I just don’t think it’s a good fit for me. Takoda has a super strong herding drive but we don’t have farm animals. Tracking, rally, agility might be a lot of fun. Right now we hike and play all the time. I would hate to have to worry about his coat, his gait, his ears, etc.

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