Category Archives: Shows

Appearances are everything, and perceptions will lie to you

I love dog shows.  I love everything about them.  I love the spectacle, the fancy dress, the pretty dogs.  I like watching breeds being judged, even if they’re not my own breed.  I like listening to people talk, too.  Some things get repeated over and over again, and after a while you start listening.

BoB Trenton 2015
Fancy clothes, fancy dogs!

One is that our sport is greying.  It’s hard to get young people interested in showing, and it’s hard to keep people in the sport, or get young people interested in breeding.  Lots of reasons get thrown about for this:  poor judging, bullying, expense, poor behavior by judges and by exhibitors.  Some of those I’ve experienced myself.  Judges who should have known better leaving me standing waiting for them to finish marking their book and handing out awards, because they were busy talking to people outside the ring.  Long-time exhibitors who are flat out rude because I’m inexperienced, and they’re not.  The politics.  (I love the politics, too, even as I hate the politics.  What can I say?  I like drama.)

Another reason that gets brought up a lot is the divide between the professional handlers and the owner handlers (or breeders who are handling a dog they bred).  Some judges have reputations for “looking up the lead” — giving placements to dogs based on who is on the other end of the lead, rather than judging the dogs on their own merits.  In the many Facebook groups devoted to showing dogs that I belong to, this is a huge and contentious issue.  Some people are adamant that the problem is not judges judging handlers, that the problem is that professional handlers are professionals.  They do this week in and week out, 52 weeks a year, presenting several dogs in a single day.  They have nothing but time with which to hone their craft, so of course they’re going to win.  They have the skills to take a good-but-not-great dog, and make him look great.  Just up your game, owner handlers are told:  practice more.  Wear nicer clothes (hello? are you judging me or my dog?), get sharper skills, smile at the judge.

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Tell me to smile one more time …

I know, though, that perception is a funny thing.  So I got curious about whether or not the data would support this idea that some judges only judge faces.  I took two names out of a Facebook group that exists for the purpose of sharing notes on judges:  one that “the crowd” agreed was a handler judge, and one that “the crowd” agreed would find a good dog, regardless of who was on the end of the lead. I then took the most recent assignments of those two judges, and started counting.  For both judges, I disregarded breeds that were single entries, and breeds that did not have both handlers and owner/breeder handlers in competition.  If there was no handler listed, I assumed that the exhibitor was the owner or the breeder for the dog.  I wasn’t trying to be super scientific, but I wanted as much as possible to be comparing apples to apples.  For the handler judge, I needed to cross to a second day of competition to achieve the same number of breeds as the fair judge.

What I found was that each judge ended up at 13 breeds where they had more than a single entry, and the exhibitors were mixed between profession handlers, and owner/breeder handlers.  I also found that both judges put up handlers 9 times out of those 13 breeds.

Wait, what?  How is it that the numbers can be exactly the same, but one judge has a reputation for being fair, and the other does not?

Perception is everything.

Saturday and Sunday this weekend in Wrentham, Best of Breed in Rhodesian Ridgebacks was awarded to the same dog (a top dog in our breed), who is being handled by one of the biggest handler names in our sport, buuuut … On Saturday, our judge gave us a cursory exam, barely touched the dog during the exam, and didn’t even watch us through the entire movement phase of individual judging.  I knew we had lost before I even made it half way around the ring, because the judge couldn’t even be bothered to watch us for a full five seconds of movement.  We stayed after Ridgeback judging, and I watched this judge on their judging in several more breeds as well.  Same story in every breed:  cursory exam, going through the motions.  I can’t say for sure that this judge had their mind made up before examining the dogs, but my perception of the judging certainly made me feel that way.

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Seriously? Bad judge! No biscuit!

Sunday’s judging under a different judge felt completely different.  Our judge on Sunday took his time when going over Loki.  This judge was deliberate when going over my dog.  They checked the length of the ridge, the quality of the inner thigh muscle.  They felt for bones and checked angulation; watched us intently through the movement phase of judging, and gave every appearance of considering each dog on their merits.  After examining Loki and watching us on the go around, I thought to myself, “I may lose to this other dog again today, but at least I feel like the judge actually looked at my dog.”  Did Sunday’s judge actually give my dog any more consideration than Saturday’s judge?  Only the judges themselves know for sure, but my perception is that Sunday’s judge was considering every dog for Best of Breed.

(I also studied the hell out of the professional handler on the top dog.  If I have to lose to them, I can at least try to learn something for being a better handler.  Afterwards, it occurred to me they probably thought I was glaring at them, but I swear I was just trying to learn!)

We still lost Best of Breed on Sunday, same as Saturday, but I walked away from the ring with a completely different feeling, all because of how I perceived the judging.

Going back to our numbers, obviously this isn’t a scientific tallying, and it’s not proof of anything.  I do think that some judges could do a better job of making all exhibitors feel welcomed in the ring, and of giving the appearance of fairly considering each dog in judging.  This isn’t going to fix every problem that might be driving away exhibitors from our sport, but it’s a damn good place to start.

Loki Eukanuba

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CH County Line’s Lion Man of Kuluta

Hard on Loki’s heels, Pike finished his championship this weekend at the Springfield shows with professional handler Stacy Threlfall.

This photo was taken the weekend before at the Wampanoag Kennel Club show in Wrentham, MA.  Don’t they look great together?

Wampanoag Kennel Club Best of Winners

Pike finished his championship in just three months of limited showing, and did it with three major wins.  We adore this big red-headed derpy boy, and can’t wait to see what the future brings.

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Stacy and Pike

I took this video of Stacy showing Pike at the North Shore Kennel Club show — Pike looks great, and she really does a wonderful job with him.

But what I really love is the sweet, smooth flip she does at the end of her down and back.  I am so jealous of how smoothly she can do that!

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Show Report: Trenton, NJ

I’d like to start this show report with a deeply felt “thank-you!” to Amy Preston and Caryl-Rose Pofcher.  They, individually, graciously boarded Clover and Jackson for me, so that we could make the drive down to Trenton and back carrying only two dogs, instead of four.  In a very real way, they made the trip possible.

Sunday’s show in Trenton was a regional specialty show, hosted by the Greater Valley Forge Rhodesian Ridgeback Club.  There was an entry of 72 Ridgebacks for the show.  We elected to drive down Saturday night, and drive home Sunday after the show, staying overnight in Cranbury.

Mercer Park, the show site, is amazing.  It’s gorgeous.  We went to Trenton last year, too, and I loved it even better this year — warm and sunny.  Just like last year, we had ringside parking for the van.

Cutting to the chase, here are the results:

Pike was Best of Opposite in Sweepstakes, netting us a lovely, lovely black leather show lead with black and yellow beads for a trophy, and a small cash prize.  He was also third place in his class in regular judging.

Pike

The show lead trophy came from A Bead Above, and is pictured here.

Loki was awarded Reserve Winners Dog (to a five-point major, with 25 class dog entries).  Here he’s pictured with sister Reign, who was from the same litter as Pike.  Reign was awarded Reserve Winners Bitch.  Nathan handled Loki, and breeder Lisa Hoffman showed Reign.

Loki and Reign

 

Loki and Reign

We went home totally thrilled with our two boys.  I’ll put a link up to the rest of the show results when they become available.

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Long overdue show report: Springfield, MA

Results:

Loki: Friday | Saturday | Sunday
Pike: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

I have zero excuse for not putting this up earlier, except that I just wasn’t in the mood to write.  Still, the shows are starting to heat up, and I spent some time updating Clover’s page to reflect her major wins better, so I can take a moment to let you know how Springfield went at the beginning of this month.

The Spring Fling cluster was held in Springfield, MA over April 3-5, 2015.  This was Pike’s first “real” show — he was in the non-competitive Beginner Puppy class at the Hartford shows (which were also held in Springfield, so it’s okay to be confused).  We decided I would handle Pike, and Nathan would take Loki again like he had at Hartford.

Nathan and Loki were on fire that weekend.  Loki was Winner’s Dog on Friday under judge John P. Wade, picking up two points toward his championship.  Winner’s Bitch and Best of Winners would go to my friend Ali Gregoire and her bitch Marlo.

Saturday, Loki and Nathan would go Winner’s Dog again for a 4 point major under judge Daniel J. Smyth.  Mr. Smyth would also give Best of Winners to Loki over Ali’s Marlo (who also finished her championship!!).  We showed to Smyth last year in Springfield in one of Nathan’s first times in the ring on Loki, where he took home Reserve Winner’s Dog.  Most importantly, Saturday’s win gave Loki his second major, leaving us in a good spot for finishing Loki’s championship.

Sunday, Winner’s Dog was awarded to Loki’s brother Raylan by judge Raymond Filburn, giving him the last win he needed to finish his championship! We were a little sad it wasn’t Loki, but totally thrilled it went to Ray, who is a really super handsome liver nose.

What about Pike, I hear you asking. Well … Pike was in 6-9 month Puppy all three days, against a Spring Valley dog handled by Jack Secrest.  Jack’s dog was more mature than Pike, handled better than Pike (Jack is a professional and I very much am not), and just showed better than Pike.  We were out-shown and out-handled, and that’s okay.  Pike needs time to mature and some more training, which is just the way it goes.  He also started going into a fear period on Saturday, so on Sunday I just focused on making sure he had a good time in the ring and at the show, and I came out of the weekend very, very happy with little Lovernose.  I thought he did as well as could be expected for a six month old baby!

Looking forward, we will be at Trenton in the beginning of May, followed by St. Hubert the following weekend.  Then Pike will be going to the Maine shows with Marsa (without me), and at the end of the month will be Ladies’ Club in Wrentham.  Loki needs a final two points to finish up his title, and then we’ll probably dip our toes into the water and see how a grand championship might go for him.  Who knows?  Right now we’re just having fun showing him, and he is working well for Nathan, so we’re happy to follow this wherever it leads.

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Show Report: Springfield, MA

Results:

Loki: Saturday | Sunday
Pike: Saturday | Sunday

This weekend, the First Company Governor’s Food Guard Athletic Association’s annual dog shows occurred in Springfield, MA. Previously, these shows were in Hartford. Last year, Hartford was Loki’s first show, so it seemed sensible to let these shows be Pike’s first as well. (Spoiler alert: Pike did better than Loki on his first time out!)

We had plans to show both Pike and Loki both days this weekend, but the judging schedule for Saturday had Loki in the ring at 8:30 am, and Pike in at 1:00 pm.  The big gap between ring times meant that Jackson and Clover would have to come to the show with us, because otherwise they’d be home alone for far longer than I am comfortable with asking them to go without potty breaks.  When it came time to load the crates into the Dog Bus on Friday afternoon, I made the executive decision to pull Pike from Saturday’s competition, so we could just show and go with Loki, and thus leave Jackson and Clover at home.  The weather Friday was just frigidly cold and I simply couldn’t bear the thought of staying out in the cold long enough to rearrange the crates in the van, then having to set up crates for a single day of showing.

Saturday’s show was a major for class dogs in Rhodesian Ridgebacks.  Loki won his class, but Winners Dog and Best of Winners was awarded to Aron, who belongs to Marsa, and Reserve Winners Dog went to Loki’s litter brother Raylan.  So, as Marsa said while the boys were in the ring, “We’re keeping it in the family!”  Nathan stayed with Pike while I showed Loki, and he reported that Pike was perfectly content in his crate.  No fussing, no whining, just happy to watch everything going on.  Big win for us on that front!  We did let him walk around and socialize a bit, and Tiny Dog took everything in stride.  Yay Pike!

Sunday, Pike and Loki had ring times that were stacked on top of each other, so we decided Nathan would handle Loki, and I would take Pike.  Pike’s entry was in a special 4 – 6 month non-competitive puppy class (no points) that is intended to help introduce puppies to the show ring, and novice owners too.  Last year when we did this class with Loki, he was the only entry in Rhodesian Ridgebacks, but this year Pike didn’t get off so lucky: there were three other Ridgeback puppies in the ring with us!  I was pretty nervous about how Pike would perform, because I have been the laziest slacker trainer with Pike.  We haven’t gotten him to a single handling class, and the only introduction he’s had to stacking has been extremely lackadaisical practice in my living room, not even on a show lead.  Oh, and of course we were first in line!

So, all that said, I am extremely proud beyond words to report that my little liver-nose boy did his job with complete aplomb.  He stacked as well as I would expect a four-month old puppy to do, he gaited perfectly without trying to break into a gallop or chew on the lead, and he walked out of the ring on Sunday with the ribbon for Puppy Best of Breed and a rosette for a Puppy Hound Group 1! Tiny Dog did it!

Over in Loki’s ring, Nathan was busy winning as well!  Loki won his class, won Winner’s Dog, and then took Best of Winners to add another point toward his championship — which would be Nathan’s first point in the the show ring.  However, it took me a little while to find out just how well Nathan had done with Loki.

As I was standing outside Pike’s ring waiting to go back in for Best Puppy In Show, I kept craning my neck to see how Nathan was doing in his ring.  Nathan  saw me looking and held up the ribbon that Loki won for Winner’s Dog, which is a purple ribbon.  However, with the lighting and the distance between us, to me the ribbon looked red — which is a second place ribbon.  I thought he was showing me that Loki was second place in his class, and I gave him a thumbs up to say, “Yes, I got it!”  So, with me thinking he had only won second place in Loki’s class, I was confused by why Nathan and Loki kept standing outside the ring.  At first I thought he was waiting to be judged for Reserve Winners Dog, but then I saw there were bitches in the ring.

So I’m standing there wondering just what the hell is going on, and thinking to myself, “What the !@#$ is Nathan doing?  You’re done! Go put the dog back in his crate!” and Nathan was ACTUALLY standing waiting to go back in the Best of Breed class so Loki could compete for Best of Winners.  And I keep looking, and grumbling to myself, and looking — because, remember, I think Loki was only second place in his class.

Finally, Pike and I got to go back into Pike’s ring to compete for Best Puppy in Show (which was awarded to a Cavalier King Charles), and then I took Pike outside to have a quick potty break.  We came back in, I put Pike in his crate, and boy was I confused when Nathan handed me a whole fistful of ribbons!  I looked down at the ribbons, back up and Nathan, and then threw myself at him in a giant hug when I realized he had actually gotten Best of Winners!  Nathan and Loki did it, too!

So, that was our weekend, which was pretty awesome.  How did yours go?

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The Modern-Day Fairy Tale: The Myth of Reach and Drive

The properly angulated dog will swing freely from the shoulder blade and the hip with long, low, easy strides and no wasted effort, while the vertical dog will stiffly “pop” from the elbow and the hip and lift the legs far too high off the ground on both ends, creating a gait that causes the dog a great deal of increased effort and gives it little to no endurance. The higher the legs go up in the air, the farther they have to come back down to contact the ground. And feet only work when they are on the ground; they have no use when they are up in the air.

via The Modern-Day Fairy Tale: The Myth of Reach and Drive.

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Orlando Show Report, Part Two: Eukanuba

We drove from Perry to Orlando on Friday, with a stop in Homosassa, FL to visit Nathan’s mom and step-dad for lunch.  Yay, seafood!  I love visiting Florida.  It’s my kinda food!  At lunch we made sure MJ had all the info she needed to join us the next day at the convention center — she was coming to watch and cheer us on.  Go Team Loki!

I had reserved a two-queen room, but we convinced my dad to go to the show with us too, so we upgraded to a 1 bedroom suite at check-in.  Good move, because it gave us plenty of room to enjoy the hotel without being all on top of each other.

Dad Hotel Eukanuba

(Bedroom not pictured.)

We got all of Loki’s stuff hauled up into the room (seriously, I have got to get better at traveling light for these overnight shows. Dad had a single carry-on sized bag.  We had to make three trips to the car to get all our crap.) and then nipped down to the hotel bar for a nightcap.  My dad got really tickled at the number of dogs we saw just in and around the hotel, and we had a pretty good round of “What breed is that one?” going at the bar.

Eukanuba

Saturday morning we were up early enough to watch the sunrise, and the view from our balcony was pretty incredible.  I spent a few minutes on the balcony gathering my thoughts and mentally getting my game on.  Then we had breakfast.  Love room service.  Love it.

Dad Eukanuba

The only word I can use to describe the convention center is “huge.”  In addition to the photo here, I took a panoramic video of the grooming area. What you see here in the photo of the grooming area is only about 20% of the building.  This is only half of the grooming area, plus there were spaces for Meet the Breeds, the conformation judging rings, the agility, obedience, and dock diving areas, the vendor areas … it just went on and on and on.

On our way into the building, we ran into fellow Canaan Dog person Christina Miller, and she had space in her set up for us to put Loki’s crate — happy coincidence, because we wanted to offer to help her out with Meet the Breeds and be an extra pair of hands for Canaan Dog judging on Sunday!  We got all our crap hauled in (Loki, crate, bag of ‘dog stuff’, folding chairs, etc …), collected MJ when she arrived, and had a few minutes to relax before it was off for judging.

I knew going in that there were only two other class dogs entered, so Loki had a pretty good chance of walking away with the purple ribbon and another point toward his championship.  It was never a done deal — that judge, that dog, that day — but I was hoping for the best, and Loki did not let me down.  Big man strutted his stuff into that ring, did everything I asked him to do damn near perfectly, and made Momma proud.

County Line’s Thor’s Echo was Winners Dog at the 2014 AKC Eukanuba National Championship!

Loki Eukanuba

Even if we had not won, I would have still been thrilled to get to go to Eukanuba — the entire trip I had mentally prepared myself to be happy no matter what, but getting to take home that purple rosette really made my day.  I was so thrilled with Loki.  He’s just an amazing dog.

After conformation judging, we took a spin around the Meet The Breeds area, and gave my dad an opportunity to love on some Australian Cattle Dogs and some Bluetick Coonhounds (two of his favorite breeds).

Dad Eukanuba Bluetick

Finally, we finished off with a little vendor shopping (Nate came home with a spiffy new rain jacket and a hat), then it was back to the hotel for dinner and relaxing.

Sunday we took one more trip into the convention center to meet up with Chris for Canaan Dog judging.  If you want to know how that went, let’s just say she needed extra hands to hold all her rosettes. 😉  After Canaan Dogs finished, I did a little shopping of my own (buying a FitPaws balance disk for helping condition the dogs this winter), and then we packed up the van and headed back to Perry.

I am so glad we went this year.  It was fantastic getting to see my family and Nathan’s family, plus the show was great.  I still want to hit Westminster one year, but I think Loki has a lot of growing up to do first.  It’s still on my list though!

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Orlando Show Report, part one: Perry, Florida

If it’s been quiet here around the ol’ blog, it’s because we took time to head to Orlando for the AKC Eukanuba National Championship, and combined that time with a family vacation.  It was two days of straight driving there (and two days on the way back), and I need to start by giving a hundred thousand thank-yous to Amy and Marsa, without whom the trip would not have happened.  Amy boarded Clover for us, and Marsa boarded Jackson and Pike, so that we only had to travel with Loki.

On the trip, before heading to Orlando, we made a stop in Perry, FL to visit my family for a few days.

A family gathers around a Christmas tree.
There may have been some serious relaxing going on …

My dad has, in addition to the house dogs, actual hunting foxhounds. He’s always had hunting dogs, pretty much my whole life.  Florida is one of the few (the only?) states that will allow you to hunt deer with a pack of dogs.  His current crew are a mix of Walker and Blue Tick hounds, and they have no idea what the show ring is.  I think they made jokes about Loki behind his back. 😉 Anyway, growing up around my dad’s dogs is for sure where I get my love of a good hound.  Without the dogs that he raised, I wouldn’t have my Rhodesians.

We had two little excursions during our stay in Perry.  First was to the site of the old Hampton Springs resort.

Hampton Springs sign

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A day later, we went out to the Hickory Mound area in the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area.  The last time I was out in Hickory Mound, it was hunting with my dad.  He left me at the truck while he headed out down the road.  I got bored.  I decided wading in the water would be a good idea.  It wasn’t, because it’s full of razor sharp oyster beds, and I still have the scar on the bottom of my foot to remind me that wading in oyster beds is … not smart.

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We also took a day to head to my uncle David’s house, where we entertained Nathan by picking some citrus (Satsuma oranges and kumquats) out of Uncle David’s front yard.

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The kumquats were delicious but the oranges … well, if you ever get offered an orange by my uncle David, be suspicious.  I suggested he might want to put some sugar down by the tree base.  Like, a bag full of it.  They were VERY bitter!

This brings us to the end of part one … part two tomorrow I’ll cover the actual show in Orlando!

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