Friday, March 21, 2014

Before a dog steps into the show ring...

I have been planning on writing about a typical day at a dog show, and that promised post is still in the works.  But before I write the post, I wanted to give you all some background information on what happens at a dog show and what goes into preparing for a show.  There are a lot of misconceptions about dog shows, specifically conformation shows, and some think that it is just a beauty pageant for dogs.  And I have even heard a couple people say that they believed it was actually cruel to dogs to make them compete at dog shows.  But this isn’t true, and I wanted to explain why.


First, is it cruel to dogs?  No, I do not think so, and I’m pretty sure most dogs would agree with me.  Dogs who compete at dog shows are kept in top shape, both their bodies and their coats have to be in great condition.  To keep them fit, show dogs are exercised on a regular basis, because they have to be kept lean and healthy.  And because they need a beautiful coat, and bright eyes, they are fed a high quality dog food.  I can’t tell you how many arguments I have had with non-dog show people who think feeding a cheap dog food, which contains a lot of fillers and food coloring, is perfectly fine for their pets because their childhood family dog always ate that food.  Or how many people admit to never even walking their dogs, and instead leave them tied up in the backyard with little or no mental stimulation. 


Most dog show people watch the sun rise from their cars, as they are up and beginning their drive while it is still dark outside!

Which leads me to my second point, show dogs are more than just pretty faces.  Many people turn on their televisions on Thanksgiving day to watch the dog show, which is aired right after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Or they faithfully tune into the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, for two days every February.  If they have never been to a dog show, then all they might see is a bunch of people in fancy clothes, running around in a circle with their dogs.  What they don’t see on these televised dog shows are the months, and sometimes years, spent training for these competitions.  The handlers do not simply run around the ring, if you watch an experienced handler with his or her dog long enough, you will start to become aware of the subtle signals that are being transmitted between handler and dog.  I have watched my own daughter with our dogs, and it is like watching a well matched couple out on the dance floor.  One partner leads, and with the slightest of movements, she guides the other through the steps of the dance.  This doesn’t happen as soon as they step in the ring, this is the result of months, and sometimes years, of training. 


We start training our collies when they are around six weeks old, we begin their training by making it all a fun game.  Because of this, they view dog shows as fun and they become excited when they spot us loading up the van with all our dog show equipment.  To be successful as a show dog, they have to have more than just beauty.  If the dog doesn’t enjoy dog shows, they will look scared or miserable in the ring.  And yes, I have seen dogs who just do not enjoy dog shows, and if the dog is not having fun, then I do not think they should be forced to compete.  But most dogs, with the right training, view dog shows as only a positive, rewarding experience.  They get groomed regularly, fed a good diet, exercised daily, trained and socialized from a young age and they get to travel with their people instead of being left home alone.  So how anyone could view this as abuse is something I can’t comprehend.


And third, what you see on TV is only the end of the competition.  What they do not show is what comes before the Group judging.  Dog shows are divided into classes.  Each dog breed is judged separately, and the judging begins with the “class” dogs or bitches.   The class dogs are entered into individual classes, such as 9 – 12 month puppy, American bred, Open, or Bred-by-exhibitor.  The owner chooses which class to enter their dog or bitch, choosing the class where they think the dog or bitch will have the best chance of winning first place, which advances them to the next class, which is the Winner’s Dog/Bitch competition.  The winners of each class compete against each other in the Winner’s Bitch or Winner’s Dog competition.  Whichever dog or bitch is chosen as “Winner’s” is awarded points towards his or her championship.  The number of points awarded depends on how many dogs/bitches of that breed were entered in the show.  To become a champion, a dog needs 15 points and two of the wins have to be major wins, which means the wins were worth 3, 4 or 5 points each.  The males are judged first, and then the females.  When the judging of the “class” dogs/bitches is completed it is then time for the Best of Variety competition.  In this class, all the finished champions, along with the Winner’s Dog and Winner’s Bitch, compete for the best of variety, which means the judge decides who is the best example of the breed.  From this group the judge will also choose the Best of opposite sex to Best of Variety.  So if the judge chose a bitch as the Best of Variety, he or she will now choose a male who is the best of opposite sex.  The judge will also choose between the Winner’s Dog and Winner’s Bitch, to award “Best of Winners.”  The judge may also choose to award "Select dog and/or bitch," which allows the judge to honor other dogs who he or she felt deserved recognition.  The dog or bitch who wins Best of Variety will go on to compete in the Group ring. (herding, toys, sporting, etc)  And then the winners of each group will go on to compete for the coveted title of Best in Show. 


A lot of preparation and planning goes into every show dog’s career, and it all starts before the dog is even born!  It really begins when the dog’s breeder carefully selects a stud dog, breeds their bitch, whelps the litter, and then chooses show prospects.  Think of all this the next time you watch a dog show on TV, the dog you see in the ring is the result of extensive time researching pedigrees, choosing a stud dog with the correct virtues, caring for the pregnant bitch, whelping the litter, raising and socializing the pups, training them, and then competing in multiple dog shows to become a champion.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring is here!

Yesterday was such a nice day, we decided to take a drive along the coast, in search of a special, iconic house.  It's one of the most photographed and painted houses in our area.  Even though it is really just a fishing shack, it's called "The House on Grass Island." 

It took us a while to find the house, and we found some interesting spots while we were wandering, so we took the opportunity to get some new pictures!

Ryder, posing pretty for the camera!

Then it was Scarlett's turn!

Then we spotted this driftwood, and so of course we had to stop!

While we were driving, we spotted this old home, which is now a museum.  It was closed, but we will return so we can take a look at the inside.



We are so excited that today is the first day of Spring!  Our adventures are just beginning, and we can't wait to get out and do more exploring in our state!  How are you celebrating the arrival of Spring?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Busy week!

Last week my mother fell, when she went out to feed the birds.  She slipped on the ice, and broke both her arms!  Chase, her collie, came to stay with us.  We call him Uncle Chase, and he is a big boy.  This is Chase, isn’t he handsome?


So while my mother was in the rehab facility, Chase went to visit her, since she missed her boy.   While he was there, he noticed a woman in a wheelchair, and he walked over to her, and very gently put his head in her lap!  I was very impressed with how good Chase was during the visit.  And then since Abby is so calm and quiet, she got to go visit her Grandma too.  Abby was so gentle and calm, she immediately climbed up on the bed and curled up next to Grandma. 



Everyone loved both Chase and Abby, and I think either of them would make excellent therapy dogs.  We might go back with Abby, just to let her visit with some of the residents, as it’s not only a rehab facility, it’s also a nursing home.


Yesterday, we took Scarlett to a collie specialty show, and she won Winner’s Bitch and Best of Winners!  Because of how many other smooth collies were entered, the win was for 4 points.  They calculate the points based on how many other dogs of that breed/variety are entered at the show.  A major is a win of 3, 4 or 5 points.  To become a champion, a dog needs a total of 15 points, and two of the wins have to be majors.   Scarlett now needs just one 3 point major to finish her championship!  We are very proud of our little Scarlett O’Collie!


On the way home we stopped by the beach, to take a couple pictures...

Scarlett and my daughter

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Captain edition!

For Throwback Thursday - Captain, who will be 2 years old on May 1st!


now (sort of)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Not so Wordless Wednesday - dog show edition

This past weekend we attended a collie specialty show.  I know I promised to do a post where I describe a day at a dog show, and I will be doing that soon.  I just want to wait to do the post until we are going to an all breed dog show or until we are entered at an outdoor collie specialty show, so that we can get some really interesting pictures.  So many of the indoor collie specialty shows are held at hotels, and the lighting makes it difficult to get good pictures.

This weekend, the show was held in Maine, at a nice hotel.  This show is actually one of our favorite shows, as the location is awesome - you have to love a hotel with feather beds and warm chocolate chip cookies!  But what makes the show special is that the Collie Club of Maine has some of the nicest club members you will ever meet.  They really make an effort to make their show a wonderful experience for the exhibitors.  They have a huge raffle, where everyone walks away with a prize.  (We won a new dog bed, which Abby has claimed as her property.)  And then they do a free champagne toast with hors d’oeuvres.  And this show always falls on my birthday weekend, so I was able to spend my birthday surrounded by collies and the people who love them.

Scarlett waiting for her ring time.

Friday, after Ryder and Kori had their baths and nails done, we loaded up the van.  I always have to laugh, because 99% of the stuff we pack is for the dogs, but that is typical of all dog show people.  We have crates, so the dogs have a safe place to rest while waiting for their time in the show ring.  We pack bedding, so they are comfy while in their crates.  We have water buckets, and gallons of water.  We have their dog food, and their food bowls.  We pack up treats for use in the show ring, which is called “bait.”  We pack the grooming table, and the grooming bag/tack box.  We even pack their favorite toys, so they can play in the hotel room at night. 

Ryder gives this hotel 4 sleepy paws up!

The drive took us about six and a half hours, but we finally arrived at the hotel.  We unloaded all the dog stuff, and set up our grooming area.  Then we walked the dogs, unloaded our stuff, and headed up to our room.  The collies were so happy to play and then stretch out on the beds.  They really enjoyed staying in a hotel!  At one point I was walking Ryder though the lobby, and a couple of men, who were staying at the hotel with their kids, asked if they could take a picture with Ryder!  And if there is one thing my collie boy enjoys, it’s being admired and photographed!

It was Ryder’s first experience at a dog show, and since he doesn’t have a whole lot of coat right now, we didn’t expect that he would win.  We just wanted to introduce him to the show ring, and the sights and sounds of a dog show.  He loved every minute of it, and we received many compliments on our boy.  People were constantly telling us what a great temperament Ryder has, and one woman asked if we were going to breed him.  She is looking for a collie with his personality to be her next therapy dog.  And when Ryder went in the ring, he had fun.  He learned that dog shows are a great place, where a collie can get lots of attention, many treats, and everyone wants to pet him.  Every time Ryder stepped in the ring, his tail would start wagging, and it didn’t stop until he left the ring.  He made both the judges and the people watching the show smile.  So we consider the weekend to be a huge success.

Ryder, doing his Lassie impression for the show photographer.

Scarlett did great too, she is very showy and loves to compete at shows.  And she was so funny back at the room, as she and Kori would jump from bed to bed, like small children.   

Kori, sleeping after a busy day.

Abby and Scarlett stayed with my family while we were at the show.  And my two older girls showed just how bonded they actually are, they never left each other’s side at night.  They slept together on the couch, curled up as close as possible to each other.  They are related to all my sister’s collies, and enjoy playing with them.  But when it’s time for bed and they are separated from me, Abby and Holly prefer to snuggle together, which I find terribly sweet.