Gunnar and I entered the Terry-All Kennel Club Dog Show last weekend. It's been a while since I've been in the ring and even longer for Gunnar.
He and I went to class a couple of times to make sure we both remembered how to behave in the ring and I spent a good amount of time cleaning him up... it has been mud season and he started shedding, so that was no small feat. ;-)
Saturday was hot and he was not in the mood. He was reluctant to move and refused to stack. He just wanted to take a nap in front of the fan in his kennel. So while he did stand politely for the inspection from the judge, he was naughty and came in dead last. It was a frustrating day.
However, being the only Owner-Handled TM entered, we were promoted to the Owner-Handled Working Group later in the day. It was cooler, he had his nap and another competitor offered her portable fan for him to use while we were waiting ringside. So he was happier and performed much better.
Sunday was cooler, quieter and less crowded. He moved well and held his stacks. The judge moved us up the line twice as he was making his assessments, then awarded Gunnar Best of Breed. I wasn't certain I understood at first. Gunnar's breeder had a big grin and another handler congratulated me and it started to sink in. :-)
The judge was then very gracious with his time and knowledge while we waited for the show photographer.
This was Gunnar's first BoB as an AKC Champion. One of the other dogs entered is the current #1 TM... a Grand Champion with an excellent professional handler, both of whom I like very much. They are experienced and polished. Gunnar is a working livestock guardian and I am not a professional handler. All of these together with our performance on Saturday make Sunday's win and recognition extremely special.
I say it often, the conformation ring is about judging breeding stock against the appropriate standard. Judges make their choices from what is presented on that day.
Professional Handlers and dogs that are on the road are practiced and polished. They know the standards and perform well in the ring. That's what experience provides.
If a dog isn't behaving well or the dog/handler team are not in sync, the judge can not make an definitive assessment. It is incumbent upon us as owner-handlers to know our standard and learn how to present our dogs effectively. I am looking forward to working on the things we learned last weekend and seeing how we do in our next show.