Monday, January 28, 2013

How to show a show dog -- Part 2

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So Sunday we talked about what it was like to show a show dog in the big ring at the AKC/Eukanuba Championship Blogger Stakes in Orlando last month.

Copper is the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever I showed, and a great dog.

But what would it be like to show a beagle?

My niece plays with Blossom, a 13-inch beagle.
That is Blossom, a champion and grand champion. 
At AKC, they typically show two standards of beagles: 13 inch and 15 inch. That is determined from the ground to the back of the base of the neck.

The basics of showing a beagle are the same as the basics for Copper, which we talked about Sunday.

Blossom is a 13-inch beagle.

Her mom, Jennifer Arthington, was nice enough to talk to me about what it's been like to train and show her (Blossom is now retired. Her last show was in December at Celebrate Dogs!).

"Training a beagle for the show ring starts around the age of 3-4 months," Arthington said. "We play with walking on a leash until it becomes second nature for them to be at our side. We also start putting them up on the grooming table so they grow used to trusting us and also how to 'stand pretty' on the table. Treats are always given as positive reinforcement. Some dogs will always be a little naughty when it comes to the show ring but if we start early enough with fun training then by 6 months old they are ready to be a show dog.

Arthington started showing beagles at the age of 10. Beagles were a way of life in her home growing up, so it made the most sense. But it's not always easy.

"Beagles are very intelligent, very stubborn dogs," she said. [Eds. Note: Not dumb, as I've seen in "smartest" breed articles.]

"If you get a dog who loves food (which all beagles do) then training is much easier," Arthington said. "Once they equate showing with the little treats that are hidden in your pocket then showing becomes fun with a beagle." 

Over 30 beagles were shown in the 15-inch beagle category alone in December.
Added to that stubbornness is the rigor of doing a show.

"Even for a little dog like a beagle, there is grooming that needs to occur before we go into the ring," Arthington said. "If our show time is 8 a.m. then we need to be at the show site around 7 to get started. We have a grooming table, grooming supplies, exercise pins, carts to carry it all in, nice show clothes, and usually copious amounts of coffee. 

"Once all of our equipment is set up then the grooming begins," Arthington continued. "Whiskers and nails are trimmed, any white hair is cleaned thoroughly so it gleams, extra hair around the neck and behind is trimmed, and the hair on the back of the tail is fluffed. Once this is done we are ready to walk into the ring. Judging usually only takes a few minutes a dog, unless you win and then it can mean returning to the ring for the prospect of winning further prizes." 

But the dogs have it a lot easier at home.

"A typical day at home for a show dog usually entails sleeping in a big bunch on the back of the couch, eating, and running around in the yard," Arthington said.

So what exactly is the judge looking for? There's the gait, to make sure the body is up to standards. That is when the handlers walks the dog around the ring.

"I also need to put her up on a table and "stack" her out so the judge can use their hands to check her out," Arthington said. "They will look for correct ear set, length of ear, correct bite, does her shoulders "lay back" enough for proper movement, length of back, tail set, and angulation."

Showing dogs is not cheap either. Handlers drive the dogs from show to show -- that means gas, lodgings, fees, grooming supplies, etc., can add up fast. But she also describes it as being like eating potato chips.

"Once you start it's hard to stop," she said.

So if you are interested, start going to the shows and talking to people. Many of the people I met were very friendly and willing to chat.

Jennifer Arthington had one more piece of advice.

"Please, do not go buy a dog from someone because it was "cheap." Cheap usually means unhealthy and not up to the AKC standard," she said.

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  1. Oh very cool! Good to hear that beagles are smart. They're such beautiful pups. I'm looking for a dumb dog, but haven't found one yet. :)

    1. Have you tried yorkies?

      Just kidding -- that's just my own personal prejudice talking.


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