Wednesday, February 24, 2010

By the Numbers (Or, Wanted: One Trust Fund)

...or a rich sugar-daddy. But the trust fund would be preferable. A big trust fund.

In the space of about 2 months, I have on my agenda:

  • 2 new tires for the car
  • 1 vehicle registration
  • 8 nights in hotels
  • 1 show puppy
  • 6 weeks of puppy kindergarten
  • 13 show/trial entries
  • 1 week at the Nationals
  • 4 nights of camper and campsite rental

Now I know why my work week = 64 hours.

Clearly, I am insane.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Corgi Curl-Wrestling: The next Olympic Event

Tuesday evening, I brought Ian home from his two-week exile at Grammie's house. Lest he and Elli have too much fun being reunited, I ground toenails and then gave them each a bath. This was not a popular move with the corgwyn. Here is Ian, pre-bath. It's hard to pick out with the bookcase in the background (sidenote: we WILL put that addition with the dog room on the house. SOME day.), but he's got a lovely set of alfalfa sprout curls over his loin:

Also, the hair on the back of his neck was sporting some lovely waves:

I hadn't experimented with conditioners in the past, but wanted to give it a try, and figured this was the time since he wasn't being bathed and groomed for show. I picked up some Mane N Tail conditioner. So: here he is post-bath with an oatmeal shampoo, the conditioner, and a blow-dry with some Royal Crown spritz:

See the difference (other than in the background)? Yeah, me neither. >:-/

The conditioner didn't seem to soften the wiry texture of the curls, and made his coat feel a little harder to comb through. First foray into conditioner: epic fail. What has Dawn learned from this? Don't buy a big cheap bottle of Mane N Tail conditioner at effing Walmart. Go to the Plush Puppy site and order the good stuff that Joanna so helpfully blogged about over the summer.

At the other end of the spectrum, Elli has, if not a lot of coat, a nice flat, straight one:

"I'm gorgeous!!!"

Not the world's best stack, but considering there was no one there to bait her, it's not bad. I had her facing the windows, and apparently her own reflection was enthralling enough to keep her ears up and at attention while I snapped some pictures.

Meanwhile, Ian reacted to my obvious angst with the chagrin and embarassment I might have expected after the Victory of the Accursed Curls:

"Mwahaha!! Ze curls, zey will not be denied!"

And yes, he has the "Samily" tongue!

Sigh. Plush Puppy, here we come.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The new addition

You all know how much I'm jonesing for a puppy, specifically a blue puppy. Sometimes, though, there comes along a dog that just has to come home with you, no matter the color. So, please join me in welcoming my new red and white puppy, Clarence:

Er, make that my new red and white puppet.

Okay, so he's a fluffy, and he has no neck, and the rear angulation is really bad, his face is lopsided, he's roach-backed, and I think he's actually a Pem with a tail, but still! How often do you happen into a village bookstore and find a

How could I NOT bring him home?

Now, if only Elli would stop growling at him...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Writing the Unwritten Rules

Okay, this is probably going to be long and way rambly, but there is an eventual point. Bear with me.

A couple of years ago, a then co-worker (and now friend) of mine had a litter of Collie puppies. Her dog and bitch were not show dogs, but were both healthy and had good temperaments. She was also very choosy about where her puppies went, and she's been absolutely great about following up with the puppy buyers and about taking one back when the placement didn't work out. Like the dam and sire, the pups are healthy, have nice temperaments, and are just nice, family pets.

Around the time she had that first litter, I invited her to join our local all-breed kennel club. She wasn't familiar with the world of dog showing, beyond watching Westminster on TV and the occasional broadcast on Animal Planet. But she was interested, and so joined. Thus began her introduction to the Fancy. I took her with me to a show to see first-hand what went on, explaining what was happening in the ring. I later sat down with her at the table and made a color-coded flow chart (yes, I'm anal) showing just how the classes progressed, how you got to Winners and what that meant, and how Best of Breed and Group worked.

My friend had initially considered keeping a puppy out of that first litter, but after we talked some about the breed standard and what constituted show quality vs. pet quality, she decided instead to invest in a show bitch from a reputable breeder. Much internet research and many emails later, we made a whirlwind trip to Albany to pick up Bela, a 5 month-old bitch that the breeder had been growing out.

For a number of reasons, Bela has not been shown extensively. When she was shown, she received some nice comments but did not garner any points. Now full grown, it is apparent that she is not quite all my friend was hoping for. Which leads to a discussion that my friend and I had yesterday.

She is on a waitlist for a puppy from a different breeder, from a line that she really likes. But she expressed that she was a little gun-shy about the price. I reminded her that you get what you pay for. She said that's what she thought when she bought Bela.

This led me to explain that a show breeder can often be reluctant to place a really nice show prospect in an untested "show home," because people may say that yes, they want to show, but when it comes down to it they don't, for a whole variety of reasons. So the prospective show novice may get an "okay" or "probably finishable" puppy, but they're not going to get the really good puppy.

All of us who have "been around a while" know this intrinsically. Thing is, no one TELLS the novice this. And really, how would you? "I'm pleased that you have an interest in showing in general and in my breeding in particular, but I don't know if I can believe you when you tell me you'll show my puppy, and you don't know anything yet, so I'm only going to sell you something mediocre."

Um, yeah. I don't think so.

So it falls on the newcomer to show that mediocre pup anyway. If they give up after a few tries because they're discouraged that they didn't win, stop being involved in the breed and the fancy, drop off the face of the earth, then this justifies to the breeder that they made the right decision in not placing a top prospect with this person and only reinforces the practice. If the person perseveres and shows the dog at two dozen shows whether they're in the ribbons or not, learns from other breeders how to groom and how to handle, networks, researches bloodlines, memorizes the standard, etc. and so on, then the next time they look for a show puppy, either from the first breeder or from someone different, they're going to get a better quality puppy, because they've paid their dues.

It's just The Way Things Work. You know it. I know it. And no one is going tell it to anyone who doesn't already know it.

It was an interesting conversation we had yesterday about this. And it was a jumping off point for discussing other "unwritten rules" that we all follow but have to learn the hard way. Things like:

Ring etiquette: Yes, the entry confirmation and armband number you received in the mail says that Akitas show at 9:00 a.m. in Ring 3. But did you look at the Ring 3 schedule? There are 5 Bernese Mountain Dogs, 7 Newfoundlands, 16 Dobermans and 4 Mastiffs in the ring before Akitas. Don't be at the ring at 9:00.

When it IS time to go to the ring, Do not stand at the ring gate until the class just before yours is in the ring. Otherwise, you're in the way.

The ring steward will call for you when it's time to go into the ring. Do not make the ring steward call for you. Be where you're supposed to be, when you're supposed to be there.

The judge will tell you where to stand and when and how to move your dog. If you're the first dog in the ring that day under that judge, then you'll have to go by that. Some judges are articulate, but there are a fair number of the grunt-and-point variety. So if you are not the first dog in the ring that day under that judge, then watch the classes that go in before you so you know what the pattern is. But don't stand in the ring gate to do it. :-)

These are just a small sample of things that you learn along the way, usually the hard way. Some breeders are true mentors, and will take the novice firmly under their wings; this is perhaps the best way to learn. However, not everyone has that relationship with their breeder, for any number of reasons. I have never yet attended a handling class where the instructor talks about class progression, ring etiquette, points calculation, etc. But by not explaining these things to novices, are we setting them up to fail? Is it some kind of survival-of-the-fittest mentality, separating the wheat from the chaff by sorting who figures it out vs. who gets frustrated and gives up?

All of which leads me to the question that I really want to ask all of you (see, I told you there would be a point; it just took me 3,254 years to get there): If we WERE going to give newcomers a crash-course in "Everything You Need To Know About Showing Your Dog, But That People Won't Tell You," what would be the best forum in which to do that?

Incorporate it into handling classes? Give an "orientation" at dog shows? Have a public education event? Get some breed clubs together for an event and have the clubs' breeders encourage their new puppy buyers to attend? I'd really like some input, because I'd really like to put something like this together; I'm just trying to figure out how to reach the congregation, instead of preaching to the choir.

Because the choir's not going to sing out about it anyway.

Bad Blogger. Bad, bad blogger.

Gee, so much for a week of lovely, helpful, Agility-at-a-Glance posts. I can only plead 72 hour work weeks and a YCWCC Bylaws meeting, with the subsequent typing of said bylaws. Which had to be done from scratch because I didn't have an editable format for the previous incarnation. With the old set typed in strike-through, and the new additions in red. Fun. Now, why do I volunteer to do these things, again?

I am so. tired. y'all.

Though somehow, I doubt I'm anywhere near as tired as Joanna. So enough whining. If you haven't already, go over to her blog and look at the most recent puppy photos. Warning: Near-fatal cuteness. I hope to see some of those pictures entered in the photo contest at the Nationals!

Hopefully next week I'll finish the AKC Agility post I've got started and stashed in Draft format. I got about halfway through before my brain turned completely to mush and started dribbling out my ears. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday is the new Monday

...because I didn't get my CPE post in yesterday like I wanted to. Bad blogger! This is going to be a pretty cursory explanation; I know there are probably several of you who have been at this for a while and can no doubt add to or correct what I've written. Please do!! I want this to be a learning experience for all of us who are just getting started.

Anywho, I thought I'd start my "Newbie's Guide To The Agility Venues" with CPE (Canine Performance Events, Inc.) because that is the only venue that I've actually trialed in thus far. It, um, didn't go so well. Not because of anything having to do with CPE; Ian just preferred to be entertaining to actually running the course correctly. It might also have had a little bit to do with the fact that I am functionally retarded when you add an actual judge and an entry fee into the whole agility mix. I mean, a 15-foot green tunnel in the center of the course is an easy thing to miss, right? /facepalm/

My own debacles notwithstanding, I suspect CPE is perhaps the simplest and most "user-friendly" venue to start with. Membership is open to all purebred or mixed breed dogs age 15 months or older. There is a New Membership fee of $22 for one dog, $27 for two dogs, and add an additional $5 for each dog beyond that. Once you have paid the new membership fee, you do do not have to renew each year; once you have become a member, you are eligible to enter any dog you've registered. Dogs are registered for life.

Members have the option to pay an annual renewal fee of $15; renewals receive a current year rulebook and a 50% discount on adding a dog during that renewal year. New dogs are $10 for non-renewals, $5 if you have renewed. Since you can go to the website ( anytime and download a PDF of the current rulebook, yearly renewal probably doesn't make much sense unless you plan to add 2 or more dogs during that calendar year.

As of last week, there were 444 CPE agility trials scheduled for 2010, spread amongst 24 states. 78 of those are up here in New England. The entry fee runs around $14.00 per run.

Height cut-offs in CPE are a little different from most other venues, and are split into four divisions: Regular, Veterans, Enthusiast and Specialist. (I would love to show you this in table format, but I can't figure out how to make that work. Grr.)

8" and under: jumps 4" for all divisions
12" and under: jumps 8" for Regular, 4" for Veterans/Enthusiast/Specialist
16" and under: jumps 12" for Reg., 8" for Vet/Enth, 4" for Spec
20" and under: jumps 16" for Reg., 12" for Vet/Enth, 8" for Spec
24" and under: jumps 20" for Reg., 16" for Vet/Enth, 12" for Spec
Over 24": jumps 24" for Reg., 20" for Vet/Enth, 16" for Spec

Dogs under two years of age must be measured at each trial. After two years of age, they must have two official measurements, then they may receive a Permanent Height Card. In the event that the two measurements differ, there will be a third "tie-breaker," then the Height Card will be assigned.

There are four sub-titles at each level to earn before receiving the Title for that level, based on different course types that test skill, strategy, handling, and "fun." As a newbie myself, I'm only going to talk about Level 1 for now. The first subtitle is the CL1-R, which is earned by receiving two qualifying scores in the Regular (or standard) agility course. This is the typical numbered course of 12 to 16 obstacles. In CPE agility, Level 1 does NOT include weave poles or the teeter. Thus, a Level 1 Standard course will have 1 dogwalk, 1 A-frame, 1-4 tunnels (only 1 of which may be closed), 1-2 broad and/or double jumps, 1-3 tire jumps, and 3-12 bar jumps (with or without wings). Standard Course Time is based on 2-2.5 seconds per yard based on a dog that jumps 16". Therefore, dogs jumping in the 4, 8 or 12 inch height categories receive an additional 5 seconds for courses measuring under 150 yards, and an additional 10 seconds for courses over 150 yards. At Level 1, a dog can receive 10 faults and still qualify. A bar down is 5 faults, off course is 5 faults, and so on. Standard "contact rules" for contact obstacles apply.

The second sub-title is the CL1-H (Handler), which is earned by receiving one qualifying run in Colors and 1 qualifying run in Wildcard. Colors consists of two overlapping mini-courses of 8-12 obstacles each. The handler chooses one color course or the other. The two courses must overlap or cross paths at least 2-3 times, and the dog must stay the course his handler has chosen. There are no down bars allowed; dogs are allowed one off-course and one other fault before disqualifying. Wildcard consists of a modified Standard course with 10-12 numbered obstacles and 3 "Choice" obstacles. Dogs must complete two 1-point obstacles and one 2-point obstacles in addition to the numbered obstacles. When dog and handler come to the wildcard obstacles, there will be two choices: a 1-point or a 2-point, and the handler must decide which to take. A team can receive 10 faults and still qualify, but must achieve the minimum number of wildcard obstacles.

The third sub-title is the CL1-S (Strategy), which is earned by receiving one qualifying run in Snooker and one qualifying run in Jackpot. Snooker is run as a 2-part course. The first part, or opening sequence, consists of dog and handler attempting a "red" jump. If the attempt is successful, the team has earned the right to attempt a "color" jump of their choice. Different obstacles have a different point value, and the team must accumulate a minimum of 26 points to qualify. The procedure (red jump then color obstacle) repeats itself until the team has completed three reds and attempted or completed 3 colors. After that opening sequence is completed, the handler can choose colored obstacles at will to accumulate points. Point accumulation ends when an obstacle is faulted (bar down, 4-paw safety rule), when the dog goes off-course, or when the SCT ends. The timekeeper will blow their whistle, and the dog must then proceed to the pause table and touch it with at least one paw to stop the timer. Time faults apply. If the dog touches the pause table at any time during point accumulation, time immediately stops and the dog must leave the course whether they have accumulated the minimum number of points or not -- you have been Snookered. Jackpot is also run as a 2-part course. The first part consists of the team taking point-valued obstacles and accumulating at least the minimum number of point for the course. When the time whistle blows, the team can then attempt a series of "gambles." These gamble obstacles are set in an area where the dog will work but which the handler must stay outside of. The gamble obstacles must be taken in a designated order and without faults, then the dog must cross the finish line (or hit the pause table if that is being used in lieu of a finish line) to earn the gamble points, or "Jackpot."

The fourth sub-titles is the CL1-F (Fun), which is earned by one qualifying run in Jumpers and one qualifying run in Fullhouse. Jumpers is (not surprisingly) a course consisting only of jumps and tunnels. Course must be run in order with a maximum of 10 faults. Fullhouse consists of point valued obstacles, of which there need to be "three of a kind", "a pair", and a "joker". The team must score a minimum number of points within the alloted time. Time stops when the dog touches the pause table.

So there it is, the (perhaps over)simplified version of how to earn the CPE Level 1 title. For tomorrow: uh, whichever venue I study tonight.