Friday, August 17, 2012

Foray Into Conformation

Pepper watching Mommy and keeping quiet.
On Saturday, August 4, I made my first foray into Conformation -- attending a show at the Ponchartrain Convention Center in Kenner, Louisiana with Pepper, just to see what goes on.  Louisiana Kennel Club was the host club, the show was huge, with hundreds of dogs and 10 or more rings.  I only filmed in the small room with 3 rings.  Several dog agility friends were there, some showing, others looking for a mate to breed their dog with, others looking for a breeder to purchase their next champion puppy from.  As it says on the AKC website, "the purpose of a dog show is to evaluate breeding stock."

I mostly went just to investigate the process, and to see the Papillons.  Wanted to see how Pepper compares in appearance to known conformation Paps.  Maybe talk to a judge about Pepper's qualifications.  It was a very bustly place, though.  I never got to show Pepper to anyone competent to assess him.  My own assessment is that he is taller, more long nosed, long legged and long bodied than the others.  He has a mature, statuesque look to him than the others, but it has its own beauty.

I arrived around 9:30 a.m., and the Papillons didn't go into the ring again until 10:30, so I had time to make a few trips to the car, haul in my crate, my chair, my video camera, and talk to a few Pap owners.  As with agility, many of them seemed to know each other, having been on the conformation circuit for many years.  I was, again, a complete newbie.  The doors were plastered with "No Unentered Dogs Allowed", so I was immediately a renegade breaking the rules!  But I had come 90 miles in the rain, I couldn't leave him out in the car in 95 degree weather, and knew I wasn't going to hurt anything, so I got up my gumption, entered, set up my gear in an out of the way place, and prayed that Pepper would crate up and keep quiet, which he did as long as I was in sight.  The few times I disappeared around a corner he began howling, so I stayed close or walked him on leash with me, and nobody threw us out. What a relief!

I positioned us as best I could to video the Paps and handlers.  I must have missed an earlier judging because what I captured was very different from the videos I took later of a friend in the dachshund ring, where the dogs were lined up in a completely different way than the Paps.  Here is what I got.

I saw some beautiful Paps.  I couldn't really tell who won, except when the photographer began taking photos of the "Best Of Winners" and "Winners" category.  One winner looked like a Chihuaha, nothing like a Pap, which confused me.  I found out later from cousin Lois that photos can be taken of different toy breeds on the same table at the same time if judged by the same judge.  Surely, then, I missed an earlier judging of the paps.

Some of the handlers were clearly professionals, others were just dog owners, and I couldn't shake the feeling that the professionals knew the judges ahead of time and were being favored. 
Most of the Paps there were around 8.5-10".  12" is a disqualification fault, but anything under 12" is permitted, though 11" or under is preferred.  I'm not sure of Pepper's height at 10 months but suspect it is about 11".  I need to get him measured.  Lois assures me he has quit growing at 10 months, and his pasterns will drop up to 1/2" at about a year of age.  I dread the thought of running him in the 12" jump height category in agility, where he will be one of the smallest having to jump the highest.

Anyways, I got a feel for the whole conformation process.  It is complicated, confusing, and loud.  There are several categories (Puppy, 9-12 months, etc) , and in each category there is Winner's Dog, Winner's Bitch, Best of Winners, Reserve Winners, Best of Show.  All you do is check the catalog to see where to show up, dress up, fluff up the dog, position them to stand for exam, walk too and fro, walk around in a circle, lure the dog constantly to pay attention to you, leave the ring.  With a few cursory glances and touches, some judge decides who's the best, and onlookers get a second or two to see the lineup of who wins.  Sometimes you see a judge hand out a blue ribbon.  Not much fanfare about it.  And all around the ring are people talking about which dog looks best. I saw no discernable test for agility, obedience or intelligence -- just breeding for looks is not the best plan in my view for designing great breeds.

Behind the scenes, I bet a lot of folks are visiting the winner dogs' crate areas and wheeling and dealing about stud fees and puppies.  I didn't get to see any of that. Maybe another time.

There were a dozen or more vendor booths, and one reason I went was to get a white nylon show leash.  I couldn't find one of those (boo), and nothing else tempted me (yeah)!

One neat thing.  At the Onofrio Dog Shows website, all the upcoming conformation shows are listed, plus all the results from past shows.  Lois was able to go there and confirm who the winners were in my video above, and verify that they were all, as I suspected, professional handlers she is familiar with.  What a magnificent website for those interested in Conformation.  And it's FREE.

Upwards and onward!

1 comment:

Bre said...

Hi there, just discovered your blog. I have an 8 year old Papillon who I just started agility with. We've done CPE and TDAA so far with excellent results. We're doing AKC in February so your tips for novice competitors are great! I have one question though, we've earned titles in TDAA and CPE, does that mean I have to enter novice B? Or can I do novice A since he doesn't have AKC titles?
I'm running my guy preferred/veterans since he measures 12.5"....hope your guy stays under 12"!