Today was Laev's first conformation show -- and Shakespeare's, too, actually. I entered pretty much just for fun, to support the club, and so that I could get a verbal and written critique of my dogs. That's a great educational tool for me.
If you add up all the conformation training I've ever done with both dogs, we'd probably total about 27 minutes. I'm serious. I went into the ring planning to use our stand-stay and bait.
We showed under judge Nancy Christesen. Laev was up first, in a class of four bitches ages 12-24 months. She turned 14 months old this week; the others were all just under two years. I figured she'd be less mature and no threat at all to them, anyway, as she wasn't bred for conformation (other than for working ability and the proper structure to do it healthily).
Judging in UDC takes much, much longer than in AKC, because the judge has to examine each dog closely enough to be able to justify her pick, and because the critiques have to be written. Each dog gets probably 5 minutes of individual examination. That means that while we weren't being judged, we were hanging out, playing with a toy, learning a new trick, anything to keep us from getting bored and fussy in the ring. ;-) Thank goodness for clicker training! I could use a verbal marker to capture what onlookers told me was a better position, modifying our stand as we went. As I remarked, "Smart handlers do this before they get into the ring."
When our turn came, I baited Laev into a pseudo-stack (she's never really been modeled into a position and doesn't quite like it) and asked her to stay there while I talked to her and treated. We showed off her teeth, and then we mashed our way through the gaiting pattern (something I had actually practiced beforehand, a little, but she recalled none of it).
I had known for weeks that we would place last in our class, so I almost missed it when the judge called us out to go around the ring again with another dog. And then we took second place! behind the very lovely Intl Baby CH Sentinel's Galaxy. I was absolutely stunned.
The winning bitch was rated E (UDC rates dogs similarly to the European system). Laev was rated VG -- she's a little long, which I knew, a little straight in front and back, though at least balanced, and a little immature. And she's handicapped by the world's most inept handler!
It's not really that big a deal, but I was just so pleased to have done better than expected. :-) And there's the possibility, suddenly looming before me, that with maturity, training and a more skilled handler, she could possibly earn a higher rating. Something to consider, though I still don't intend to pursue conformation zealously.
Shakespeare won Best Altered Dog, from his class of one, and received a G rating. Best Altered Bitch took an E rating, so he received Best of Opposite Sex. I have no new illusions regarding his grandeur, but we have a nice trophy photo frame and clock now. :-) Most importantly, he had a blast in the ring, and after I asked him to bow at the end of the judging, he gained a few fans, and in the judging for Best Altered the judge asked us to perform tricks instead of gaiting. We both went through a short repetoire (Best Altered Bitch was the talented Amer/Can CH OTCH Alisaton Aurora Borealis NA NAJ ROM SchH1 OB-3 D-UD ASCA-UD UDX4 VCD1 RN T2) and made the spectators laugh and cheer. Shakespeare loved the attention and the treats, and we had a great time.