Conformation showing is hard work for both our poodles and our family. The dog must be in excellent condition, healthy and well muscled as an athletic poodle should be. The hair must be clean, completely brushed and trimmed to an acceptable style for AKC or UKC conformation showing. Sometimes the shows are held in large gymnasiums, county animal agriculture centers or outdoors. There is training, traveling, hotels, new sights and sounds for the poodle to get used to. The best part is you get to meet some wonderful poodle people and their poodles!
We take our poodles to conformation handling classes where they are exposed to a variety of people, and dog breeds ranging from the fluffy havanese to the giant mastiffs. Barking and yipping dogs, new smells and buildings that echo are often distracting and a little overwhelming at first.
Learning self control and being accepting of strangers in a noisy atmosphere can be difficult. Exposure, practice and patience are the best path to good results just like any other training.
We travel anywhere from 2 – 6 hours for most shows. A few are as far as 8 hours away from home. The dogs are seasoned travelers. Most of the time they settle down and sleep for the drive. The problem is they are wide awake and ready to explore about the time we want to go to bed. Depending on my work schedule we either arrive the night before or by 8 am on show day. We drag our bags and dog crates into hotels often late at night.
In UKC there are usually two shows per day, each under a different judge. They often run them simultaneously so it’s not unusual to go from one show to the second with little or no break. We usually groom the dogs the day before the show so they are looking their best. The challenge is in keeping them clean and fresh looking before their show time. Rain, snow, morning dew and puddles are all your enemies on show days. We brush them again and band their top knots right before we go in the ring hoping they look their best.
We move around the ring praying our dogs will remember their training, that they aren’t to distracted to follow directions, to gait at the proper speed and stack when they are asked to. Sometimes we win and our proud of our ribbons. I appreciate it when a judge tells me what’s good and what needs to be improved upon. Sometimes we blow it, one of our dogs gets spooked by the sounds of a falling fan, or distracted by the scent of a lovely little girl. It happens and there’s always another day.
At the end of the day we pack the car up. Hauling our crates, grooming supplies, chairs, and bags back to the car reminds us of how tired we are. Not the poodles, they are happy and ready for another adventure.