Polly and Stephanie write about their experiences of how they started their showing careers
Looking back over the years we were wondering where all our weekends were spent, and inevitably this led to us recalling some of the funny incidents, complete with the lows of disaster and the triumphal highs of success.
How did you get into showing your dogs?
We got into showing by very different paths.
Polly: I got into showing in a small way when I went to work for a large Pekingese kennels. My job at shows was to brush the dogs up, then take them to ringside where the owner would exhibit them. After the showing was complete we had the chance to wander around the show. One of the first shows I went to was held outside, it was raining and bitterly cold. There were no marquees as such and the loo was a small canvas tent with a metal bucket inside! These day’s people can be heard complaining about port-a-loos!
Stephanie: My first dog of my own was from Dundee SPCA, a Golden Retriever X GSD, with which I did obedience classes just for fun. I did not have enough money to purchase my first dog which went into the show ring, but I fell in love with him, and his owner allowed me to work free hours so eventually I owned him. He had already been placed at Open shows and I started showing at local Exemption shows which as today used to offer Pedigree Classes and Novelty classes which were great fun, entering my crossbreed in Prettiest Bitch, Best Condition, Best Rescue and others like Dog the Judge would like to take home.
Polly: I later got ISDS border collies for working on the farm before getting my first gundog. Speaking of best condition and presentation, handlers didn’t always dress up smartly to show their dogs, I remember turning up to my first open show with my gundog in a waxed motor-biker’s jacket and trousers. Nobody noticed what I was in as everyone was too busy looking at the other dogs and assessing their merits.
Stephanie: I used to do obedience and conformation classes. My first Rough Collie Brett had a habit of going off to pee on a ring post with the dumbbell still in his mouth. Very often the classes clashed and he was doing so well in breed classes I started just entering him for them. Presentation is part of exhibiting a Rough Collie and I actually remember wearing a blue and white dress and my lap being the receptacle for a road kill pheasant which Polly screeched to a halt for on the way home from the show, so she could not only cook it but use it for gundog training.
Polly: These days everyone dresses up smartly when exhibiting their dogs, choosing colours and outfits which compliment their dogs coat colour. Handling is certainly much more professional, but thankfully we don’t have to pay a professional handler as they do in the USA. Stephanie always looked smart but I don’t recall the pheasant as not being complimentary to her dress! Lol.
I think Junior handling has also influenced the professional way handlers dress and handle dogs in the ring. I didn’t attend a ringcraft class until I had been showing for some time. I went to Stephanie’s classes in Oxford. Up until then I had always simply copied what everyone else was doing in the ring.
Stephanie: We started showing coming up through the ranks. Exemption (now Companion shows), then Limit and Open shows, then Breed Club shows and Championship shows. A good ringcraft club will show you where to look for shows, how to fill in entry forms, recommend appropriate outfits for running round the ring, colour co-ordination like not wearing black trousers behind a black dog, good handling and sportsmanship and learning about each others’ breeds by just having a mini ten minute seminar on the notable points in each breed so we had an overall knowledge of many breeds. Some wins gave you the right to hold an affix, a name to represent your kennels, some wins qualified the dogs for Crufts and we both remember the thrill of qualifying – but we always took the best dog home.
Above Left to Right: Steph judging; Polly and Frank Kane at Crufts and (Above Right) Polly’s dog Arthur who was raised on Salters and only ever fed Salters as a youngster and (Left) Polly judging at New Mills.
Photos courtesy of Polly