In the UK, often the first step on the way to the Big Ring at a Championship Show starts with a visit to Ring-Craft classes. We recommend these classes even to owners who will never enter a show. They help to continue the socialising we begin while they are still with us. We are lucky to have three such 'schools' on different nights of the week and within reasonable distance. The only trouble is that the roads are up-hill, down dale and around sharp corners. AND bumpy ! So merely getting there can be a baptism of fire for the young travellers.
Following on her successful meetings with Lucy (Black Labrador) and two Springer Spaniels (one of whom is called Libby), Chezz came to Ring-Craft shortly after her second shot. It is younger than we normally start a puppy but she had so much 'assurance' around other dogs we figured - 'why not ?'
She cried in the car on the way over as it was her normal dinner time and she was alone in the car-crate for the first time in her life but we made sure we were one of the first to arrive so as to be on the 'welcoming committee' and Chezz could watch the other doggies getting out of their cars.
Chezz sniffed briefly at an Afghan, allowed herself to be cuddled by a handful of humans, and watched in horror as three more curly-tailed, diamond-wrinkled people with high set tails climbed from their car-crate. She decided these were too similar to animals she knew at home so ignored them and concentrated on the many 'new' creatures she was seeing for the first time. Interestingly, the only dogs she ever showed any reluctance at approaching were the three other Basenjis.
The hall (Village Hall, built for the village by the Merrydown Cider Company as a quid pro quo for not making a fuss about planning permission for extensions to the brewery) was already laid out with two tables and two long mats for practising the out-and-back.
Starting off with a new puppy, I always just sit on the sidelines with the pup on my lap until he/she makes a move to get down and investigate.- and we never stay for longer than an hour on the first couple of visits.
Chezz & I sat for a while, just watching and picking cat-rings from my pocket but then she decided she would like to get on the floor. From the safety of her position under my chair she accepted the homage of a Flat Coated Retriever and eventually came out, decided he was an OK guy and submitted to sniffs from him and attention from his owner.
From then on it was all plain sailing. Chezz stacked herself brilliantly and watched all the other dogs going through their paces, being gone over on the table or floor and gaiting up and down the long mat before joining the queue along the other side of the hall to repeat the exercise.
I decided that if she looked THAT good stacked free, I would work at it so stood in front of her with a cat-ring and she worked for it like a pro ! (Now the question was, would she do it when it really mattered, in show conditions for a judge ?)
She seemed to want to take her turn so alternately standing watching and being cuddled, we took our place in line. She was put on the table, gone over, showed teeth (not too willingly it must be admitted) and was admired by one of the extremely patient 'teachers' for the evening. I walked backwards in front of her down the mat and she walked alongside and negotiated her first out-and-back quite acceptably.
We sat out for a while but she wasn't content to sit on my knee when there was a Clumber Spaniel to investigate and be sniffed by, a Dobe rolling on his back, a couple of Corgis, two Schnauzers being worked as a team, a couple of Irish Setters, and a Bichon Frise she insisted in flipping over on his back to check his gender. A nose under his back leg and a quick jerk achieved her objective and left the young man prostrate. And wonder of wonders, a black Saluki who was even younger than herself ! In all 16 young dogs were taking part that evening although sometimes there are more than thirty. Chezz showed total confidence, playing with the other dogs and being cuddled and oooh-ed and aah-ed over by their owners. I was so proud of her !
We went around the other side and had another practice on the table for the other teacher, allowed the teeth to be looked at without wriggling, and once again gaited with me going backwards showing a cat-ring and the teacher alongside - this time she was MUCH better.
Ring Craft costs £1.00 (just over $1.40) for the evening, for which one gets a cup of coffee or tea and a biscuit, and another £1.00 (optional) for the raffle which helps to pay for the hire of the venue. On Chezz's first visit we won a pineapple and Hope was delighted. Hope loved pineapple !
When the interval was announced, I didn't bother with a drink but Chezz and I shared a chocolate biscuit and we came away. I think an hour is enough for the first time. She cried in the car on the way home but she had to become accustomed to travelling on her own and it was only 4 miles. She was SOOO pleased to be home with the biggies again. She crowed proudly to Marvin, telling him all her experiences, and her tail wagged itself straight and very nearly right off !
Since those early lessons, Chezz has gained her first Challenge Certificate and no longer needs to go to classes. Firbi has been a spasmodic visitor - classes didn't take place during the worst of the Foot & Mouth outbreak - and Chezz's tri-daughterTrouble has been twice at time of writing.
These classes are invaluable for getting young dogs accustomed to being around many different breeds and they lap up the attention lavished by other owners on new puppies. The only problem is, as the first half of Ring-Craft class concentrates on stacking (on or off table) and gaiting out and back, the dogs don't get practise at going around the ring with a class of other dogs ! We could always wait until after the interval, but its almost better to look for an Exemption Show to enter - - -
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Exemption Shows Part II of this Trilogy
Fun Day ! Part III of this Trilogy
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