Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Impending Retirement

I realize that this is a rather ominous sounding title, but it's not as bad as it sounds. I'm obviously not about to retire either of the dogs from any performance events that we're doing, so rest assured on that one. I haven't gone completely off the deep end!;o) It's something that I've toyed with the idea of posting about and wasn't really sure that I "should" or that I wanted to. However, since it's something that involves one of my dogs, is something that I'm constantly turning over in my head, and this blog is about everything to do with my dogs, I felt that it was time to share.

As you have read periodically over the past few months, Bess' time in the conformation ring has been less than stellar. There were some shows that we entered where I was pretty much 100% sure going into it that we would come out with nothing. For very specific shows I'm mostly fine with that. Some of the shows (Lodi, for example) are so much fun in and of them self, that it's just fun to have an excuse to be there. As time goes on though, I'm getting tired of essentially throwing my money away. Not only am I throwing my money away, but at this point, it is negatively effecting the performance "careers" of both of my dogs.

I'll break the points down for you to better explain where I'm coming from. Conformation can at times be a crap shoot. You don't always know what dogs are going to show up, what kind of condition your competition is going to be in, who's going to handle what dog, what the judge will like on that day, and how it will all come together. I understood this going in. For the first few months that we were out showing, I wasn't bothered with losing. Bess was young and I was quite new to handling. We needed to get the ring time in and I knew that was going to be at the expense of points. That was fine to begin with.

Then we started winning and it felt so good! We never had any real winning streaks per se, but we slowly picked up the points. And then we got one of the required majors in September of last year! I was so proud! All of Bess' 8 points have been put on her by me. That's a pretty incredible feeling!

Then we just couldn't get a break. While we haven't been out there showing aggressively (i.e. every weekend), we have been showing more than the one weekend a month that we originally agreed to when we first bought Bess and we have also done a fair amount of travelling. We've hit some extended weekends of showing as well. And while conformation showing can be a crap shoot, generally, if your dog has it, you would think that over the course of 8 months you pick up something. But we haven't. We've gone reserve winners bitch all of three times during those 8 months. So it's not even a matter of "always a bridesmaid and never a bride." I would still be holding out more hope if she were getting more reserves. But even at smaller shows, she's getting nothing.

Going upon the good advice of others, I've started having Bess' breeder handle her in the hopes of giving her an edge. Georgia can bring things out of her that I struggle with. It also helps to have mom outside the ring to occupy Bess' attention and keeps those ears up and hopefully have an alert expression (it's a little dirty word called double handling and maybe I'll write a post about that). However, regardless of what she's up against, it hasn't given us the edge that we were hoping for.

On top of this, Bess is three years old. Outside of the conformation ring, that's not old and I don't otherwise think of her as such. Inside the conformation ring, that's old for an unfinished fawn bitch. There's a big push to have dogs and bitches finished (at least in danes) before they're two years old. Knowing this, you can understand why Bess is considered old. Especially for a bitch who is only half way to finishing.

With me putting my primary focus on conformation and Bess, the performance events have gone by the way side. Not necessarily because I wanted them to, but out of necessity. I can't go to an agility trial that's the same weekend as a dog show. It just doesn't work. And juggling rally and/or obedience the same weekend as a dog show is a little less than ideal for me. The biggest unfortunate part about letting agility specifically go to the back burner is that not only is Bess not getting to do agility, but neither is Heffner. We are a two dog household and neither one dog is more important than the other. However, Heffner has been stuck at home weekend after weekend not getting to do anything with me often coming home too tired to do much with him, while I'm off with Bess. That's just not fair to him, whether he cares or not. He's also a year older than she is and bigger than she is. His agility career will be shorter than hers. I was happy to make these sacrifices at the beginning and when it looked like we had hope of finishing. I am far less inclined now with all the things pointing against us. I would also much prefer to spend my money on trials where I am the reason why my dogs do well or not. Throwing money away at a show where I'm pretty sure that Bess isn't going to do anything, is no longer a sensible use for that money.

Probably the biggest kicker is that Bess does not enjoy the conformation ring any more. There was a time where she was happy to be out there and I believe that was what helped us to get those points. That's not the case any more. This is also one of the reasons why Georgia has been handling her. To hopefully perk her up a bit. It is very difficult for me to keep entering my dog in a sport that she no longer enjoys and one that we both can't participate in.

It is all these reasons and more that Bess' retirement from the conformation ring is imminent. She was entered in a dog show while we were gone and didn't do anything, which only further sets my mind. She is taking the summer off from conformation. Her focus will be agility, rally, and obedience. And Heffner gets to play too! We are giving it one more shot in September at the Western Washington specialty and all breed show. If she doesn't pick up any points then, she will be retired. I will also be the one handling her for that show. I've got a few different things that I want to try with her. But mostly I want to be the one in the ring with my dog. I will occasionally take her back out for shows like the Lodi specialty and probably as a veteran, but she will effectively be retired.

So yeah, that's also why getting a puppy has been a bit on my mind.;) In happier news, we have two consecutive weekends of agility trials!! Woo hoo!! It has been 8 months since I've had either dog in a trial. I am incredibly excited about getting back into it!!:)


Crystal said...

Interesting post- thank you so much for writing about this. I don't know anything (well, barely anything) about conformation, so it's interesting to learn more. I'd love to hear about double handling or anything else. :)

Training my Mammoth said...

It's so funny that you've posted this because I've just started considering retirement from conformation for Layla, too.

It used to be that she'd misbehave in the ring. Now, she's showing beautifully, but still not getting anything. Only myself and one other friend are the only local people who have just one dog to show. Literally every other exhibitor is either a breeder or a pro-handler. We're the only ones coming to the ring with one dog. Even though it shouldn't be, I'm sure that weighs on a judge's mind.

I started talking to my show handling instructor. She advised me to give it a few more shows and see how it goes. If it is just politics (which it appears to be, since Layla's got not just breed wins but group wins in UKC), then that isn't going to change any time soon and I should just concentrate on the performance activities.

The part that upsets me about it is that I've talked to judges (outside of shows) and had them go over her. They've given their opinions on her attributes and flaws. She's a good quality bitch, but we just can't catch any breaks either.

Sorry to ramble in your comments, but it's just a main concern of mine lately.

Good luck at your agility trials! Our first one is this weekend, too.

Kathie R said...

That's going to be a tough decision to make, especially with a major and a total of 8 points. I've been on the conformation side of it also - for many years - and there's not many things more exciting than getting that first champion. (Except maybe getting that first UD :) Anyway, I've always told myself, "If I'm not having fun, I'll quit and do something different." Good luck with whatever you do with your dogs!

Jennifer H. said...

Wow what a tough decision indeed! It has to be frustrating to feel like you are doing all the right things and your still hitting a brick wall. :(

If you and Bess aren't enjoying conformation then it sounds like retiring from conformation is the right thing to do.

And who knows maybe once your turn your entire focus onto performance maybe things will fall into place at those occasional conformation shows for Bess!