This weekend saw us taking This Little Doggy to Martorell, just outside Barcelona, to take part in her first show in Spain. I was a little anxious at the prospect; my Spanish language isn’t as good as it should be, and I struggle with confidence – unless I’ve partaken of a glass or two of something beforehand, to lubricate the tongue, at which point, I’ll talk with any Spaniard about the state of the economy, education, or where to take Great Aunt Gertrude to have her bikini line waxed. Sadly, I concluded that trying to run in a circle wasn’t compatible with getting trollied, so decided to step away from the drinks cabinet until after we’d had our moment of fame.
We arrived nice and early, to get a feel for the lay of the land, grab a catalogue and find our ring. I needed to see if anything was done differently to the show we went to in the UK, and I wanted to give Squidge enough time to relax into this hugely exciting environment.
As expected, she pretty much spontaneously combusted at the sight of so many dogs, but, thankfully, there was more space between rings and people than there had been at our previous show. There was a very different cross-section of breeds here, and my mind was blown just looking at the diversity and wondering how these dogs could all have a common ancestor.
Having learnt my lesson from my first show, I came prepared with two show leads this time, and enough time to buy an armband for my ring number, and a slightly more dainty bait bag – having realised at the last minute at the previous show that I only had my everyday, tatty and grubby bag to go into the ring. That certainly did nothing for my otherwise unusually polished appearance!
Luna gradually calmed down amongst the excitement, getting used to dogs of all shapes and sizes passing within inches of her. She eventually settled and didn’t feel the need to launch into full body wags and greetings of “HI! I’M LUNA! I LOVE YOU! LOVE ME, TOO!” at each passing Bichon Frise, Schnauzer or Great Dane. They say that you should try to give your puppy the opportunity to meet dogs of all shapes and sizes, and, boy, did she have that chance here! The girl has no fear, welcoming the sniffs of a huge Mastiff with the same zeal as she did a tiny Italian Greyhound.
One thing I noticed very quickly was the different attitude the exhibitors had to letting their dogs interact with one another. At the show in the UK, people seemed to want to pass by with as little interaction as possible, whereas here, people were more than happy to let the dogs meet and play with one another. I suppose it’s something that is bred into show dogs, but, again, I was impressed with how few grumbles I heard between dogs, considering how many there were (well over 500) in a relatively small area.
As the time of our class approached, I became more nervous about what the order of play was going to be. I kept an eye on the dogs in the ring to see if anything was done differently to my previous experience. There was very little, other than the “pattern” the judge was asking people to take when gaiting their dogs, which, I assume, can change depending on all sorts of different criteria.
A noticeable difference was the way the handlers worked with their dogs. For Labradors at the UK show, I saw that most people gaited their dogs on a loose lead. There are, I believe, two options for the position of the slip lead. The idea is that it needs to practically “disappear”, so that it doesn’t detract from the dog’s natural lines. You can do this by keeping it loose, dangling around the shoulders, or by lifting it and tucking it up under the ears. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows my training methods that I have no hesitation in choosing the former, but here, at this show, the vast majority chose the higher position.
Not only that, but when the dogs were being inspected, the Spanish handlers were generally holding onto their dogs, either on the side of the face or under the chin. This led to some of the dogs looking rather stressed and trying to back away from the handler and judge. I was a bit concerned that, as this seemed to be the norm, I would be penalised for not controlling my dog, as I don’t restrain her at all during inspection.
Still, these slight differences aside, I was happy to see there was nothing breathtakingly different to what I was expecting, so I settled in to wait our turn. I started chatting with another Labrador owner, who was gushing over Squidge. She had an absolutely gorgeous puppy of her own, who, at only five months, was entered in the “Baby” class. As she was so friendly, I asked her (the owner, that is!) to clarify how the judging would take place; whether the dog and bitches would be judged separately, of if they would be lumped together, as they were in the UK show. She was an absolutely lovely lady, very complimentary about my Spanish, and she really helped to put me at ease.
Before long, it was our turn to enter the ring. The puppy bitch class only had two entries, and I had looked over our competition, an absolutely gorgeous little yellow. She was very well built and looked beautiful, to my inexperienced eye. I thought we had some very stiff competition there!
The judge had us stand for inspection while he felt our dogs over one at a time. I was concentrating on Luna at this point, but, looking back over the photos J was taking, it was obvious that the other bitch was a bit skittish during her inspection. This Little Doggy, on the other hand was calm, confident and relaxed, even when having her teeth inspected, which she still doesn’t really like.
While we were standing for inspection, a scuffle broke out just the other side of the advertising boards! Squidge jumped (as did I!) but immediately regained her composure and stood beautifully again. Not bad for a seven-month old puppy with very little exposure to other dogs.
We then had to trot away from and back towards the judge. It was then that I realised that Luna was flagging a bit, as she dragged a little behind me. This was a very important lesson for me; don’t get to the show so early that the puppy becomes frazzled before entering the ring!
She really tried her hardest, in spite of that, and moved well, especially since there was another dog who had encroached onto the end of the mat, and that we had to pass within inches of.
The judge then spent a good long time with us, giving me his feedback. This was also completely different to the previous show, where the judge had barely said ten words to us!
This man was fabulous, telling me how much he liked her structure and the way she moved. He was so calm and gentle with her, and me, as well, knowing I wasn’t a native Spanish speaker.
We were then asked, as a class, to trot our dogs around the ring, for a final inspection before the result was announced.
Well, would you Adam and Eve it, we only went and won! I really had no idea what was going on, as the judge went and had a chat with the other handler and invited him to leave the ring. I gave my best “what’s going on?!” face at the judge across the ring, and he gave me the international sign for “chill the ***** out and stay put”. So we did.
A few minutes later, the same handler reappeared with a similar dog, just with added boy parts. This was the winner of the Puppy Dog (as opposed to Puppy Bitch, not like “squeee, what a cute ickle puppy dog!”) class. So now, the judge had to choose between best Lab Puppy Dog and best Lab Puppy Bitch – which was us!!
After another trot round the ring, and another quick look, the judges awarded the Best Puppy award to this handsome boy.
So, no bling for us, but I was very happy with my little girl, mostly, as always, for how she conducted herself. I received some lovely comments from the judge on both Luna’s looks and her wonderful temperament, and also for the way I handled her.
We went straight to the supermarket to buy her a big chunk of juicy chicken by way of a celebratory lunch.
I then went home and had a stiff drink.
* Censored because my Mum reads my blog and she would be disappointed if I actually swore. I’m sure you all know, there’s nothing worse than a disappointed parent.
I wonder if anyone noticed the extra asterisk in that first ****? Bet you didn’t. Except my sister – bet she did. You know, it’s really hard to use an asterisk as an annotation mark for a censored swear.