If you've been around for a while, if you're a veteran obedience competitor, much that follows may be old hat. If, on the other hand, you're newer to the sport, something below may strike you as helpful. Call them tricks of the trade.
1. Enhancing Your Line Credit Dick Guetzloff with this one. One day Dick was watching me practice the directed retrieve exercise. "You've got a long arm," he said, "why don't you use it?" Dick was right. I had been doing what I now see so many others doing, putting the back of my left hand next to my dog's right eye when I gave him the line for the assigned glove. What good does that do? You're giving Fluffy a line not the back of your hand. The idea is you're indicating the direction, helping the dog choose the correct path between where the two of you are now and where you want her to go. If you could carry a pole into the ring and extend it all the way out to the glove as a pointer, wouldn't you do that? So why not use all the arm you've got to send the dog out there on the right track?
2. Rolling the Gloves Let's not leave Kay Guetzloff out of this. This one comes from her. When you put the gloves away after each time you show or practice, turn them halfway inside out so that the fingers are scrunched up inside. If they're damp, that's even better. Leave them that way until the next time you're ready to go into the ring. When you unroll them, instead of being flat as pancakes they'll be rumpled up and much easier for your dog to see, particularly when showing on grass. Of course, you'll occasionally have to contend with the overly conscientious steward who puts the gloves down, then pats them flat.
Simple to do as this is, I can't think of one person who's bothering to do it.
3. Check the Jump Settings Right before you enter the ring, while the judge is picking up the clipboard, glance at the jumps. Have they been set at the correct height? The best time to correct a mistake is before you enter the ring. If you or the judge discovers the error while you're engaged in the exercises you'll have a long dead spot in your run, breaking your rhythm and allowing your dog to wilt.
4. Carry Your Own Soap To the uninitiated, carrying your own soap when you travel out of town to show may seem a bit strange. (Because it is.) That may well be, but I'm not the only soap-carrier. In conversations, I've learned that many of the very best competition obedience people carry their own soap when they travel.
Why? Is it because they sweat so much blood in the ring that hotel soap isn't up to the challenge? Well, that too. But the real reason is scent articles. It's about not introducing another layer of unfamiliar odors on the hands that will rub up the articles. Some people have said, "The dog will recognize your scent through whatever else is on your hands." Maybe so. But why make the dog's task more challenging?
5. Carry Water, Too Maybe this is so basic that there isn't a soul out there that doesn't already do it. Or not.
I can't think of many things worse than diarrhea at a dog show -- not mine, the dog's. Well, one thing that comes to mind is diarrhea in a motel room. One way to lessen the chances is to carry Fido's drinking water, whatever he drinks at home.
When we go to a three-day show with two dogs and a doglet we have at least seven one-gallon jugs of home tap water with us. We also have an auxiliary three-gallon jug in the van. We seldom open it, but it's there if we need it. Sort of a safety net because no matter which direction we go our trip takes us through several hundreds of miles of the most arrid desert in the world.
6. Extra Dumbbell Always have an extra dumbbell in your equipment bag. Particularly if you use a wooden one. They break.
7. First Things First Be sure to make your hotel reservation before you send in your entry. It's frustrating to be happily entered only to learn there's no room at the inn; every motel within 50 miles of the show site is sold out.
Many of us make our hotel reservations as much as six months in advance. If your plans change, you can always cancel.