The drive was about 4 hours, near Trenton New Jersey. The site was acres and acres of freshly cut grass in Mercer County Park. My friend Barbara and I, Melissa and Caedi Barbara's Pembroke Corgi left home at 6 in the morning. I felt Melissa was prepared. She was well socialized, she had met countless people and dogs, sights and sounds in her first 8 months of life. We had practiced standing still while people touched her head, her body, her tail, and looked into her mouth.
She handled the day fairly well. She stood still for exam. The first time she moved around the ring she did not have her usual up beat attitude. The one thing she was a bit hesitant about were the other Borzoi! She lives with Borzoi but the sight of others was new to her. She saw a Golden on the show grounds...and eagerly wanted to go greet. She saw a Beagle and a Terrier. Same response. Play bow from a distance, an invitation to greet. But she was hesitant to walk past other Borzoi.
Barbara assisted by walking with Caedi Corgi along side of Melissa and myself. That helped tremendously. Caedi and Melissa hike and swim together. Caedi was a source of familiarity for Melissa. Un-scientifically I would say Caedi was a source of comfort for Melissa. Where Caedi went, Melissa followed. By the end of the day Melissa was walking past other Borzoi with no hesitancy. Playing with Fionn, a large male Borzoi seemed the turning point: other Borzoi would play and were no cause for worry. Melissa's last time in the ring for that day found her totally focused on me and able to do a few skills such as targeting to my hand while in the ring.
The second show, two days later, the same show site found Melissa greeting other Borzoi. Caedi was not with us this trip but my friend Dave walked with me and Melissa up to the ring just to give us a barrier so no dog unintentionally would overwhelm Melissa. As much as she plays rough and tumble games with dogs she is familiar with, she is a soft dog. She is appropriate when meeting other dogs, doing all the right canine moves to show she means no harm. Some dogs greet more openly, they come closer, don't wait for an invitation to play, they just assume everyone wants to play with them now. I know those personalities, I live with one and it is not Melissa! Melissa now understands that one dog's play style, but is still learning that other dogs and breeds can play in similar fashion. Some of the Borzoi at the show paid absolutely no attention to Melissa, but still she wanted to give them space until she had more experience being close by.
Life is not perfect and our dogs sometimes have to face some unfamiliar circumstances that may cause hesitancy. I did not force Melissa to do anything, no need to pull on her lead. I let her proceed at her comfort level. I made sure she walked a comfortable distance from other Borzoi until she showed me she was ready to walk closer. Melissa had time in her crate away from the show scene so she could rest during the long days. She is used to the car and her crate, so they are both comfortable for her, she could relax. I also found ways for Melissa to associate the show scene with fun. We played games a distance away from the show rings. We found an empty ring to play near. We gradually got closer to the crowd, Melissa continued to play and be relaxed.
And I found Borzoi who played with Melissa and helped her be comfortable in the show setting. She met her first Irish Wolfhound, Jack.
Did she end up with grass stains on her hocks from leaping and jumping with Fionn, Doro and Jack? Grass stains I did not notice until another appearance in the ring? Oops....
Not sure if the judge noticed, but a little grass stain was worth the fun time Melissa had playing with some new dog friends. I set the tone not only for future shows, but for new scenarios during her lifetime. Whether it be different dogs, different looking people, slippery floors, wobbling agility equipment, or uneven surfaces while hiking I want a dog who is willing to explore and try new things.
By the time we spent a week in Kentucky for the Borzoi National, Melissa was well seasoned around other Borzoi. We walked with other Borzoi nearly every morning and evening. Melissa lay ringside and watched the other dogs show. She was comfortable with dogs in front of her and behind her while she stood or moved around the show ring.
The month of May has been full of learning opportunities in Melissa's life long chapter on new experiences. This summer we will be taking some rally classes, and preparing to take the pet therapy certification test this Fall. And of course, lots of time for hiking and swimming!