Are dog shows just for us? And do our dogs really enjoy being there?
We had a great time at our local Dogfest recently – it was literally the next village along so we didn’t have to travel far.
It’s a good size field, but the set up feels cosy without being cramped. The stalls were arranged well around the edge in a circle, the food ones all together on one side, and the arenas dotted around in the centre. The sponsor tents were in the middle too.
It projects an easy route around, and it was not far to get from one arena to another so you didn’t need to miss much. The problem with being so close is that the tannoy speakers drowned out each other in some points. However, you could still hear clearly for the stand you were at – just loud background noise!
I was firstly volunteering on the Pets As Therapy stand (as Reba is one!) so we both were there for visitors to stroke them, and find out more about volunteering.
After that, the next afternoon, I had entry to wander around slowly at our leisure.
So what are the good and bad things that I experienced?
- The atmosphere was fantastic! Everyone seemed relaxed, and there was lots to do – even for those without dogs! There were activities for kids too. But mostly for dogs!
- The stands were varied from info, to treats, to equipment. It kept it interesting.
- It felt that everything was in easy reach – no long hikes to get somewhere, and the arenas and stalls were accessible together. Some shows have them separate and can be lots of walking to and fro.
- In the arenas, there was a range of talks, activities and displays. Each one had a board of times/content so you didn’t have to have a print out/phone access to find out what was on.
- It was small enough for even the mobile challenged (read that as me with a bad back!) to potter around slowly and feel part of it all.
- For me, I had a chance to put faces to email names for the companies I have affiliations to – Tug-E-Nuff and Butternut Box being 2 of them. (here is the Tug-E-Nuff discount link http://bit.ly/2Rus0ML), and the Butternut Box one (http://butternutbox.com/PippinPets). I also met other businesses whose products are ace but I’m not an affiliate for them – just love them – Dicky Bags for carrying those used bags before you reach a bin (https://www.dickybag.com/), Dog G8 who make extending barriers for doors and stairs (https://www.dog-g8.com/), the antler shop that had so much choice for Reba (https://antlerchew.co.uk/) and Pup Suds soaps for any pups that like getting filthy (https://pupsuds.co.uk/) to name just a few.
- There was LOTS of water bowls for dogs, paddling pools of water for cooling paws (or from drinking from as my girl preferred), and sprinker set up for dogs too -welcomed as the weather was warm.
- There were queues for the have-a-go activities, but there was also a pre-booking system to queue jump, if you were organised enough.
- It was disappointing to see the cost for entry. There was a local discount code floating around on social media, however the prices were not readily found, and if you weren’t on facebook, then you were stuck! I was part of the exhibitor group so had free entry- and I won a ticket on a social media competition too. Without that, I would have unlikely returned the next day, but that meant missing out on walking around!
- Everything felt more expensive, but that can be the sign of the current times. But coffees and ice-creams I expected to be a bit more affordable.
- There were a lot of tired dogs towards the end of the day, as they were out and about in the warm and not able to have their regular naps. This showed more so when dogs in close proximity were also being manhandled into fleece onesies in 20+degree heat after a lot of walking, and owners not reading the situation or body language of the dogs. However there were some good sights to – one owner laying on his side providing shade for his sleeping dog near one of the arenas!
- I was surprised by the sheer number of retractable leads being used – mostly of the cheesewire variety. Owners dawdling along, dog on the full extension wandering off in the other direction and in crowds so people were walking unaware right between both of them. So dangerous! I had many a dog get tangled around my legs – especially when on the stand -and owners sometimes not even visiting our stand!!! These wires cut deep, and you cannot get the dog back in when they are fully out on the end of the wire. They are also hard to hold – I caught a few dogs where the handle was taken out of the owners hand, and then the retracting handle whizzed back in to hit the dog’s legs making them run more! One was heading to our stand and I managed to grab it’s harness – owner very thankful but it could be avoided by using a regular clip lead.
- One personal upset was seeing one small terrier in a muzzle. Now I have no issues with the basket type muzzles being used – in fact I promote this! These basket muzzles allow dogs to pant, drink and even take treats. They allow the mouth to open to aid breathing, especially in the hot weather, but it mitigates any bite damage to others, or stops the dogs grabbing sticks etc. But…this poor little dog had a vet fabric muzzle on that clamped it’s mouth shut, and being walked around the show in the sun. These muzzles, in my opinion, should never be sold or used by the public. Vets and groomers use them for the most minimum amount of time to stop a dog biting them when they are doing quick invasive treatments. They remove them asap. These fabric muzzles are so unsuitable for any other purpose. Let your dog breathe!!
- The final con was the moment I returned to my car to see that there was a card under all the windscreen wipers – from a local Balanced Trainer. Now that really got me annoyed! They wouldn’t have known I was a fear free trainer as I had no branding on my car, but how many people would get in touch with them….???? Maybe I should have done the same and dropped by cards on every car! If you don’t know what a balanced trainer does, I will write about this! For now, let’s just say, I prefer to not intimidate, hurt, or damage the mental health of the dogs that I come across by using painful equipment. My ethics are somewhat different…!
Overall, dog shows can be fun, and a great day out if your dog can cope with lots of people and dogs in close proximity. Reba is Pets as Therapy and temperament tested, so she was fine but it was a bit tiring and overstimulating for her – this is why PAT dogs do shifts on the stand! Think whether your dog is REALLY enjoying it – do they feel too close to other dogs and people? Do they need a rest? You may want to stay long to get your money’s worth and see every stand but does your dog?
We didn’t enter any of the parade classes, but in other shows we have done and to get a rosette in a fun show can be a proud moment.
Whether it’s a big dog show, or a small local fete, take essentials with you – your own treats, water, mat, and be prepared to let your dog rest in the shade rather than sit in the sun with you. And poo bags! Yes, some people still didn’t clear up after their dogs despite all the bins!
A full day can be really tiring for you and your dog, so we made the most by only doing a half day which was more than enough and we still saw lots!