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PetGazette - Post

  • Writer's pictureSusan Young

Puppy’s first show

My new puppy Toke is now 5 months old. We have been socializing him with the world, and his training has begun for what I hope will be a successful future in obedience and agility competitions. This last weekend, I dipped our feet and paws into a whole new arena for us; we participated in the Asheville Kennel Club Conformation shows!

From the American Kennel Club website: “The official term for dog shows is conformation — as in, the act of conforming or producing conformity. While a dog show may look like a beauty pageant, it’s not. Dogs are not being compared to each other; they’re being measured by how closely they conform to the standard of their particular breed. Why? Because the closer a dog’s appearance is to the breed’s standard, the better that dog’s ability will be to…..”

The website says to produce puppies that also meet the breed standard, but I don’t breed dogs. I compete in performance events with my dogs, and a dog that is conformationally correct and meets its breed standard has a better chance of being a sound athlete who can do the job for which they are intended. In the case of a Golden Retriever, that job is spending the day in the field, retrieving shot ducks. I also don’t hunt with my dogs, but the qualities that make them good retrievers also make them good obedience and agility dogs. It’s all related. So why am I showing in conformation? That’s easy. I want to honor his breeder's years of hard work to produce this physically, mentally, and conformationally sound puppy that is currently barking at his reflection in the mirror.

The Asheville Kennel Club was kind enough to offer a Beginner Puppy Class so people could get young hopefuls like Toke in the ring for some experience. Showing a dog takes a lot of prep work, and I had spent weeks getting Toke used to things like dryers, scissors near his ears, stacking (posing him to look his best), gaiting (moving him at a trot in a straight line) and a host of other items so we would look trained and polished on our big day. Instead, Toke spent the weekend looking like a free-spirited, untrained puppy. Go Toke! On Friday, I took our little monster to his Auntie Lynn’s house for a bath and some grooming. He was a good pup for the bath but howled through the blow-drying and put up a fuss when Lynn tried to trim his ear fuzz. Toke became a screaming octopus when we attempted nail trimming. We soon gave up and decided our puppy didn’t have to look perfect.

On Saturday, Lynn and I dragged ourselves out of bed and drove to the Ag Center for our 8:30 ring time. It was drizzly and foggy, and my fluffy puppy promptly got rained on. We didn’t have a dryer with us so he got a quick towel and a brush, and by the time we went in the ring, he was reasonably dry. Lynn had agreed to handle him in conformation shows because she is very good at handling show dogs. I am better at training for obedience competitions but somehow stacking a dog eludes me. Toke went in the ring to compete for Best Golden Retriever Puppy and easily won his class (he was the only Golden entered, so……). A few minutes later, he went back in the ring to compete against five other puppies in the Sporting Group.

Toke continued his earlier antics of not standing still, fidgeting, running instead of trotting and constantly looking for momma. What can I say? My pup loves me. Amongst all of this, the judge did get a nice 15-second look at him and decided that he was the second-best puppy in the ring. Yay! The next day he did much better and beat another puppy for best Golden Retriever Puppy but then got ignored in the Sporting Group ring. That’s how it goes. The weekend gave him a lot of priceless experiences. He was socialized to other breeds of dogs (he got to play with a Pug!) and saw many new things.

We are about to start an agility class, so check in next issue to hear more about Toke’s training. You can also follow us on Facebook at the Golden Dog Patch where I post all about Toke and his road to being a competition dog.

Susan M. Young is a long standing Asheville Real Estate Broker and has been active in dog sports with her Golden Retrievers for over 20 years. She can be reached through her website at


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