Well, in all fairness, it’s actually his third. His first two, he came along for the ride, walked around, ate some cookies, and played a little bit. He also learned to both crate and potty in new places, which are EXTREMELY important skills for a future perfomance dog. But this was his first time going in the ring like a Big Dog.
We have not yet started much in the way of formal obedience training yet. That will come. For now, we’ve been focusing on building focus and motivation. He is not a naturally toy-driven dog, so we’ve spent a LOT of time teaching him to play. He’s come a long way! Heeling is easy to teach compared to staying focused and motivated in a distracting environment and under the pressure of the show ring. So my top priority here was for him to have fun, feel confident, and stay engaged with me. More than anything, I want him to associate being in the ring with high energy and intense focus.
So what I didn’t ask for is any formal obedience. We did no heeling, not a single down, not even a recall. So what did we work on? We practiced (and reinforced) attention when the leash comes off (but not a formal ring entry), playing with three different toys, Bounce!, several hand touches, only one sit, a few of his favorite tricks, and some very simple, fun behavior chains. Of course, this is less than half of what I might ask of him at home. However, we were doing all of this in the presence of many of the context cues that will be present at a trial.
So hopefully he is well on his way to learning that dog shows = AWESOME!
Travel time: 1.5 hrs
Cost of run: $5
Duration of Ring Time: 3 minutes
Value of a positive and enthusastic first experience: Priceless!