After years of competing with horses, then dogs, and now cats, one thing I have come to believe is that the animals need to enjoy it. They do not have a say in sending in the entries. They have no say in what class they will be in. This is not to say that they will love every minute of it, but it should be a time of bonding, expression of quality training, and fun for all concerned. The older I get, the more important this is to me.
Since my current hobbies involve dogs and cats, that is what I deal with in competition. It is obvious with dogs when they don’t enjoy the ring. I have had dogs in the past that did not. I worked with them and tried to make it fun, but in the end, I had to concede that it just “wasn’t their bag”. I have had dogs that love field work and those that don’t. There is a part of me that feels like a failure if my dog isn’t enjoying the endeavor that I chose. I feel like my preparation must be at fault. And, that may be the case. It may also be that that dog simply doesn’t like whatever I had planned. Can I make the dog perform? Yes, I can. But, more importantly, why? The time I spend with my dogs at competitions should be fun. I don’t make a living at this. I want it to be a constructive time with my pet and friends that share the passion.
Nowhere is it more obvious than at a cat show if an animal is not enjoying the competition. While it is normal for a cat, dog, or even a person to be a bit nervous at something new, generally, most beings get used to the novel atmosphere with time and positive exposure. Cats can become more comfortable using treats, play toys, and time. Lots of cats do. While it may be disappointing to have a stunning cat that does not enjoy showing, the best thing to do is let the kitty stay home. It is important to keep the experience joyful. That may mean protecting the pet from scary things like loud noises and strange people.
For competitive people like me, accepting limitations set by our animal’s personality is a hard but necessary step. How can I enjoy myself if the sentient being I have chosen to be a part of my life is miserable? The answer is, I can’t. So, I try to make the experience as pleasant as possible for the cat or dog, but have to accept it that isn’t possible.