Slippery Floor

I’ve had dogs for more than 40 years, and corgis for more than 25, so I always feel that nothing much should surprise me when it comes to dogs.

I’m wrong, of course.

Things frequently happen that surprise me. Most recently, it was Gael and our kitchen floor. Gael suddenly seemed to have a problem crossing the floor. I know a slippery floor can be a challenge to a dog, especially if the dog is big, or has long nails. Gael is small and just had her nails cut. Also, she has been crossing the floor several times daily for almost two years and has never experienced a problem.

One night, I heard her claws scrabbling on the floor before she came into the living room. After that, she refused to enter the kitchen. When I gave Rhiannon her evening pill in a spoonful of yogurt, Gael didn’t come in to lick the spoon; she stood in the doorway. When I got out the dog biscuits, instead of coming into the kitchen, Gael waited for me to deliver it to her in the living room. I had to carry her to the door when it was time for one final trip to the yard.

She seemed able to cross the floor just fine when coming in from outdoors, but once she’d made it to the living room, she wasn’t willing to make the return trip. She would come into the kitchen when it was mealtime, but she wasn’t happy about it.

Gradually, over the course of a week, she got over whatever had upset her. She’ll wander around the kitchen by herself now, with no food involved. She once again runs to the back door when it’s time to go out. The only difference is that she no longer goes in a straight line from the living room to the back door. Now she crosses a small bit of floor to the long rug that runs along the counter. From the carpet, she dashes to the door. Coming back in, she takes the direct route and ignores the carpet strip.

I’ll never know what frightened her, but I’m very glad she overcame her fear. It can take a very long time to desensitize a dog to something they are afraid of, and force is never the answer. If I had put a collar and lead on her and dragged her onto the floor, she’d not only have been terrified, but it would have made the next attempt even harder. She had to do it herself. Food motivated her at mealtimes and gradually, she just figured it out for herself that the floor was safe.

It’s a little early to be thinking about the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, to be held Feb. 11 and 12, but I am, in fact, thinking about it. I haven’t been in a few years, but I’m happy to be going this year, as there are some changes that will make it a bit more exciting.

One is that only the group judging in the evening will be held at Madison Square Garden. Daytime judging will be at Piers 92/94. This means more room, so, instead of being limited to 2,500 dogs, there’ll be 3,500. Of course, this won’t be as convenient for the handlers. Generally, most of the people who are showing stay at one of the hotels near the Garden, so they just have to cross the street to be at the show. I believe there’ll be shuttle busses, but still, the two locations will make logistics a bit tricky.

For the first time in almost 20 years, the show won’t be just for champions. Once again, “class dogs” may be entered, as long as they have won a major (three, four or five points at one show). I’m very happy about that change and hope it continues to be possible.

Another change is in the best in show judging. This year, besides choosing the best in show, the judge will also award a reserve best in show. Those seven dogs that make it to the best in show judging are all so wonderful, and such great examples of their breeds, that I always feel bad that there can only be one winner. There’s still just one winner, but at least now, another dog is acknowledged as being special. I can’t wait to once again enjoy New York City and all the fabulous dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club show.