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Dogs are my life

Last updated on November 11, 2022

At the age of 12, I held my first corgi puppy. She was a purebred (another of Dad’s requirements) and the breeder had named her Myrrdin’s Amber Dreams. (Myrrdin is Welsh for Merlin.) We loved the name Amber and kept it. You can find plenty of images of corgi puppies running around looking like miniatures of the adults, but Amber was anything but. She was big for a corgi pup, and very pudgy. Her nose and ears had black all over them, reminding me of Beagles. While she did grow into the Corgi form and the black receded to a (no pun intended) amber red shade, she was still a bit off from what is called the breed standard – what a perfect Cardigan Welsh Corgi should look like.

A brown-faced puppy with a black back and tail, white pars, and a white ring around her nose lays in the grass. The photo is dated June 24, 2007
Myrrdin’s Amber Dreams around 5 weeks old.

As a kid, though, that didn’t matter. My parents even put my name on her purchase agreement, making my mom and I co-owners. The morning after bringing her home, I was eagerly awake at 5:30 a.m. to take my pitifully crying baby girl outside to potty, and then preceded to start training. I didn’t know much, but I knew she needed to learn her name and at least how to sit.

My brother is a few years younger, so we had a lot of fun with our new puppy that summer. When she was a few months older and had completed all her puppy shots, we signed up for an obedience training class at Petsmart. As a minor, I was allowed to train with Amber during class as long as a parent was present. The class taught me a lot about how to train using the positive reinforcement of treats, verbal praise, petting, and play. Amber was smart and once I got the hang of it, we quickly succeeded at new commands: down, stay, leave it, heel, and more.

After graduating from that class, I wanted to do more advanced training, but I was still a minor and from what I remember, my parents couldn’t find a good place that would let me be the primary trainer of Amber. Mom finally found a solution – 4-H. Run out of the Michigan State University Extension Office, the 4-H program is a strong supporter of youth education and participation through clubs of all varieties. Whether you live in a more rural spot and participate in horse and livestock shows, or you’re in the suburbs training your dog and playing chess, there’s 4-H clubs for you to join. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a dog training club close enough to us. Mom never let a little thing like that stop her though. And instead of just conceding to drive farther, she decided to bring 4-H to us – she started our very own dog training club.

Teenager Lizzie kneels next to her corgi Amber. Lizzie smiles into the camera while Amber is pantinig and looking to the right.
Amber and I ready to walk in our local Memorial Day Parade with our 4-H Club

Thus Amber and I continued on our training journey. We were in 4-H for 6 years, showing in fun matches and the Oakland County Fair dog shows every summer. The last 3 years I had the role of President, and with Mom still club leader, nothing could stop us. My Sundays were full: sleep in (come on, I was still a teenager!) then straight from church to dog training, finishing homework in the car ride to and from. While obedience training is never truly complete, Amber and I added to our repertoire: first agility obstacles, and then rally obedience signs. I considered freestyle for a second, and never even glanced at junior showmanship. In our later years, we split the club into two levels, with the advanced kids coming in early to help with the beginners’ training class before working to fine-tune our advanced commands and off-leash agility.

A red and white corgi sits between two green trophies with gold dog figurines on top.
Amber with our two Obedience trophies: 1st place in Novice Obedience (right) and Highest Scoring Senior Handler (left).

In my final year, Amber and I rocked the rings, winning first place in novice obedience (it took us 4.5 years to get past the first level, pre-novice, so this was huge for us!) and achieving the Highest Scoring Senior Handler (age 14+). It was my crowning achievement and I graduated both high-school and 4-H feeling successful.

College took all of my time and energy, and I was away more than I was home. Amber couldn’t come to school with me, so she lazed around at home with my parents, who spoiled her to bits (as she deserved).

I struggled with leaving 4-H and my girl behind, so I joined an agility club located near MSU, and attended meetings and volunteered at the dog trials they hosted. A few years later, I was finally able to squeeze in an advanced agility class with Amber, (really so I could get back into practice, she needed no help) and we made it to a few UKC and CPE agility trials before it became apparent that trial days were just too long for 11-year-old Amber.

Lizzie and a short red and white dog with a long tail run an agility course in the grassand the dog is jumping over a hurdle
We completed Amber’s UKC AG1 (level 1 agility) and
tried out an AG2 course with obstacles we had never seen before (shown above).

After college, marrying my high school sweetheart, and moving into an apartment together back in our hometown area, we could finally think about pets. While Amber visited often, her permanent home was with my folks. However, we did permanently “adopt” Zach’s childhood cat, a sassy calico with no tolerance for the other cats at Zach’s parent’s house.

I loved them so much, but still, I craved dog training. I really wanted to get a puppy. We had the perfect situation to take on raising a furbaby, since we had lots of room for zoomies and playtime, and I could bring the kiddo to work with me (lucky me!!). There was no question that we would get a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and in no time we had an agreement with a breeder. One of my friends from the agility club has a dog from the same breeder, and I think she is my pup’s great aunt.

At around 4 months old, I took Murphy to a dog show. With my perfect little boy, we tried out the breed ring and won first place of male dogs his age! His breeders where there to guide me through the steps, but I felt so lost and this wasn’t even an official show, just a puppy match. Despite having trained a dog for 10 years and shown in 4-H, I felt like I had walked into a completely different world. I’d never done conformation (how closely the dog represents the breed standard) before, and figuring out how to groom and handle for this style of show was wildly different than what I was used to with obedience handling.

Murphy is now almost a year and a half old, and he is such a good boy! I mean, he barks like crazy at other dogs and is wicked fast so if he chases something he’s gone in an instant. He’s still a dumb silly little boy all the time, but when it comes to training, he’s a genius. He picks up new commands within minutes and LOVES learning and practicing whatever it is we are doing.

So, now here I am. This blog will mostly be dedicated to dog show tips and training information. I had a hard time finding helpful information for first-time dog showers online, so I want to share what I’ve learned and the advice I’ve been given. Not everything will work for your situation or your breed, but neither will everything work for me and my corgi. I will share whatever I can though, in the hopes of helping other new dog handlers through the process. If you’re in the same boat as me and would like to share your experiences or ask me questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Lizzie poses with Murphy standing in front, both looking at the camera. In front of them are 6 placement ribbons and one new title rosette
Murphy and I after a day at the Western Michigan Harvest Cluster 2019 dog show.
Best of Winners, Best Owner Handled, 3rd leg and new title for Rally Novice!

Published inDog showsDog trainingPet Care

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