The Rocky Mountain Cluster Dog Show used to be held each year over the Presidents' Day Weekend in Denver. I made a point to attend every year. Only dogs who are competing are allowed in the event. I leave my dogs at home and spend a good part of the day immersing myself in dogs and all things dog-related.

If you're a dog-lover as I am, you can see the fun in attending such an event. It's fun to see so many different breeds in one place, and some breeds that you most likely will never see in person anywhere else. In addition to the fun, though, this is an opportunity for us to learn.

By not having my own dogs with me, it allows me to spend my time taking in everything else without having to focus on my own dogs. That allows me to be more relaxed and be an observer rather than a participant.

If you want to learn more about a specific breed, this is a great place to do it. In fact, two years ago, this is where I was talking to Vizsla breeders before I brought home Romeo. It gave me a chance to meet several dogs in the breed as well as speak to people who have bred, raised and lived with the breed for many years.

This is also a great opportunity to study the body language of dogs. Watch the dogs who are walking around with their handlers, waiting to enter the ring, or competing in obedience, rally obedience or agility. You will see plenty of dogs who are perfectly comfortable, and you will also see dogs who are stressed. It's a great chance to sit back and really observe and watch subtle and not-so-subtle signs of how a dog is feeling.

Watching obedience and agility competitions is a great way to learn how important clear communication is with your dog. When most people watch agility, they are watching the dogs. If you watch the people, you should be able to tell exactly where the dog is supposed to go. If you think the dog is running off course because he's not paying attention, that might be true, but often you will see that the person was not giving clear directions to the dog. The dog most often is following the handler's instructions, but the handler is giving the wrong instructions. Agility more than anyplace else is the place to see how dogs read our body language.

I spent time watching the Rally Obedience since I plan to start competing with Romeo. In Rally, you and your dog are supposed to be having fun. Person and dog should be working as a team. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed in what I saw. Many people and dogs did not seem to be having fun. I saw people finish and walk right off with their dogs without any recognition or praise for the dogs after the course was done. I didn't see a much praise being given during the course either.

Rather than turning me off to competing, it just made me want to get out there all the more and show people what it should look like! Romeo and I want to have fun, so we can't wait to get out there and see if we can liven things up a bit!