I know that it seems like some qual- ity handlers pick up a dog ringside to just run into the ring with it, and somehow the dog shows like a million bucks. But, if you watch closely, you will see that the handler takes a split second to make a connection with that dog. The dog instantly under- stands what the handler wants through sensory perception and body analy- sis. There is a transfer of understanding between the human and the canine—the handler and the show dog. THE LOVE CONNECTION AND ROUTINE Dogs not only thrive on and love LOVE—they also love ROUTINE. One practical way to accomplish this is by cre- ating structure in your dog’s total life. Yes, life! Not just on the day of the show, but every day. Consider his experiences. What does your dog look forward to? What can you do to reward him? What are you doing at home that your dog looks forward to? Have you stopped working with him because you think he’s already trained, and you don’t want to bore him? Maybe you’re working with a younger dog and letting him sit aside. Here’s my favorite question: What if you took ten minutes to teach your dog tricks? Have you practiced stacking exercises? How about the trending activ- ity that dog people have adopted from the equestrian world—cavaletti to strengthen his muscles, challenge his brain, and build your bond, all at once? Next, plan a routine that you can use when you get to a show. And when I say routine, I mean every element broken down into its component parts. Here’s one possible example of a pre-competition rou- tine: Bathe your dog, dry her, put her in the crate, brush her at the site, place the lead on her, show her a favorite squeaky toy, sing her prep jingle, and then—step into the ring. These are the steps and sequence that lead up to the ring. Take note that if you leave out a step (maybe you feel that you don’t need the crate that day or you’ve forgotten the toy), your dog may miss that specific element. It’s like a hic- cup that may cause her to get confused or not reach an optimal level of anticipation for her stellar performance. Notice your dog’s experience. By creating a routine for your dog, he knows what’s coming next. When he knows the steps and what’s next, the
I HAVE ALWAYS FELT THAT THE NUMBER ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT A QUALITY HANDLER DOES IS TO SUPPORT THE DOG’S EXPERIENCE IN THE RING AND TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING IT A POSITIVE ONE. I recently observed a class of three dogs. The judge went down the line a second time, before pointing to the exhibitors. The first handler baited the dog. The second handler just stood there. The third handler strategically baited the dog with flair. On the last go round, the first and third han- dlers were working their dogs before they even started gaiting. They got their dogs’ attention and gave a quick brushing before starting to gait. This action gave the dogs the cue that something was about to hap- pen. It gave them anticipation! In contrast, the second dog’s handler continued to just stand there. Guess which dog went third? When I say “love,” I don’t mean it’s only about cuddling, hearts, and doggie kisses. Love is not just gooey. On a deeper level, it’s respectful. One of the component parts of your Love Connection with your dog is respect. Mutual respect between the successful dog and handler is essential. You must make the dog feel safe through your ability to support them in their expe- riences. I have always felt that the number one most important thing that a quality handler does is to support the dog’s experi- ence in the ring and to be responsible for making it a positive one. THE LOVE CONNECTION AND MUTUAL RESPECT
A lot of dog show exhibitors find them- selves with an older puppy or dog that isn’t ring savvy or doesn’t show himself off in the ring. Yes, it is certainly true that a lot can happen to a puppy that can make or break their potential show career. How- ever, from a judge’s perspective, I see many quality dogs that could benefit from a reset or enhancement of their competition atti- tude and work ethic. Regardless of how a dog is raised, exclusively in the owner’s home or, alternatively, in a kennel situa- tion, either way, it takes time and patience to get a dog to show consistently in the ring. The question is, how can we get our dogs to present better for us and for the judge in the ring? If you’re not excited and in love with your dog, how can you expect the judge to be? Each dog is an individu- al, and connections develop in their own unique ways. I encourage you to nurture those bonds. Work your love connection with your dog.
IF YOU’RE NOT EXCITED AND IN LOVE WITH YOUR DOG, HOW CAN YOU EXPECT THE JUDGE TO BE? WORK YOUR LOVE CONNECTION WITH YOUR DOG.
When you want your dog to do some- thing differently, begin by mapping out in your mind what you want your dog TO DO. Work on the positive, rather than imagining what you DO NOT want him to do. Does that sound like it would be too easy? Well, it’s a skill and mindset that takes practice. With time, it becomes easier to do and it works as a powerful tool. Visualizing or imagining the posi- tive picture, rather than the negative one, creates a much more joyful presentation to the judge.
152 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, SEPTEMBER 2021
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