“OUR FIRST SHOW AT 6 MONTHS OF AGE IS JUST FOR FUN. I DO NOT EXPECT
ANYTHING FROM HIM WHICH ELIMINATES PRESSURE.”
legs where they need to be creating muscle memory. At first he will stand there only for a short time, but as he grows older, I will increase the time. All of my dogs like this exercise, they can’t wait to get on the stilts because they know they get treats there. Th is is the beginning of creating a free stack which will help you greatly in the ring. As you return from your down and back to the judge, your dog should be able to stop with all 4 legs placed properly standing there proudly. Also, anytime you send them out on the lead ahead of you a few feet and then call them back to you, they should be able to walk directly in front of you and free stack. Creating and maintaining muscle memory at an early age is crucial for training the free stack. As soon as the puppy has finished his series of shots at about 12 weeks old, I take him weekly to my local kennel club classes. Here he will learn to use all the tools he has so far. He will stay in his crate quietly when it is not his turn to play. He learns about all the noises in a big building with the barking of the dogs, the laughing and talking of many people, loud banging doors slamming, and crates hitting the ground. He also experiences being on the table with strangers going over him. Th ese experiences help him gain confidence in a dog show type environment. While he watches me having fun with other dogs, his desire to be the one to work with me increases, but at this age, I keep training
sessions short and fun. In addition, we go on trips just for fun, visiting stores that allow dogs, parks, going for walks where there are cars or in small downtown shop- ping areas where we can window shop and greet people. We attend matches so he can gain more confidence and experience. Our first show at 6 months of age is just for fun. I do not expect anything from him which eliminates pressure. We walk all over the grounds, do a little shop- ping with the vendors and visit friends. Now that he is in a real show situation, all that training can seem fruitless for the weekend. He may not want to focus because of all the new things happening around him and may forget what he is supposed to be doing all together. Th at’s okay, he will remember and do better next time if I don’t make a big deal out of it now. Remember, the Miniature American Shepherd is a herding breed and are sup- posed to be aware of their environment, so he needs time to acclimate. In the meantime I continue to train weekly at the club as well as at home. By now he has maintained pretty good muscle memory so his free stack is consistent and looks awesome. Th at always helps to impress the judges. Since he was a puppy, he has been bathed and blown dried, had his tail, ears and feet trimmed and his nails clipped on regularly. He likes it because I have taken my time through every process.
With dogs patience and treats are the key to progress. Now, doing these at the show site does not add stress to the show atmo- sphere. For the MAS we leave the whis- kers on and do not sculpt the coat to get a more natural presentation. Th e MAS is a table breed, so I have had many people go over him on a table over the past months. When I remove him from the table, my back is to the judge so I can quickly fix any out of place hair and set his lead all the way up behind his ears. Th is way I will not have a sloppy transition from the table to the start of the down and back. I do not need speed on my down and back allowing my dog what I want is to converge properly. On my go around, I want to show the foot timing, reach and drive that my dog possesses. I will have him travel on a somewhat loose lead so he can move in a natural way. When I have a dog that is at the small end of the height range of 14-18 inches for dogs and 13-17 inches for bitch- es, I will move him in a way that best suits his size, not try to keep up with the larger dogs or allowing more room if behind a smaller dog. Th e MAS gait is balanced and conserves energy so the dog can work all day, so he should not race around the ring. Th e MAS is a wonderful, devoted breed that wants to please their people. Given patience, time, and training, they learn quickly and are engaging. With training, they work well as a team with their human counterparts at any task.
S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J UNE 2015 • 259
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