ShowSight Presents The Miniature American Shepherd

HOW TO CHOOSE & PREPARE A MINIATURE AMERICAN SHEPHERD FOR THE SHOW RING by FRAN WITHERS Breed Standard & Education Committee Chair

T he process through which I choose and train a show pros- pect starts at birth. I do a great deal of desensitization, social- ization, and preparatory work for all of my puppies so that the ones that turn out to be show/breed quality at 8 weeks old already have the benefit of this work and the ones that are going to companion homes also have the best upbringing they can possibly have to be a treasured family member. From the day they are born I hold them upright, in the air, on their backs, and then close to me. It may be a little uncomfortable for them at first, but it is a great exercise for them to be handled and comforted by a per- son. Before long, they just take the exercises in stride and have total confidence in me. Th ey equate my touch with a comforting sensation since they are cuddled at the end. I touch their ears, play with their paws with a cotton swab, put them on a cool towel one at a time for 30 seconds and then cuddle them again. Th ese exercises teach them that they can recover easily from strange or di ff erent sensations and that humans are a good source of comfort. When they are 5-6 weeks old, I start taking them one at a time into an unfamil- iar area to watch TV and hang out with me. I watch to see how they react to new stimuli on their own with no litter mates to influence their behavior. Is this puppy inquisitive running around sni ffi ng or is he low to the ground and hesitant? I turn the volume up when there is clapping and laughing and then note if he runs up to the TV wanting to know where that noise is coming from or if he runs the other way to hide. In the show ring, a dog should become invigorated with the clapping and attention of the spectators. If he gets frightened, he will need to recover quickly relying on his owner’s support. Th ese basic

“SINCE HE WAS 7 WEEKS OLD, I HAVE BEEN TEACHING HIM TO STACK...”

exercises should help a dog learn to seek out their owner for a quick dose of self- confidence and an easy recovery. At 6 weeks I start crate training, slowly and with a littermate at first. His crate should represent a den, not a jail. I ship puppies all over the world and I want them to be happy and confident when they reach their destination. For his safety, a show dog spends a lot of time crated while at shows and traveling, so he should see a crate as a positive place—a den to call his own. At 8 weeks old I do my puppy puzzle and temperament testing. I check how well a puppy conforms to the breed standard, if he is overwhelmed in a show-like atmo-

sphere, if he recover quickly from stress, and if he is forgiving. All of these qualities can be detected through these tests. If you are not raising the litter, do your homework to find a good breeder that incorporates all of these things in their puppy raising. So, I have the puppy that is best suit- ed for the show ring. He conforms to the breed standard quite nicely, I have prepared him well. Now, we start show training. Since he was 7 weeks old, I have been teaching him to stack on tables and flat-sided stilts that have good gripping surface and are secured with magnets on the bottom, so they won’t move. Th ey are a great tool to teach a dog to place their

258 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J UNE 2015

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