Dog Shows: Stack and Attention

The whole country is watching. Are you doing it right?

Posted: Mon Jul 19 00:00:00 PDT 2004

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be offended by boobs who use a clicker that wayjust as they are offended by newbie show-folks leaping left and right taxing the capacity of a squeaky toy to get their Papillon's attention.

However, to quote Latin for a second, abusus no tollit usum. This ancient rule translates as the abuse of a tool is not an argument against its proper use. Using a clicker to help a dog identify the precise behavior is exactly what it's designed to do. There is no better all-around tool for marking correct behavior in training. Anyone who claims that using a word, like good or yes, works as well is simply not very experienced. If you doubt this recommendation there is a simple way to find out if my advice is soundtry it and then decide for yourself.

2) Use visual markers on the ground to help the dog see where his body is in relation to the handler and judge. You can put a T on the ground with masking tape that will become the dog's literal guideline for stacking. This also ensures that you will click consistently over many repetitions and have fewer guess and by gosh rewards for marginal posture or position.

3) Use tactile markers on the ground to help the dog feel where his feet should be. You can use a piece of soft rope, paper plates or virtually any combination of lines/spots to tell the dog when his feet are in the right place. I usually put a piece of rope down to make the top bar of the visual T mentioned in #2 above. You can also put down paw-sized pieces of non-skid floor material that will help the dog sense instantly if his feet are placed right. The possibilities are endless to create a tactile training aid for this.

4) Start working on obedience and fun behaviors that have nothing to do with conformation. Owning a dog with a varied behavioral repertoire is my idea of a responsible dog ownership. The old bugaboo that you won't be able to stop obedience and everyday behaviors in the show ring is unfounded. Dogs can understand that a particular set of behaviors are fine for one context and no t another. Keeping them in ignorance to avoid embarrassment in the ring is most often an admission of the handler's lack of skillnot of the dog's lack of ability. Just remember, a dog's mind is a terrible thing to wastejust look at those ----- ---... (Feel free to fill in your favorite dumb as a rock breed and have a good laugh.)

Q. It generally takes people weeks or months to get dogs to stand still for shows. Would your methods be quicker?

A. Perhaps simply accepting and acknowledging that a breed dog should be trained like any other dog is a huge short cut. Many conformation handlers are afraid to teach behaviors such as sit or down because they incorrectly assume that these behaviors will occur in the ring, unbidden.

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