Welcome to Pure Dog Talk, Norma Smith thank you for joining us.
NS: Oh, you’re welcome, happy to do it
PDT: Sure appreciate you taking some time. We’re gonna talk today about suggestions that you have that will help succeed in the ring.
NS: Ok super
PDT: So, what’s your top three suggestions, kind of general for every person when they get started with their new dog, top three things to think about.
NS: You know really the bottom line is you really, they have to breath. Because the breathing is the connection with the dog too, and your confidence level, going in there. You know many times at my seminars, the first go around the people are blue because they’re not breathing. So, it is important when you hear people say, oh put a mint in your mouth. You know they say it also kills the adrenaline smell, but really what it does, is that most people can’t walk & chew come, so they have to open their mouth and be able to breath, and so that makes it a better situation for them. And it also brings in that air so it’s an expanding with their lungs and it also brings more confidence down to the dog.
PDT: Absolutely. And then number two-
NS: Number two. Wow you know honestly many judges that I’ve talked to through the years, it really is about observing what’s going on, the judge’s direction. So important. You know you’ve got two minutes to really make an impression. And most of those judges, as hard as it is in scheduling today, they’re on such a time frame you don’t have an opportunity to not do what they say. Or to listen, so it really is to go up there before the ring to observe, to check out what pattern they’re doing, and then the breathing helps to help you focus getting in there, listening. You know if you don’t hear it, bottom line, ask the judge: I’m sorry can you repeat that, I just want to make sure I heard what you said. So, that you don’t do something wrong and then you have to restart, and the judge is going, looking at my watch…going ok we don’t have time for this. Or they maybe didn’t have a great morning anyway and it’s a little irritant, so better to get the respect of saying, I’m sorry can you repeat that for me, so that you’re right the first time.
PDT: Very good
NS: You know the third one I think it’s so important, is our dress. This is a gentleman’s sport, we take a lot of pride, been in this for 42yrs, and I’ve never worn a pair of pants. It’s always been very professional for me. Even in my seminars we understand. There are things that happen, women… a knee brace is something that may be pants, but overall, it’s still is a gentleman’s sport. We’re supposed to look the part, be very professional, and just like the men should be in suits. I know the summer it’s the polo shirts and khakis, but truly many years ago, in the beginning at Westminster, whatever big super bowl dog show we have, they’re not going to wear that. They’re going to look very professional. You know for women there’s so many styles out there, so again the simpler the better, the class, but always take somebody with you, or run or bend over. Whatever its gonna take. Even with men in your suits, it’s so important. And you know guys, if you have shoes you can shine, shine them! Look the part, we have to take pride in our self because it goes right down the league, and judges really do notice. Because that first impression with anything in our life, whether its dog shows or the corporate world, it is so important.
PDT: Yes. You know you hit on something Norma that I think is really important. I’d like you to maybe expand on that a little bit, and that’s respect. Respect for the sport, respect for the judges.
PDT: You know we have a lot of people now and they’re trying to learn and I understand they’re trying to learn, but they wind up trashing people. There’s just an awful lot of disrespect, can you talk a little bit about that and your sense about that, and you’re feeling about that.
NS: Sure. You know in my seminars you know, I say listen, you have a new group of people that can go up to the ring with you, that can watch you that necessarily isn’t in your breed, so that maybe that level of the negativity may not be there. You know we’ve got to keep it positive, and even with the judges, we may not like what they do. But, we have to give them the respect because we can learn something from everybody.
NS: What’s happening today in that ring, and even myself once in a while I’ll show a problem dog from a seminar, they never say congratulations or good job. They’re doing nothing behind me. You know even the respect of that, I’m not saying you have to gush all over these people, but nice job, nice win, even if you don’t want to say congratulations. You know the sportsmanship has been lost, and in doing that the respect for the judges, the attitude you have if you don’t put me out kind of thing, but no matter what, you paid for their opinion and it is just an opinion, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine. But don’t trash them at that level, lets raise it back up to the bar it used to be, when our sport was the best of the best in it, so that we aren’t being a negative force in this. You know we’re losing a lot of people in this sport and we need to bring this back and have that comradery, you know because competition is good, but bottom line you can still be my friend afterwards. Go to dinner. And it’s the same as the judges, whether you like their opinion that day, you can still respect them as a breeder, as an exhibitor, or whatever they did before their judging now. So, we can all benefit from that aspect, from what they’re bringing into the breed, you’re showing them what their knowledge is. The problem is today, one’s don’t go the the history books of their breeds, you know we could be showing to a judge that had a top winning something, and you wouldn’t even know because these new exhibitors aren’t checking into pedigrees, checking into the old stuff. Because that’s the foundation, that’s our base, if we don’t have that we have nothing. So, it’s so important to go back to our roots in a sense in this, and that’s where the respect comes, that where just the ability to know that you can learn something from anyone. It’s so important that we have that pride in our self to rise above, no matter what the outcome is. And if its’ positive great, then make it positive and show others how it should be a positive then. But you know, just give them the respect that’s due, maybe they always aren’t as respectful to you because they’ve had a bad day, you know we never know what goes on behind closed doors in a sense. So, don’t bring our problems into there’s. Let’s make it all work for the best for the dog, because we forget all that negativity, if it’s a bad situation it all goes right down the lead.
PDT: And we wonder why the dogs aren’t having fun.
NS: Absolutely, it is so important because we have to remember, we’re here for the dogs, we make them do this. If it’s not all about the dogs, then you know we need to look at this differently because a lot of people do live their life through their dogs, so let’s make your life as positive it can be, so the dog can really have an incredible show life. A life out there that you’ve made it a positive, not like oh I’m dreading to be here. Let’s make that dog it’s the best it can be when it comes through that ring.
PDT: Right. And so, the exhibitor, the handler has to believe that about themselves, and about their dogs and they have to project that.
PDT: Ok. So, taking that respect, that conversation a little bit further, where do you see areas that exhibitors themselves, ok we’re talking about what can you do personally as an exhibitor, to improve your sport? What’s your recommendation for people? You’ve been doing this an awful long time, you’ve seen an awful lot of periods of the sport, so the new exhibitor, what do you tell them, how do you make a better life at the dog show?
NS: You know they just have to go there and actually turn their car off when they’re showing. Not just run in there and show their dog and leave. You know the sport has become everybody just goes and shows and leaves, it’s a drive-thru instead of a sit down 4-star restaurant. Because the bottom line is everybody needs to sit through your breed, through the group and the best in show, to really get a grasp of what the level is, what the reality of having a best in show dog is. Why are we showing dogs if we’re not achieving to have the best of what our breed can be? Whether if it’s in our breeding, or in our showing, you know, the betterment of our breed, the betterment of our sport. That means you have to understand how it works, and more than once, I would recommend.
NS: You know it’s so difficult because I tell people at my seminars, you know guys, you do have to shut your car off. You don’t leave it parked & running and go show and you leave. Forget the baby shower, forget the lunch you have to go to, or the dinner, because if you have that, you’re not giving your all to this, and so, why do it? Really, because you’re hurting yourself, but mostly your dog, because it’s really not about I’m trying a betterment of my breed or betterment of my sport, it’s just a hobby. Well and I love that, it’s a great hobby for many, but most of us take our hobbies pretty seriously because it’s an investment, an investment of time too, and the longevity of our animals and trying to make that better than our pets. Our couch potatoes are with us for a long time. It’s like when I used to show dogs and a dog would go home after, the owner would say: but you made it a better dog, a better pet. And that’s what it’s all about
NS: Because first they’re your pets, then they’re our show dogs, then they’re our breeding stock or whatever goes after the pet, whatever your goal. The problem is too today, they don’t set goals, they’re here. Just like I tell people when you’re in the ring, everybody’s looking down and not paying attention, you need to look forward like you’re hitting a golf ball, look where you want to go, where you want to be, what goals you want in this. Do you want just a champion? Do you want a group 1A dog, or a word of merit, or a dam that’s producing, what do you want? Do you really want that best in show dog? Then you know you need to put the effort into it, the time, it’s not a one-time fix here, it is effort, it’s a lot of time and energy, blood, sweat and tears.
PDT: Lots of tears sometimes.
NS: You know I’ll never forget, Greg Louganis was my partner in Bouviers for a long time, I showed a special, and Greg had called me about a dog, didn’t realize it was him because it didn’t matter. It’s like I said to him after the end, bottom line, whether you’re the President of the United States, or whoever you are, if you don’t love my dogs the way I do, you know it doesn’t matter who you are. You know he respected that, but I mean I also talked to him not knowing about competition, how hard it is, and loving your dog is the most important thing, because you’re not always going to win. Here I’m talking to Greg Louganis like that, and he’s probably thinking this freak! She doesn’t even know who I am! But you know we had a 16yr relationship with breeding dogs and stuff, but that is the respect you give to somebody, it doesn’t matter if is the President, or someone just walked off the street that loves this little dog and will give it the best home. You just want to do what’s best for that dog and understand. Will it always be easy? No. But if you’re doing it from your heart, it’s like I tell my seminar people: for one, you’re here, that give you common sense and you’re doing it from your heart because you love your dog. That again, makes it such a wonderful thing for that dog, to expand its horizons in a sense, to give it more than just the couch. There’s so many great show dogs that are just sitting on that couch that our breeding programs need, and because maybe somebody didn’t show them or teach them in the beginning how it works at a show? Many great people have walked in, and they’re looking, and no one’s there to help! That’s what you’re doing with this, you’re helping and that’s what I try to do to get those people that have those great dogs, and make them understand, you can do this! It’s ok, but you just need somebody to direct you because it’s not easy.
PDT: I agree, and that would be my final question for you. Ok we’ve talked to our newbie people, right? So now we’re going to talk to people that are more our era, what do we need to do?
NS: You know with all of the dog knowledge, the ones that have been in it forever, the ones that have been in it before you and I. You know when I have 42 years in it and I know how many years you have in it too, I’m dating myself… I came out of the womb and I started!
PDT: I’m not telling!
NS: The bar was so high when we were in it. And the bar’s come down a lot and I believe it’s only because, for one, a lot of us are older and it’s harder. But that new generation, they aren’t taking that time of being an assistant for 9yrs, and you know you need to find the older handlers. I really believe that they will help in any way they can to give the support, to give a helping hand, to suggest how you should do something. You know anybody can buy a truck and say they’re a handler. It’s all the other stuff, the grooming, the caring, the feeding, you know all the stuff that we do naturally. You know in doing my seminars, the problem is for us, and a lot of the old-time handlers, it’s because it came natural, it’s what you do. When I took over the handling seminars from George Austin, I went to several of his because I knew what to do, but I wasn’t sure of the wording. So, I had to learn the wording to express why we do what we do.
PDT: Right and I think that’s part of what I’m hoping that these will help with. I had a very good handler friend of mine, very successful handler friend of mine, tell me: I love these Podcasts, he said, I can do it, but I can’t tell them how to do it.
NS: Expressing, absolutely
PDT: So, I think that that’s really important that, some of us that have been doing this for a while, think about how do we talk to people?
NS: Absolutely. Because there are a lot of good dog people out there that we really aren’t talking to because we would never know. Because they’re maybe afraid to really talk about it, because you know they say you either have an eye, or you don’t.
NS: And there are a lot of really good judges coming up that do, but you know it’s a whole different ballgame, and I guess us older ones have to adapt a little bit. But it really is about just reaching out and helping the ones. If we walked by someone’s set-up and see something, I mean ya you just don’t. But you know you might just pull somebody aside nicely and say listen, maybe if you did this a little differently. The problem with today’s society and all of the internet and all that, you can do it because you can see a video and you’ve learned it all, but that’s not coming from your gut. What we do, and what we’ve done, that’s our gut feeling and you have to follow that too. I think as we’re obviously older and experienced in this, you realize, you look around, you want to help these people because we don’t want to see our sport die. Bring out the suggestions that we can help in any way. Watch them in the ring, and you say maybe if you held your hand a little differently, or stood a little straighter it would help the posture and the movement of your dog. The problem is a lot of handlers today, they see a handler do something and they just do it. It’s just like I say at my seminars, if I’m on the Empire State Building and I jump off, does that mean that you need to jump? A lot of them, they don’t understand why they’re doing it, they’re fixing a problem, so maybe ask someone, why is it you do that? Let them explain to you what problem they’re fixing and then you’ll know if you ever had a dog that has that, then you know what to do. I think that’s where all of us with the experience, need to step up and explain why we do what we do. Not just do it, because then they’re doing it on dogs that maybe don’t need it, and it causes other issues.
NS: I think if all of us, even if we just pick one person, pick a person. Whether it’s not your assistant, pick a person, I’m gonna help this person and I’m going to quietly kind of coach this person a little bit, and guide them a little bit.
NS: With the seminars, I’m also doing ring side mentoring. It’s the same thing, you watch them, you kind of say ok, just small suggestions. You learn to kind of talk nicely, suggest things sweetly.
NS: Be a little more tactic then maybe what I would have been many years ago, it really makes a difference, it makes a difference that maybe you introduced them to somebody else that isn’t in their breed. So, they can have a buddy, so they can watch what they’re doing to maybe let them know. Being in a breed, it’s not always easy because of the other people competing against you, so find a friend, maybe get new friends! I dunno!
PDT: We all need friends man! Norma one more thing before you go, I forgot to ask, and I wanted to give you the opportunity here. Can you tell us a little bit more, you were talking about your seminars, I know you took over from George Austin, correct?
NS: I did, I did
PDT: So, tell us a little bit more about what you’re doing, and I saw you were doing grooming once also.
NS: Yes. Actually, the seminar, you know we’re doing them with many clubs, and they’re having people come whether you’re advanced or beginners, they also have observers there. Really, it’s a 2-day seminar, that’s start to finish, how to hold the lead right, from hopefully holding winning best in shows. But it’s been an amazing experience for me to really give back and help, and to see the changes. And they’re calling you and texting you: Oh, I won this, or I did this. But actually, it’s a more one on one, whatever issues they’re having there in the ring, whatever we’re doing, we work with it right there, and I do it in front of everybody so everybody can learn what this problem is so to fix it. You know we average about 25 people to 30 people, our club puts it on, sponsors it, and the clubs don’t have to. You know even an independent, as long as you have a training facility, can sponsor it. Then I also do the ring side mentoring at some of the bigger shows, and also the grooming seminars. The grooming seminars, we don’t have as many because it’s a little harder in a sense, to get them together in the facility.
PDT: In depth, is that?
NS: Yes, ya it really is. Whether it’s from scissoring to hand stripping, whatever it is, how to blow a dog out properly. You know any type of grooming that way, so you know just try any aspect of it that’s needed with issues that people may have.
PDT: Perfect. And how do clubs get a hold of you? We’ll have some information in show notes, is that the best way? Put your phone number there?
NS: Yep, yep. You know I’m on Facebook obviously, normasmithhandlingseminars.com.
PDT: There you go
NS: Really, cuz it’s just a lot of word of mouth. The ones that have been there kind of help promoting it. We try, we’re in some of the magazines also, but it really is the ones that are there, that are helping. The ones that can really see a difference, and then they say, oh well my friend…that kind of thing, and that’s really what I want. To help the ones that truly need it.
PDT: Absolutely, I agree with you. Alright well thank you for being my friend Norma, I sure appreciate it. You’ve been a joy to talk to, and I wish you all the success in the world
NS: Thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure, and it’s been such a gratifying experience for me to do the seminars and really helping.
PDT: Right, and I think that’s what it’s all about
NS: Super, thanks
PDT: Thanks honey, bye bye
PDT: As always, if you have any questions or input, we’d love to hear from you. The show notes and links to resources on today’s topic are available at puredogtalk.com
Drop us a note in the comments, or email to Laura at puredogtalk.com
Remember guys, this podcast is for you, so if you want to know something give me a holler, we’ll do a podcast for ya. If you wouldn’t mind, you could help me out here. Take a couple minutes and visit iTunes and give us a review. This will help share the love with others out there in the sport. This has been Pure Dog Talk with your host, Laura Reeves. We hope you can join us next time as we continue on the journey to success with your pure-bred dog.