Welcome to Pure Dog Talk.  The podcast on purebred dogs.  I am your host Laura Reeves.  Today we are going to help you learn how to master the dog show ring.  We are going to give you a virtual tour so you are comfortable in the ring and you have all of the information you need ahead of time.  Our goal is for you to be successful by being able to concentrate on just showing your dog.  Top competitors in any sport sort of visualize their performances. WE are going to help you make that transition that wherever you are, a beginning handler, experienced handler, a competitive handler, all  the way up to master handler, we are going to help you make that transition to the next step up.  Whoever you want to get.

A master handler, this is our goal, our end result, is a master of the ring.  That is their theater, their stage.  They own that.  You and your dog can reach towards that as a goal.  A lot of this that we do when we show dogs, this is all in your head.  Once you get down the basics of where to put the foot and what to do with the leash and what to do with the collar.  The rest is in your head.  Master handlers make it look really easy.  You need to not underestimate the amount of concentration and focus that is required when you are in the ring.  We are going to give you some good solid professional tips so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

First things first, get to the dog show early.  Do not come running in at the last second you and your dog all flusterpated and trying to figure out where you are supposed to be what you are supposed to do.  This is guaranteed to be unsuccessful.  Get to the show two hours ahead of your scheduled ring time is my preference.  Get to your grooming set up.  Get your dog settled.  Go to the ring, find out where it is.  Check to make sure your dog is actually is actually entered into the catalog.  All of these things happen in that two hours ahead of your actual ring time.  I strongly recommend that you go two breeds ahead of yours.  Watch the judging and sit there for a half hour or hour and really watch the judge.  Watch the pattern.  Watch where the dogs are examined.  Watch how they are examined.  Does the judge look back down the line?  Do you have to pay attention to that?  This is part of your visualization.  This is part of figuring out how you can best show your dog on this day so that the judge can find what he is looking for.

Say your ring time is 10:00am.  And there are three breeds ahead of you.  And there is a total of 30 dogs in those three breeds.  You figure two minutes a dog.  You are not going to go in the ring until 11:00.  Well may I suggest that sometimes the dogs don’t show up.  Sometimes you have judges that go lots faster than two minutes a dog.  Once again, strong recommendation, go to your ring at the time that the set of breeds that your being judged in starts.  Pick up your arm band and ask the ring steward to see you know, how many dogs are picked up before the judging of your breeds starts.  That way you know that you are going to be there on time.  You are not going to miss your class.  This is going to make you and your dog a lot more comfortable and relaxed.  I don’t recommend having your dog sit at ring side for two hours because they are going to get bored.  I like to go watch a couple breeds pick up my arm band know how long it’s going to be until I am in the ring within a reasonable amount of time.  Now you go back to your set up.  Double check and make sure your dog is properly groomed.  Your checklist on this includes:  clean dog, a bathed dog, toe nails don’t touch ground, pearly white teeth and shiny pink ears.  These are critical pieces to having a dog that looks good in the ring.  Also, double check, make sure you outfit is comfortable.  That you remember to change into your show shoes.  Done that before.  Grab a mint.  I know this may sound weird but the smell will help cover the nerves on your breath.  Your dog can smell your fear.  A breath mint gives you the edge over your super smelling canine companion.  Now, is when your mental game comes in.

You have practiced your five second drills.  You know where to line up.  You know what the judge is going to want you to do. You know your dog can do agree stack that rocks the world.  You know your dog can move in a straight line on a loose lead and you know your presentation quietly.  Confidently, showcases your dog as the easy and obvious choice.  When the judging begins for your breed and your class is called in, you have got some things that you need to pay attention to at that time.  Look at your arm band number and know where you are in relationship to the other dogs in your class or are you the only one.  Are there ten of you?  Certain judges, if you are the only one in a class, will just have you run around.  Certain ones will want you to examine certain dogs first and then run around.  This is why you watched a few dogs before you.  You know this and are prepared for it.  Your arm band is called and you go in the ring, get lined up and the judge will ask the class to go around.  This is common.  Not every time.  But pretty normal experience.  Make sure when you move the dog around the ring you have the collar around his ears.  Make sure as it’s your moving around the ring, and as you are stacking your dog in the ring, always always, always pay attention to the spacing of yourself and the other dogs.  This is actually super important.  You need to watch the dog ahead of you.  Watch the dog behind you so that nobody is cramped and you are not crowding or infringing on another dog.  As you are going around the ring, if you wait, one, two, three beats, as the dog ahead of you goes, you can follow behind and move your dog in the fashion and at the speed that is best for your dog.

As you are waiting in line for your turn to be examined, watch what the judge is doing with these dogs.  If this is a table breed, where does the judge want the dog placed on the table?  This is an important thing to think about with your toy and terrier and any table breeds.  Where the dog is positioned on the table to make it the easiest for the judge to examine the dog.  Put the dog close to the front and close to the judge’s edge of the table so it’s an easy exam.  Different judges have different ways of setting up their table.  The standard is just in line with the mat.  Just where you would set up a dog on the floor.  Other judges want them in all kinds of wonky places.  You need to pay attention and be prepared for that.  Everything that you are prepared to do mentally, and physically, is going to be easier than something that catches you by surprise.  You will also have been able to see what the judges pattern is so are you going to do a down and back.  Are you going to do a triangle?  Are you for Pete’s sake, going to be in one of those rings where they ask you to do an L?  That is ok.  We can figure out how to do an L.  You can learn if you haven’t been taught that pattern.  You can learn from just watching the other exhibitors.  Do your down and back.   Whatever your pattern is, do your free stack for the judge and you go around, does this judge look at your free stack at the end of the line or is this judge back to examining the other dog.  You will know this because you watched and you have been paying attention to what went ahead of you.  Ring awareness just generally ring awareness.  Let’s say now everybody has been examined and all of the dogs are line up the judge is coming down the line looking at the individual animals.  If you have been paying attention to other rings or other breeds in the same ring under this judge, you are going to have an idea if you will be able to make little eye contact with the judge as he comes and looks at your dog. Does the judge want to see a silhouette?  Does the judge only want to see a head?  Expression?  These are the things that the judge will be looking for as they come down the line.  Each person and each breed, they want to see something different.  You can know this and be prepared for it.  By watching other breeds and earlier judging in your breed.

Sportsmanship.  We can’t talk too much about this.  Congratulating the winners being a graceful winner.  These are important things to consider and to remember and sometimes we forget and we get caught in our own moment, but it’s something I request that everybody make a point of saying congratulations or saying thank you if someone congratulates you.  Each person in that ring loves their dog the best.  You love your dog the best.  The gal over there loves her dog the best.  Whoever wins is excited and should be allowed the happiness of that moment.  When we exhibit poor sportsmanship you are taking that away from someone.  Let’s make a point of saying congratulations to everybody that sportsmanship piece also includes the paying attention to your spacing not throwing bait in front of somebody else’s dog.  Not running up on the person in front of you.  All of those things come in play.  Playing fair and doing things the right way.  Speaking of baiting.  Let’s move on to baiting.

Bait, whether its food, or squeaky toy, bait sometimes an imperative piece of your presentation of your dog.  Not always if you have listened to some of our earlier podcasts and talked about hands stacking your dog as a basic obedience exercise, you will know that you can get your dog set up and ready for the judge to see without using any food.  You will be comfortable with that.  Some judges don’t want you to have bait in the ring.  There will be signs, no bait.  No throwing bait.  If the only thing you know is to shove food in your dog’s mouth, that will leave you a bit confused.  Check back on our podcast about hand stacking and see if you can teach your dog to go to a show without food in its face.  A little bit of food goes a long way.  When you have bait for your dog, you want to not feed the dog right before the judge comes to do the mouth exams.  If you have a dog on the table, its best you don’t feed it on the table at all.  Personally, this is my opinion, I think too often the dogs are looking for food coming from the judge and I have seen too many instances where a dog thought that the judge had food and went to mouth at the judge’s hand for food.  The judge mistook that as being a bite and things went very bad.  So if you can avoid feeding the dog right when the judge is coming up to it or feeding it on the table at all, that is your best choice.

Squeaky toys, yes, I understand that sometimes that is the only thing that works.  Keep in mind, as your toy squeaks, you are interrupting or distracting or causing a problem for someone else’s dog.  That isn’t fair.  If you must use a squeaky toy, and I understand sometimes, that is your only option, use it judiciously.  In other words, squeak it once.  Not 20 times.  See if you can get the dog to give you the desire by just showing them the toy.  Without having to squeak it.  Something to always be keeping in mind.  It’s important that you show your dog to the best of your ability but you also need to be considerate.

Backing up a bit, before you get into the ring, we talked about going back to your grooming set up and get your dog groomed.  What does that mean?  It’s somewhat discerning how many judges have told me over the years that dogs come into their ring that are dirty.  This is pretty much of a basic.  The dog has to have a bath.  That is required.  The dogs need to be clean.  And by clean, I mean, clean all the way to the skin.  If you have a coated breed that can sometimes be challenging to learn how to do.  Make sure that you have someone who has taught you how to properly bathe and groom your dog.  Toenails.  Toenails can be a challenge in certain breeds.  If you need help trimming your dog’s toenails or grinding your dog’s toenails to keep them short enough you should seek that out.  Professional groomers, professional handlers, your breeder, there are people who will help you learn how to properly keep your dog’s toenails up.  A dogs toenails should never touch the floor.  If I can hear the dog on the floor, your dog’s toenails are not short enough.  You need to work on that some more.  Another no no is dirty teeth.  Yuck.  Judges have to look in that dog’s mouth.  It would be best if they weren’t looking at nasty brown yellow tarter.  You can scale your own dog’s teeth.  You can ask a professional groomer or a vet to scale your dog’s teeth.  Hopefully, you have been keeping up on your home maintenance and the dog has hard chew bones and things that will help keep that tarter build up down.  But trimmed toenails and clean teeth and clean ears, all of those are important pieces of a clean, properly presented show dog.

The final piece of that then is what is the correct grooming for your breed?  Understand there are more than 170 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club now.  There is lots of different grooming out there.  Everything from a poodle to a whip it.  So I am not going to try and offer to you what you need to do with your dog.  That is a separate topic.  It is important that your dog be properly groomed for its breed and for the standard and for the ring.  What the groomers can do at Petco, what I am sure is fine for a pet dog, is not the same as what the dog may need to be groomed for the show ring.  So just get with your mentor, get with your breeder, and get with the professional handler.  Talk to someone who really knows the breed and make sure the grooming on your dog is correct for the breed that you are showing.  Then, big one, your grooming.  You are also in the equation.  There is a lot of impressions being made here and your dog is hopefully the most important part of that equation.  You are in it too.

You need to be comfortable.  You need to be professional looking.  You need to be respectful of the sport.  What that means is for men, you want a sports jacket, slacks and a tie.  For women, always we have a harder time with these things.  Flat shoes.  Need to have flat shoes.  Please do not go in a dog show ring in flip flops, in high heels, or strappy sandals.  Please don’t do that.  Wear flat shoes if you think they are not cute enough, only wear them for the two minutes in the ring.  Please go in the ring in proper footwear.   There is a safety issue as much as anything else.  Shirt or slacks.  I think either is fine.  Back in the day, skirts were the only thing, but today nice professional looking slacks are completely acceptable.  Wear a skirt that would pass the nun’s test.  You know the one I am talking about where you bend over and there is nothing to see except that back of your knees.  Really important to have appropriate attire.  There is a lot of bending and moving and modesty is good.  Try to find outfits with pockets so putting your bait in your pocket is a lot easier than trying to figure out where you are going to put it.  In your arm band or in your bra.  Just look for something that has pockets.  It’s a whole lot easier to make your life simple.

Through this whole process, we have had a virtual tour of the dog show ring, we have experienced how that is going to go, we watched ourselves be properly spaced out and examined and the end result is that you have made a little eye contact with the judge.  The judge has looked at your dog and today you have won.

Mastering the dog show ring is a mental exercise.  Practice does make perfect.  And the more you practice, the more you visualize this, the more you are left free to concentrate on making the picture for the judge.  Your shoulders are back, your baring is proud, your dog is picture perfect.  That image is the winning image.  The more you are able to showcase that to the judge, see your dog in a perfect picture frame, the better chance you have of being successful on that given day.

As always, if you have any questions or input we would love to hear from you.  The show notes and links to todays’ topic are available at puredogtalk.com. Drop us a note in the comments or email me Laura@puredogtalk.com  This podcast is for you.  If you want to know something, give me a holler.  You could help me by taking a couple minutes and visit ITunes and give us a review.  This will help share the love with others in the sport.  This is your host Laura Reeves.  We hope you can join us next time as we continue on the journey to success.

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