I am your host, Laura Reeves. Today we are going to talk about moving with your dog and what it looks like to put the whole presentation practice together. First of all, movement. Your movement and the dog’s movement have important impacts on your success in the ring. A dog that moves smoothly and easily and floats around the ring gives the judge the best chance to properly evaluate the dog’s movement. On the other hand, you have a dog that is gagging and dragging and galloping and lunging and pacing. That makes it pretty tough for the judge to know if the dog can move properly. Running gracefully is a challenge for many of us. Yeah, me too. Our gate does dramatically affect our dog’s gate. But there are things that you can do to improve yours and help theirs.
When I am working with handling students, we practice a variety of aspects of moving a dog. We are going to do five things today. To talk about how to move properly with the dog. First of all, we are going to get rid of some bad habits. How your movement helps the dog move more smoothly. Parts of your body, the lower center of gravity, the upper body. Your body posture when you are moving. Your right hand that isn’t attached a leash and what you are going to do with that. First, we are going to get rid of your bad habits. I know you don’t have them consciously, but people who are showing dogs are too self-conscious about what you are doing. I want you to run just like you are going for a jog in the park. Not on your tip toes, not weaving like a drunken sailor down the line for the down and back. This part of how you move affects your dog’s movement because if you talk short strides, the dog take short strides. If you are up on your tip toes and not driving when you move, your dog is also not driving. And if you don’t go in a straight line, the judge can’t see the dog going in a straight line. These are things that you need to pay attention to.
I find one particular tip that is very useful even for me. When I go to move a dog on a down and back for example, I pick a point to look at. At the end of the down and back, usually a corner post or what have you. I don’t look at my dog. I stop. I aim at a particular point. I take one, two, three walking steps and I gradually move up to speed. When you put your foot on the gas in your car, you don’t slam your foot down. You go slowly and speed up. That is how you do a car. No reason to move your dog any differently. Step two, in our process of what we can do, to help our dog move best. Lower your center of gravity. When you are walking or running, or whatever it is that you need to do to have the proper speed for your dog, all of the drive of your movement should come from your hips. So your steps are long, smooth, correct speed for your breed, and not choppy. Sometimes you need someone to work with. You might need a mentor who will help you understand the size of a stride that you need to take to be appropriate for your dog. The important thing here is don’t think of your movement as choppy. If you visualize this in your head, you should visualize yourself floating and your dog floating along with you.
Number three in the things you can do to keep your dog moving well, you have to keep your upper body still. And your leash hand still. So, as you are running, as an example, your drive for your trot is coming from your hips. Meanwhile your whole upper body and your hand are still. You can practice this. Put a lead in your hand. Without a dog attached to it. Just the leash. And run around. If that leash is wiggling and bobbling and jumping up and down and swinging in circles, you are doing it wrong. Stop, slow down, and control your upper body. Control that left hand and run smoothly in a circle. Counter clock wise.
So, the important forth piece of this is to stand up. It’s about body posture. The dogs again, take from us. It’s also about presentation of your picture. You and the dog working together, that whole picture has to be if you will, smooth. It has to be elegant. If you are hunched over, here puppy, puppy, leaning down shoulders collapsed, looking at the dog, you are detracting them from the overall picture of what the dog looks like. If you look like you are about to fall down, you are defeating the purpose of that flowing movement that we are looking for. Go back to what I talked about a minute ago about the one two three. Think about it as an opportunity for you and your dog to collect yourselves. You want to have the dog in a very sane and forward thinking place when you take off on the end of the three. So that one two three go…..and increase your speed, is a big part of this stand up body posture, lower your center of gravity, keep your upper body still,
And then the fifth and final piece to this is what do you do with that right arm? It’s flopping around like a broken wing. Let’s avoid that. It’s all about this picture. This is where the people who have a hard time patting their head and rubbing their tummy at the same time, might struggle with this. You keep that left hand still, left hand is holding the leash, the right arm, you should keep your hand closed slightly so then it’s a natural swinging motion. Like you are jogging down the path or taking a walk. The left hand with the leash, the dog, the upper body, those are still. The right arm, swinging loosely at your side.
Here is one that really is super important: the judge wants to see your dog’s rear movement. Not yours. Line up the dog in front of the judge. IF that means you have to run off of the matt for example, if you are in a matted space that is ok. Nobody wants to see your behind. They want to see the dog going away. Included in this conversation, as we are talking about what you can do to make your dog look better while its moving, is to understand that each individual dog within a breed and each breed within itself, has a best speed. In other words, some dogs need to go a little bit quicker, some need to go slower, whatever it is that makes your dog look best, is the speed that you need to practice and aim for. And the best way to do this is to work with a breeder or a mentor or a friend or whatever it is. And have them watch you move your dog. Then watch them move your dog. See what your dog is actually doing with its legs while it moves. If its flinging its front or pitching its hawks you need to know if and how that can be corrected by the speed at which you move.. Once you have done that, you really do need to practice it. You will get your foot timing and you will get that sense of when the dog is on the correct speed.
Now we are going to move onto the dog part of it. We have talked about you and what you can do with it. Now we are going to talk about what the dog needs to do. First of all, the dog needs to be trained to move on a leash before you even get to the ring for the first time. We talked about this a little bit in another podcast, but we are going to start again. We need to work with our puppies. Start with your puppy as a baby. Put it on a kennel lead from the time they are 8 weeks old. Don’t wait to leash break your dog until you get to the ring. Judges find that really upsetting. And it is not going to give you the best presentation of your dog. So, practice. Teach the dog how to walk on a leash. I have to share one of my very favorite training tips. It came many years ago from a famous old time professional handler and judge by Ann Rodgers Clark. Annie Clark was a breeder of poodles amongst many other things. She wrote a column in the AKC Gazette that I loved and always read. And she wrote one time that she taught all of her dogs to move unleashed carrying a toy. And that that natural, sort of proud, head carriage that dogs have when they are holding a prize in their mouth, is something that instills that beautiful neck and head set that we want to see for a lot of our breeds in the ring. I use the still on the puppies when they are little as they are getting ready to learn how to walk on a kennel lead.
So there you go. We have gotten through how you could move and how your dog can move best on a leash to showcase their proper gate in the show ring. Before that, we talked about hand staking. Now we have got those three components that have all been explained.