Welcome to Pure Dog Talk. The podcast on pure bred dogs and I am your host, Laura Reeves. Today we are going to work through some of the most common problems in the show ring. Anybody and I mean anybody, from beginner to master can run into these issues. We are always trying to find a solution or a way to handle some of these things that happen all of the time to anybody. One of the toughest things that people run into, particularly more beginners, is how to show the bite and have the dog not pull away or be concerned about the judge up in their mouth. I have watched the most amazing wrestling matches these poor dogs and the person is trying to drop the leash and the dog is running away and it’s just a mess. The very first problem with that is it makes dog shows not fun. It’s not fun for your dog and not fun for you and not fun for the judge or anybody. Secondly, this is going to make it a little more difficult for you to win because this is not leaving that good first impression. This is a pretty easy solve. You can practice this at home. Or at the dog show. The first place that you are going to start is preventing the problem in the first place. Dogs need to be trained from when they are babies. Start with your puppy. Every single day you are in your puppy’s mouth. You are opening that mouth up checking out the bite. Very gently just lifting their little tiny puppy lips. You start that way and do it every day. So the concept of someone touching their mouth isn’t bizarre. If you want to take an opportunity and listen to the podcast growing up your show dog. There are tips on socializing your young dog to get it ready for the ring.
In the meantime, you need to be teaching your puppy that you or any random stranger can open their mouth and it’s ok. The other thing you need to remember, if you have a breed that has to have their mouth opened all the way. Like German Shepard, where they have to look at their tongue. Start practicing that. As early as you can get your hands on that puppy. You start the first day. Open their lips up, teeth, good boy, here is a cookie. Prevention is 95% of the cure in this. Take him to handling class and different places. If you have someone that you are with, that knows how to do this, they can properly open the dog’s mouth and look at the bite, and say yeah, good boy. He gets praise and a treat. All of these things you are just going to keep building on this. Like you do anything else. A little bit at a time. Open the mouth, look at the teeth, good boy! The more you do this, you will not run into a problem when you get to that first dog show and your dog goes sideways. If we haven’t managed to get to the prevention and we are with the problem part, make a point of getting to the dog show early. Ask every single human that you can talk to quickly check your dog’s bite. When your dog’s bite is being examined, you can be super helpful to the dog by how you are holding the dog’s collar and leash and your mental and physical body language. If you are nervous about this, the dog is going to be nervous as well. That is number one. Number two, make sure that if you have a dog that you know has an issue with someone coming up to their mouth, you can offer to show the bite first. Many times in current dog show times, AKC is strongly encouraging the exhibitor to show the bite rather than have the judge look. That doesn’t happen every time. Ask if you can show the dog’s bite. Then you are prepared and the dog is prepared. You need to know how to properly show the bite so the judge can see the teeth. Make sure you tip the dogs head up a bit and gently with your right hand, raise the lips up so they can see the top incisors. If need be, you can use your left hand or preferably you can use another finger on your right hand to lower the lower lips. So what they need to see is that that is the scissors bite, or an undershot bite or whatever is proper for your breed. So know how to show your breeds bite and if you need to use both hands my favorite technique is take that collar and put it right behind their ears ad you run the thumbs of both hands down. When you come up underneath the dogs jaw, you have a collar with a bit of pressure at the back of the dog’s neck, you have your thumbs in the collar and you can use the other fingers of both hands to lift the lips to show the bite. While still maintaining control of your dog. Here is a big problem I see when people are wrestling around with their dog. They drop the leash, the collar is on their shoulders, and the dog is like, what are you doing. Maintain control of your dog. Go back to the part called hand stacking. Head controls the body. You should be able to control that dogs head and have it stand still if you have been practicing your hand stacking. This is going to come naturally. So you are at the dog show and you have everybody check your dog’s bite, you’re maintaining control of the dog. Each time you have a new person come and check on it, stack your dog up. One two three four five. Ask that the person comes from the front. That is almost always going to be more comfortable for the dog. If the dog fights with you or pulls away from this exam, just stop. Start over. Try to really avoid a harsh correction. Because we want the dog to be more comfortable not less comfortable.
Once they have done it right, you praise, what a good boy, and you do it over again. My preference is to try and get three solid or reasonably solid performances in a row where the dog holds still and allows you to show the bite before you have to go into the ring. This is why I say, make sure you are there early. Spend your time properly and please remember, what goes in your head, goes on in your gut, goes right down the leash and if you are nervous, the dog will be as well. Practice your calm. Find your Zen. It’s very important.
Next one on this goes together the idea that the dog is backing away from the entire exam. It might be the mouth. It might be another part of what the dog doesn’t want to have happen to them. It might be you a little bit. It might be the dog a little bit and it might how the judge is coming up to the dog. When a dog wants to back away from any part of the exam. We have to narrow that down and take a look at it in all of its components to see where and what needs to be fixed.
Number one, a confident handler makes a confident dog. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. I have had people tell me no, I am cool as a cucumber, I am not nervous in the ring and I watch them tighten their hand on the collar when the judge comes to examine the dog. The dog is reacting to your body language. You need to keep that in mind. What are you doing? What are your cues to your dog that you don’t even realize? Have someone watch you and see are you choking the dog out all of a sudden because you are afraid it won’t stand up. Guess what, it’s not going to stand up. This I can’t stress enough times. The dog takes his cue from you. They will follow the leader. If you are confident and comfortable and you are secure, and you transmit that to the dog, in your body language, your hands, your mindset, the dog is going to be much more reliable to stand up and accept the examination from the judge.
Now there are occasional judges who dogs find intimidating for many reasons. Some of these judges don’t have good hands on the dogs. Some of them are just physically imposing. Some of them want to make direct staring eye contact. These things happen and you need to be able to proof your dog to except the examination from anybody. Whether they are heaving handed or have beautiful hands on the dog. That is where your training and your confidence come in. We have a couple different things to mitigate when the dog is backing away. This is something that I have personally done a lot of. I tend to get problem dogs. So we make sure that we practice. A lot. Happy practice. You are happy and your voice is happy. Yeah!!!!!!!!!! And the dog is having fun and having a positive experience. That is something that we can be in charge of. Then we don’t have to let the circumstances of what else is going on around us, impact our dog’s performance. We also talked in a previous podcast about the watch command. That is something that is really, really useful in this particular incident and you can absolutely teach that away from home and at home and at the dog show wherever. Watch me teach the dog, watch me as a command with a food reward and that will help them overcome their nerves about someone coming to examine them. Here is the thing I think a lot of people forget or don’t think about, but when you are training any dog, especially an insecure dog that you are trying to have shown, there are three things that are the most critical aspects of dealing with that. You have to be firm. You have to fair. You have to be consistent. What I mean by that, firm, if you need to give a dog correction, and I am not talking about the being examined, but in any training situation, if you need to correct the dog you need to time it properly. You need to give one quick firm, correction and you need to not have 12 thousand nagging whining no no bad dogs. Firm. Boom. No. Move on. You also need to make sure that you are only giving a correction to a dog that knows it made a mistake. If the dog doesn’t understand what you are asking it to do and you are correcting it, they are confused. For an insecure dog, that is a terrible thing. It is also unfair. So that goes into the fair part. Firm, and fair. Only make a correction that the dog understands it’s done something wrong. If you can’t be certain that you have trained the dog to understand what stay means for example, it is unfair to give him a correction for not staying. If that makes sense. Consistent means that your corrections are made every time. Particularly for an insecure dog but this is true for all dogs. Yeah, good boy. Jump up on me. Kiss me. Mommy loves you and the next morning when you come out in your work clothes. You say, no wait, bad dog, get off of me you filthy beast. That doesn’t work for the dog. They don’t understand that. Consistency is probably the single most undervalued training method that I can talk to you about. If this behavior is ok, it’s ok every time. If this behavior is not ok, it is not ok every time. Consistency is the best solution to training problems with an insecure dog. As a little bit of a side note, I might put this out there. In our sport, sometimes we need to think about the dogs that we are exhibiting. I get paid to fix problem behaviors. That is great and its job security. I can usually solve some of those issues. But when you have a dog that is shy or nervous or terrified or aggressive or any combination of that, and it doesn’t respond well to a change in handling or a change in environment, we need to just keep in mind, that these dogs are being evaluated for inclusion in a breeding program. IF they can’t adjust to the minimally invasive hands on contact, by a competent and friendly stranger, it’s time to re think whether they need to be shown at all.
We live in a lawsuit happy world. We need to really consider temperament and the genetic component of it as we move forward in our breeding programs. If a dog has to be held together with glue or cotton balls, it is not a good representative of its breed and its doing the breed and any body’s breeding program a disservice.
Next on the list of really common problems that we run into is pacing. This is what happens when you are moving a dog and the dog instead of trotting nicely next to you is sort of lurching. You are looking at it like what is wrong with you? Basically pacing is a mode of travel if you will, that is easy for some dogs. It might be the dog isn’t built just right or it might be that the dog is just kind of lazy. When a dog paces, the legs on each side of the dog move forward at the same time. So, rather than right front left rear, coming together, and then left front right rear, the dog will carry both the right front and the right rear and then the left front and the left rear together. So when they are doing that, their body is shifting and their back is going crazy. This isn’t something that you want the judge to see. Its incorrect movement. You will feel that incorrect movement. It’s very awkward and it’s very obvious to anybody that is an experienced observer. Training a dog not to pace and correcting it in the ring are very valuable skills for anybody again, from the very beginner to a very master. Being able to fix this is a big deal. When you are training your show puppy, the dog should be moved with someone watching. If you can’t automatically feel that pace, you need to make sure someone is watching to tell you if the dog is pacing. If the dog is pacing, its your job to give a little bit of a lift to adjust his balance. You can do this with the leash and collar just lift a little bit before you go if the dog has a beard, you can grab his beard and scuffle him a little bit. When you are training and when you are in the ring, you have a dog that you know paces, I do a courtesy turn. You see people and you go in front of the judge, you are getting ready to move on your down and back, you behind the judge and by the time you are moving forward in the down part if you will of your down and back progress, the dog should be then moving in proper and smooth manner. While I normally like to train the dogs to go in a one two three go, and in a gradual increase, with a pacing dog what you are trying for is a one two lift and go. So with that big courtesy turn, your ideal thing that happens is that lift happens behind the judge’s peripheral vision.
Every dog that I work with, the pace is different. Some will pop right out of it. Some can be trained out of it. I have had some that could go from a trot to a pace while moving. It can be very frustrating and I understand that. Basically, if you keep the dog moving, in other words, on your down and back, for example you have gotten him into a proper trot and you have turned to come back, most of the time, I will stop at the end of that and I will settle the dog and readjust. With a dog that is pacing, I am just turning and going. As soon as you let that dog stop, you are going to have to restart him to keep him from pacing. Everything that we are doing to keep the dog in a proper movement, we need to know the dog. And we need to practice. So that the dog knows what it should be doing. And keep in mind there is not any perfect dogs in any way. You need to know what is good about your dog and what is bad about your dog. Every dog has faults. None of them are perfect and your job is to learn how to present your dog in the best light.