Welcome to Pure Dog Talk. The podcast on purebred dogs. I am your host Laura Reeves. Today we are talking about growing up a show dog. This addresses the time from the first day you get your new puppy to its very first dog show. Here is the thing. Couch dogs are awesome. I love to snuggle with my pet, my show dog, any kind of a dog. There is no reason that a great show dog cannot also sleep on the sofa. The reverse isn’t true. Ok, you guys. Show dogs are born but they are also made. Your job is to be in charge of developing the dog’s experiences in life. To help bring out the best in them. For the purposes of this exercise, we are going to assume that you have researched the best breed for your family. That you have talked to responsible breeders, you have waited and waited and now you have this perfect puppy. You are so excited. All of the things that make you think you are ready for a show dog. In another podcast we can talk about selection. But this time let’s say you got one.
Couch dogs are awesome and we love to snuggle with our buddies. That is fine. A great show dog can sleep on the couch. The reverse isn’t true. Show dogs are born that way but they are also made that way. And that is your job. Today we are going to talk about properly shaping the show dog laying on your couch.
Every single one of the good show dogs start with the basics. Breed type, correct structure, and a reliable temperament. You start with those. Your dog has all of the basics we need and now we can talk about how to make it a gem. We are going to polish you up. We will make this a great show dog. You will start with teaching boundaries. All dogs need them. Show dogs need them more than most because they are in complicated situations more often. A dog that sleeps on the couch and leaves the yard to go walk down the street is a very different dog than one that has to be in a crowded room with lots of noises and people. What you have to develop in a show dog is a whole lot more complicated than the dog that sleeps on the couch.
Crate training your show dog is a must. I understand that there are people out there that think crate training is something evil but safety for your pet at the show, in the car on the way to the show, in the hotel rooms, all so you can have the dog feel relaxed. Crate training starts when they are young. Teach them that it’s their happy place. They can have dinner in the crate. Crates are a good thing and not to be used as a punishment.
Another important thing is that the dogs have be exposed to a lot of different things. Think about your couch dog verses the dog that works in an expo center with 3000 dogs with echoing walls and loud speakers and crate dollies rolling by and barking dogs. That is a very different experience from the dog’s level. Whatever we can do to make the dog comfortable with different environments is a good thing. I know a lot of people don’t want to start this exposure to the world until they reach 4 months old and they have their shots. I understand that but at the same time that 8 to 16 week period is the most important time to expose your dog to as many different things as you can find. Even if you carry him into your coat and let them listen to noises in the store. Bring them to Petco. Put them in a cart and then let him meet little kids. That two month period where people are usually hiding their dog away from germs they are also hiding them away from important experiences. Young dogs learn a lot during that 8 to 16 week period. By not taking your dog anywhere until its 4 months old, you have lost. You will never get back those socialization opportunities. So really, really critical to think about early socialization and positive socialization. This is another thing. We only want the dogs to have positive experiences. We want them to be happy. We want them to enjoy it. We want them to not get stepped on or bitten. That doesn’t mean that you should goo goo and cuddle them. This is important. Dogs take their cue from us. So, if you take your beautiful puppy to Petco and he sees a big mean dog and the big mean dog postures at him and you go ah…ah….poor puppy…..your puppy will think, what the heck is going on here. If my mom is worried than I will be worried. So, really think about yourself as the leader. Think about how you interact with the dog because that has tremendous barring on how the dog interacts with the world. You are a point of strength. You are a point of safety. You are the one who is never worried about anything. It is very easy to be properly concerned for the dog’s safety but when our concern gets translated into doggie language, it comes out as you are worried or scared. If you are worried and scared, the dog thinks there is something to be worried and scared about. Our leadership here is really important in the socialization and making for a positive experience. Very matter of fact introduction to strange things. If the dog is worried about it, wait for him. Let him go through the process of examining whatever it is. It’s a fire hydrant, or it’s a monster. If you have a no it’s not a monster attitude, the dog will mimic you and follow the leader on that. When you do your exposure to stimuli, do it often. Something that has to happen on a regular basis. Every single day is best. Once a week is bare minimum.
Good show dogs in addition to being properly exposed to all the right stimuli and being given boundaries, including crate training, good show dogs also have to be physically fit. That means as young dogs, you are going to do a lot of free run playing. You never are going to put a baby puppy and bike it. Or do heavy road work. Or put it on a tread mill. They are still growing and developing. They need to free run and play and play fetch and do things that build strong young muscles and bone and help the dog learn about how to use all of its various parts and pieces. It doesn’t learn that lying on the couch. It really doesn’t learn it when you walk down the street. Young dogs build the best muscle and bone and activity level with simply running around and play in the yard. You go out and throw the ball, wrestle with them, whatever it takes. That is what they need to do to start as a young dog.
After the dog is about 12 to 18 months, I prefer 18 months, they can start having a little more formal training. You can try teaching them how to trot beside the bike. It’s a good way to teach the dog to move in a balanced manner. In other words, his trot should develop the ability to reach and drive front and rear. Unless you are a good jogger, I am not, it’s very difficult to teach your dog to go at the right speed. And to do it in a balanced way. I like to teach dogs to use themselves properly is called cavaletti pulls. This is a way to train animals to move in a balanced way. We are going to do a whole session on them at some point. It’s teaching the dog proper foot placement. This doesn’t come naturally. A lot of dogs need that developed. This is an interactive piece with you. The other thing that good show dogs need is to be correctly groomed for their breed. If you don’t start at 8 weeks old, they will fight you later about it. Your job as an owner of a show dog, you need to start putting the dog on the table early. The other thing this does is it helps you start training the dog to be examined on the table. It helps you start training the dog to do a proper stand stay. The puppy or the young dog is a bit nervous or unsettled. It’s much easier to teach them to stand up if you start with them on the grooming table. They get the benefit of learning how to have their hair brushed or pulled.
Show dogs need to accept having strangers touch them. Having a dog that is good for the exam is pretty important. So by the time you start taking the dog to handling class, which we hope you have one available, they should understand that strange people mean goodies. Good things happen to them with strange people. If you are out on your early socialization and you are carrying your dog at Petco, keep a pocket full of cookies and every time someone says how cute your dog is, give that person a treat to give to your dog. Your dog will learn that anybody the dog sees means that person can possibly be a food vendor. Your dog will look at strangers as a positive thing. By the time you take the dog to handling class at 4, 5, 6 months, they think that people are good and people are going to pet them and it’s a good thing and they will go toward the exam rather than leaning away. This is a good thing if you are building a show dog.
The next part of developing a show dog, as a young dog, is walking on a leash. Moving properly and the dog using itself properly. Walking on a leash properly and not sniffing the ground, chasing squirrels, starts very young. My young dogs, I start on a kennel lead. No chain. I follow them around. Then at a certain point, I say, puppy puppy puppy and they say yeah, and they come up to me. This is how you start the concept of walking a dog on a leash without them dragging you. This is a whole skill. But it starts when you are growing up your show dog. It starts by teaching them to walk on a leash nicely. That is something you have to do again, from a early age. If you miss out on these important markers, you are not going to get them back later. It will make your life more difficult. You have to start at a young age.
One of the things people don’t think about when they say, oh I don’t want my pet dog to go be a show dog it is a terrible life. It’s so hard for them. Well, no. It really isn’t. The great thing about your show dog that starts out as a show dog, instead of starting as a couch potato is that your show dog makes a great pet dog. That is a dog that you can go forward with and do other things. You can be a therapy dog, or visit hospitals, or go to schools with Reading with Rover. There are a lot of things that a trained and socialized show dog can do that no couch potato dog can do. When we start with raising a show dog, we have a much better pet when we are done.
If you have any questions or input we would love to hear from you. Show notes and links on today’s topic are available at www.puredogtalk.com Drop us a note or email at puredogtalk.com. Remember this podcast is for you. If you want to know something, give me a holler. We will do a podcast for you. Take a couple minutes and visit Itunes and give us a review. This will help us share the love with others in the sport. This is your host Laura Reeves. Join us next time as we continue on the journey of success with your pure bred dog.