Starting On The Right Foot

21 Apr Starting On The Right Foot

The first dog show to compare and evaluate dog breeding stock was held in England early as 1859. Since then, the USA has followed suit by establishing the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1884. As the industry grew and several different advocates of dog showing emerged, regulations were set to register dogs, record data and create guidelines.  Given the history, the word “conformation” was then associated with the official name for a dog show. The purpose, although seemingly glamorous is just to determine the overall appearance and structure of a given breed.  To a newcomer entering the industry of conformation shows and more importantly- training, the idea may seem all too overwhelming and impossible. However, with some assistance and forms of mental resilience learning the jargon and tricks of conformation shows isn’t a far-fetched feat.IMG_0673

            Given the word “conformation” alone entertains the idea that your dog must conform to the set standards and regulations set within the show. Hence, it is important to remember that mixed breeds, spayed or neutered animals will not be able to compete. Further, not only does the kind need to fit the physical standards but also require to display a certain amount of training and discipline. A rule of thumb to remember is that if you think that you cannot train your dog by yourself, most conformation shows offer classes and information on how to handle your dog with the assistance of a professional.

Your puppy will need to master several behavioral and verbal commands for the judges to examine successfully. It is recommended that to show the best sportsmanship, it is essential to work through positive reinforcement techniques rather than physical punishment to best establish the kind of relationship with your puppy. Training is one the most important aspects of raising a dog; the process of may start with basic conformation training weeks before the puppy even leaves the breeder’s home. The idea is to promote behavior that will later avoid developing bad habits as bad habits are the most difficult to correct. The important piece of the puzzle and success within these shows is to keep in mind that the goal is to create a relationship between the dog and yourself as a handler and to be consistent with training and timing.

Positive reinforcement training or best known as clicker training is a way to communicate in a non-emotional way. Much like conditioning, the sound of the clicker will tell the dog that whatever it was doing was correct and that a treat- or some form of an active symbol (like a toy) is soon to follow afterward. The puppy should be walking well on a lead, standing for examination and focusing on their handler for instruction well within four months of age.  It is best to keep short training sessions; for example, several three-minute sessions throughout the day is ideal.

It is crucial to have your puppy be able to look at you upon command and to stand for extended periods of time. Begin to incorporate these behaviors from the first time you bring your puppy home using a technique known as “baiting”; offering treats to the puppy from your hands while it is in stand-stay. This technique is imperative for dogs in showing because it teaches them to stand with their neck stretched. Standing or “stacking” is the most important position for your puppy to learn because the judges only examine dogs while they are standing. At four or five weeks, your puppy should be able to stand for gradual periods of time. If not coordinating with a professional trainer, it is also essential to introduce a second person to touch your puppy; this way, the animal is comfortable with different hands and scents.

Lastly, as early as eight weeks old your puppy should learn to wear a collar all day and night- this allows the animal to become accustomed to having something around its’ neck. With behavior training, use treats to lure the puppy to walk beside you with a lead as well as without one. Use verbal commands such as “let’s go” to indicate to your puppy that it should begin walking with you. It is important to associate the lead and collar as a happy experience; thus, never drag an animal with a lead and eventually the animal will not even notice it has a leash on. Also, never offer your puppy a treat while it is sitting as they will learn to associate the treat with that position; in the ring, your puppy needs to be standing.

Entering into the conformation dog shows can be a daunting experience, however with research and knowledge, anyone can be geared towards success. By the time your puppy is a grown dog, it should be able to master all the necessary behavior application within the regulation of the show. In addition to training your puppy, be sure also to keep up with necessary grooming routines. Before you know it, your dog will become a champion show master.

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