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 How to train dog for dog show?

Do you think your dog has what it takes to be a show dog? If you can imagine your precious pooch winning a championship, then you can always hire a handler to show your dog for you, but the rewards and experience of handling your own dog may make it worth your while. However, before your dog can trot to success, it needs to be trained for the stage in order to steal the audience.

  • STEP 1
Enter your dog into your local ring craft class. This will help you train your dog for a show. Although this is not necessary, it is highly recommended.

  • STEP 2
Teach your dog to “stack,” or stand squarely and still. Some breeds are free stacked, with the handler standing in front of them, while the dog watches the handler and stands still and alert. Other breeds are “hand stacked” with each leg manually placed in position while the handler stands or kneels close to them. Figure out which one you need to do and be consistent in training.

  • Sometimes with wiggly dogs it’s easier to stack them on blocks, boards or bricks that are elevated a few inches off the ground so the dog learns to trust where you set his feet and feels secure with your placement, but if he moves his feet on his own he becomes unbalanced.
  • Never scold, but be firm. You want the stacking experience to be positive and consistent but not scary for your dog.
  • Front legs should be straight (or as straight as is allowed for your breed) and should be under the shoulder blades. Rear legs should be vertical from the hock down (for most breeds, most notably different is the German Shepherd Dog, who has a distinctive stack).
  • Feet should be facing forward, unless contraindicated for your breed.

  • STEP 3
Work on your dog's expression .You want him to also look alert and happy when he is stacked. Most breeds need to have their attention on the handler and the judge, and have their ears perked and their eyes on your hand or straight ahead. To do this you have two controls: the lead/collar and the bait.
  • The bait is your dog’s treats, and most puppies are started with nibbling on bait while the bait is held at the level where the head and neck are high and correct. As your dog gets used to holding his head here, try pulling the bait away quickly to get his attention and focus on the bait.
  • Also, as he gets used to focusing on the bait, you can use the collar to help keep his head still, by putting the collar up close behind their ears and holding it up firmly, but not so high as to string him up and stretch his neck up too much.

  • STEP 4
Practice Gaiting. Gaiting is moving your dog in a way to allow the judge to see their movement and structure. The correct gait is a trot (with few exceptions).
  • A trotting dog’s right front leg and left back leg move forward at the same time, then the left front with the right back. If the dog is moving the front and back leg on the same side of his body together, this is pacing. Pacing is incorrect (except for the Old English Sheepdog) and should be avoided. Trotting is the correct pace because it shows the dog’s true structure the best. So, depending on the size of your dog, you will need to adjust your pace so that dog is trotting at the correct speed. The best way to do this is practice. You’ll want to hold your whole lead in your left hand and the dog will trot on your left side.
  • Start by getting your dog’s attention and take a few steps forward before setting your pace. Trot your dog in a straight line - approximately 30–40 feet (9.1–12.2 m) - then turn around and trot him back. Once you return to the spot that you started, get your dog’s attention and try to get him to free-stack as best you can and focus on the treat that you have in your right hand. That is a “Down and Back,” one of the foundations of how your dog will be evaluated in the ring. Oftentimes, when you show, you’ll only be asked to take your dog down and back, and then around the ring to the end of the line.

  • STEP 5
Find a kennel club or practice group in your area and try to go to group classes to get you dog used to being in a show ring with other dogs. If you can’t find classes, look for local dog shows that have matches. Matches are informal, fun shows that are usually judged by club members or aspiring judges and is great practice for your dog.

  • STEP 6
Practice and have other people act as the judge and “go over” or examine your dog. They will especially need to examine your dog’s teeth and ears, as many dogs don’t like that, and also ask him to pick up feet and look at them, lift the tail (if your dog has one) and feel the testicles if applicable. These are all things the dog will need to be used to strangers doing to him if he’s to be a show dog.

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