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Preparing to win

Discussion in 'Dog Shows & Events' started by Dr. Lector, Feb 5, 2012.

  1. Dr. Lector

    Dr. Lector Big Dog


    It has been my pleasure to judge the American Pit Bull Terrier for the American Dog Breeders Association for the past twenty years. In that length of time I have learned a few things about the 'art' of exhibiting the American Pit Bull Terrier, from having excellent breeders and han­dlers show to me in the show ring. I refer to this as an 'art' because showing dogs is truly a combination of a beauty and an ath­letic contest. The great breeders and han­dlers that have done well in the show ring year after year have worked hard and 'pre­pare to win'. What I hope to do in this arti­cle is offer exhibitors some practical advice on how to bring a dog to the ring prepared and ready to take home the trophy. I know some of these ideas might be 'old hat' to experienced exhibitors, but hopefully of some value to others.

    First and foremost is the selection of the dog that is to be exhibited. The dog must exhibit ADBA American Pit Bull Terrier breed type. To decide this, cruise through some of the recent APBT Gazettes' Champions Corner that shows photos of recent dogs taking Champion titles. Read through the Conformation Standard, attend a conformation judges seminar, or attend a few shows and talk to judges or breeders of the dogs taking home the trophies. Know what the standard says about the way the dogs should look, then take a critical look at your dog. You can work with him to stand and look the way that the standard calls for. There are NO perfect dogs, all dogs having faults. Knowing what your dog's faults are, is the first step in knowing how to present the dog in the ring to have him WIN. I know that this is one of the hardest things to determine and sometimes an impossible task for the owner of a dog. It is like a mother trying to be objective about the beauty of her child. You can seek the opinion of another valued friend in the business or an ADBA judge at a fun match or point show. Be prepared to accept their opinion and advice and understand that there is no such thing as a 'perfect' dog. In asking a judge about their opinion, avoid asking, "What is wrong with my dog?" A better thing to ask is, "Can you tell me about your evaluation of my dog?" Ask for this evaluation after the judging when the judge has a few minutes to spare.

    Once you have decided that the individ­ual dog that you have selected is worthy to be shown, then comes the preparation that is required if you want to win in the show ring. First, the dog needs to be socialized to a show environment. The sights, sounds and smells of a show ring can have the most confident dogs thinking twice abou: the experience. I have seen some dogs 'tuck the tail', and I have seen other dogs show an aggressive side that is very uncharacter­istic of the dog. Don't try to explain this bad behavior to the judge by saying, "This is the first time my dog has been out of his own back yard." This only identifies your lack of preparation for the show ring.

    Enter your puppy in fun matches as soon as he is old enough and his immuniza­tions are complete. He needs to see other dogs on lead around him. He needs to be socialized to strangers looking and talking to him, without him feeling threatened or having to be protective of his handler. He needs to understand that the 'show scene' is fun and exciting. Dogs with this expecta­tion are alert, active and really show them­selves off in the ring. A judge wants to see a dog that is confident and happy to be in his ring. This attitude is an important com­ponent of correct breed type.

    Remember that dog shows are a combi­nation of beauty and athletic competition. Each requires the participant to be in con­dition. An important rule to remember is conditioning is an inside to outside job. Hard flesh and a healthy, shiny coat need exercise and a top quality diet. Many breeders and handlers will eagerly share with you their secrets on the food or foods that they feed their dogs for that winning 'glow'. Moderate exercise in the form of road work, mill work, swimming, climbing or ' running with the kids' will do as long as it is done for long enough with good food, plenty of water and rest. Conditioning should be building your dog up, not tearing him down. If you find your dog having less energy, less vitality, less interest in the work as you go along, back off the work, giving him more rest and good food. A dog in good 'show shape' should show a hint of ribs and backbone, but with very little hipbone showing. Many judges can tell a skinny dog that got that way from dieting alone from the lean con­ditioned animal that describes an athletic American Pit Bull Terrier. The muscles should be hard and the gums red and the coat glossy. The dog should be brought into the ring clean and toenails short. If one of your dog's faults should be a heavy coat with 'fringe' at the end of the tail, it is no crime to trim this up with thinning shears. A pumice stone used to go over the dogs coat about four weeks before the show, takes out the dead hair and encourages a healthy new coat to appear. Avoid trying to add luster to a dull coat with cosmetic means. A dry shammy cloth will 'shine' a healthy dog's coat after the bath. I like to bathe the dog two days before the show, then rub down the dog a couple of times to allow some of the natural oils to return to the coat.

    During your 'play time' with your dog, a few minutes each day needs to be spent getting your dog to walk with his head up and forward, and feeling comfortable mov­ing at a trot. This is the gait that the judge would like to see when the dogs are brought into the ring. This is the hardest, sometimes almost impossible task handlers seem to have with showing our breed. Most of our dogs like to hop with their noses on the ground, or pull the handler around the ring like there is no tomorrow, At Home training can help with this skill. Have the dog focus on you holding a toy or favorite object in your hand and walk with the dog's attention on this object can help with the head up. Avoid too much pressure on the collar, holding the head in an upright position. This has been described as "stringing your dog up," and is a big NO NO in training and also in the show ring. Number one, the dog will hate it and will fight back by flinging his head around, or sulking and giving you nothing that you want. Number two, if he does permit this type of punishment, you will distort his shoulder conformation to make him look steep in the shoulders and his front move­ment will be stilted and choppy. The handler has nothing to gain by this action. As a judge, I would much rather see a dog with his nose on the ground and showing good reach in the front, than one being 'strung up' by the handler and showing me a chop­py stilted movement. Another 'play time' activity can be getting your dog to stand in a natural stacked position with four feet on the ground and his attention on you. By using a reward system and rewarding the dog with a treat when he does this you can get this 'natural stack'. It is not an accept­ed behavior to see a handler hand stack his dog in most ADBSI show rings. Many judges understand that a truly well con­formed dog does it 'all by himself natural­ly. When a handler hand stacks his dog, this is usually an attempt to cover up con­formation faults in the dog. Avoid bringing bait, treats or toys into the show ring with you. You can have it in your pocket, but keep it out of sight from the judge. We value a natural dog, and truly great confor­mation dogs show themselves off better than dogs that are over handled in the ring. This doesn't mean that you ignore your dog and let them fall asleep at your side. Keep the dog relatively calm, but up and interest­ed in you and what is going on about him, especially when the judge is looking at the dog. Don't be fooled, as the judge can stop and look back at your dog one more time after he has gone over your dog and has moved on in the ring. Keep an eye on the judge and what is going on in the ring. Listen to what is asked of you, and respond to the judge's directions immediately.

    Before your class is called, spend a few minutes at ringside to watch the judge in the ring judging a class or two before your class. He will use the same ring pattern with your class. By watching the class before yours, you will be prepared and know where the dogs will enter and where they will exit. You will know how or if the judge expects to move the dogs once in the ring. You will know what to expect when the judge is awarding the ribbons. Nothing is more disappointing to a judge than awarding a ribbon or trophy to a handler that is not ready or willing to accept it. I want a handler that is confident in his dog and in his presentation as a handler and is ready to accept the ribbon from me as the judge. If the judge has a handler's meeting before the show begins, be there. Know the judging order of the classes. It is the same in every ADBA sanctioned point show. Males are always shown before females. The Champions of Champions class is held after Best Puppy and before the adult class­es. Rely upon yourself to get to the ring on time, not on the ring announcer. Some ken­nel clubs don't even have a ring announcer and if you miss your class, guess what, it is your fault with no refunds given. Be on time for your class. Have a good buckle collar adjusted properly (a one inch collar shows off your dogs neck better than a two-inch collar) a four-foot lead, and your arm band on your left shoulder. Wait in the holding area, keeping your dog quiet and calm, so he will have the interest and ener­gy to show himself off to the judge once in the ring. If you notice that your dog takes a dislike to another particular dog in the holding area, try to separate him from the other dog in the ring so your dog can be seen by the judge in his best light.

    A lot has been written about the proper show attire to handle your dog in. A rule of thumb is to be dressed in clothing that is clean and functional showing respect to yourself as the wearer and respect to the judge you are showing under. Men, wear a clean collared shirt, sport or golf type with clean jeans or slacks. No ties or sport coats are needed. Wear functional shoes. No san­dals, flip flops or bare feet. The color of your clothes should be a contrasting color from your dog's color. There is nothing harder for a judge than trying to see a black dog's top line against the black slacks of his handler. I would try not to wear white no matter what color my dog is, as white gets dirty very easily. If I had a black dog, I would handle in tan or khaki pants. Avoid tank tops, or tee shirts depicting our breed in a not so positive light. A tasteful APBT tee shirt that is clean and represents our breed in a positive light is most acceptable. Ladies, avoid wearing skirts or wide legged pants that can slap you dog in the face. Avoid belly shirts or low-necked shirts. Stand in front of a mirror while you are setting up your dog and take a look at what kind of a picture you are presenting to the judge. Some judges might like to see your cleavage as part of the 'picture', but many judges see this as an attempt to influ­ence them in a not so positive way. Make sure your outfit is functional and safe. If an incident were to happen, could you respond appropriately and not be injured? High heels might show off your calves well, but might not function well in the grassy surface of the show ring. Long hair should be pulled back, so as not to interfere with the judges line of sight when showing the dogs bite to the judge. Some hats worn by some handlers also can interfere with the judge's line of sight in the same way.

    Remember in your career showing dogs, 'attitude is everything'. Prepare to win, keep yourself and your dogs in per­spective, be humble, and do the best that you can. Let each show be a learning expe­rience. Today might not be your day, but in time, if your dog has quality and you have prepared to win, judges will recognize and reward your dog in the ring. Good Luck and 'keep scratchin'.



  2. hardluck

    hardluck Banned

    that was a good read there nice stuff there i must say. i have heard of people using them horse shine sprays or things on there dogs before shows. i would much rather just give the dog a good bathe 1day before and try to remove as much of the loose hair off the dog to give it a good glow on the coat. if you have anything on weight pulls it would be nice to read as well. thanks
  3. hardluck

    hardluck Banned

    i will also trim the tail to give it a nice tapper if it is bushy at the ends. never done anything with the whiskers, but i would think it would be a lil silly to trim those off.

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