© Copyright 2018. This article is copyrighted by the American Bouvier des Flandres Club (ABdFC) and may not be reproduced without the expressed written permission of the ABdFC.
Owners who purchase their first show ring prospect puppy from a good breeder and ultimately find their way to the dog show have long been the backbone of the sport.
These enthusiasts have competed alongside the professional since the inception of dog shows. Getting the edge in competition and the ability to use it in the ring is the most sought-after secret in dogs. How does one go about having an impact on a judge’s decision-making process in the pursuit of a ribbon?
Winning dog shows is not entirely a Saturday and Sunday occurrence. Winning is a Monday through Friday process long before one sets foot on the show grounds. The culmination of those advance hours of practice and conditioning preparation becomes the show ring result on Saturday and Sunday. Professional handlers’ weekly schedules are woven around daily coat and muscle conditioning regimens for the dogs whose care they are being paid to oversee. It’s their full-time occupation. The owner/handler has far less time to devote to this process and consequently must utilize his expendable time and resources wisely. Setting up a weekly routine and sticking to it is an important path to success. Devoting time on off-show days to coat and muscle conditioning specifically designed for your breed and your dog’s needs are key. Training classes are useful for both dog and owner in that they provide a socialized atmosphere and the opportunity to work on ring presentation to minimize mistakes in the ring. Never compete when the conditions are not up to par with the competition. If your dog is out of coat and/or condition or just not yet up to the emotional rigors of the show ring, wait until more of the winning cards are on your side of the playing table. Losers make excuses and true winners re-assess and go about gaining the necessary tools to make it happen.
Confidence in your dog and in your ability are key components. Your body language goes a long way in conveying a message to fellow competitors and the judge. Looking and acting the part are the basic tools of the professional. A successful salesman must know his product in order to produce results. An owner/handler has the distinct advantage of knowing his/her dog intrinsically well. The professional handler must assess a dog’s temperamental quirks and physical characteristics quickly and adjust accordingly. He often times does not have the advantage of time to get to know his charge as does the owner/handler.
Use every moment of ring time wisely. Picking up on a judge’s patterns in his judging can be very useful. In the progression of the class observe in advance when and where he gives the most looks. Where he puts his hands on the dog in the course of the exam may be an indicator of where the priority lies. Anticipating his preferences and tendencies in the course of breed judging is useful information.
Maintaining credibility and visibility while in the ring is vital to getting the edge. Creditability is the ability to convey confident, proficient demeanor at all times in the ring. Your actions in the ring should convey the message that you are there to win. Visibility is the strategic use of time and space…focus - be ready to show your dog’s best feature at the optimum time during the class judging. Judges lose interest and even patience very quickly when an exhibitor is never ready for “his moment” when the time is right. Two minutes of a judge’s allotted time for each entry does not allow much time for many exhibitor mistakes in presentation. Avoid giving the judge reason to give up on you and your dog.
When you bait, make it count. If you have a dog that is inconsistent in taking the bait, stay away from using it. Nothing looks more desperate in the ring than when a judge is evaluating expression and your dog is turning away from a treat he does not want. Over-use of the bait is a judge’s pet peeve. Knowing how and when to use bait is important. Shoving a piece of liver in a dog’s mouth as a judge is attempting to examine the teeth never ends well. Training the dog to stand attentively in a free-stack is the best use of the bait when a judge is wanting a view of the side silhouette.
One effective way of gaining the edge outside the ring may be in becoming an active member of a kennel club. Volunteering for club offices and assisting in putting on the club’s events gives one a perspective of all sides of the sport, is beneficial in learning how all the wheels turn, and another road to gaining creditability and visibility within the structure of the sport. Maintain a positive attitude. Don’t inadvertently discourage other newbies from the sport in making negative statements about judges, handlers and other participants. It does nothing for your image or how other people perceive you. Keep an open eye to the prize and on your own personal goals.
Questions or feedback? Contact a Committee or the Officers & Board of Directors directly.
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