Daynakin Great Danes LLC
Championship Quality AKC Fawn & Brindle Great Danes
For Show, Performance and Companionship
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CONFORMATION SHOWING
By Georgia Hymmen/Daynakin Great Danes
Why show my dog?
There are many possible reasons;
What is the purpose of dog shows?
How does my dog get his Championship?
How expensive are dog shows?
How frequently are dog shows held?
How many shows will my dog need to go to?
How do I find out about dog shows?
What would my responsibility be?
What do I have to do to get my dog ready for the show ring?
How much participation is required on my part?
How long do I have to show my dog?
Do I personally have to handle my dog in the show ring?
This article may be shared or reproduced as long as nothing is added or omitted and provided credit is given to the author. Thank you to Alison White for her assistance in editing.
SHOW PUPPY PROTOCAL
By Georgia Hymmen
Daynakin Great Danes LLC
In the course of handling my own dogs and those of others in the conformation show ring, I’ve found there are certain things people can do while their puppy is young to help him or her become show-trained AND comfortable in the ring.
If the new exhibitor has purchased their puppy from a breeder who themselves exhibit, they will likely get guidance from that breeder. While everyone knows different lines can physically develop at different rates, the same holds true for mental development. The long-term breeder will know how their dogs grow both mentally and physically and be able to assist in the shaping of the show puppy. They also will be familiar with different stages their puppies mentally go through. For example, they might know their bitches go through a bit of a temperament change prior to their first season, becoming shy when before they were stable.
However, sometimes the new person simply doesn’t know where to start, and suddenly at six months of age the puppy is dumped into his or her first show—and it’s not a pleasant experience for either the puppy or the handler.
In getting a show puppy ready for a show career, the first thing to remember is it’s never too early to start! And, sooner is better than later; as the puppy gets older, you both lose out on some important developmental stages, and the fact the puppy is just getting bigger and therefore harder to handle. The next is you can never over-socialize your puppy; the more people, dogs, places, things and noises they are exposed to at a young age, the better. Adaptability training is also very important to prevent the dreaded “mommy-itits” which is the bane of every professional handler! One other important point is the more you do with your puppy earlier on, the more you will get out of your dog during adulthood.
Another very important point is “baby steps”. When starting out with the young puppy, many people expect too much, too soon. And they try to put the whole thing together at once instead of teaching pieces and then putting it all together. An example is the new person taking their untrained puppy to a handling class; the instructor is trying to get you to stack your puppy, when the puppy doesn’t know how to hold still, is not used to having his legs handled, and is freaking out about the collar up around the ears. Too much too soon!
Below I will cover a few points I think are very important in starting a puppy out for the ring and hopefully the reader will find helpful. For the purpose of this article, we will assume the puppy is of normal Dane temperament, and the owner is not dealing with any excessively shy or other temperament problems. That’s an article for another day!
Socialization and Adaptation
While all dogs need to be properly socialized and can benefit from adaptation training, the show puppy needs to have it stepped up a notch. This puppy needs to be “bomb proof”. In a show situation there are going to be barking dogs, crates being banged around, loudspeakers blaring and spectators grabbing to pet without asking. There are many great articles on socialization so I am not going to spend a lot of time on it in this article other than to say it should be done. Information on socialization and adaptation can be found on my site at http://www.daynakingreatdanes.com/Socialization.html. Additionally, the novice owner may find the book “How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With” by Rutherford and Neil (Alpine Publishing) very helpful.
Some veterinarians, breeders, and owners have concerns about taking a puppy out and about until the complete set of vaccines are completed. Personally, I feel some very valuable training and socialization time is lost by waiting until the puppy is four months or older prior to any outside socialization. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior agrees, as do other experts, that the benefits of early socialization far outweigh the risk. (Please see http://www.4pawsu.com/vaccinations.htm). I personally do take puppies to outside locations after they have received one vaccination. However, how you manage your puppy must be within your comfort zone and that of your breeder and veterinarian. And the biggie is, if you choose to take your puppy out and about, you must be smart about it. You go places there isn’t a lot of dog traffic—so places like dog parks, box-type pet stores, rest areas and such are no-no’s. A well-run Puppy Kindergarten, a walk in an area not frequented by lots of unknown dogs, a visit in front of a busy store, a trek to a friend’s house—these all help the new puppy learn socialization skills. As the puppy becomes older and receives more vaccinations you can step up the socialization process.
Starting Out the Training Process
In the big picture, the show puppy really doesn’t need to learn much. It’s not like they are aiming for a performance or obedience career. They only need to learn to stand still, be stacked, be examined, bait, and move properly on lead. This particular article is not on HOW to stack your puppy, but what to do to get them ready for that stage.
Two common mistakes I see people making are too long of a training session, and trying to do too much at one time. When you begin to work with your puppy, you should only work with them for a few minutes at a time; it actually can be incorporated into their daily household routine. A couple of short sessions daily are much better than one long marathon class. Remember our giant breed puppies tire easily, so whereas a Sheltie might be just fine with a 45 minute session, a Dane puppy will not. Plus remember the old expression “the body grows the first year, the mind the second year”; it’s so true of many of our Danes!
Another mistake, as mentioned earlier, is expecting too much of the puppy too soon. One must remember you always want to be able to praise the puppy for the proper behavior; not correct it all the time because it’s wiggling about and not doing what you want. If you start with expecting the puppy to hold still for 5 seconds, you might have success and can praise for that. But, if you think the new puppy will hold still for 30 seconds, you are wrong AND you run the risk of negative reinforcement because chances are you have inadvertently praised the dog in some way for moving—which you don’t want it to do.
You also need to make this fun and interesting. I was once told by a well-known all-breed handler that they believed a dog had only so many “stacks” available to you in their lifetime. If you over-train, you might use them up and the result would be a dog that is bored or hates the ring. You need to make this fun for the dog, while still maintaining the control and structure you need for the show ring. Verbal praise, food training, and other rewards should be used to your full advantage when starting your puppy out.
It also will be easier to train your puppy in “pieces” and then put them all together. I’ve found the following seems to work well; you can mix it up the sequence.
In closing, very beginning ring training should be low-keyed but structured, and done in as positive manner as possible. Show the dog what you want them to do, have them do it, and praise. Slowly build up on the amount of time you have the puppy hold still, and move forward gradually. And remember, if whatever you are trying isn’t working, try something else!
© Georgia Hymmen 2014
Permission granted to reprint as long as credit is given to the author and printed in its entirity