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How to Train Your Dog for a Dog Show

Just because you purchase a purebred dog from a reputable breeder does not mean that he will be a champion in the show ring. Each dog breed has a breed standard, which is the ideal by which your breed will be judged. The closer your dog matches to the breed standard, the better chances you will have of winning in the show ring.

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.

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.

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 facing forward, unless contraindicated 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).

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.

However, it may be beneficial to attend a local dog show before starting classes so that you can get a general idea of what happens at a show and also to talk to other exhibitors. You may also be able to learn a little more about how your breed is shown to 'its best advantage' by speaking to the dog's breeder.

From time to time ask your friend to play a role of judge: to examine the pup, touch his back, chest, legs, check up his teeth. Remember, when the bite is checked up, only lips are pulled apart and the teeth stay clenched.

At first, it would be enough just to accustom the dog to walk leashed on your left side along a big circle anticlockwise pausing from time to time.

These are all things the dog will need to be used if he’s to be a show dog.

Anyway, remember each dog needs an individual approach.

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Chovatelská stanice boloňských psíků © Luma Tomio 1997 Marie Lupačová

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