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ADBA Show Tips!

Discussion in 'Pit Bull Shows & Events' started by Vicki, Feb 24, 2014.

  1. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Administrator

    Show Tips By Amy Greenwood Burford

    The ADBSI show ring should be welcoming to all exhibitors no matter what level of experience or expertise.

    I want to share a few tips that I have learned over the years that will make you more competitive showing your dogs in the ADBSI show ring. I will try to explain, the judge’s state of mind and what he will be looking for in the dogs that he will be placing in the ribbons. I am not saying that by using these methods you will take a Best of Show trophy with a dog that does not conform well to the ADBA standard. However, by starting out with an average or above average conformation dog, these tips could positively influence the outcome of the show in your favor.

    Tip #1: Know your dog.

    Know his strengths and limitations. A good handler, by knowing the dog he is showing, can focus a judge’s short exam to show off the dog’s strengths. In talking to the judge, never, never point out the dogs faults. I once had an exhibitor make a point of showing me the dog’s bad bite, and then discussing it with me as the judge. It is up to the judge to determine the dog’s limitations, so keep quiet. I will discuss a little bit more about how to direct a judge attention to what you want him to see, later in this article.

    Tip # 2: Do your homework.

    As a kid in school, you were never going to bring home the “A†grade unless you did your homework on a daily basis. The same is true in the show ring. First, a show dog needs to be socialized on the lead. He needs to be able to walk at a trot on a loose lead with his head up. Many times, this does not happen in the show ring, because of the high energy and distractions at the show venue, but it will never happen in the ring if you cannot get your dog to do this in your backyard. There are many methods that handlers use to give their dog some ring training. Use of bait as a reward is great to begin training, but remember bait in not allowed in the show ring. The reason why is that bait is very distracting for the other dogs in the ring. (Getting another handler’s dog to fire off or react in the ring by one way or another, is one of the ‘dirty little tricks’ that I spoke about in the first part of this article)

    Your training sessions should be short and always end on a fun note. I have had a dog fall flat in the show ring, something that is referred to as ‘ring sour’ because of over training, too much travel or too many times in the show ring with little fun or rest. The dog’s attitude or ring presence is being looked at critically by the judge as one of the more important traits considered today. They want a dog on his toes, confident, in control of his space but NOT out of control, lunging about so he cannot be judged easily. For a dog to give you this in the ring, he needs to be well socialized with a sound temperament. The sound temperament he is born with, but the socialization is his owner’s responsibility. Get the dog out to fun shows and public parks. Have him around and handled by friends and strangers alike, all before his six month birthday if at all possible. Get him comfortable on a collar and leash, comfortable with his crate, riding in a car, being brushed, bathed and nails trimmed in a calm submissive manner. If he will allow all the prep work before a show with little energy spent resisting, he will have more stamina at the big dog show weekend.

    Tip # 3 Conditioning a mature dog:

    Very few good dogs brought directly from your backyard to the show ring will stand a chance at the Best of Show trophy without some conditioning exercise. The dog needs to be slowly brought down to his show weight with exercise and quality nutrition. As a reminder, the conformation standard describes the presentation of an adult dog as that of a lean, exercised animal showing a hint of rib and backbone with no hip showing and with muscles firm and defined. Many fanciers have their own special recipe when it comes to an exercise regiment and every dog is different in what they love to do, so I am not going to go into conditioning in much detail except to say, that it needs to be done over a considerable length of time (for most dogs 4 to 5 weeks). It is the exceptional dog that can be pulled together with a couple of weeks of work, so start early.

    The exercise routine needs to be spaced with rest days, rubdowns and lots of bonding time with the dog. When I am conditioning a dog for the show ring, I am also conditioning his coat and getting his nails short so his feet will appear tight No less than four weeks before the show, I go over the dog’s coat with a pumice stone that I get at the local restaurant supply house. By working the coat over, in the direction of the coat growth, I can remove most of the dry dead hair, so new coat growth can begin. If your dog is an outside dog, this is essential to loosen that winter coat and get the short, glossy coat to appear. Hand rubbing the dog’s muscles and coat after it’s exercise period will distribute your oils to the dogs coat to help condition it. I never bathe a dog until the day before the show, as over bathing can dry out a coat. I am always so pleased and surprised at the natural gloss and radiance of my dog’s coat on show day after the five weeks of hand rubbing and massage following his workouts.

    Whatever type of exercise that you decide to do with your dog, vary his routine to keep it interesting. Some days I like a little mill work, other days a long walk pulling uphill in the mountains and then other days a moderate jog in a walking harness for three miles down to the bike path. Start slowly and pay attention to your dogs pads for wear and tear especially on concrete and asphalt surfaces. Whatever you do, do it safely for yourself and your dog. It should never tear your dog down, but bring out the muscle tone and build up his health and enthusiasm for life.

    Tip # 4: Conditioning a puppy:

    You shouldn’t really be conditioning a puppy besides providing an opportunity for walking on a leash just to socialize him and to leash train. Also, playing in your backyard with a game of fetch or tug of war with a rope etc. Puppies close to a year of age, that are physically mature, can be taught to run a mill, but this type of conditioning needs to be just a few minutes a day for fun only! I personally never put a lot of pressure on puppies, as they will grow up soon enough. My Dad would always say that you will have a better adult dog, if you let them have their puppyhood! The standard states that dogs in the puppy classes should be that of a well nourished puppy showing no ribs, backbone or hips. On the other extreme, the puppy should NOT be so overweight that they have rolls of fat either. It is still better to be a pound too heavy then an ounce too light. The most important way to get a puppy ready for a show is to have the puppy accept walking on the leash as a normal part of everyday life. It should not try to fight the leash going one direction or the other and follow willingly where his handler will lead. I like a puppy that watches his handler and takes direction from them. A pup needs to accept being touched all over and have it’s teeth shown to the judge by it’s handler. If you have not practiced this at home successfully, it will never happen without a fight in the show ring.

    Tip # 5: Preparing for the day of the show.

    You will have to have a travel kennel or crate in good shape. I always take along an extra change of bedding in case of an accident. Your dog should be familiar with his travel kennel as a safe means of transporting your dog in an automobile. The show rules state that all dogs at the show site must be crated unless being shown or walked out before his time to be shown, so it is important that your dog is comfortable in his crate. Bring along water and a water bowl for your dog. I do not feed my dog the morning of the show, but take along food so that I can feed them after their time in the ring. You will need your dog’s Show and Pull ID card or your ADBA registration certificate in your name as the owner. If you are traveling out of state, it is wise to have your health and vaccination record and proof of rabies.

    I have a matching one inch buckle collar and four foot leash set aside for show day for each of my dogs. I keep it clean and only use it for the dog show. If I have a dog with an adequate length of neck and good lay back of shoulder, I choose a color that contrasts with the dog’s coat. Something that says - I am special, look at me! Royal blue on a black dog, bright red or green on a buckskin etc. If my dog’s neck is a little short, or shoulders steep, then I want a collar that blends with the dog’s coat color, so the look of the neck does not get broken into two pieces. Black on black or natural leather on a fawn or buckskin. I never use a two inch collar and I also stay away from a studded, choke chain or spiked collar. The two inch collar makes the neck look short and studded or spiked yells “noviceâ€. A choke chain and spiked collar will not be permitted in the show ring and could cause a danger to a handler if they went to grab for the dogs collar in an emergency, so leave them at home.

    I like a coat conditioner for a last minute dust remover, but even a damp terry cloth towel or a chamois is great for a last minute shine up before going into the show ring. One thing that is nice about showing the APBT, is no extensive grooming is required on show day. If the day is hot or the show ring dusty, a spray bottle of water can be used on the dog, but they dog should NOT be shown with a wet coat, so lightly does it!

    Tip # 6: Strategies at the show venue.

    Arrive at the show venue early. Get your dog registered, and your arm band put in a place where you can get at it easily. If you are using rubber bands around your arm band, use two in case one breaks. I set up my area with my dogs crate, some lawn chairs for family members and a cooler, preferably in the shade. Some venues have limited shade, so a canopy will come in handy. Look over the ring and the holding area. If you get there early enough and no one minds, I might suggest that you walk your dog into the holding area, into the show ring and out the exit, just as a form of socialization. I keep my dog in their crate, resting, except for walk out periods every couple of hours or so. Be on time for the handlers meeting with the judge before the judging begins. Position yourself up front so you can hear what directions are given, and clarify any questions that you might have. I like to watch a few classes in the ring, before my class is called, so I have an idea on the ring procedure that an individual judge might be using. Rarely, once a judge begins a certain ring procedure, do they change, but be adaptable in case they do. It is a show of good manners to be alert to what has been going on in the ring, so the judge does not have to take the time to give you special directions so he can judge your dog in a timely manner.

    Develop a game plan for the ring. This is where knowing your dog comes into play. If your dog has a flawless gait, you will want to be one of the first dogs into the ring, so you can have ample opportunity to show off that gait. If the gait is so-so, and you have trouble getting the dog to do anything but hop or lunge into the ring, then you might want to position your dog near the end of the line in the holding area, so you are one of the last going into the ring. You will have less distance to move your dog, which might be exactly what you want. Also, be aware of the lighting in the ring. If the lighting is uneven, you want to avoid the dark corner if your dog is a dark color. Most judges are very aware of the lighting in the ring and will move a dog to where they can see to judge him fairly. Once you have your game plan, then pay attention and when your class is called to the holding area, respectfully proceed and position yourself where you want to be. I have never run into a problem with fellow handlers if I ask nicely to go ahead or lag behind a certain dog in the holding area. Try to keep it light and your dog calm while you are waiting in the holding area for your time in the ring.

    Now a couple of handling principals that I want to go over. Dogs with natural soundness, every part of their body in perfect proportion and coordination with every other part of their body will self stack in perfect position naturally. Judges know this and are looking for the dogs that handlers do not have to fuss with for examination. Now, am I saying that a handler shouldn’t straighten out a back foot, or move a dog’s head forward if it needs it? No. What I am saying is to do it quick, then leave the dog alone to stand on his own. Having to stack your dog and re-stack, constantly working with your dog just points out to the judge that something is not quite right with your dog’s conformation.

    In the show ring, the dog is the photo and the handler the frame. You, as the handler want to enhance the photo, giving yourself distance from the other dogs and handlers to show off your dog and set up the image of him for the judge. When you have a handler move up from behind or one that backs up into your space, that destroys that image and most often time will set your dog off. (Another dirty little trick) Many times the ring steward, in order to calm down the ring, will then instruct you to turn your dog into the corner or move back from the line up of dogs. Now being removed from the judge’s line of sight, he will then have to hunt you up, if he wants to take one more look at your dog before the placements are made. Because your job as the handler is to set up the image of your dog into the most appealing way, avoid crowding up on the dog or standing over the dog when the judge is taking a look at him. When the judge is going over the other dogs in the ring, you stand close to your dog, with no slack in the leash. Keep the dog quiet and focused on you. But once the judge approaches to examine your dog, step back away from the dog giving him a little more lead but keeping his focus on you. Give him space so he is standing on all four feet, confident, friendly, tail wagging to now engage this new person (the judge) who is looking him over. One of the unique characteristic of human beings is that they will look in the direction when someone is pointing, or looking intently in a direction. The image we have all seen of 20 people standing in a pasture looking up at nothing in particular, just because one person started looking up. You can use this phenomenon to direct the judge’s attention and what you want him to see. Once you say good morning, and the judge engages you with eye contact, look quickly at your dog’s wonderful head, and front end, keeping your attention and gaze going back to this feature. How many of us, worried about our dog’s less then perfect backend, keep going to this weakness, looking, touching, restacking, and looking again. What we have done is to point out to the judge, the worst feature of our dog, not the best. Judges have been trained to judge a profile. Knowing this, it is smart whenever possible to present a profile of your dog toward the judge. If a judge asks you to take your dog down and back so he can see your dogs gait, coming and going, first remember you want to take the dog at a trot. Align yourself so the judge is directly behind you, and when coming back, glance up, see the judge and aim straight back toward him. Once you are close to the judge, again present the dogs profile, for the judge’s final image of him. Many judges will take a final look at all the dogs in the ring before making their placements. Watch your judge, and present a profile of your dog when you can. A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of showing in Colorado with my black male. We were showing in a huge arena, so the judge had plenty of space to move each dog as he wanted. He gave me instructions to take the dog across the ring, and pause a few moments to show the dog off to him. What a handlers dream! After taking the dog to the middle of the ring I had the opportunity to position the dog’s profile to the judge, have the dog naturally stack, showing poise and attitude for 15 seconds, then proceeded straight back to the judge so he could judge his movement coming straight toward him. We were awarded the Best of Show trophy for that performance that first show. Later that afternoon, under a different judge, the same dog was blocked from view because of the glare of the sun through the open door of the inside arena and we left the ring without a placement. It was my fault as handler as I was the last dog into the show ring because of my late entrance into the holding area. Be aware of what is happening in the ring. Be alert to what the judge asks you to do so he can better judge your dog. Some judges will bring the top dogs in the ring out in the center for further evaluation. Move your dog safely, giving others in the ring adequate space. All the dogs in the ring should be on a leash no more than four feet in length. The only time that you might need the full length of those four feet is when you are moving the dog into or out of the ring. Shorten up that lead when the dogs are standing quiet in the ring. Another ‘dirty little trick†that I have seen is allowing a dog to lunge about at the end of the four foot lead. Or my favorite, to have the dog ‘hit’ the end of his four foot lead after his neighboring dog, missing an incidence by inches. Of course it is always after the offending dog has had his turn being examined by the judge. Being bulldogs, you know the domino effect that this has in the ring. When the judge is ready to make his placements, be ready to accept the ribbon from him. Be ready, have your dog on a short leash, under control and – accept your well earned award!

    Dog Show Truths:

    It is just one show and just one day. Some days you will do well and others not. What happens in the ring should not be the final critique of your dog. If he pleases you, that is all that matters. Dogs grow, mature and change at different rates. The Best Of Show dog that I referred to earlier was not even shown as a puppy because he was too tall and gangly until about two and a half years of age. I liked his pedigree and his attitude and I kept him not knowing if he would ever mature into a dog that I would want to show.

    Judges also learn and grow, as do clubs and the club officials that are working hard to put on the shows. Give them your respect showing them good sportsmanship and it will take you a long way. Now the question: What can I do to show my good sportsmanship inside the dog show ring and out?

    1. Know and obey the rules at the club venue.

    2. Pay attention and listen to announcements.

    3. Be on time to register and don’t hang up the judging because you didn’t get your dog to the holding area in time. (If in back to back classes, please let the holding area officials know, so they will inform the judge so he is aware.).

    4. Bring everything that you need to care for your dog and your family while at the show. Clean up after your dog, and comply with requests from club security or show officials.

    5. Watch your spacing in the show ring, and avoid running up the back of a handler, or backing into someone’s space.

    6. Keep your dog on a short lead, except when moving the dog. Avoid causing any distractions to the other dogs in the ring at any time but especially after your dog has been examined by the judge. Don’t use a squeaky toy or allow your dog to carry a balloon, ball or toy into the ring in his mouth. Restrain from playing tug-of-war with your dog in the ring, using his leash or any other object that you might have in your pocket.

    7. Do not allow your dog to swing about at the end of his four foot lead, going after every dog.

    8. Keep your anxiety and energy under control. Your dog will feed off of your energy. It is true that dogs can smell fear! It is really the adrenaline on your breath that they can smell, so a breath mint or Tic Tac in your mouth can help here.

    9. Pay attention in the ring. Smile and have fun. Congratulate the other handlers when they win with a good dog, showing good sportsmanship toward you. It is amazing what you can affect because as they say, attitude is everything! And keep coming back! Join the club and give your valuable input so positive things can happen. The future of the ADBSI clubs and more importantly your dogs will be better for it.

    By Amy Greenwood Burford
    Source: American Dog Breeders Association

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