Conformation Q&A

Michelle Santana
Foxfire Dobermans

 


Question:
At what age do you start stacking your puppies?

Answer:
I really don’t start stacking ’till they’re probably around 3- 4 months old, after the ears are healed and put in ‘rolls’. Before this age, I’ll do an occasional stack for photos but really nothing that could be construed as ‘training’. I do other ‘things’ like hold them all the time, kiss and baby talk to them. I take them on big Nature walks around the property where they explore rock piles, walk on tarps, jump over logs, wade in the creek. I use this time to teach them to ‘come’ and ‘follow’ when I clap my hands and whistle. I love to sit and just be with them. I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “God help me be the person that my dog thinks I am….well, my puppies think I’m their everything and I try to be!!


Question:
Do you think four weeks is too early for them to start learning stacking?

Answer:
YES! I’m sure there are many different theories on raising/training pups … I view little pups as like human toddlers so I do the above with them. Preschool training as described in the initial training above starts at 3-4 months.


Question:
When I go around with my dog and get back into place with him he swings his butt into the center of the ring. I’ve started correcting him by saying “no, you’re in the wrong place”, moving him around to come in again and doing whatever I can to keep him standing straight. I’ve tried moving with bait. I’ve tried backing him up and stepping him forward. If I really work at it I can get him straightened out without physically picking up his rear end but, of course, I want this to be natural. It seems to me that repetitious correcting as above, and practice, practice, practice will eventually make an impression on his little red brain (11 months old). I suppose I could use a clicker and click/treat when he’s standing properly.

Answer:
I can’t speak for clicker training as I’ve never used that method but the method I would use would be to have a command such as ‘stack’ and a signal for what you expect him to do. I think you should keep the command to one or two words, not a sentence such as “You’re in the wrong place” When you come around to the end of the line use your word of choice and signal. Use them any time you are wanting him to assume the position to be stacked. Practice the following and then use it in the ring:

In practice I would start saying ‘stack’ when you are going to begin stacking him so that he becomes used to the position you are requiring of him when you say stack. That position would be stacking/posing next to you NOT with his butt swung towards the center of the ring. I do this with a verbal command and I also lay my hand flat with the palm up as a signal of what I am expecting which is to to have him (the dog) come alongside me and lay his cheek/under jaw in my palm so I can lean over him and stack him.

As I cradle the cheek/lower jaw in my palm I say (refer to Conformation Training # I) ‘place’ for the front feet and ‘foot back’ for the hind legs and don’t forget ‘tail up’. Follow this as usual with the praise, ‘good, stack’. This way the dog gets a clear signal and a verbal command. On dogs I show regularly I can just put my hand out with the palm up and they will actually walk into it and lay their lower jaw/cheek in my hand to wait for me to stack them. To encourage this behavior I also rub this area in a soothing manner so the dogs enjoy this position. (like when they love you to rub their ears) Another point I might bring up is after your individual pattern, when you gait to the end of the line, (unless the judge’s procedure is to watch each dog as it stops at the back of the line and very few do this) there isn’t any particular reason at this time that your dog can’t swing his rear to the middle of the ring. As long as once you are trying to assume your stacked position in line you are able to straighten him out in order to stack him. (In which case I think the above training procedure would work) Often when I approach the end of the line on my individual gaiting I throw a piece of bait that I let the dog run/dive for and get. I will explain why’ I do this when I explain about getting your dog to move with it’s ears up. This example is to show you that I’m not immediately expecting the dog to assume the stack position when we come around to the end of the line. As a matter of fact, if I’m not the last dog or there is no pressing reason to assume a stack I use this time in line to play doggie games (Refer to the ‘Reindobe Games).


Question:
My dog pulls back against the collar when he starts to get bored. I guess that’s my job? To keep him interested?

Answer:
YES!!! I think my ‘Reindobe Games’ would prove useful to keep him entertained. Also, in the beginning I explain how to teach a dog to ‘reach’. You could use this technique when you want to stop him from pulling back against his collar.


Question:
I was wondering if you can give me information on a bitch of mine who likes to collapse her shoulder. When I hand stack her I put my finger under her chin do her left foot and then her right. Then I put the collar up high on her neck and hold it tightly. As soon as I go to her rear and set up her back feet she sinks down. I quickly return to the front and bait her and she will pull herself forward. I am also thinking she is just playing games with me. Any ideas on how to get her to stop doing this would be greatly appreciated.

Answer:
Don’t you hate it when they rack back? It seems if they aren’t racking back they are leaning so far forward they could fall on their faces! The key here is probably that you are leaving the area under her jaw/cheek to go and set up her rear thus losing control. A tight’ collar around neck is usually a BIG mistake! You need to have a mirror.

Practice various ways to stack her that offer the least resistance/racking back when you stack her. Use WHAT WORKS!! I think the true sign of a talented handler is the ability to use and/or create different styles of handling each individual dog, especially the problematic ones. I am showing a bitch right now that likes to rack back as I set her hind legs. See it even happens to the Pros! I have used two method’s to circumvent this problem. First, when I line her up along side me to stack her I hold a piece of bait about where I want her head to be. I have her reach for it, this way I’m beginning the stack at a positive leaning forward position. After feeding her some bait in this forward reach, I gently slip my right palm and fingers under her jaw and affix my fingers into the “V” crevice created by the under jaw bones. You may also hold excess collar and lead in your right hand. Then by watching in the mirror and with practice I get a feel for exactly were I have to firmly hold her head, thus, in effect, keeping her front in this forward thrust/position while I reach back with my left hand and extend the back legs into a position proper for her stack. Say “Stay, Good, Stay” Then I resume my stance at her head and take the collar back into the left hand while I offer her bait with the right hand. Check the stack you created to make sure you got it right. If not, repeat, or do what little improvements are necessary to get the dog stacked correctly.

Basically I’m saying you hold her by her crevice in the muzzle in the forward position while you adjust her hind legs. You have to KNOW your dog by feel in order for you to keep the head/front assembly in the correct position while you turn your attention to setting up the rear. Beware by watching in the mirror that you don’t co
ntort her head skyward or too far forward or back as you are busy adjusting the rear legs. It is important to get a feel for keeping the head steady in the position that you originally wanted to create.

Another method is to run the excess collar strand which attaches to the lead through your right hand, while holding the bait, so she can’t decide to leave. Then you simultaneously let her nibble on the bait in the right hand but keep the bait at a constant level and place. By ‘reaching’ for the bait she will be thrusting her front forward. Again, by watching in the mirror you can get a feel for were to keep the bait so that her head/front assembly is kept in the correct position. Then you adjust the back legs with your left hand/arm. It takes a lot of practice for either technique.

If all else fails, sometimes you have to take into account that your dog will rack back to some degree while you stack it’s rear legs. By using your mirror and knowing your dog you can learn just where you have to place it’s back legs to compensate for this racking back so that when you come back up to it’s front and bait it forward it is in the perfect stance in spite of its racking back! Just be sure you learn to do this FAST before the judge is looking because it isn’t a pretty sight!

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