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Lesson #1-Be Prepared

Michelle Santana

“Composure” while In the ring is a major key to success and a key to your  dog enjoying itself.  How does one maintain “Composure” when they are nervous? It’s hard to do but it’s a must.   In Nervous Mode you are most likely to forget everything you know about showing your dog!  I feel one of the things that can bring a person out of the “I’m Nervous, I can’t breath, my knees are knocking together…..AGH, my dog isn’t performing like at class!” is:

BE PREPARED with a “Game Plan” and “Check lists”… these few things will bring you back to FOCUS on your task at hand. Present your dog to the best of your ability and make it an enjoyable experience for your dog. Winning will most likely follow If your dog is worthy.

What does a Game plan entail you might ask?  Unfortunately, if you have a 6-9 puppy dog, my first advise isn’t possible.  However, you can WATCH the breeds before Dobermans that your judge is judging, if there are any and still gain knowledge about that particular Judge.

In addition, if it is a two day show, if the judge who is judging the second day is doing any breeds the first day, try to watch his judging of other breeds for a bit. It will give you a ‘feel’ for that judge.

My First advice is Get THERE EARLY, so you’re all set up and ready to WATCH the classes before you.  In addition, pick your favorite handler and WATCH what they are doing in the classes before you.  By this I mean STOP TALKING, stop the “busy-ness” of your thoughts about how nervous you are and all your preoccupied thoughts about the Handling job you are about to do.  Stop DOING and WATCH.  Clear Your Thoughts and MAKE A PLAN.

Have a  CLEAR PLAN in your head of where the judge has had the classes set up before you:

  1. First line up when you enter the ring (Are you first in line? If so, be a good leader)
  2. Where does he/she want you to stack for the Individual exam? You should be prepared and already have your dog stacked ready for the exam when it is your turn. I see newbie handlers hesitate with this and lose valuable seconds that could have been utilized to perfect their dogs stack. Seconds that do make or break the “picture perfect” first impression)
  3. Is the judge requiring the Handler to open the mouth or is the judge doing it himself?  Have a couple of experienced people (ring side) do a ‘mock exam’ so your performance, on that day, in opening the mouth is smooth.  Be prepared to be ‘helpful’ if the judge is doing the mouth exam, so you don’t fumble, particularly with a inexperienced puppy.  Keep your head/body out of the way!
  4. What is his/her movement pattern?  WATCH the classes before you. (pay particular attention to where you are going to make your turns)  Smooth Turns = Smooth Movement = Smooth Performance.
  5. Where are you going to Stop for the “free bait” and what are you going to “show-off” (straight-on – nice head and feet, great side profile)?  Which is the best feature of your dog?  Allow yourself enough room to show off your dog.  Have a designated spot pre-planned. Don’t run up on the judge and then decide where to stop.  Don’t interfere with the ‘space’ of the dog that is behind you, and currently stacking for their own individual exam.
  6. How much Room is he giving you for the “free bait” AND does he prefer to see the dogs free bait “front on” or “side view” (some judges have a particular preference and if you don’t do it their way, they get ticked off)?   = Points against your Smooth Performance.
  7. How much Time is he giving for the “free bait”?  Some judges allow you enough time to ‘get it right’ … others say ‘wham, bam, thank you, ma’am’ if you didn’t hit “the pose” in the time allowed.  = points against your Smooth Performance. Be prepared to hit it right quickly if judge is the latter.

This is what you do BEFORE you go into the ring. .