written & submitted by Colby Homer, Homer Hill Dobermans
(published in Doberman Digest Dec. `98 – Jan. `99)
It´s a wonderful time to be involved in the world of Dobermans; for example, the recent DNA test perfected to pin-point vWD percentages illustrates the dedication and support we have gained to continue improvements genetically. Printed materials such as this magazine often have medical articles with the latest information written by experts directed towards the layman. Magazines such as Doberman Digest have become polished and user friendly, making every ad look professional and have brought show campaigns to the point where it is considered necessary to advertise to succeed at any level.
But I have had this article in the back of my mind for about a year, and I´ve watched, and yes, folks, the ABC´s are missing in some of us in what we do with our Dobes, so if you are a `player´, as they say, read ahead, and maybe pick up a little that you didn´t know … or maybe forgot.
Every new puppy one acquires is naturally of interest to others, an obsession to you, and a great responsibility. If you own more than one dog, it occasionally becomes necessary to take the baby to shows, too. But underage puppies have no place ringside, and technically the AKC (American Kennel Club) and the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) frowns on this as well. Puppies get a lot of exposure to shows walking the fringe of the ring area, and before shows and towards the end of the day can be just as much exposure for a young dog. Germs are always present at shows, as everyone knows, and you must think of this `exposure´ too.
It used to be that it seemed everyone had an ex-pen and used it. When the price of gasoline went up and consumers had to scale down their vehicles, ex-pens became less common, and now people routinely do without them, never knowing they are lacking an integral piece of their dogs’ comfort. Ex-pens give your dogs a chance to get some fresh air and relax, get used to their surroundings, and move around at their own pace, and naturally take care of their needs. The area in the pen can be disinfected, the area above the pen shaded in various ways, making a secure, clean environment. While the dog is in the pen, your hands are free to take care of other details that must be accomplished before and after judging. The old excuse `my dog won’t go in a pen´ is just that …. the vast majority do, if exposed enough to it. And since space is being utilized near your vehicle you feel more obligated to keep it clean, resulting in a cleaner show site. What ex-pens are not: they are not temporary fencing to put puppies in while you go ringside (yes, I saw this at a show!) for many obvious reasons (theft, escape, neglect!), just as they are not a way to keep your mature dogs cooler when you are not in attendance. I’ve seen people go to lunch with their show stock in a pen! Remember also, you leave an impression on all who observe you, and you can be an education … or a horror story! A last and important point about ex-pens: DO NOT allow your dog to sniff around others’ ex-pens, and for heavens sake, NEVER let your dog urinate on someone else’s pen!!!
That `leads´ me right to … Flexi-leads. Before I make any comments about them I would like to mention that I am now seeing bans on flexis in premium lists, so they are becoming a problem. One of the problems of flexis that I see is dogs that are routinely put on flexis are unable to become accustomed and sensitive to, the many nuances of a human hand holding a proper leather lead that makes a dog lead-broken, lead sensitive, so to speak, and it definitely shows in the ring! They move like a light switch, `on/off´, with the handler struggling to moderate the pulling or slow down the speed! The dog simply doesn’t know any better. I also feel that those using a flexi on their dogs in crowd-ed conditions such as a show are unnecessarily concerning others. The picture that comes to mind most often is a person carrying a chair, a small cooler, etc., the dog is on the rather long flexi, be it in a building, or outdoors, and the wary quickly making a path for them … just in case.
I’m wondering what these people will do if confronted with a loose dog, traffic, a running child, etc. Are they going to throw down their equipment quickly enough to reel in the lead that shouldn´t have been that long in the first place? What if the lock fails?
When approaching a crowded area one should be prepared: short lead, dog close to you. If you have a dog that’s a little “tough,” get your things ringside, then bring your dog up, so the dog has your full attention every step of the way. And, if this dog has a tendency to not play well with others, find an area not in the middle of all your competitors to wait your turn to show. This common sense approach is a common courtesy, often missing today.
Long flexis have no place in parking areas either, how many times have you seen, or experienced, a dog coming into your parking area on a flexi while your dog(s) are in a pen? Adults in a pen react as if it was a loose dog approaching… puppies either are defensive or frightened. One last observation, at motels, flexis are often seen with all the above scenarios, but often the walker goes to the least used areas of a property, with the dog sniffing and pulling, the person unaware if the dog is in glass, around scrap metal or garbage.
Motel courtesy is lacking to the point that I completely understand why every year it gets harder to find suitable accommodations when showing dogs. I agree that the price of a room has risen to the point that it’s often an outrage when you open the door and see what you paid for, but you are representing the sport of dogs, and your breed, and certain standards of behavior must be adhered to, no matter what. Do I have to mention that if you have to travel with puppies, carry everything you can possibly need (paper towels, rug cleaner, garbage bags, air cleaner, plastic for under crates, a bucket and liquid detergents used for hand washables (does a great job and takes out the odor).
Dogs can (at least Dobermans can!) be extra quiet while at a motel if you are consistent, and this little bit of effort makes such a difference spread over 50-75 rooms! If you have an especially sound reactive animal, carry something that produces `white noise´ such as a cheap `box fan´ set on low, a fan-driven heater, or an air cleaner or ionizer. This low amount of constant sound often keeps them quiet, and you will sleep better too! Another comment I can make to you about noise at motels is that you really don’t have the right to pile your dogs in a room and go to a restaurant or go shopping, if they are going to be noisy. If you know they are going to bark, they have to go with you or you have to arrive at the room already prepared. When you are in the room, bedspreads should have an old sheet thrown over them, not only to protect motel furnishings, but to protect your dog; I once saw a TV health reporter do a report on cleanliness in motels, and she had a bedspread swabbed and sent to a lab. You don’t want to know everything she found on that bedspread!
When you leave the motel, remind yourself you may want to stay at that property next year, and leave your room in reasonable order…no spilled kibble, no wet towels on beds or carpets. Clean up outside totally, placing bags in dumpsters, and do watch where males lift legs! If the place is really ideal, thank the management for allowing `dog people´ to stay. It never hurts.
While we are talking about care and consideration, a few words have to be said about the care and consideration of the breeder of your current show dog. If you are the breeder of your lovely showstopper, congratulations! Skip this paragraph. I think basic courtesy is the point here. Let your breeder know in a
timely manner about nice wins and tell them first if there are any problems. When you are advertising a class dog it’s proper to credit your breeder by providing their kennel name, name of breeder, phone number, and if space permits, their address. Sire and dam should always be on class dogs ads. Special ads rarely advertise the sire and dam. Why not provide the dog’s age at the time of the photo? Ask your breeder’s advice; after all, you trusted them enough to get your dog from them. When your dog finishes, make sure to thank the breeder, too. It wasn’t the judges or the handler that really made that dog you know!
Speaking of handlers, let’s talk about those who get the least recognition; the owner-handler. I think everyone should try it at least once, even if it’s a match, to get a perspective they otherwise cannot fully realize. The thing I observe most that seems to be missing is preparation. Preparation in every aspect … details add up to the whole picture. Appearance … no floppy ties or unbuttoned suit coats, no short skirts, no noisy shoes. Mental attitude being that you can win and you are ready. Stacking your dog quickly and to the dog’s best advantage, leaving a proper distance between you and the dog in front. Never throw bait beyond your dog, never make unusual noises to affect other dogs. Don’t shift into overkill, no toy, no theatrics or fake fainting spells. (Yes, I’ve seen it… more than once!) Move your dog at the speed that’s best for him, not at the speed everyone else goes. If you move fast, wait an extra second or two after the dog in front of you moves, then go, and if that still isn’t enough, go wide on the turns. Don’t thunder up the rear of any-one, ever. If you move more slowly than some, briefly tell the handler behind you that you move your dog a little slower. This does not handicap them in any way since they know, and is a polite way to inform them to stay back!! When free baiting your dog, do it well. Free bait your dog, don’t hide others, don’t take up more space than needed, and keep moving up as dogs are examined. Believe me, that huge gap some create for themselves “showboating,” and the crabby crowd crammed in behind them, is a spotlight of poor handling.
Try to pick your judges as wisely as you can. My educated guess is that it costs me about $100.00 per show to show a dog myself. So, it´s not the cheap way to go as some erroneously think. Don’t go to a show because it’s close, don’t show to an incompetent or political judge more than once if you are sure this was the case at the end of the day. Learn to `spot show´ whether at a circuit or for a whole weekend. Why build or hold points for someone else if you know the judging may not be on `equal ground´?
Know when to quit. If you are going to many shows in a set period, say, 90 days, and you are not progressing win-wise, figure out why. Are you not naturally talented in the ring? Is your dog a quality animal but; (a) immature, (b) got a fixable prob1em such as breaking a stack or pulling hard, (c) out of condition, too fat, too thin, bald, poorly groomed with long toenails, [d] soft due to lack of proper exercise, etc., got a permanent or temporary temperament problem, (e) tired from constant showing, bored, coming in season? Sometimes a month off works wonders … sometimes it takes longer.
All of us occasionally have the dog that just can’t `cut it´ no matter what we really feel. It’s important to get an outside opinion … and it’s tough to find the right person to give it. A professional handler may [may not) want your money to show your dog, even if they feel its quality is marginal; the breeder may or may not want the dog to continue to be shown or they may want you to give it a `fair chance´. They also might say `I don’t want him seen right now´. Your competition may knock the dog to discourage you or praise it so you’ll show up and boost the points for them! And lastly the judge sometimes does have bad streaks, no matter what the winners of the day may say. Sometimes you may even experience several substandard judging experiences in a row. Analyze what’s up, that’s the key!
A couple of last caveats about show be ready for your class, don’t smoke at ringside or under tents, keep your dog warm enough or cool enough, and if it’s a long wait, don’t make him stand endlessly, give him somewhere comfortable to rest. Do not spray anything but water in close quarters and at ringside! Be polite to spectators. Keep dogs in your vehicle attended and cared for. If you are alone, and if you have more than one dog, plan on missing some of judging if it’s a big entry, because someone must take care of the dogs first.
As the title of this article suggests, these are some of the ABCs … you aren´t a serious exhibitor at any level unless you know there are ABCs of doing things right. Good luck!
About the Author:
Colby and her husband Patrick reside in Wheeling, West Virginia and breed under the name Homer Hill. They have had Dobermans since 1976, obtaining their first while still in college. Colby success-fully handled other breeds before finishing her first Dobe in 1983, a Ch. Marienburg Sun Hawk & Ch. Alisaton Bewitched grandson and have produced and finished Dobermans in three countries in very limited breedings.
Colby has had columns, opinion pieces, interviews and health articles published in Doberman Quarterly, Dobe Edition and Doberman World and is pleased to be a part of Doberman Digest.