I have completed 30 years judging All Breeds Dogs at Championship level in this country and 15 years as an International Judge, judging overseas. I must admit that though our handling of dogs has marginally improved over the years we have still a long way to go in improving our skills in RINGCRAFT, which is so important to be successful in this sport. I have observed that in our neighboring countries like Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, China, and Korea, etc. in the field of show presentation & grooming skills they have by far surpassed us in such a short time.
Nowadays our dog shows give enough opportunity to our upcoming new exhibitors and handlers to learn from seeing world-class professionals who come from overseas to handle dogs for their clients in Indian shows.
As everyone will agree that proper show handling can enhance the chances of winning with our dogs at shows. I will try and share with my readers some handling techniques, which could be beneficial to upcoming new exhibitors and people interested to take up dog handling as a profession.
When inside the Judging ring the Judge expects that the exhibitor would be aware about performing certain exercises which the Judge is at liberty to ask exhibitor to perform so that he may be able to asses the merits and demerits of the dog. Amongst the several exercises the Judge may ask the exhibitor to perform, I am explaining here the two most important ones.
(a) The Show Stand presentations: –
There are perhaps as many show stand positions as on may conceive of, positions vary from handler to handler and exhibit to exhibit. The best position is the one that is best suited to both the exhibit and the exhibitor – and the position in which the dog seems to be most comfortable. Never mind the handler as here the exhibit is more important so think about him.
Different breeds call for different presentation techniques. The job of the handler is to bring out the very best points in the exhibits. We learn from our own dogs that different show stand positions are necessary even within the dogs of the same breed. Just like us, we must keep in mind that no 2 dogs will have the same temperament of character; each one is different like every individual is.
As suggested above some dogs when made to stand facing another dog appear more alert. You must of course keep in mind that not all judges will permit you to use this position.
Fig.i. THE TRIANGLE:
An exhibit will be requested to move directly away from the judge in a straight line, towards the far corner of the ring; then across the ring, then back to the Judge-in a diagonal line; stopping approximately about 5 feet in front of the Judge.
Fig.ii. THE STRAIGHT AND BACK:
As described this exercise requests that an exhibit moves directly away from the Judge, making a sharp “U” turn and returning to the Judge in a almost straight line; again stopping approximately 5 feet away from the Judge.
Fig.iii. THE DIAGONAL:
Similar to Fig ii but in this exercise the exhibit is requested to move diagonally across the ring and back to the Judge.
Fig.iv. THE CIRCLE:
In moving your dog in a circle, always remember that your dog is to be always held on your left, towards the inside of the ring and nearest to the Judge; never away from the Judge.
There are two (2) variations in turning an exhibit around; in Fig.i. Triangle and Fig.ii. The Straight and back/Diagonal exercises; namely the OUTER TURN (Fig.v) and INSIDE TURN (Fig.vi).
Fig.v. THE OUTER TURN:
In this method, a handler lets his dog gait on the outer “semi-circle”, pivoting the dog from the inside. The length of leash is to be lengthen as the dog starts on his and is quickly but not abruptly retrieved when the dog completes his turn.
This method is suggested for larger Breeds, as the inside turn will tend to “break” the rhythm of his stride, and thus will interfere with his movement.
Fig.vi. THE INSIDE TURN:
This method is exactly opposite of the OUTER TURN; where instead of the dog taking the “walk – around”, the handler walks in the outer semi-circle, and the dog becomes the pivot; but certainly not a stationary one. This method is ideal for smaller breeds that tends to lag behind the handler, or breeds with short gait.
Using this method the handler quickens his pace on the turn, but without disrupting the gait of the dog. It is not necessary to extend the length of the leash when doing this turn, but the handler would require quickening his pace.
We find that most exhibitors pay very little attention to these basics, in moving their dogs in the ring and pay a heavy price for their lack of interest. On so many occasions we have found handlers stopping their dogs “DEAD” on the tracks in order to make abrupt and clumsy turns.