Sunday, April 10, 2011

If your dog isn't ready, then don't enter him!

I am going to try and write this post in a way that is helpful and educational and not at all frustrated and judgmental.  However, if I am being honest, I am a bit frustrated.  I cannot tell you how many calls and emails I receive from people who are desperate to get a private with me right away because they have entered a dog show knowing full well that their dog is not properly trained, not even close to prepared or ready for the show ring!  I do not understand why people insist on torturing themselves, not to mention their poor dogs by entering them in shows before they are ready.

I have said this many times before.  The behaviors that a show dog needs to learn are not very difficult to train.  The dog needs to be taught to stack, gait and accept gentle handling, BUT he needs to be trained to a level of reliability that makes it possible for him to perform those behaviors in a novel, highly distracting and stressful environment which a nervous, stressed out, emotional owner at the end of the lead.  It is not reasonable or fair to enter your dog in a show and give him (or yourself) a week or two or three to prepare for it.  People mistakenly believe that handling a show dog and presenting a dog well is easy and takes no work at all, but if that were true professional handlers would be out of a job.  It isn't easy, unless of course you know what you are doing and feel comfortable doing it and have trained your dog to a high level of reliability in highly distracting and stressful environments.

So please, don't enter your dog if he isn't ready to be shown.  If he isn't ready because he doesn't know what to do, if he is fearful or reactive, if he is worried about being touched by a stranger or if he simply needs more training, then don't enter him.  Best case scenario is that neither of you look ready and leave the ring disappointed and frustrated.  Worst case scenario is that you poison the whole dog show scene for your dog by asking for too much of a dog that is simply not ready.  Trust me, there will always be another dog show.