How to Teach Your Dog to Be a Show Dog

by Jo Chester
    The best show dogs move happily and freely in the ring.

    The best show dogs move happily and freely in the ring.

    Michael Nagle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Dog shows on television make everything look so easy. Apparently, all the dogs have to do is stand in place, let the judge look in their mouths and trot around a ring for a couple of minutes. Yet the training that enables these dogs to accomplish these feats of discipline is hidden behind the scenes. It does take some effort to teach a dog to be a show dog.

    Touching

    Step 1

    Touch your dog all over his body. From the moment your puppy comes home, touch his head, his feet, his tail and his rear. Male puppies need to have their testicles touched, because the judge must check to see if both have descended.

    Touching

    Step 2

    Raise your dog’s lips and gently open his mouth. Begin doing so when he is sitting and then, as he becomes accustomed to it, begin examining his mouth when he’s learning to stack. Your dog should be able to be stand still for this part of the exam.

    Touching

    Step 3

    Have other people touch your puppy. Bring your puppy to obedience training classes or even for walks in the park where he will get to meet strangers. If your puppy is up to date with his vaccinations, have strangers touch him on his head, back and rear while he is in your arms or as he stands on the ground.

    Stacking and Baiting

    Step 1

    Place your puppy on the floor. Show him a treat held roughly at your eye level. Give him an “attention” word, such as his name or the word “cookie” or “look.” If he looks at you or at the treat and if all four paws are on the floor or the ground, give him the treat as a reward.

    Stacking and Baiting

    Step 2

    Increase the length of time your dog must hold this pose before receiving the treat. Stacking is posing, which means that your puppy should remain still for an extended period. Young puppies are incapable of holding this pose for as long as adult dogs, but they should be able to hold it for about 10 seconds.

    Stacking and Baiting

    Step 3

    Hold your puppy at your left side and hold the treat in front of him with your right hand or hold your puppy sideways in front of you with your left hand and baiting -- holding the treat -- with your right hand. Once again ask your puppy to pay attention to the treat with all four paws on the floor. Increase the time as before.

    Stacking and Baiting

    Step 4

    Begin touching your dog with your left hand while baiting him with the right hand. Touch his head, his ears and then other body parts. If your dog must be shown with his tail held stretched behind him, then practice holding his tail straight out from his body. Practice moving your puppy’s legs into place under his body.

    Stacking and Baiting

    Step 5

    Lure your puppy using the treat. Your puppy should learn to adjust his body’s position with a signal from you. Practice stepping forward, backward or to one side from your original position and lure your puppy into place. Reward your puppy when he takes a stacked position.

    Stacking and Baiting

    Step 6

    Have another person begin touching your dog as he stacks. Begin by walking toward the dog and walking away. As your dog relaxes, ask the “judge” to touch your dog’s head, back, and tail. Eventually your “judge” should be able to brush his or her hand over the dog’s body and touch all body parts including his testicles.

    Stacking and Baiting

    Step 7

    Take your puppy to conformation handling classes to refine your stacking and baiting skills.

    Lead Training and Gaiting

    Step 1

    Place an ordinary buckle collar around your puppy’s neck and attach a lightweight leash.

    Lead Training and Gaiting

    Step 2

    Allow the puppy to explore the area while walking on the leash. Do not try to bring him back to you or force him to walk at your side. When he becomes accustomed to walking where he wants to go, then you can start directing him where you want to go.

    Lead Training and Gaiting

    Step 3

    Replace the collar and leash with a show lead. Place two chairs at opposite sides of a room or on opposite ends of a hallway. Place a bowl on the seat of each chair and fill it with bite-sized soft puppy treats. Show the treats to your puppy. Walk him between both chairs, starting at one and ending at the other. When your puppy is standing with his head up and all four feet on the floor, give him a treat from the bowl to reward the behavior. Encourage the puppy to walk on both sides of your body, moving slightly ahead of you if possible.

    Lead Training and Gaiting

    Step 4

    Take your puppy to conformation handling classes. Conformation handling classes will not only socialize and train your dog, but they will also enable you to learn different gaiting patterns and show ring procedures.

    Items You Will Need

    • Show lead
    • Training treats
    • Clicker (optional)
    • 2 chairs
    • 2 bowls

    Tips

    • The dog’s left side is considered the “judge’s side” and should always face the judge unless the judge is examining the dog’s front or rear.
    • All breeds must have their teeth checked as part of their examination. Some breeds only have their bite -- the manner in which their teeth meet -- checked, while others have their teeth counted during their exam. Breeds with black tongues, such as Chinese Shar-Peis and chow chows, have their mouths opened wide for the judge to check this trait. Know what kind of examination your breed standard calls for and teach your dog appropriately.
    • Obtain several lightweight show leads of the appropriate size for your puppy. Experiment with different types of lead: some puppies that will not walk at all on one style of lead behave perfectly while being trained and gaited with another.
    • The seats of the chairs used to practice gaiting should be positioned above the puppy’s head to encourage him to hold his head up while looking for the treat. In the case of very a large puppy or dog, use a barstool.
    • Practice baiting and stacking your dog kneeling on the floor instead of standing if you have a small puppy or a toy-sized breed.
    • If you have a toy-sized breed or small breed, you will need to practice stacking and baiting with the dog standing on a grooming table as well as on the floor.

    Warning

    • Never punish your dog for misbehaving. Reward your puppy for standing still and allowing touching and withhold rewards if he moves away.

    References

    Photo Credits

    • Michael Nagle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Jo Chester has been a professional writer and editor for more than a decade. She holds a Master of Arts in professional writing. Chester specializes in dog-related subjects and is a registered agent for Onofrio Dog Show Superintendents. She is also a certified dog trainer and has stewarded at numerous dog shows.

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