Dogs & Conformation Trainingby Jane Meggitt
If you intend to show your purebred dog in conformation classes, it's not enough for him to simply look beautiful. While dogs at conformation shows are judged on how closely they adhere to a breed ideal, they also must be well-behaved and well-presented. Because the finest dogs are the future of a breed, spayed or neutered animals can't compete in conformation shows.
Start by familiarizing yourself with the breed and grooming standard for your particular dog, then the rules and regulations regarding conformation classes. Visit shows or watch them on television to get a feel for the competition. Speak with breeders about purchasing a show-quality puppy. Pet-quality puppies make wonderful companions, but they won't make it in the show ring. Before starting conformation-specific training, make sure your puppy or dog has what it takes to succeed. If he's got the potential, your local parent breed or an all-breed club can help you navigate the next steps.
Training for the show ring should go hand-in-hand with basic obedience training. Your dog should know the commands "sit," "stand," "stay," "down" and "heel." Work particularly on "stand and stay," as this is the position in which the dog is judged. Taking your puppy to obedience classes also exposes him to other dogs, a must for the potential show canine.
To best display his assets, your dog must learn to "stack" correctly. Some dogs do this naturally, while others need considerable training. Although the correct stack varies by breeds, in most cases the animal's forelegs stack in alignment with the withers, with rear pasterns aligned at a 90 degree angle from the ground. You are permitted to manually stack your dog, moving each foot into the correct position, but free-stacking is preferred. That involves not touching your dog, but having him stack himself via voice or gestural commands.
Training your dog to look at you on command is imperative if you plan to compete. So-called "bait training" uses a food incentive, but a few other incentives work as well with canines. Start by repeating a word, such as "treat" while your dog consumes his food. That ensures the word has a pleasurable connotation. During obedience training, keep treats -- or kibble -- in your pocket and use the term when your dog is performing a stand-stay. Your dog looks at you while extending his neck, which, if done correctly, puts him in the correct pose for showing off the breed silhouette. While you can use the word whenever you want the dog's attention, do not use it when your dog sits, as conformation classes do not involve sitting and you don't want him to react improperly.
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