What it takes to become a show dog

 
January 16th, 2017
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Kylie Baracz discovers just what training is needed for your pampered pooch to be shown at the most prestigious dog shows in the world.

From Crufts in England to the Sydney Royal Easter Showdogs and their owners have flocked to win the coveted title of Best in Show. From tiny Chihuahuas to Great Danes, it seems any dog can compete; but is this truly the case? Dog trainer Lucille Ellem says any dog that is not on the limited register with Dogs NSW can enter. “Any dog on the limited register with Dogs NSW cannot exhibit in conformation; however they are allowed to compete in all dog sports. All diff erent breeds can show, even the Neuter Dogs now can compete — which is great,” she says.

How to prepare
Ellem says that, no matter what breed you have, you need to establish leadership very early in the pup’s life, so that both handler and dog respect each other. After this, comes training. “It does not necessarily have to be for competition, training is every day, live together training, where the dogs learn to blend into our lives and having them around you is enjoyable,” she says.

“To prepare for the show ring takes time and lessons to be learnt, the handler must have patience. In the conformation ring, the requirements for the dog are to learn to gait nicely beside the handler, stand still whilst being examined by the judge, and for the dog and handler to work as a team. The art of handling a show dog can only be achieved with real success by the handler who knows his own dog’s faults and virtues. No two dogs should be handled in an identical manner. One needs good hands and a ‘feel’ for a dog.” Ellem recommends finding your own style of handling at a good training school, rather than copying someone else more experienced.

“Sometimes the novice handler will tend to copy one of the more experienced exhibitors in their method of handling but, probably with a dog possessing completely different faults and virtues, to disastrous effect,” she says. “Therefore, if you have a good dog and you want him to win prizes, school him at a good training school and make him look and feel good along with the handler.”

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Training needed
Training starts the moment you take home your puppy and, by the time the dog is ready to compete, you both understand what is required. “The dog needs to be socialised and, to me, that does not mean that the dog needs to jump on another dog to see how sociable he is; to me, allowing the dog to see, hear and smell other dogs and watch each other is better than having a dog be frightened by another ruffian dog,” says Ellem. “Dogs and people have communication skills — normally both skills never meet and combine, usually they bypass each other and the dog is confused which causes the handler to get frustrated — understand your dog and be attentive to his temperament so you understand him, and then you can teach him anything.”

Get involved
The first step to getting your dog to participate in dog shows is to contact Dogs NSW (dogsnsw.org.au) where they have tips on showing your dog and the detailed show and trials guide. “Visiting and watching shows that are already out there give new people an idea of how it all works. They can contact Dogs NSW which is very helpful, and there is paperwork for them to obtain,” says Ellem.


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