Friday, August 6, 2010

ASK THE DOG TRAINER: Is Your Dog Show Ring Ready...Tips for Getting There

by Judith Joseph, DOI, Columnist

Dear Judy, I have heard about many aspects of AKC's breed standard criteria. Today I learned that there are some guidelines that involve a dog's gaite or movement. Obviously I am not a pro at showing dogs, but I was told by someone rather knowledgeable that my Saluki doesn't have the necessary posture and gait needed to perform well in shows. Can a dog be taught to walk or run the way the judges expect it to? Who could help me find the right trainer?

Thank you, JAckerman


Dear Reader:

You purchased your dog from a reputable breeder and registered him with the American Kennel Club (AKC), United Kennel Club (UKC) or other nationally/internationally recognized registry.  He’s a perfect specimen but is he ready for a show ring?  Here I refer to the AKC, but every organization has and adheres to its own by-laws, regulations, judging and scoring policies, and has different participation eligibilities and requirements, championship levels, obtainable titles, and stipulations as to who can show the dog (you the owner, family members or professional handler*).   

The AKC has established standards for its recognized breeds including specific physical characteristics such as size and shape of the head; height, weight and length proportions; coat and coloring; temperament; gait (the way the breed walks) and stance (the way the breed stands).  If you’d like to compete in AKC conformation events, make sure to research your breed’s standards and show ring qualifications. These standards are outlined in their official publication, The Complete Dog Bookavailable at local book and pet stores, and on-line at the link.  Attend as many local trials and competitions as possible because there’s more to showing than what’s seen on TV.

Dogs can compete in some AKC events as early as 6 months old, so many begin training between 8 and 12 weeks of age.  Training for the ring involves patient repetition and reward.  Teach Sit, Stay, Stand, Down, and Heel on leash.  Get him accustomed to being touched by you, friends and family:  open his mouth and examine his teeth, check his ears, feet, tail, legs and underside often.  Teach him to hold his stance by placing him in position and, using the commands “Stand” and “Stay”, reward with a favorite treat he’s only allowed to nibble while holding his position.  He should already have the natural gait of his breed, but you’ll have to determine the right speed of forward movement (slow walk, fast walk, jog, etc.) that will allow him to maintain it.  While training, always work at that speed so it becomes second nature to both you and your dog.  Working with distractions is a must, so add them as he learns. 

A dog’s structure can’t be changed therefore conformation events may not be an option for you.  Just because he’s not a “perfect specimen” doesn’t mean he can’t compete.  There are thousands of local dog clubs open to all dogs, offering competitive events and activities in Obedience, Agility, Herding, Tracking, Free Style, Rally Obedience, Earthdog, Hunting, Fly Ball, and Retrieving.  Choose one that’s right for your dog, and - win or lose - have fun!

*If you decide to hire a handler check credentials, references, and track records including breeds handled and titles won. You'll find tips for choosing a handler at this link. Additional information on the AKC's requirements for your Saluki may be found at this link.

Good luck,


Judith Joseph, DOI
Write to her at

For more information on Judith Joseph and her training, you may find her at TCDOA Dog Training. A personal appointment will likely provide more specific information on your dog's issues and your questions.
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