A couple days ago I was dreading our weekly handling class. Last week Wally was horrible and I felt like a failure, definitely not meeting Marion & Wayne’s high expectations. But I went, of course. I had decided to use my clicker during class, something I hadn’t done before because 1) I won’t bring it into the showring and 2) I didn’t want to get a bunch of crap from other people. Clickers are not commonly used by conformation folks.
As I got out of my car I realized that this was about me and my dog, not about what other people think. We might not be polished or rock solid but we’re a team. And that attitude made all the difference. Yeah, Wally sounded like a goose as he pulled his way to the other dogs. And yes, he initially tried to play with Coal and Jazzy instead of stacking. But he improved by l-e-a-p-s and BOUNDS!
First, stacking with other dogs nearby. I had Wally stacked and Wayne (purposefully) let Jazzy walk between Wally and I. Wally turned but kept his rear feet planted, which was a big improvement. I asked Wayne to do it again, and this time Jazzy came right up to Wally’s face so she could snag some cheese out of my hand. Wally kept eyeballing me as if to say “Jesus Christ mom, seriously?! OK, keepmynoseonthecheese keepmynoseonthecheese keepmynoseonthecheese.” And he did! He stayed in his stack and made no move to play with Jazzy. I was so proud!
The second breakthrough was our gaiting. Initially Wally did his attempt to drag me around the ring (he’s 14lb, so it’s just an attempt), but in the few moments that he was doing it right I clicked. It didn’t take long before he was significantly improved and gaiting like a normal dog! Maybe not like a veteran special, but his head was up and he was staying next to me. As a test I had him gait right behind Coal to see how close we could get before Wally lost control. He never did! *FISTPUMP*
Needless to say I was very happy by the time we finished class. I’ll definitely be using the clicker at handling from now on. Sometimes you just have to find your backbone and stand up for your dog, even if you’re only defending him against your own self-doubt.