Wally was easy to train for the show ring, although in hindsight I would have done some things differently. The biggest problem we had was too much enthusiasm; he was totally confident in the ring and didn’t mind being examined. Fiona was a little less enthusiastic but basically the same way. Ava, however, is different. She’s much more sensitive to sensory input so the show ring is overwhelming. She also prefers to initiate interactions and being examined by a stranger is A Big Deal.
That was only half of the problem though. I know how to train a dog; what I really needed was help troubleshooting Ava’s particular challenges using +R methods. Unfortunately the show world is at least a decade behind the rest of the dog training community and true +R training is far from common. Our regular +R trainer offered solutions but she’s never shown conformation so I was still left with some gaps. I looked for local +R handling classes but couldn’t find anything within an hour’s drive. What to do?
Ever since Puppy Culture came out I’ve kept it on a wish list, waiting until I could justify the $70 price tag. Then I found out that there’s a bundle that includes the PC DVD along with a handful of DVDs on training show behaviors using +R methods. Hello justification! I ordered up the Rockstar Show Puppies Bundle and watched the four DVDs related to showing: Attention is the Mother of All Behaviors, Killer Free Stacks, Stack & Deliver, and Winning in Motion.
Jane Killion uses shaping and luring to train these behaviors, and breaks everything down into incremental steps. Each behavior is demonstrated with multiple puppies and dogs to show how the behavior develops from the first lesson with a 6 week old puppy to a seasoned special with a GCH. She goes over the entire process, some parts in more detail than others, and in the end you get a complete picture of how to take a tiny puppy from a being a Mexican jumping bean to a competitive show dog. And while it’s not a big focus she does cover training for the table, which is critical for table breeds like the Border Terrier.
The target audience for the series appears to be show exhibitors who a) have never used clicker training and/or b) have never trained a show dog. If you’ve trained a lot of show dogs with positive reinforcement methods this series may not help you much. Still you might get something out of it; I did!
Attention is a super simple behavior yet Killion’s approach is pretty novel. Usually the goal is to train the dog to look at the handler but her goal is for the dog to ignore distractions. That seems like it’s just semantics but it makes a big difference! As soon as I saw this DVD I realized I had a solution for Ava’s discomfort with being approached and handled. In the future I’ll be using this method for all of my dogs whether they show or not.
The last two DVDs (Stack & Deliver and Winning in Motion) were the most helpful for me. These two went over more of the “tips and tricks” of handling skills such as how to best display the strengths of your dog while minimizing weak areas. She also discusses things like lead placement, gaiting speed, a few breed specific tips, and multiple small details that really set the pros apart from the novices.
These are all webinars that were recorded for later distribution so there are times when the camera handling or audio is a bit sloppy. On the other hand because they were webinars there are frequent Q&A sessions that provided a lot of the info I found most helpful for my own situation. Killion also discusses and demonstrates a variety of solutions for troubleshooting different issues.
Ultimately I think they were totally worth it. Despite the fact that I already knew most of the material it was incredibly helpful to see someone demo the skills with an actual dog. Plus I picked up a lot of great new info!