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Westminster 2015

I love watching Westminster. To me, and I think to most people, it’s the pinnacle of the dog show world. There’s prestige to be had just for attending, much less winning breed or getting any kind of placement. Since we had a snow day over here in VA I’ve been live streaming the breed judging, which of course leaves me inspired to get out and show again. We’ve been on hiatus from the show ring for quite a while, but once I get back to WA (I’m only in VA for a few months) I think it will be time to dust off the show lead.

Pause to watch GSP breed judging…. I’m just dying over here! So many upsets! AHHHHH! The drama of dog shows, it gets me so amped up.

Anywho, lately I’ve been pondering the various paths Audacious BT’s could take and mulling over the best course. Serious business, being a fledgling dog breeder with high standards.

OK, I <3 Giant Schnauzers. Will never own one, but LOVE. They are the Friesian of the dog world.

So yeah, rambling aside, I need to get back into it. Wally doesn’t realize it but he’s just asking to be Specialed. Dude is looking goooooood. Fiona presents more of a challenge due to her propensity to be overweight, but she has potential. Thank you Westminster for inspiring me anew.

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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Shows

 

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Like any sport, it takes a winning strategy

In prior posts I’ve mentioned that serious show competitors have a strategy. They don’t enter shows willy nilly and dogs don’t drop off the face of the show planet for no reason — there’s always something behind those decisions. Below is a perfect example of this, where someone thought carefully about their show weekend.

I’ve done some of this myself with Wally. Just having turned 2 in March, he really wasn’t mature enough to be incredibly competitive as a special. Then we went through a few months where I simply didn’t have the time to make showing a priority and as a result Wally lost his show conditioning and coat quality dropped due to lazy grooming. Had I chosen to show him anyway it would have left a poor impression on judges and competitors, in addition to being a waste of time and money. Instead we’re taking some time off to mature and play, not to mention wait for Baby Girl to come around. Then we’ll see about getting back in the ring!

Show Strategy

 

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Shows

 

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Border Terrier BIS record has been broken!

Recently Maya, #1 BT in the country for some time now, won her 14th BIS and broke the record of 13 BIS for a BT. You can read a bit more of the details over on DSP.

GCH CH MEADOWLAKE SIMPLY SINFUL

Photo by Christina Freitag

Winning BIS is quite an endeavor because it’s seldom a simple matter of the best structured dog in the whole show. We are all aware that politics and money come into play (how often do you see an owner-handler in the BIS ring?), so it’s pretty tough for the average person to get into the final ring of the day. Karen worked hard to get Maya in this position by campaigning tirelessly and getting financial backers in order to keep up with the “big dogs”. She also was able to avoid the major California Terrier handlers (such as Gabriel Rangel) since she is based in the Midwest. It’s all about strategy!

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Other Stuff

 

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Easy Conditioning Plan for You and Your Dog

I’ve talked about conditioning numerous times here, here, here, here, and here. I talk about it a lot because I find it fascinating, but if you show dogs then you should also care about simply because conditioning is a crucial component of showring prep: conditioning can be the difference between winning and losing.

In my previous posts I got down into the nitty gritty details, but there’s a much easier way. Simply follow the Couch to 5K running program with your dog! This is what I did with Wally and it worked perfectly for us. Seeing the changes in his muscling convinced me that conditioning is greater than feeding tons of food. Wally is a poor eater but in spite of this he had great fill through the flanks when we were doing C25K.

Here’s why you may want to try it:

  • The program is already scaled for a gradual increase in difficulty
  • It’s easy to keep your dog in a proper gait speed by adjusting your own running speed
  • It only takes 45min, three days a week
  • You could do it from a bike or with your dog on a treadmill (prepare him appropriately of course)
  • You’ll be in better condition to gait your dog at the appropriate speed

C25K image

** Use at your own risk and consult with your veterinarian (and your doctor) before attempting. LBD and Cassie Abbott are not medically trained and are not responsible for how you use this information or the results of use. **

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Other Stuff

 

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If you want to succeed, find a mentor

There’s a lot you can learn on your own, but having a good mentor (or a bunch of them) is the best way to expedite your success. A mentor has years of experience to draw wisdom from, saving you time, money, irritation, and even heartache. They also have connections to dozens of people who could become great assets to you.

Marion and Wayne have proven to be invaluable to my own growth in the sport of dogs. There’s no way Wally and I would have seen such success without their help! When it came to handling and grooming, Wayne took me from zero to sixty in a few months. Marion has given me a ton of insight into the breeding and whelping of puppies, plus insight into showing and general management. Because of this foundation I was then able to learn even more from other people who crossed my path: Cathy Soule, Valerie Nunes-Atkinson, Peter Atkinson, Danielle Green, Gabriel Rangel, Carmen Ruby, and others.

Wally had to learn all this sexiness from someone

A good breeder will mentor you, so keep that in mind when shopping for one (I bet you thought you were shopping for a puppy, huh?). If your breed requires specific grooming or handling techniques it would be even more important to have your breeder nearby They already know the ins and outs of everything from grooming to handling to which judge likes their dogs. Granted, it’s not always possible to find a good breeder 10 miles away (I was incredibly lucky), but your breeder is by far the easiest person to develop a mentor/mentee relationship with.

Other Ideas

  1. Check out the AKC mentoring program. Although it’s not breed specific it may be a good jumping off point for showing.
  2. Contact local, regional, and national parent breed clubs. Most of these will have some kind of mentoring system in place or can put you in touch with someone in your area.
  3. Take a handling class. Again, not likely to be breed specific but it will provide you experience and contacts.
  4. Shadow a professional handler or groomer. You might have to pay them or be their bucket bitch for the day, but you could learn a lot!
  5. Join online forums and groups. This has it’s limitations since it’s online, but there are plenty of folks who are more than happy to share their knowledge. Just be discerning since everyone becomes an expert online.
  6. Contact local breeders. Even if you didn’t buy a dog from them they might be willing to mentor you. Maybe offer to be their unpaid kennel hand in exchange for mentoring.
  7. Chat with owners/handlers at shows. Not all owners know anything about their breed, but it can’t hurt! At the very least they might be able to direct you to someone more knowledgeable.
  8. Find a long-distance mentor who is willing and able to teach you via Skype or gChat.

Something to keep in mind is motivation: what’s going to motivate this person to teach me? Breeders want the owner to succeed so the dog (and thus their kennel) will succeed. Some people will do it for personal satisfaction.  Other people will need something to entice them, like money or free labor. If you don’t want to clean kennels think of a skill you have that they could use, such as fixing cars or doing taxes or photography or web design. Don’t be afraid or unwilling to pay for their services just to get the door open. Eventually you may have enough of a relationship that you won’t have to pay them. Or you might realize that they don’t have as much to teach you as you thought!

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask. Politely push yourself into the consciousness of every dog person you know! I found Marion and Wayne because I was talking to my friend Dawn about getting a dog, mentioning that I was considering a Border Terrier. Dawn knew Marion from 4H and immediately provided me with her contact information. If I had said nothing to Dawn I would have never known Marion and would have never gotten Wally, and we all know a Wally-less life is not a life worth living. So put aside your shyness and make yourself known. It all comes down to who you know and who they know. Something like that 6 degrees of separation thing.

Equally important, say YES! If someone asks you to come down and handle one of their pups in a handling class, say yes. If a handler says they need an assistant for the show this weekend, say yes. If somebody needs a ring steward for a show, say yes. The more you say yes, the more people you’ll meet and the more people will think “hmmm, this person is actually serious; I might want to help them out.”

Finally, be careful who you choose or allow to mentor you. Newbies especially don’t know the history behind  the long-timers and you may unintentionally get involved with someone who ultimately will hold you back, even if just by association. Get to know people and how they are regarded before you hitch your own reputation to that particular wagon.

It sounds like a lot of effort, and it is, but having a good mentor is like winning the lottery: it creates a lot of opportunities and hastens your progress by leaps and bounds.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Other Stuff

 

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Look pretty: training the stack

I’ve been asked to write a post about training a dog to show stack, which would seem like a pretty short and simple topic, right? It’s not! Before I got Wally I thought “psh, that looks so easy!” Imagine my surprise when I realized how very complicated it is to trot a dog around a ring and have him stand for examination while looking like a winner.

First of all, what is stacking? For the intents of this article, it means that the dog is standing square, forelegs perpendicular to the ground, rear legs from hock to pastern perpendicular to the ground. Some breeds have different definitions of a proper stack but this is the most common type of stack. For most people the bulk of the issue is training foot placement. [A fine-tuned stack also involves training tail, neck, and head carriage as well as facial expression.]

The sections of leg that should be perpendicular to the ground

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Fifi stacked (GCH Protocol’s Veni Vidi Vici), photo by The Winning Image

There are two ways to stack a dog: hand stacking and free stacking. With a hand stack you physically place the dogs feet in the correct position; you often see this in the line-up. In a free stack the dog walks into the correct position on his own; you see it at the end of a gaiting pattern when the dog stops in front of the judge. Free stacking is the epitome of showmanship so it’s a necessary skill (especially when you compete for BOB, Group, or BIS), but the easiest way to train a free stack is to start by nailing down the hand stack. Once your dog understands the proper position and has practice in that position he’ll be able to walk into it more easily. Puppies especially need to be hand stacked because they have almost no body awareness!

Quite honestly I have no idea how a professional handler trains dogs to stack because I could never get one to tell me how they did it. Not that they were being secretive, but they simply don’t have a systematic method for it! From what I was told most pros train the dog in the ring or expect the owners to train the dog. I, however, am paying my own entry fees so the last thing I want to do is pay $25 for 5min of “training”! That seems a rather slow and inefficient process, not to mention a waste of money.

Although there’s a lot to know before you start training (such as breed standards, proper stacking for your breed, etc) I’m just going to focus on how to actually train your dog to stack. Ideally you would get yourself a mentor who would show you the proper stack. It’s also a great idea to join a handling class so that you and your dog become familiar with ring procedure.

Thanks to human imagination there are lots of ways to teach your dog to stack!

  1. Shaping, which is basically how old schoolers do it only they don’t call it shaping. With shaping you have an end behavior in mind and reward each tiny step that moves the dog closer to that behavior. This process works a lot faster when you use a clicker since the dog knows instantly what he’s being rewarded for, but you don’t have to use a clicker. I primarily used shaping with a clicker to train Wally to stack. Using the clicker also allowed me to specifically work on tail carriage and expression. The easiest way to understand shaping is to try the “101 Things to Do With a Box” exercise.
  2. Capturing is also an option. With capturing you simply reward the dog for doing something spontaneous that you liked. Say you’re in the kitchen making his dinner and your dog trots up to you, stopping in a perfect stack simply by accident. You would praise him and give cookies for being so unintentionally wonderful. This, of course, is a slow method of training so it would be best used in conjunction with some other method. It also helps if your dog is so structurally sound that his natural stance is a proper stack (I am fortunate that Wally is this way). I did this as a supplement to shaping.
  3.  Happy Legs are a somewhat expensive, but effective, method of training the stack. It is based on repetition and the concept of muscle memory. Each box comes with four pedestals, which you can then arrange on the magnetic surface so that your dog is in the perfect stack. I started Wally on them as an adult and found they were really helpful in perfecting his stack. A friend of mine used them with her puppy and saw great progress. With these you gradually work up to 2min of stacking, then begin the process of transferring the behavior from the box to the ground or table. I would suggest using a clicker, particularly when introducing the dog since this can be a scary procedure.
  4. Other gadgets are available that are similar to Happy Legs (such as these or these), or some people use large cans of food as blocks. If you have woodworking skills you could even make something yourself! I’ve often thought that you could also simply put colored tape on the floor to use as markers for the feet. Gadgets are, of course, not required but I personally love gadgets of all kinds and Wally has a fetish for standing on things, so Happy Legs worked for us.

Here are some resources that I referred to when training Wally:
Free Stacking by Sue Ailsby (article)
Positive Training for Show Dogs by Vickie Ronchette (book)
Various articles by Vickie Ronchette
Raising a Champion by A. Meredith John (book)
When Pigs Fly: Training Success with Impossible Dogs by Jane Killion (book)
ClickerShowDogs group on Yahoo! Groups

The key thing is to make stacking a fun game with motivating rewards. If it’s all a big game then your dog will want to go in the ring and play, which is the winning attitude all judges love to reward!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2012 in Training

 

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Best words I ever did hear

Our first BOB win! Many thanks to Judge Leslie Rogers

When Wally won BOB at the GHKC show in Sept I was ecstatic — finally we got the big win! [Of course it’s not the REALLY big win, which is BIS, but that’s a ways off if it ever happens.] Of course I got a photo because duh. As I was arranging Wally on the table like a four legged vase of flowers (in my head I said vaaas) the judge made a point to tell me what excellent condition Wally was in. This, of course, was a huge compliment because just 2 months prior Wally had literally been a bag of bones (due to the stress of living in Cali, in case you weren’t with us then). And it was a huge reward for all the work I did! So what did I do?

First of all, I recognized that Wally’s eating preferences might be obnoxious but they are by no means unreasonable. He doesn’t like eating the same thing at every meal, he needs variety. Ok, no big. I mean, we all need variety, right? If somebody came up with a “100% balanced” people chow, would you eat it every meal, every day? Because it’s 100% balanced, so why not! Of course not. So I embraced Wally’s eating habits and now he (almost) never gets the same thing twice in a row. I also recognized that he likes to play with his food, in a manner of speaking, so I use the Buster Cube. So we rotate between plain kibble, kibble mixed with wet, wet, tripe, raw, and fatty meatballs. My goal is to just make the dude eat!

My jogging partner

Second, we’ve been conditioning regularly. I think this has more to do with Wally’s improved condition than the food does. We go running three times a week following the Couch to 5K program. I run slow enough so that Wally is gaiting the entire time and now we’re up to running for 30min straight. This alone has not only improved his movement — getting him to extend and use himself more — but it has also built up a lot of muscle. I attribute  muscle development in his flank area, not to mention building up leg muscling (particularly the all-important second thigh), to our running regimen.

It sure feels good have all that hard work recognized with a BOB win!

 

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in Other Stuff, Wally

 

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