Owner Handlers Stand Tall Part 3
Why your dog is not winning in the ring:
Have you studied the terminology?
Part 3 of 3
Owner handlers, stand tall and look no farther than your own actions and the quality of your dogs for your wins. If you want to be a successful owner handler, you’ll have to take personal responsibility for how you and your dog show up in the ring.
In this three-part series we have looked at why it is important to determine if your dog meets their breed standard. We then discussed how you can prepare to enter the ring. In this final look at why owner handlers are not prepared for the ring, we look at the importance of studying the terms and language fundamental to the sport of dog shows.
When I talk to exhibitors, I may mention the simplest concept, only to realize that the person has no idea what I’m talking about or they are shocked at what I’m telling them. They don’t know what to prepare for. Basically, they don’t know what they don’t know.
For example, when I say their dog doesn’t gait like the breed it is. They can’t conceive of how that could be. Does a Samoyed gait like an American Eskimo? Of course not. The Samoyed shall trot or as the Standard states, “move with a quick agile stride that is well timed.” The American Eskimo in contrast shall trot with a gait that is, “agile, bold, well balanced, and frictionless.” In this comparison the standard says that they are both trotting and both agile; however, in contrast one has a quick agile stride while the other has a bold gait. They’re not built the same, so they can’t move the same way. If there is no understanding of structure and movement, there is no understanding of the differences between the breeds.
There is a decided lack of knowledge around the basics in the sport. Do you understand the terminology? Are you familiar with the language specific to your breed, the classes, the dogs, and the sport as a whole? Honestly reflect,. What can you learn more about? Work on being able to identify and name all the dogs in your own group and then work to the different groups.
Do you know all the parts of a dog’s anatomy? Do you know the anatomical qualities unique to your breed standard? For example, Dog Show Mentor Facebook group member, Megan Brendel, elegantly described her breed standard as, “A mature Ridgeback should be symmetrical in outline, slightly longer than tall, but well balanced.”
Do you know the point system and are you able to count points? Here’s a question to ponder. Would a tennis player be considered a serious competitor in a tournament if they couldn’t keep score?
Dog Show Mentor Tip: The most successful exhibitors stay for Best in Show. Seek out a knowledgeable person who has deep history and knowledge of the sport. Hint, they are usually the quiet ones standing by the ring or in the grooming area. Some are exceptionally kind, and some are gruff and brusque. Either way, they know their breed and often, numerous others. When they see an exhibitor who is interested and willing to stay for Best in Show, they tend to eventually offer a tidbit of wisdom. Wait for it...
Prepare to have questions to ask. Acknowledge that you are still learning and are seeking more knowledge. What if you approached one of these experts with an open attitude as you asked, “May I sit here? I have five years (or ten years) in the sport, and I know I should know this, but what breed is that?” Or perhaps, “What do you know about the Bedlington? I don’t know anything about the breed, but I looked at the Standard last week,” –pull it up on your phone–, “it says that . . . what do you think?” It’s amazing what revelations and exchanges come up in these conversations.
Dog Show Mentor COVID-Tip: Owner Handlers Stand Tall. Traditionally the experts enjoyed congregating for the Best in Show. If you are in a region that is maintaining social distancing due to COVID-19 restrictions, you will have to seek alternate ways to admire and learn from the best. I encourage you to watch Road to Westminster videos from the comfort of your home. Sit on that couch, we previously scorned, and watch the shows with a critical eye. Look at the flow of the competitors and the judges. Look at how the dogs move, how the handlers move, and how they move as a unit. Learn the language, the scoring system, the different breeds and their standards. Become a student of the sport and consequently, be prepared to win in the ring.
See you in the winner’s circle!
Copyright 2021 Lee Whittier. All rights reserved. Authorized use only; not for public distribution, exhibition or resale.