Fri, 02/16/2024 - 7:45pm

Pat Trotter's Report Card

Do you make the grade as an exhibitor?

It is important to understand that when you walk into the ring with a dog on a lead and an armband on, you are an exhibitor. This is true whether you are a professional, amateur, owner-handler or first-time novice in the ring.

So, consider behavior that determines whether your report card proves you to be an honor student or a near failing one.

Exhibitors who know their armband numbers after a quick glance at the ring steward’s available catalog prove they’ve done their homework. They know the classes their dogs are entered in, as well as the order in which they will appear. Furthermore, such A students have made arrangements for extra handling back-up in the event they have more than one dog eligible for Winners or the breed judging.

Exhibitors who are not prepared to go in the ring in a timely fashion are not doing themselves a favor. Ring stewards who call you repeatedly, knowing you picked up the armband, are not obligated to track you down. Those who get into the ring when they are supposed to do the entire process of the dog show a service. The best exhibitors do not want to waste time that should be utilized for evaluating the stock.

Top-notch A students have their armbands arranged in proper order on their arms, and each one goes with the dog that won the blue — or the purple, if said exhibitor has a BOB entry. Such experienced exhibitors have watched the judge’s ring procedure, so that they are prepared for the contest. So are their dogs. Although bait will be used judiciously, they do not have to feed their dogs continuously in order for the animal to submit to the exam. After all, more than once this adjudicator has realized, “Dogs know how to eat; they need to be trained for the exam!”

The honor students we have in mind have their dogs in condition and properly groomed for their breed. No dandruff is visible, no unclean dogs nor animals that reek of neglect are shown by those folks.

Such skilled exhibitors understand that dogs moving easily and willingly to spotlight their athleticism draw the appreciative approval of the judges. When presenting their dogs, they avoid interfering with the dog’s gait. Such true dog people understand when the dog comes to a halt and in order to be stacked on the line, the leading foot is the brake. The trailing foot is the load bearer with the elbow properly under the top of the shoulder blades. Thus, the lead foot is brought back by skilled hands and placed in the same position on the opposite side of the body so both front legs are now equally sharing the animal’s weight.

The rear is not overstretched because overstretching can cause the topline to be compromised. The head is held properly with lead or hand, depending on the breed — not jammed back into the shoulder blades. Skilled exhibitors know that knowledgeable judges are not fooled when the handler tries to angle the dog to make it appear shorter. Most great handlers understand that nose to tail on the line makes it easier for judges to evaluate each animal properly. Handlers who have practiced posing their animals in front of a full-length mirror have an understanding of what the judge sees while evaluating a line of dogs.

Honor-student handlers do not show anger because the ribbon, or lack of same, is not the color they sought. Such talented people know that there’s always another show, another day and probably different competition. They also understand that their dog might not have been at its best on the day.

Sometimes even some very skilled exhibitors’ report cards fall from high As to A- or less by “hot dogging” or trying to hog the judge’s attention. Hiding a competitor is childish and can turn a judge in another direction when the competition is keen. This behavior is not in one’s best interest. Nor is eyeballing the judge all the time.

Want to go from high scores to Cs or lower? Running up on a dog in front of you is totally unacceptable and can easily be avoided by gauging the speed and ring conditions. In large outdoor shows, going wide if your dog is in rhythm is one way, and/or slowing down and hanging back some are other ways. Judges of yesteryear would stop the class and embarrass the offending exhibitor with a dressing down.

The report cards of our best exhibitors always draw one’s attention to the fact that the human’s body language goes down the lead to the dog. A calm hand and soothing voice can relax a high-strung dog. A little excitement and encouragement in one’s voice can perk up a sluggish one.

The valedictorian exhibitor understands what the old-timers always preached: You start handling the dog where it stops handling itself.



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