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The New Guide to Junior Showmanship, by Connie Vanacore

Preamble: From the back, “Junior Showmanship, part of the foundation of the sport of dogs, builds the skills necessary for success in every stage of life. Junior Showmanship invovles teamwork much like any other sport. An understanding of each ‘player’s’ role, specific skills that are learned and practiced and the support of other ‘team’ members are all by-products and benefits of this internationally popular activity, with the family dog as a central figure.”

Thesis: There really are no good books on Junior handling, and this one is out of print, but it’s pretty awesome for anyone, not just Juniors.

Specific Things to Remember:

  • Spend a few minutes each day learning something new and practicing what was learned the day before. Never go so long that the dog gets tired or bored.
  • All the basic cleanings, such as nails, ears, bathing, and trimming, should be done before you get to the show grounds. Once you are there, you can brush, do a little extra trimming and generally spiff up your dog.
  • Bait your dog with the intended look – an Afghan is supposed to look aloof and a GSD is supposed to be alert.
  • How to show the mouth: gently take your two fingers and lift the upper lift, holding onto the head or to the lead with the other hand.
    • If the entire structure is to be shown, hold the dog’s head in one hand and gently push the gum back away from the teeth on the side.
    • [KM: show the judge, don’t look yourself.]
  • In setting your dog, the hock should be perpendicular to the ground.
    • If you have a dog with a fault, try to set it up correctly and keep the dog standing without moving. Do it once and don’t look back. Train your dog to stay still or you focusing on the fault will have the judge focus on the fault, too.
  • The Judge’s Role
    • Proper breed presentation
    • Skill in the dog’s presentation
    • Knowledge of ring procedures
    • Appearance and conduct
    • Is the dog responsive to the handler? Do they work as a team? Does the dog appear posed and interested at all times? Is the dog under control? Gaited properly? Main faults minimized and virtues accentuated? Are they relaxed?
    • Do they follow instructions? Are they at ease when asked to do something different?
  • The Junior’s Role
    • Do not crowd the dog and handler in front of you and control your dog.
    • Be neat, clean and well groomed.
    • Understatement is desirable in handling
    • Gait dogs in a controlled trot, keeping the dog in view of the judge
    • Poise, self-assurance, personal hygiene and appearance, the ability to control oneself and one’s surroundings and athleticism all play a part.
  • When setting the front, grasp the leg at the elbow, never at the ankle. Lean over the dog to set the leg on the outside.
  • When you use a treat, keep it in full view so the dog’s head and neck are positioned correctly.
  • If you free bait, you will have to teach a dog by word and motion how to correct its feet. In practice, position the dog and reward for standing still.
    • A lot of posturing and artificial motions go on in rings where dogs are free baited – keep your motions quiet.
  • Stacking practice should be no more than five or ten minutes twice a day.
  • Become adept at rolling your lead up in your hand.
  • Teach your dog to gait separately from stacking so that it doesn’t get confused about staying or going.
  • On corners, bring your dog closer to you as you approach, and then let out the lead as you cross. Practice patterns one at a time so no one gets confused.
  • Get to a point where gaiting and stacking becomes automatic so you don’t have to do anything but think about showing off your dog. Practice taking bait in and out of pockets quietly and unobtrusively.
  • You may let go of the head during examination only if the judge has taken control of it.
  • Do not ever drop the lead or your hands and let your dog stand there on its own.
  • The judge may go around to the other side of the dog, if it happens, as soon as the judge passes the midpoint of the dog, you must go around to the other side, remembering the Cardinal Rule: ALWAYS KEEP THE DOG BETWEEN YOU AND THE JUDGE!
  • Follow and pay attention to instructions
  • Juniors are expected to do a courtesy turn in front of the judge, although this maneuver is no longer done in the breed ring. Do it by stepping out in front of the judge, turning in a circle so the dog stays on your left, and start down the ring.
  • Quiet hands! You shouldn’t have to touch your dog that much if it’s well trained!