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Why Learn to Handle Your Dog in Conformation?

Posted By Drea on March 7, 2013

Here at ArticCross Julie and Drea are known as pretty spiffy handlers. We are people who know the craft. But why do we know it? Well, here is the best explanation I can give you:

Showing a dog is a partnership. It is not just “having a good dog”, which you certainly should need to win, but being able to present that dog properly. The thing is that you can make a great dog look pitiful with poor handling. A lot of people use the excuse that “a judge should be able to see through that”. Well, really, no they shouldn’t. A lot of people say that a dog should win despite handling, well it isn’t that easy.

Think of it this way even in performance sports which are supposedly objective, it is a TEAM EFFORT. Anyone who has ever been in competition whether it be obedience, agility, herding, sledding, IPO, frisbee, dock dog or hunting tests will admit that you can completely screw your dog if you don’t know what you are doing. It is no different with conformation.

Even though conformation is more subjective than most performance sports you are doing a huge disservice to yourself if you don’t learn how to do it correctly. How are judges supposed to be objective when you make your dog look short necked, cow hocked, out at the elbow, pitter pattery and dumpy and the dog who is not as nice doesn’t look any of those things, the judge can just see a slight flip of their pastern on the way back. So then you get done and say “I can’t believe my dog lost to that shitty front!!!” Well, do you know how BAD you made your dog look? Yes, your dog is better if the judge were to see it at it’s best. But the judge can’t see your dog because you are so busy making it look like a dolt. You are the obedience handler with the dog in perfect heel who decides to turn the wrong way on the about turn. Or the agility handler that sends the dog on a wrong course. YOU lost it for your dog. Don’t blame it on the “subjectivity”. Blame it on yourself.

You should learn to present your dog to the best of your ability. This doesn’t mean learn to hide faults, paint colors, trim the dog to death or get the dog surgically altered. What learning to present your dog to the best of your ability means that you are competent enough to show the dog and not make the dog look like it has faults that it doesn’t have. Learn ring procedure, be comfortable, know enough that it can be FUN and your dog can have FUN. And guess what? You will both look and feel better, and probably win more. That’s all.

-Drea Dunkle of ArticCross


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