by Kristin Thober
If your ultimate goal is to have all eyes watching your dog in the breed ring, you may be surprised how some extra performance events will get you that confident dog who stands out in a crowd. Dog show environments are very loud, distracting and overwhelming. It’s tough to show the dog’s best performance under these circumstances when you only have a few minutes to be in the ring, so you really need an eager and confident dog at the end of your leash.
That’s where the benefits of training for multiple events at the same time come in. From the dog’s point of view, learning some specific exercises is the same thing in all rings. For example, teaching a dog to stack and stand still while being examined is the exact same exercise whether he is the breed ring or the obedience ring. Holding a sit at the agility start line and waiting for the handler’s release is the same as holding a sit for a recall exercise in obedience. Teaching these exercises under different situations helps to solidify what is expected of a dog’s performance, and will give you the confidence to know that your dog will perform its best each time you enter the ring.
Agility is such a fun class to build confidence. Owners may think “I can’t do agility!” -- but actually anyone can.
However, a timid or unsure dog is loathe to learn anything. A bit of confidence building without asking for too much precision is needed first. Sometimes a simple breed handling class is not enough. Young dogs need more exposure to new places and situations. This is where a session of beginner classes in different performance events can work wonders; and introduce the dog to new ring settings while trying new things.
Agility is such a fun class to build confidence. Owners may think “I can’t do agility!” -- but actually anyone can. Beginner level classes are great because they introduce a new concept very slowly, use lots of food and more often than not proceed only when all the dogs in the class are successful. Equipment and jumps are as low as they can be, usually flat on the ground, so the dogs gain confidence as they learn new obstacles. The benefit of a class environment is that the energy of the other dogs in the class tends to rub off on yours, and before long your dog is dragging you to the door to attend class because they are so much fun.
Speaking of dragging you somewhere – control is also a key component to a successful performance. The flip side of too much exuberance is not settling down to work when asked to perform for those precious few minutes of showing. This is where some fun rally classes can help you. Rally is a sport based on obedience, but you can aid the dog during competition with your voice and hand movements. Based on obedience, rally classes do focus on manners and walking on a loose leash, as well as many other specific moves. Again, being part of a class with other dogs and in new places mimic new show environments and your dog becomes more controlled and focused as you advance and learn new moves.
Be careful or you and your dog might get hooked on some of these performance events and continue to take classes. If you actually want to compete in multiple rings with the same dog on the same show, you can! Dogs who are confident in new places and have been trained to do multiple different tasks are always up to the challenge and handle themselves well – it’s always the handlers, who have to juggle changing clothes and keeping track of conflicts and ring times, who have the most trouble! However, if your main purpose is to handle your dog to its championship, cross training with a few sessions of agility or rally classes can really boost his/her confidence and control. You’ll also be building the overall relationship you have with your dog and that will shine through in your dog’s performance in the breed ring.
Kris Thober first competed in obedience 20 years ago with a tri rough collie, who completed his Utility titles in both the U.S. and Canada. Her second collie was “Chelsea,” the smooth son of CH Oakhill Kismet Anticipation. Chelsea went on to be the first smooth collie in history to win multiple High in Trial awards in all-breed obedience trials in both the US and Canada - proof that collies were as competitive in obedience as any other breed. Chelsea was the #1 obedience ranked collie
in the U.S. for many years. Finally bitten by the agility bug, she has completed Master level titles on her current smooth collie, "Booker," as well as handled him to his breed championship, obedience and Rally titles. She teaches classes in both competitive obedience and agility, using positive methods and emphasizing it should be fun for everyone involved, both dog and handler.