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"(Success) is preparation. Everything else is beyond
your control."

~~ Richard Klien

By Kathy V. Moll
Deep River Collies

Last time we discussed training and grooming, both of which are extremely important. Equally crucial are proper conditioning and sound decision making. Without both, all of your previous hard work may go for naught. Experienced collie breeders/exhibitors and professional handlers use these tools to their advantage, and so should you!

What goes into your collie is more important to coat quality than all the products and concoctions that money can buy. Proper feeding is paramount. Select a premium food with a proven reputation. Minimal supplementation is needed; a mix of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids is all you'll want. Here's the easy way: combine equal parts olive, vegetable, canola, safflower, and flaxseed oils in a thoroughly washed dish detergent bottle. A clockwise swirl on your collie's food daily will do the trick. Food soaked in hot water with a little canned is the best choice. Safe bones between meals will keep teeth clean. It's essential to put your hands on your dog's entire body daily to check for proper weight, and adjust food amounts accordingly. Some collies do better with divided feedings while others thrive on a once a day regimen.

Old school thinking was that too much bathing is bad for collie coats. Actually, the opposite is true. Weekly brushing to the skin and bathing keep skin and coat healthy and promote growth. Bathe with a mild shampoo diluted at least 50% with water. Air-drying is okay if the collie has lost its undercoat, but it is absolutely necessary to use a power blower once the undercoat is in. Dry to the skin and brush thoroughly. Your collie will come back into coat much more rapidly if you bathe weekly.

Exercise is the second requirement for the best possible conditioning. Ideally, a large fenced area and a canine playmate give adequate exercise. Long, brisk walks with your collie are good for both of you. Roadwork is rarely needed to keep your adult collie in optimal condition and is not good for growing puppies. Normal play is best. Keep your collie's outdoor environment as natural as possible for a long, healthy life. Check the rear thigh muscles for firmness to monitor how well his/her conditioning is going. Lack of firmness means that more exercise is needed.

Deciding when to start your collie's show career is an important consideration. Typically, 6 to 9 month puppies may not be ready to win points but need some show exposure to prepare them once they are ready. Take your youngster to local shows for fun and practice. Socialization is critical. Neither matches nor training class can really simulate the sights, sounds and smells of dog shows. If your puppy is from a slow maturing line, take him to local shows periodically while you wait for maturity.

Once your collie is ready to win, you'll need to start picking your shows. Your mentor can guide you to judges that typically like dogs from the line. Showing under judges not likely to consider your collie is a waste of your hard-earned money. Keep a record of the shows you attend and how your collie placed.

Deciding to owner handle or hire a professional handler is an important choice. The decision involves a number of considerations. You may feel that finishing your own champion is crucial to your sense of accomplishment. You may be someone with a natural grooming and handling talent. Perhaps you get a special feeling of exhilaration when you're in the ring. You may be able to travel extensively enough to finish your own collie.

On the other hand, you may prefer to hire a handler to present your prospect. Again, take the advice of your mentor and other long-time exhibitors when selecting a handler. It's simpler to get your collie back and forth, if the handler is within driving distance. If the best choice is farther away, then leaving your collie for the show season may work for you. Select someone with appropriate facilities, someone with a reputation for excellent care at home and at the shows. Select a handler who has a rapport with the dogs under his/her care, someone who has genuine love for our breed. Of course, a winning record and excellent presentation are essential as well. Above all, select someone who will be honest with you.

The cost and time required to finish your collie will depend on such factors as preparation, presentation, show selection, quality of competition at the time, and luck. The cost may be about the same regardless of whether you show yourself or use a handler. While handling fees, board and expenses add up, so do gas, motels and food to show your collie yourself. If you're smart, you'll put aside money from the time your prospect is a baby to use later for show expenses. It's frustrating to have your dog trained, conditioned and mature and not have the funds available to finish him/her.

Next time we will wrap up our discussion and tie up loose ends. I'd love to hear from any readers with specific questions about the first seven articles that I can address in the eighth. My email address is kmoll@cccc.edu or saint1213@aol.com.

Kathy Moll of Deep River Collies has been breeding Collies since 1974. She has owned or bred between 70 and 80 collie conformation champions, approximately 30 to 40 in each variety. She also earned the Collie Club of America Presidential Award for Smooth Collie Breeder of the Year for 1998 and was tied for the same award for Rough Collie Breeder of the Year in 1999.