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Patience and perseverance
have a magical effect before
which difficulties disappear
and obstacles vanish.
~~ John Quincy Adams

By Kathy V. Moll
Deep River Collies

Now that your puppy is ready for the show ring, you will want to keep your goals firmly in front of you. One goal should be making your show prospect puppy a happy, enthusiastic performer. Another should be steadily improving your own grooming and handling skills. Last but not least, finishing your collie's championship is your ultimate goal. Let's exam each of these goals individually.

How does a puppy become a happy, enthusiastic show dog? If you've read the previous articles in this series and have followed the instructions, you're well on your way. However, you need to continue to give your puppy every advantage. When show training your puppy, keep your sessions short and fun. Ears and enthusiasm are paramount! Endlessly stacking is not! Save the stacking training until the puppy stands back at the end of the leash with his/her ears up and neck arched and will hold that position until you lean forward and offer a tidbit of food. Use your "show" word to train the puppy to stand and stay. Never give bait if the puppy moves toward you, only do so, if the puppy stays put until you lean in to reward. Gradually lengthen the time you ask the puppy to stay put for bait. Then break the puppy out of the show position with a release word and praise.

Ask friends and family to go over your collie while he/she is posed. Remember to move next to the puppy and hold the collar loosely with one hand while the "judge" goes over the head. Move to the front of your dog, and hold while the body is examined. Feeding the puppy a bit during body examination is a good idea and will keep your puppy steady and still. Repetition is the key to a smooth examination, but be sure you don't overdo it if the puppy is getting impatient.

During examination should be your puppy's introduction to stacking (except what you've practiced previously on the grooming table). Once your youngster has the holding still aspect down pat, gently stack the front while your judge is examining the head and bite. Always stack from the elbow, one leg at a time. Move the left front leg under the body with your left hand, while holding the collar with your right. Switch hands and move the right front leg under the body with your right hand while holding the collar with the left. Give a "stay" command. Then move to the front and hold the collar or rough while the front is examined. If the puppy moves, say, "no" and replace the leg(s). Give a treat and calm praise for holding the stack.

Once your collie will hold a front stack, teach a rear stack. Stack the front as usual and give a tidbit. Slide your left hand down the dog's back while holding the collar with your right. Gently slide down the right rear stifle to the hock joint and place the leg turning it very slightly out. Move to the left hock joint and do the same. Give a second "stay" command. Feed as usual during examination. Play between stacking sessions.

Next be certain your collie will move smoothly on a loose lead. Praise and encouragement are important while you move along. Again, short sessions with tidbits and praise are essential. Teach the puppy to move in a straight line at a comfortable pace (not too fast or too slow). Then teach turns. Practice the "down and back," a "triangle," the "go around," and an "L." Praise and reward for smooth performance. Keep your sessions short and fun. If your puppy is not moving, stick a little bait under his/her nose and then toss it out ahead of you and allow the puppy to run out and pick it up. If a small squeeky is what motivates your pup, use that instead.

While good handling can make the difference between winning and losing, so can proper grooming. We've discussed accustoming your puppy to the grooming table in previous articles. A once a week table session is important to making the experience pleasant for the puppy and for you. Again, keep sessions short and praise and treats plentiful.

Know how to make the most of your grooming sessions. Go to grooming seminars put on by collie and sheltie experts whenever you can. Ask your mentor to teach you his/her grooming method. Anyone can learn how to properly take care of collie coats. The number one grooming mistake is not brushing your dog to the skin. Learning to completely brush a double-coated breed so that a greyhound comb will slide through the coat is half the battle! A good slicker brush and pin brush are invaluable. Keeping nails short and teeth clean are vital aspects of proper grooming. Trimming is a tricky business and will require study and practice. Allow an experienced person to help you. When practicing trimming, don't use your show puppy, practice on a collie you're not currently showing so that mistakes won't matter.

To improve your own handling and grooming, watch carefully at shows. Watch collies and shelties and focus on the handlers that have a rapport with their dogs. You will soon recognize the outstanding professional and owner handlers whose dog's are beautifully groomed and presented. Video taping handlers you admire while they're in the ring can be a good memory refresher at home before you work with your own collie. Watch yourself and your puppy in a full length mirror during some of your sessions to be certain your handling looks smooth and that you and your puppy are a team.

Next time we'll examine the ultimate goal - making your collie a champion. Owner handling versus professional, proper conditioning, and selecting the right shows and judges will be the focus. Until then, keep working!

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.