Dog Shows In a Nutshell
First and foremost, remember a dog show is only a dog show. You can do it! Relax and have fun! There are a lot of nice dogs competing, and only one dog and one bitch can win points on any given day. If you put a lot of pressure on yourself, your dog will pick up on the nerves which will likely negatively impact the performance. This is a sport and it is important to be a good sport and treat your dog well. Do not get discouraged, especially if you are showing a puppy. Puppies are not supposed to behave like little robots; the key is to make sure your puppy is having as much fun showing as possible. An unhappy dog is not a good show dog. Few puppies are mature enough at a young age to win consistently over more mature dogs. Your goal is to present your vizsla in as favorable a light as possible - basically, you are selling your vizsla to the judge! you must convey that you expect and deserve to win.
To stack your dog, you can be standing or kneeling, whichever is easiest for you and works best for your dog. Handling is a process of trial and error, as you try to figure out the best way to present your dog. All handling tips included herein should be modified to accommodate your dogs needs! Each dog is different in personality and conformation, and different handling techniques need to be used. Some dogs are jumping off the ceiling, others are falling asleep in a stack, extremes which require very different methods of handling. Different techniques also need to be used to minimize whatever faults your dog happens to possess.
You must have control of the dog's head. Either hold the head or position and hold the lead to control the head. You can not stack a dog without having full control of its head because the dog's body will follow wherever the head moves.
Since most dogs do not love being overhandled, keep your handling to a minimum. Do not fix what is already naturally set correctly. When taking a part of a dog's body to set, take it gently and move slowly. Do not GRAB the dog's limbs or make quick movements, because fast, rough handling not only looks bad, it makes dogs not like handling and not stand still.
PART 1: THE STACK
Your dog's head is aimed toward your right. Set front feet first, then rear feet. Front right leg is placed with the right hand. The other three legs are placed with the left hand. Once the dog's feet are in position, you must PRESENT your dog to the judge with confidence by finishing the picture:
- Dog is up over the front feet, showing available arch of neck.
- Lips are not caught on teeth. Extra skin on neck or wrinkle over shoulder is pulled up/cleaned up.
- Topline is level and straight.
- Tail is straight out slightly below topline.
- Handler is as inconspicuous as possible. Extra lead is balled up (or Zd up).
- Dog looks alert and interested.
When you come to your place in line, try and keep some space between you and the dog ahead of you so that you have room to stack, and room to move if the dog behind you moves up too close. If someone is crowding you, be sure to ask them if they could please move back. Make sure that your dog is in line with the dogs in the row, and not in a hole behind the line where you won't easily be seen. Pay attention to where the judge is having dogs stack and the pattern (s)he is using so that you will prepared when your turn comes.
Use of Bait: Bait is the tasty treat you are using to keep your dog interested in performing. You can use bait to make your vizsla look its best…e.g., to gain expression, to attain a great free stack. However, many judges do not like to see a dog chomping on bait. I personally now believe that it is better to train your dog to hard stack without using any bait! it is a crutch which ends up often interfering withi success. Bait not only ties up your hand which you need for the best stacking, but it makes too many dogs stand ess steady (they are too focused on getting the bait). If you feel you must use bait, then:
- Do not feed your dog the bait just before you are moving around the ring. Chomping on food does not look attractive, can affect the way the dog moves and can cause choking and gagging all the way around the ring.
- Do not feed your dog the bait just before the judge examines the bite.
Timing: The goal is to have your dog always looking its best whenever the judge is looking at your dog. Therefore, timing is critical. With a dog just learning to stack, there is an exact right time to start the stack so that you have time to get the dog looking good before the judge looks. If you are too late, the judge's first impression of your dog could be that it looks like a pretzel! If you are too early, the dog may be breaking out of that lovely stack just as the judge looks at him or her. Timing comes with practice, and becomes less relevant as your dog becomes more reliable in holding a hard stack. The other component of timing is a cardinal rule of handling: You should know at all times where the judge is and what the judge is doing.
BOB Best of Breed
BOS Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed
WD Winners Dog
RWD Reserve Winners Dog
WB Winners Bitch
RWB Reserve Winners Bitch
BOW Best of Winners
BIS Best in Show
BISS Best in Specialty Show
AOM Award of Merit (aka JAM)
GCH Grand Champion
The front feet should be positioned shoulder width apart. The legs should be straight with the feet parallel and pointing straight ahead. The dog should be up over the front, not posting/bracing. The dog should be looking straight ahead.
START by WALKING your dog into a stack. Some dogs sets their fronts naturally. If the dog has its feet in the correct position, don't touch the front legs. If the front feet are not correct, you will need to set them using one of the methods below.
Setting the Front feet: Lift and Place Method.
- Controlling the dog's head with your left hand, shift the weight off the right front foot. Take the dog's right leg at the elbow and set the foot on the ground facing straight ahead. Shift the dogs weight back on to the set foot. Slowly say STAY.
- Then, switch hands, control the dog's head with your right hand and shift the weight off the left foot, take the dog's left leg at the elbow and set the left foot parallel with the right foot. Shift the dog's weight back on to the set foot. Slowly say STAY.
Setting the Front feet: Push Back Method.
- Controlling the dog's head with your left hand, shift the weight off the right front foot. Gently push back the dog's right upper arm until the right foot is in place. Slowly say STAY.
- Then, switch hands, control the dog's head with your right hand and shift the weight off the left foot and gently push back the dog's left upper arm until the left foot is in place. Slowly say STAY.
Note: I prefer to stack the left front foot (judges side) before the right front foot. However, this requires switching the lead twice. I have described the stack with the right front first to minimize this lead switching.
Fixing front feet that are not straight: If you set your dog's feet, and they are still not pointing straight ahead, you will need to do more manipulation to make them point straight ahead.
- Easty-Westy: Some dogs have a front foot or feet that point sideways rather than straight ahead (common in some young dogs whose fronts may be straight once the chest fills in and pushes the elbows out). When setting the foot of a dog whose foot naturally turns sideways, turn the elbow and place the foot facing IN rather than facing straight. When you shift the dog's weight back on to the foot, it will generally appear to be more straight.
- Out-At-Elbow: Some dogs have a front where the elbows bow out, rather than being held close to the body, resulting in a front foot or feet that toe in (bowlegged). When setting the foot of an out-at-elbow dog, try and make sure that the elbows are close against the body and place the feet facing out. When you shift the dog's weight back on to the foot, it will generally appear to be more straight.
Posting or Bracing.
Many dogs react to handling by bracing or posting, which means they lean back on their front feet, heading toward a play bow position. It is very important to make sure you have your dog over the front. If your dog is bracing or posting, take your bait to draw the dog forward. Once the dog is up over the front, tighten your grasp on the collar so the dog can't lean back. Keep interest with the bait to hold the dog in this position.
Some Common Mistakes to Avoid:
- Don't set the front too far forward which makes the dog brace.
- Setting the front too narrow or too wide. Feet should be shoulder width apart.
- Setting the feet so that they turn in or out. Make sure they are straight.
- Setting the dog so that the elbows stick out. Bring elbows close to the body.
The rear feet should be positioned slightly wider than the front feet (about one paw width outside the front feet). The hocks should be straight up and down and perpendicular to the ground. The feet should be parallel and pointing straight ahead.
Walk your dog into a freestack and look at your dog's natural rear. Then, look at how your dog's rear looks after you finish stacking the front. Some dogs set their rears naturally. If the dog has its feet in the correct position, don't touch the rear legs. If the rear feet are not correct, you will need to set them using one of the methods below.
Setting the Rear feet: Placement Method
You will use your left hand to set both rear feet. If a dog does not like having its rear touched, it sometimes helps to gently run your hand down the back saying STAY before you start. It is particularly important when placing the dog's rear that your motions be gentle and slow.
You can either stack the rear from over the dog's back or underneath the dog's stomach. You should try both methods to see if your dog prefers one method over the other, and to determine if one is easier/more comfortable for you.
- Keep control of the dog's collar on the front, being careful not to pull on the collar which will knock the dog off balance and mess up the front stack.
- Gently take one hock, pick it up and place it slightly outside the line of the front foot on the same side. Make sure that the hock and foot are straight. This may require you to twist the hock slightly if it tends to turn in or out in its natural position. Slowly say STAY.
- Then, gently take the other hock and place it parallel with the first hock in the same position on the other side. Slowly say STAY.
Setting the Rear feet: Lift and Drop Method
Some dogs don't like having their rears set (particularly if it is a new experience for them). This method works better for dogs with very strong rears.
- Put your hand between the dog's rear legs and gently lift the dogs rear off the ground. Gently pull back, using your fingers to spread the legs to the appropriate width and set the rear on the ground. Slowly say STAY.
- If the dog's rear is strong, the rear may set perfectly. Otherwise, you may need to make some minor alterations using the techniques in the Placement Method.
Some common mistakes in setting the rear include:
- Overstretching or understretching the dog's rear. Use the dog's topline as a check. If the dog's topline is roaching and bunched, you may not have the hocks placed far enough back. If the dog's topline is sloping, you may have the hocks placed too far back. Remember, the hocks should be perpendicular to the ground and the feet should be parallel.
- Setting the rear with the hocks "hocking in" (or less commonly, hocking out). Remember, twist the hocks if they are not straight before you place weight on them.
- Setting the rear too narrow or too wide or off center. Each foot should be about a pawprint out of the line of the same side front foot. Proper foot placement is essential for balance (otherwise, the dog will appear to be leaning on the handler…probably because the dog IS leaning).
- Pulling on the collar and throwing the dog off balance. Also, keep you feet out from under the dog (if your feet are under the dog's body, chances are you will bump the dog and throw the dog off balance).
STACK: HEADS, NECKS, TOPLINES and TAILS
After the dog has been stacked with its front and rear squarely beneath itself, the handler needs to be attentive to these additional aspects of presentation.
Head: When the judge is walking to individually examine your dog, try and present the headpiece. Be aware that there are judges that are very attentive to the headpiece of their exhibits and who will walk up and down the row of exhibits, looking directly into faces. Some judges really want expression.
- Presentation of the head can include a variety of approaches…e. g., framing the ears, gently holding under the muzzle or baiting in front to obtain expression. It is not as pretty a sight to approach a dog whose handler is at that particular moment squeezing the jowls or holding the dog in place by his or her lips.
- Gather up any loose/hanging skin under the neck into the lead.
- Make sure the lips are free and loose and not caught on teeth.
- Make sure there are no goobers in the eyes or face.
- Train your dog to accept BITE EXAMINATION without backing away by using lots of positive reinforcement (say "teeth", look, treat, over and over). Most judges nowadays have YOU show the bite (healthier for the dogs), so practice!
- If the judge takes your dog's mouth to examine the bite, say "teeth" and hold your thumb and forefinger directly behind the back of the dog's head to keep him or her steady.
- In the more likely scenario where you are asked to show your dog's bite, tilt the dog's head upward, and pull back the lips to show the teeth, and then rotate the head from side to side so that the judge can see both sides.
- Try and keep the dog's expression keen and alert by using your bait to keep his or her interest.
- Figure out any head faults you have (light eyes, insufficient stop) and position the head (using bait, noises etc.) in a way most favorable to your dog (for example, if your dog has extremely light eyes, don't encourage him to look up into the sun at the judge; rather angle the head slightly down).
Neck: Make the flow of the dog's neck into shoulders look as smooth as possible. An arch of the neck is also desirable.
- If your dog has a wrinkle over its shoulder at the base of the neck (fairly common), try and push that wrinkle up under your leash and hold it.
- Pull UP on the leash to elongate the neck, and bait the head DOWN to show the arch.
- Avoid bringing the head too far forward (chicken neck) or too far backward (making the neck look like it is just plopped on the shoulders).
Toplines: Toplines should be LEVEL. They should not be roaching (arching), dipping (caving) or sloping (downward). After you have your dog stacked, look at the topline. It should be straight and level, with a slight drop off to where the tail is placed on the body. Try different techniques to make the topline level.
-If your dog has a roach in its topline, it sometimes helps to pick up the entire rear, hold it for a second or two and then place the feet back on the floor. This lift sometimes relaxes the topline and settles the roach. You may need to pull back slightly as you reset the rear (some roaches are caused by not having the rear feet back far enough).
- If your dog has a dip in its topline, you can gently push under the ribcage to lift the topline and hold if necessary. Dips tend to show up in dogs with longer backs.
- If you have a dog with a low tail set, or a dog with a sloping topline, you can put your hand between the rear legs and pull back and upward without lifting to help level off some of the problem.
- If your puppy is going through a higher in the rear phase, stretch the puppy's rear further back to level things off.
Tail: The tail should be placed at the horizontal and straight, and should be long enough to drop to the front of the knee.
- It is ideal if the dog holds its tail horizontal without assistance. Sometimes you can feather a tail into position and the dog will hold it. Otherwise, gently hold under the tail. Do not push your dog's tail into the gay position.
- If your dog's tail is docked too long, you can mask some of the extra length by cupping the end in your hand.
- If your dog's tail is docked too short, you can create an illusion of more length by cupping the tip of the tail and the air behind that.
- If your dog's tail curves to the side, you should hold it straight.
Feet: Nails should be clipped short so that the feet look their best. Pasterns should be upright and strong. Make sure that your dog is stacked with it front underneath itself and it is standing up over its front feet to have pasterns look their best.
For Males Only: Make sure when you train your males to have their bites examined, you also train them to have their testicles examined. Avoid any kind of sharp jewelry that could scratch or hurt you dog
PART II: MOVEMENT
Show Lead Set-Ups: Type. Position and Pressure
There are all different types and styles of show lead set-ups, and you may have to experiment to find the set-up that your dog works best on. Leather, nylon, parachute and metal collars and leads of various thickness and length are all available. Different materials work for different dogs. There are also one piece, loop leads, metal bolt clasp and martingale leads of varying lengths. For a beginner, try a parachute collar with a 3' loop lead ; however, if your dog is out of control, try a fine metal show choke and soft wide lead. Shorter leads allow less finesse, but they are easier for novices to maneuver.
- Figure out which lead position works best for your dog. The two most common lead placements are over the head behind the ears, or on the side of the head below the right ear. Generally, a novice dog gaits straighter on a lead up over the head.
- You will also have to practice to figure out how much tension on the lead works best for your dog. Some dogs fight any pressure on their necks; other dogs need firm pressure to maintain control.
Patterns of Movement: When exhibiting your vizsla, there are only a few basic patterns that are used 99% of the time (in the rare case that you are asked to move a pattern you are unfamiliar with, ask the judge to explain how to do it). Your dog is always on your left side for the basic patterns:
- Go Round: Take your dog counterclockwise around the ring and stop where indicated by the judge and free stack (or hard stack if you are first in line).
- Diagonal Down and back: Take your dog straight to the opposite diagonal corner from where you start. When you get to the corner, bring the dog all the way around your body and line up again with the judge. Come straight back and free stack.
- Straight down and back: Take your dog straight to the opposite side of the ring where directed by the judge. Bring the dog all the way around your body and line up again with the judge. Come straight back and free stack.
- Triangle: Take your dog straight down the side of the ring where the judge is standing. Turn at the first corner and take the dog to the next corner. When you get to the corner, bring the dog all the way around your body and line up again with the judge. Come straight back and free stack.
Run in a straight line.
- Pick an object to run toward so you run straight going away from the judge.
- Pause and look at the judge before you start moving back and make sure your dog is lined up correctly.
- Make sure that your dog (not you) is lined up directly in front of the judge going and coming.
- Do not watch the dog the entire time you are moving because it may cause you to run crooked. Take quick glances back.
Keep both arms under control.
- Keep your leash hand (left hand and arm) steady (jerking movements will negatively affect your dog's movement). Keep your left elbow close to your body and hold the lead naturally.
- Keep your right hand and arm from swinging wildly (swinging right arms are distracting to the judge).
Move your dog at a gait at the best pace for your dog.
- Make sure you dog is gaiting (front and rear foot coming together underneath the dog). Your dog should not be pacing (the front and rear foot on each side moving together in the same direction) or galloping (both front feet moving together and both rear feet moving together). The goal is a dog that reaches its front, drives its rear, converges to a single track under its body and is light footed (floats).
- Figure out your dog's best pace. Do not drag your dog or allow your dog to drag you around the ring.
- If your dog moves quickly, count to 3 before taking off after the person ahead of you goes.
- If your dog moves very slowly, warn the person behind you that you intend to move slowly.
- Do not make sudden stops. Pay attention to the person ahead of you so that you do not overrun them.
- Do not be intimidated into moving more quickly or slowly; you are presenting your dog and other exhibitors are responsible for adjusting their take-offs accordingly.
PART III: FREE STACK
A "free" stack is a "stack" where the dog positions its legs and body without the handler touching the dog (contrasted with the "hard" stack where the handler manipulates the dog into position).
The goal: Have the dog look as good on the free stack as it looks on the hard stack.
You will do a free stack:
- After you come back from moving your dog individually for the judge (expected by most judges).
- After you complete your individual go round (judge may be looking).
- While you are waiting your turn in line for your individual exam (judge may be looking).
- Upon the judge's request. Some judges use this as a "tiebreaker". Aware that handlers may be hiding problems in a hard stack, some judges want to see what the dog REALLY looks like standing naturally.
Free Stack Basics
- As with the hard stack, the most important component of the free stack is control of the dog's head. The dog's feet and body will follow its head. Moving the head causes subtle weight shifts and causes the dog to move in the desired direction.
- Try and walk the dog into as nice a natural "stack" position as you can. Practice entering your initial free pose from different speeds, patterns and lead positions to determine the best way for you to walk your dog into a nice position.
- Position yourself in front of your dog. Keep your feet together and hold the lead about waist height.
- The lead should be up high on the side of the dog's head directly beneath the ear and lightly taut to keep it in place. Using light tension, move the lead away from the foot you want to move while moving the bait in the same direction. The dog's head will follow the bait, guided by your lead movement, his or her weight will shift, and the opposite front foot will move. You can cause the feet to move frontward, backwards or sideways depending upon how you move the lead and bait.
- Instruct the dog to STEP when you want the dog to move his or her feet, and instruct the dog to STAY when the feet are in the correct position. You may have to swing the dogs head back and forth several times and have the dog take a few steps to achieve the best position.
- When the dog is in position, tell the dog to STAY and release tension on the lead (but keep it taut enough to stay in position in case you have to do more maneuvers later on). Hold your bait low to show the dog's arch of neck and use the bait to keep the dog's attention and get expression, repeating the STAY command if your dog is otherwise likely to move.
- Training your dog to perk its ears, cock its head and wag its tail upon command could give you an edge (perhaps consider clicker training these techniques).
- Avoid over handling or interference with the judge and try not to obstruct the judge's view.
- If the judge has instructed that you free stack your dog, do NOT touch your dog to make corrections.
- If a dog is simply in a bad pose, take the dog in small circle and start again.
- Do not stop free stacking until instructed to do so by the judge.
PART IV: GROOMING, POINT CALCULATION, RING PROCEDURE, ATTIRE AND RING ETIQUETTE
Grooming: The dog should be clean and shiny. Ears should be clean and free of dirt. Teeth should be brushed and free of stain. Nails should be short. Excess/dead hair should have been brushed away.
- Ours is not a traditional "grooming" breed. However, some vizsla competitors do trim tail tips to remove that hair sticking off the end, and some also use thinning shears to thin out extra hair on the haunches.
- There are lots of show sprays (usually mink oil based) you can use to shine up and soften your dog's coat before shows.
Point Calculation: Every year as of an effective date in May, the AKC develops a schedule of points for each breed for various regions in the country. You can find the current point schedule on the AKC website, www.akc.org.
To obtain a championship, a dog must earn 15 points, including 2 majors under different judges and at least one point under a third judge. Any win of three, four or five points is a MAJOR. The most points a dog can earn at any given show is a FIVE POINT major.
A dog or bitch who goes Best of Winners has the chance to get more points than earned as the Winners Dog or Bitch. Best of Winners takes the greater of: (a) the points he or she has won by defeating his or her
own sex; or (b) the points the other sex class winner took that day. For example, if 5 dogs and 9 bitches compete, Winners Dog takes 2 points and Winners Bitch B takes 3 point major. If the dog wins Best of Winners, he would also take a 3 point major like the bitch.
If Winners Dog or Winners Bitch takes Best of Breed (add all specials to # of dogs competing) or Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed (add all same sex specials to # of dogs competing), additional points may also be earned. Refer to the AKC pamphlets handed out in your packet for a detailed discussion of point calculation.
After you earn a championship title, you now have the option to pursue a further title known as a "Grand Championship" title. Refer to the AKC site at www.akc.org to learn the rules and point schedule.
Entry Procedure: You receive a premium telling you the particulars of each show (location/judge/date). Entries for dog shows close about 2 1/2 weeks prior to the show date. Depending upon the superintendent, you usually can enter a show via the mail or fax, by turning in entries at dog shows run by the same superintendent, on the phone or on line. The superintendent prepares a schedule assigning several breeds to specific time slots. You receive your entry information (judging program, armband #, etc.) about a week before the actual show. You are responsible for being at your ring and ready to show at the start of your time slot. Most of the time, the judging goesin order according to the program. On average, you are safe if you assume 2 minutes for each dog ahead of you in the judging program.
Judging for vizslas starts with all the CLASS DOGS (these are the male non-champions). Each class of class dogs goes in separately and competes. The most common classes include Puppy Dogs, 12 to 18 Dogs, Bred-By Dogs and Open Dogs. In each class, the judge awards up to four placements. The winner of each class (1st place) then returns to compete for WINNERS DOG (the only dog to win points that day). After Winners Dog is selected, the dog who was 2nd place in the class in which Winners Dog initially was entered returns to the ring and he and the other class first place winners compete for RESERVE WINNERS DOG (1st runner up).
NEXT, the judge follows the same procedure for the CLASS BITCHES (the female non-champions) until WINNERS BITCH and RESERVE WINNERS BITCH have been selected.
Then, all the "specials" (champion males and champion females) compete for BEST OF BREED and BEST OF OPPOSITE SEX TO BEST OF BREED. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch compete along with the champions for BEST OF WINNERS and they are also in competition with the specials for BEST OF BREED and BEST OF OPPOSITE SEX TO BEST OF BREED.
Ring Procedure: If possible, watch what the judge does in the breed or classes ahead of yours so you know the procedure. When it is time for your class to compete, the steward will call out all the armband #s. You go in when called and stack your dog while the judge checks all the armband #s (try and turn your armband to the judge for easy viewing when (s)he is near you).. The judge determines procedure; listen carefully and follow the instructions of the judge. Usually, the judge takes a quick look and then sends the class around together. Then, the first person in line hard stacks his or her dog for individual examination by the judge. After this exam, the judge has the dog gait some patterns. While this dog is gaiting patterns, the next person in line should move where the first person's dog was examined and hard stack his or her dog…and so on down the line. That way, when the judge first sets eyes upon your dog to commence the individual exam, you want your dog looking as perfect as possible.
Hard stack your dog when you enter the ring, for your individual examination and when the judge is making the final decision after all dogs have run their patterns. Free stack your dog at the end of any gaiting pattern, after you complete any go round, and while you are waiting your turn in line.
Attire: Wear neat clothing that permits you to move and does not interfere with the dog. Usually, men wear suits and women wear skirts. Pockets are a must for the novice to hold bait. Avoid clothing with lots of fabric that will block or hit the dog. Certain colors can offset your dog, or mask topline faults. Shoes should be comfortable and enable you to run (avoid loud shoes or heels).
Ring Etiquette: There are lots of things you can do to make showing fun for you and those around you. Unsportsmanlike conduct or conduct detrimental to the sport of dogs is not only unpleasant, but can result in suspension of your AKC privileges
- Be a good sport. Always thank the judge for your ribbon. Never thrown a tantrum about the judging when in or near the ring (go in your car and scream, but keep quiet at ringside)..
- Be attentive to the needs of your dog. You are representing the dog fancy to the world. Your dog should have adequate shelter and water and should be treated with respect.
- Be courteous to the judge and the stewards (the people who run the ring).
-Be courteous to your fellow exhibitors. Be ON time (they won't wait for you). Be ready. Have your armband. Pay attention.
- Do NOT throw food in the ring.
- If you are first in line, DO check with the people behind you before moving as a group to make sure they
- Do NOT run up on the dog ahead of you moving in a group.
- Do NOT throw food in the ring and do not make excessive noise so as to distract other dogs (but you certainly can make noise, play and squeak toys for your dog to get your best performance).
- Do not let your dog jump on other dogs in the ring unless you have asked permission. Your dog should be under control at all times.
- If you have a bitch in season, WARN the judge. Also, warn other exhibitors with male dogs so that they can avoid being too close to your bitch.