Monday night we were not home watching the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.  Instead we attended a drop-in conformation class at a local AKC training club.  The Detroit Kennel Club Shows have been cancelled this year and there aren’t any local shows until April, so class attendance was light.  I think there were 10 or 12 in the class.  Fewer people in the class means that there is room to spread out and move the dogs.

The purpose of this class is to allow handlers to practice with their dogs and show them at their best.  The instructor acts as the “show judge” and has handlers work the dogs as they might in the show ring.  If the instructor spots a problem area with something the handler is doing that detracts from the dog looking its best, she will give tips and advice.

All skill levels show up for this class.  There can be handlers showing a dog for the first time, to professionals just wanting some practice and maybe another set of eyes looking for places to improve.  When you are on the end of the leash, you can’t always see slight imperfections.

Hubby hopes to start showing Freighter but they need practice.  Also, his handler has a couple of specific things that he wants to work on with Freighter.

The first is getting Freighter to hold his stack and stand still.  He is an active food-motivated dog and tends to move around or lean toward the bait after his handler has set him.

This is what I mean:

Stacking Freighter
Stacking Freighter
Freighter Has Moved His Back Legs Close Together Which Is Not What You Want
Freighter Has Taken A Step And Moved His Back Legs Close Together Which Is Not What You Want

Stacking is one thing, but the big thing his handler wants to work on is Freighter constantly looking toward the bait as he is moving.

Is There Bait In You Hand?
Is That Bait In Your Hand?
How About Now?  Any Treats?
How About Now? Any Treats?

You can see that when Freighter cocks his head to the side it throws off his line.  The instructor suggested a couple of ways for his handler to place his arm so that Freighter gets the idea there is no bait handy.

Placing An Arm Behind The Handlers Back Seemed To Help
Placing An Arm Behind The Handler’s Back Seemed To Help
Freighter Looks Much Better And Is Looking Straight Ahead
Freighter Looks Much Better And Is Looking Straight Ahead

The hope is that by hiding the arm that might hold bait, Freighter will learn to look straight ahead while moving.

The instructor also suggested a couple of ways to get Freighter moving nicely as his handler starts moving.  Freighter has such a long stride, you have to get him moving quickly from the start or it takes time for him to hit his correct stride.

Even Got A Nice Free Stack Out Of Freighter
Even Got A Nice Free Stack Out Of Freighter

After all the dogs had their turns to move around the ring 3 or 4 times, the instructor had the handlers work on a drill that I really like.  She asked the smaller dogs to move to the middle of the ring.  Then she had the handlers with the larger dogs move them around the outside of the ring by saying “green light”.  The handlers moved their dogs until she said “red light”.  At “red light” the handlers have to stop and stack their dogs as she counted down 5-4-3-2-1.  By 1, the dog should be stacked correctly.

I like this drill because often times at shows handlers need to get their dogs moving and then stop their dogs quickly and stack them for the judge.  Remember this class is to help the handlers with their handling skills.

Green Light
Green Light
Red Light 5-4-3-2-1 Stack You Can See It Isn't Perfect But Pretty Good
Red Light…5-4-3-2-1…Stack!  It Isn’t Perfect But Pretty Good
The Last Stack Was Really Nice Because Freighter Helped Have His Feet In The Right Position
The Last Stack Was Nicer Because Freighter Helped By Leaving His Feet In A Better Position

Freighter was much better than he was at the last class about not visiting other dogs.  You really don’t want visiting at dog shows because you never know when a dog might be over-excited and grumpy.

She Has Treats, I Am Sure She Has Treats
She Has Treats, I Am Sure She Has Treats

We plan to try to attend this class weekly for the next several weeks.  We debated taking an obedience class, but we decided this class fits with what Freighter needs and it is also a great way to tire him out.

35 thoughts on “Hidden Bait

  1. Obedience is sometimes a tough thing for dogs who already want to look at their handler, since it reinforces the importance of watching. I had a dog who got really creative if I didn’t move him fast enough. He was a big dog, so it was okay. Big dogs often need to move faster. I can’t stand the trend to move little dogs as fast as humanely possible to potentially disguise flaws in movement, especially in coated breeds. Newer judges have a hard time knowing what they’re looking at. American Cocker Spaniels, I’m looking at you!

    Freighter is looking good! Hard to believe he’s 85lbs! He’s all muscle!

    1. It is definitely a balance between moving them fast when needed and slowing down when needed. Hubby is working on trying to slow Freighter down just a bit on his down and back. The problem with the around is that when he hits his stride, Freighter can cover a lot of ground quickly. Luckily hubby is tall and just needs to adjust his stride a bit. They need practice to make it look smooth.

      I think Freighter is also a bit heavier boned than Thunder and Storm. I don’t expect Freighter to gain much more weight. He may even loose a pound or two when he starts training, but right now his weight looks about right for him.

  2. He’s looking good! I need to get out to some handling classes and improve my own handling skills at some point but we are thinking we will send Asta to the AKC shows starting in April with a handler. Not sure yet though, it depends on how confident I am feeling. Asta is not with us right now either and I’m trying to focus on our foster so I don’t know how much I will get to work with her. Will you be at Birch Run? I think that is the next show we have planned. We are going to be doing the UKC Michigan Classic in Mason in about a month and I hope to finish Asta in UKC there. I debated entering Jeni in rally and conformation and potentially getting a “total dog” award but rally is more important to me with her and at this point I think she would get confused and/or stressed by being asked to do two completely different things at the same location. Also that would put me in the ring a LOT that day since Jeni is guaranteed to be in group so I figure for my own sake I’ll keep it less busy.

    1. We are planning to do Birch Run as it stands right now. Hopefully Freighter will have coat. 🙂 We don’t do any UKC except for hunt testing. It gets difficult for us to do too many things at once. 🙂

  3. That not visiting rule is so hard for friendly pups. I have no problem leaving other dogs alone but Bailie and Katie always want to make friends. That sounds like an ideal class if you want to show!

    1. Freighter is very social, especially when other people have treats…lol. This is an excellent class because the instructor is good, but also the space is very nice.

  4. Fascinating. I guess this is why so many of the handlers at the top shows are professionals–they can see these things and adjust them for themselves.

  5. I’ve watched little bits of the show this past few days and I noticed that the handlers seem to have bait in their hands. At least that’s how it looked to me, I saw more than one dog that seemed to be nibbling at the handler’s hand. Is that typical to have food at the show?

    In the rally events I have attended, food is a no-no.

    Freighter is a good boy, I see good things heading that dog’s way.

    1. Yes it is really common to have food or a toy. Unlike any of the other events, the judges have to touch the dogs so the bait is used to distract the dog while the judge is touching them. It is also used to help the dog show expression, or sometimes it is tossed on the floor so the dog will free stack (also called free bait). We don’t do much of that with Freighter right now because he would lunge for the food. 😆 Usually you don’t use it when you are moving the dog, but with a dog like Freighter, he doesn’t quite understand that yet. He thinks if there is a hand in the show ring, it much have food in it…lol.

  6. I’m still giggling at those first photos where Freighter is looking for the treats. I know, not really funny, but feel I can laugh because by the end of the class he was doing so well. Great photos and explanation of what you were doing (and supposed to do.) Though I never plan to show dogs, I regret that such classes are not available here. Such good experience for the dogs and the peeps.

    1. Our breed mentors (Thunder/Freighter’s breeder and Storm’s breeder), have drummed into our heads that you don’t show a fat dog. 🙂

  7. Love all the action photos. Free stack = lunge for food! Lol. That’s certainly what my girl would do, because sadly she’s never had any formal training…zip. Still she is the most perfect girl I could ever hope for, and we love her so!

    1. The nice thing about the show ring is that a lot of it should be natural. Of course the dog has to have some manners and you only have a few seconds to impress the judge, so we practice. 🙂

  8. That’s really fascinating! There are so many little nuances, aren’t there? Freighter kind of looks like he’s having fun, by the way. 🙂

  9. I’ve faced a lot of problems while training my Siberian Husky, the dog’s too damn smart and dominant. But at the end the “bait” thing always work and there’s nothing better than an playful;l obi dent dog. 😀

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