Show Handling Tips (6 Articles)

Summer Solstice has arrived. Long hours of daylight and bored kids. Dog shows around every corner in every state and nation. Time to tune up Fido, load the wagon and head for a fairgrounds near you. But, first, a refresher course. Last year we covered some basics. I’ve included the links to those columns at the end of this one. One thing we didn’t get to was working with table dogs. This also applies to teaching puppies of larger breeds the fundamentals of stacking.

Funny story
Growing up, my family never invested in a grooming table. I groomed dogs on the ground. I taught puppies and dogs to stack — on the ground. I spent a LOT of time on my knees. I bought my very first grooming table when I started showing dogs for other people. I showed large and giant breeds. The first time I *ever* put a dog on a table to be examined was while helping Don Rodgers (may he Rest in Peace) and Pat with a gazillion Shih Tzu at one of the Idaho summer shows. It was nearly a quarter century ago this week and emblazoned in my psyche for life. I’d been assigned a black dog (already an uphill battle as I’ve come to learn) and we were showing to Joe Tacker. The wind was blowing (as it always does) and I thought I’d be SO smart and face the dog into the wind…. Which, PS, was backwards. Mr. Tacker approached the table. Looked at the dog. Looked at me. And said, “I bet you didn’t think I knew which end was which!” To which I responded in absolute mortification, “I knew they paid you the big bucks for a reason!” while rapidly spinning the dog around to face the proper direction. Oh. Dear. God. I’m pretty sure I still have the scars from the daggers Don was staring into my back. I did manage to get RWD, but my humiliation was complete. It took MANY years before I next attempted a table breed…

The last dozen years or so, I’ve had lots of opportunities to improve my skills. I have found two methods which both work well for me, depending on the personality and temperament of the dog I’m training.

Can’t Touch This
The first works really well for those independent, all-about-me, “I got this” little dogs who prefer the DIY method. Using the same technique described in the free stacking article below, put the dog at the back of the table and let them “walk up” into the stack.

This has the decided advantage of looking very impressive. It requires lots of confidence from both you and the dog. At best all you’ll have to do is fix a foot… The disadvantage is, without lots of practice, the dog may not be properly positioned in a timely manner and you’re left juggling with stacking while the judge watches.

If using this method, be sure to watch the judge’s preferred table procedure in advance. Everyone does it just a little different. *Generally* the dog is placed on the table as the dog before is moving in its individual pattern.

Scary Larry
This works well for the less confident dogs, the naughty rambunctious dogs and everything in between. Pick up the dog in a comfortable position, make sure the leash is properly out of the way around your neck (I STILL have an unfortunate habit of putting it the wrong way…), check that the table is steady, then quietly set the dog down. Lift gently under the chin and between the back legs to place squarely and towards the front of the table where the judge can easily reach him. Use the 1-2-3-4-5 method described in the basic stacking tips article to properly set the feet and present the dog.

Cookie Monster
I avoid feeding dogs bait on the table whenever possible. Just as feeding a dog on the ground before the exam, it sets a bad precedent for the dog to look for food from the hand coming toward him. For those dogs who are particularly food motivated, grab first and ask questions later can have unpleasant consequences when it’s the judge’s hand that’s “grabbed.”

Table presentation, just like its equal on the ground, varies greatly between handlers and their charges. From standing in front at the end of a long lead, to standing beside and showcasing the head. Practice, try new things and then practice some more before using your technique in the ring.

In the Year of Living Well, enjoy a tremendous summer show season, on the table or on the ground! For more tips, enjoy some of these previous topics.

CREDIT: Reprinted with permission of the Author

Laura Reeves PHA
Laura Reeves is an AKC Breeder of Merit and retired zone rep for the Professional Handlers Association. Laura is a second-generation breeder of German Wirehaired Pointers, under the Scotia Kennel banner.

In her professional handling career, Laura consistently maintained a low number, high-quality client list. Specializing in rare breeds and challenging dogs, she piloted multiple dogs to Best in Show, Best in Specialty Show, #1 rankings and more.

Laura's weekly column "As the Wheels Turn" ran continuously for three years on Best In Show Daily. Her current adventure as host of the Pure Dog Talk podcast lends her particular combination of skills to exhibitor and public education platforms.