Training the show
potential puppy is best begun in his first few weeks of age. Most
breeders start within days, handling the puppies, encouraging them to
their feet and into a "stack", working on a non-slip surface
with gentle grooming and posing.
I don't do any leash work with very young puppies. Socialization is
critical. A kitchen or family room is the ideal spot for a playpen.
Exposure to daily noise and activity is half the job done, and ensures
that youngsters are available to be played with whenever there's a spare
moment. However, we do begin with short "duckling parades" on
a quiet sidewalk. Later, leash training is done with a soft, non-slip
show lead with calling, and a little tug and release when needed. I use
food when leash training. We are training dogs to look forward as they
move out, not up at one's hands and face. Leading puppies around with
goodies can keep their attention focused on your hand held out and away
from the puppies face. Keep the sessions short. Always end on a note of
success, however small. In the beginning, let puppy trot on either side
and change directions if it looks like it will help. The objective here
is to encourage the puppy to trot comfortably with head and tail up -
not to concentrate on where you wish him to go. Puppy tantrums and rodeo
acts should be responded to with silence and patience until the pup
settles and gives in.
Stubborn, sulky or frightened puppies need a little different approach.
If the puppy seems genuinely frightened, pick him up and go do something
else with him. Try another day in a different spot. Bring a happier
littermate or mom to demonstrate what is requested of him. Stubborn
puppies can be helped by carrying them a short distance from home and
leading them back. These ones need lots of long, relaxed fun
walks after they get the idea. They must look at the lead as an
indication of a good time, not invitation to engage in a battle of
I also use their food for coaxing expression and conditioning to remain
in place when free stacking. Start with the puppy trotting comfortably
beside you, and then turn to face him, blocking his path. Drop all
tension from the lead. Hopefully, he has already been trained to take
cookies on the grooming table or kitchen floor when standing not sitting!
(This is where other family members may need retraining....) We want the
puppy to learn to stand well back, ears and tail up, waiting for the
treat to come to him. Avoid leaning over - stand erect and play with
the treat at waist level, well out of reach.
Push him back with your knee should he crowd you or jump up. When you
see a moment of success, quickly reach forward and feed him (a tiny
piece) then return to your original, upright position. Leaning over
puppies often intimidates them into dropping their ears and tails, or
can encourage an enthusiastic one to lose patience and come forward for
his food. Keep your mouth shut! Let him concentrate on the treat
and just what he must do to get it to come to him. Later on, you can
work on teaching him to back up - a handy trick if he starts crowding
you in the ring.
Take your training and socialization to matches, and on a few short road
trips to dog shows, when immunization is complete at 4 months of
age. Walk around and encourage enthusiasm.
Occasionally one encounters the "natural"
A puppy seemingly
born to show who learns all of the above in a matter of minutes. These
are the ones we dream of, but don't blow it! Too many of these
precocious ones are ruined by pushing them too hard too fast at too
young an age. DO NOT bring
him to ringside too early! This is the place where accidents happen (dog
fights, spectator crowding) and where boredom is learned. 2 or 3 minutes
is plenty of time to prepare for entering the ring. When you finally get
him into the ring for the first time, be patient and take your time.
Make sure his first experience is enjoyable and give the time he needs
to get his bearings - to take in everything that is going on around him.
Attention to training, socialization and a relaxed attitude towards your
puppy will pay off in a creating a spontaneous and happy adult show dog.