Dominique and I are showing and training a beautiful dog of my breeding named Smokey. His first dog shows were not pretty when three days in a row Smokey decided to not be touched by the judge and had to be excused out of the ring. It happened at the biggest specialty weekend for the breed annually which is Harrisburg in April.
Funny thing too, since he is generally an extroverted guy with good people skills and attraction. The excusal was after watching airbound Smokey imitate Cirque du Soleil flying through the air like a giant fish flailing.
I convinced his owner Linda, who did a splendid job raising him as a wonderful house pet, to send him here so we could modify the behavior. The dog was too handsome to wash our hands of his show career.
In one easy week, Cirque de Soleil Smokey became solid show dog Smokey and at his first dog show was Best Of Breed and on to a Group 2. We put intensive work in to him every single day, clarifying our expectations at every moment.
The starting point was to narrow down the specific behavior which was the problem. He was friendly and cute as long as he approached. He charmingly sauntered up to greet pretty much everyone. But put him in the position of an approach where he had no choice or escape valve or avoidance option and you were left with a bucking flailing bronco. Additionally, Smokey had learned that the balking thing like some hairy donkey worked well to change the subject and direct the outcome his way. He expected, probably through life experiences, that when he put the brakes on or resisted, it pretty much always went his way.
So two behaviors were taught. One, with the assistance of a snug nylon training collar providing consequences for backwards motion, Smokey was never, not ever, permitted to balk, slow down, resist, or make any avoidance of the forward propulsion guided by a human.If he balked it was to be anticipated and quickly interrupted and forward momentum continued.
Two, he was taught with firm correction and intervention that he MUST stand up and be touched. NO choice was given other than shoving him back in to position if he even so much as shifted his body weight, let along tried to fling in to the air or colapse to the ground. At his first fun match he was literally lifted up by me by collar and tail to a standing position and held there until he was standing on his own steam being touched all over by the judge.
Dominique and I partnered in Smokey's recovery. Dominique handled him in the match. Dominique is a soft person with a light hand-in opposition to my own. We felt it useful to have him resilient to mutliple people making demands and handling him and his behavior. SMokey learned to be a show dog at that match.
The other helpful excercise we did was at Tuesday night obedience class. While the entire large advanced class did long down stays with their dogs, Dominique walked along the line with Smokey and asked each and every one of the students to touch and examine Smokey like a dog show.
Even though most of my students are pet people, almost all knew how to do a dog show exam because of dog shows on TV. The excercise was good for Smokey and a great distraction for the students' dogs.
It has been no looking back. The reaction to Smokey from exhibitors and judges is VERY positive. He has since been Best of Breed again, over a special (champion) and another group placement and points to his championship. Dominique is showing Smokey and doing a great job in all aspects-his behavior, his grooming and his showing. Now I will see if I can get some pictures up of him.