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Show Ring Tips

(Much of this information applies to both UKC and AKC showing.)

Mostly by: Kathleen Daniels (with editing by Ginger Corley so it will pertain to UKC shows and untrained Chinooks.)

For the first-timer, showing can be confusing. The following tips and secrets should help you get through the experience alive, and help you get the most out of the experience. Remember, you are there to enjoy yourself and enjoy the time spent with your dog.

DOWN and DIRTY (Quick Tips)
These quick tips are for those of you who just got handed a dog that belongs to your friend and you have no advanced preparation time. This should at least get you through a quick trip into the ring. For more in-depth information, you will want to investigate the other information available on this site.

Check the schedules as soon as you get to the show, figure out what ring you will be in and when.  Pay attention to what breed goes ahead of you and get your butt (and your dog’s) ringside when you see that breed go in.

Be sure you know what class you are in:
·    Puppies under 12 months on the day of the show are in the Puppy Class.
·    12 month to 24 month are in the Junior Class.
·    24 month to 36 month are in the Senior Class.
·    All dogs over 3 years old are in the Veteran Class unless they are already Champions or Grand Champions.
All the male dog classes go first, youngest first.  If you win your class you come back into the ring for Best Male, which is all the males who have won their age class.  Then the same thing happens for females until Best Female is chosen.  Just presume that as long as you win blue ribbons, you will keep coming back into the ring.

Make sure you watch a breed or two before you go into the ring as the judge will probably ask you to do EXACTLY the same thing as the other breeds do.

Although this step seems fairly obvious, it is often at this point that a first-timer loses the class. You will need to know where you are going to stand in the ring and move there without falling over your dog or tripping on your own feet. Once you get to the designated spot, you will need to stack your dog quickly and efficiently. Ideally, this will take about 10 seconds. However, if you do trip over your own feet, you will be in good company since we all do it on occasion.

Don’t hesitate to tell the judge and stewards that this is your first time in the ring and at a dog show.  You can probably get away with this about six times before they catch on.  If you are showing a homebred champion, don’t try, as they will figure you are lying by then.  They (the judge and steward) will tell you what you are to do and when.  Everything in a dog show ring moves counter clockwise.

STACKING YOUR DOG (Standing Pretty)
A majority of the time, the first thing you will do when you enter the ring is stack your dog. Stacking is positioning your dog into a show pose. Remember to take your time (but not too much time) setting your dog up, keep breathing and stay as calm as you can. You will want to keep your collar high up on your dog's neck, running under the jaw and behind the ears. If you are not comfortable stacking your dog quickly and competently, you may want to let someone else go into the ring first. This will allow you to a few extra seconds to get your dog stacked.
  1. Walk forward three steps with your dog and stop. Check that your collar is high up on the dog's neck.  Keep hold of the collar the whole time you are setting the feet into position.
  2. Set the front foot on the side facing the judge into position.
  3. Set the front foot on your side.
  4. Set the rear foot on the side facing the judge into position. Look to be certain your collar is high up on the dog's neck.
  5. Set the rear foot on your side.
  6. Move into your stationary position.

If you are showing a young Chinook, they frequently don’t like to have you set their feet.  Just try to get the dog to stand still with their front feet even.  You want their legs to be as close to a 90-degree angle to the ground as possible.  Think of what your Chinook looks like when it is out in the yard and sees a squirrel.  You want to do whatever it takes to get that look when you are in the ring.

If your dog will let you set its back feet, you want the line from the top of the hock to the ground to be perpendicular to the ground.  Forget about the exaggerated stacks you see on show dogs in AKC.  You want your dog to be standing square and normal.  Young boy Chinooks frequently like to keep their rear feet in close.  They probably think someone is going to go after their family jewels.

If your dog doesn’t want to stack and hold still at all, don’t worry.  The judge is there because he or she LOVES dogs.  They know that puppies and novices will wiggle.  If the rear legs are not in the correct position, the judge will reset the legs as they are going over the dog. If the judge repositions your dog, don’t change them back to your position. The judge is setting the dog up to look the best they can at that given moment.

You will be asked to show the judge your dog’s teeth.  Show them the front bite so they can see both the top and bottom teeth to make sure the bite is correct.  They may also want to see the side teeth.  They will not be surprised if puppies don’t like this.  Klickitat may be a Champion but she still thinks they are going to pull her teeth without anesthesia if they look at her bite.

GAITING - Individual Pattern (Moving Your Dog)
After the judge examines your dog, you will be expected to gait in a pattern. The individual gaiting is probably the most important part of the dog's examination. It is critical that you learn to move (whether walking or running) in a straight line, with your arm that is holding the show lead held in a steady position away from your body.  If your arm isn't steady, there will be bouncing on the lead which will make your dog's head and neck bobble and makes the dog's movement seem choppy and uneven. (You can practice this at home using a show lead and a tennis ball. Once the tennis ball stops flying around and just hangs at your side, you are ready to move with your dog.) There are lots of variables to gaiting your dog. At an outdoor show, the ground will be uneven. Indoors, the floor mats may be bunched up. You and your dog will both do things differently. Do the best you can, and remember, showing dogs is supposed to be fun.

  1. Check that your collar so it is high up on the dog's neck.  Gather the lead into the palm of your hand so it won’t be dangling while you are trotting along with Fido. You want the judge to concentrate on Fido, not the dangling leash.
  2. Start your pattern by taking three walking steps and easing into stride.
  3. Pick a target on the other side of the ring and move toward it in as straight a line as possible.
  4. Move at a speed that is comfortable for both you and your dog. (The ideal speed will make your dog look their best.)
  5. Keep a soft control on your lead; know what is right for your breed. (Remember some judges will ask to see your dog gait on a loose lead, be ready.)
  6. Use mental imagery to help you glide smoothly with your dog.
Remember that these are sled dogs and it is normal for them, when moving, to drop their head a bit.  Don’t try to force them to keep their heads up high, let them move naturally.  Chinooks will also pace sometimes.  In the standard it says that the judge will ask you to re do the gaiting part if the dog is pacing.  If the judge does ask you to do it over, don’t think you did something wrong.  Just do your best to move in a straight line so your dog will move at its best.  If your dog starts to gallop (a favorite trick of Thunder) put a little pressure on the leash to pull them back to a trot.

At United Kennel Club shows, there are some judges that do not allow baiting in the ring.  If you can practice at home before the show, use food to get your dog excited.  Then just lie to them when you go into the ring.  Give them treats before they go in and as soon as you come out but don’t carry any food in your pockets into the ring. I use treats that I can stick onto the end of my finger so the dog thinks that when I point my finger towards the judge, there is really a treat stuck to it and they look at my finger. You are allowed to bring a small squeaky toy into the ring but it is best to ask the judge first. You can try telling them that it is your first dog show and that your dog has never had a leash on before and they may take pity on you.

Anyway, after you gait your dog for the judge and are running back towards the judge, you are going to come to a stop and allow your Chinook to free stack.  This means stand natural.  Most important is don’t run all the way back to the judge and crash into him or her.  Stop about six feet back so that they can actually see your dog.  This is when you lie to your dog and say things like “cookies,” “get the kitty,” or anything else that gets your dog excited.

GAITING - Around the Ring
The judge will be looking at the dog's reach and drive movement on the go-round. You don't want to go flying around the ring totally out-of-control. You do want to show the judge the beauty of your dog's movement, which is usually done at a slightly increased speed from the individual pattern.

  1. As usual, check that your dog's collar is high up on the neck.
  2. Take three walking steps and ease into stride.
  3. On the bigger moving dogs you will want to have a little slack in the leash so they can move off beautifully.
  4. Ease your dog through the corners by tightening and releasing the show lead. (You can practice this at home.)
  5. Move at a faster pace than on the individual pattern. (Practice at home with mirrors, a video camera or a friend to help determine your speed.)
  6. Free stack when you get to the end of the line. (Leave about 3 feet between you and the dog ahead of you.)
GAITING - Everyone Around the Ring
DON’T CRASH INTO THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU!  Give everybody some space.  If the person ahead of you is very slow – maybe you made it to Best in Show and the Chihuahua is in front of you – let them get a head start so that you will be able to let your dog move at its correct speed.

The judge will be looking at how the dogs compare to the breed standard and looking to see which dog comes closest to that ideal. It isn't too different from the individual go-round, but you will want to watch your spacing. If you are the first dog in the line, be polite and ask the person behind you if they are ready to move before you start around the ring. (Some of us just can't get up and go like we use to.)
  1. As usual, check that your dog's collar is high up on the neck.
  2. Give yourself enough space before starting to show off your dog.
  3. Take three walking steps and ease into stride.
  4. On the bigger moving dogs you will want to have a little slack in the leash so they can move off beautifully.
  5. Ease your dog through the corners by tightening and releasing the show lead. (You can practice this at home.)
  6. Move at a faster pace than on the individual pattern. (Practice at home with mirrors, a video camera or a friend to help determine your speed.)
  7. Free stack when you get to the end of the go-round. (Leave about 3 feet between you and the dog ahead of you.)
SELECTION - Remember this is fun and you paid for this opinion
Anything is possible at this point. You may get placements right away, you may be shuffled around or you may be put through a series of exercises to help the judge narrow down their picks. Remember to keep breathing, stay relaxed and follow directions. If there is something you don't understand, ask the judge or your fellow exhibitors. Most people are willing to help you out if you need it, and if not, they aren't worth your time anyway.

Remember it is at the end of the class that the judge will point to the winner. All your hard work stacking, gaiting and baiting really comes down to the last go-around. Even if the judge has made up their mind, your dog might show that little something extra on the last trip around the ring. Sometimes the judge's mental choice has a problem on the last go-round and comes up lame, that's an opportunity for another well shown dog to slip in and win the class.

SPORTSMANSHIP - Don't be a Loser
If you win, don't gloat. If you lose, don't pout. Congratulate everyone whether you win or lose. Being nice won't hurt you. You have paid for one person's opinion and good or bad, that is what you got. Don't get caught up in the politics and gamesmanship. This is a time for you to enjoy showing off your special friend who only wants to make you happy.

When Best of Breed for Chinooks has been chosen, have one person with the group ask the judge if, when they have a free moment, would they tell you about what they saw in the show today, what they liked, and why they thought certain dogs might come closer to the standard than others.  The judge may have time to talk right then and there or may need to wait until after they are judging groups or Best in Show.

·    If you win your class, you win 10 points even if you don’t have competition.  Remember that the judge can withhold points from you if he or she doesn’t think your dog is good so even winning a class of one is a good thing.
·    If you win Best Female or Best Male, as long as there is at least one other dog of the same gender competing, you just won another 15 points, making this a 25 point major – 10 for winning your individual class and 15 for Best Female/Best Male.
·    If you win Best of Winners, you just added another 10 points and now have a 35-point major.

You need to have a total of 100 points to get a UKC championship.  Of that 100 points, 75 must come from majors.  The fastest you can win a championship is to win three 35-point majors in a row.  Next fastest is to win four 25-point majors.  Or you can win three majors and a bunch of individual classes to make up the odd points.

Yes, some dogs will have a bazillion points and not yet have a championship.  That is why we will frequently “support the entry” by making sure we have enough Chinooks showing to make up the required numbers for competition.

If you win Best of Breed, you also win Top Ten points.  If Fido wins Best of Breed on a day when there were a total of 10 Chinooks showing, Fido would win 9 points since he defeated nine dogs to get Best of Breed.  These points are totaled over the course of the year and at the end of the year, all the Chinooks that have had Best of Breed wins have their points totaled.  The ten dogs with the most points go to the Top Ten run off in Michigan at the UKC Premier.

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