5 Important Tips for Junior Handlers

I participated in junior handling from the age of 10 (which used to be the minimum age requirement) up until I was 18 years old. My first year of junior handling with my Saluki, Shadow, I was the American Saluki Association Junior Handler of the Year. Junior handling is very, very different from regular handling (in the breed ring). In the breed ring, it is supposed to be strictly judging the dog, granted having a handler that handles the dog well is a bonus; the handling is not what is being judged. In junior handling, however, the judge is strictly judging the handler and their ability and skill. Here are a quick five tips that every junior handler should be doing!

1. Smile! This is one little thing that is seldom forgotten. Smiling is definitely not the first thing on your mind when you are nervous and thinking about all the other little details that go into dog handling, but it is oh so important! Just remember that you’re doing this because you enjoy it! So make sure to show the judge that too!

2. Be calm and collected. Believe it or not, your dog is very in tune to your emotions and nerves. Your dog will be able to sense your nervousness and will react to it. Take deep breaths; trust in what you know and what you’ve practiced. Also, try a breath mint (not gum, chewing in the ring is not very professional)! The dogs can smell the nervousness on your breath.

3. Know your breed. Every breed is shown differently, so make sure you know how to best show off your dog. Know how to stack your breed, and at what pace that breed should be moving. If there are different ways to show the bite for your certain breed, make sure you know how and show the judge that you are knowledgeable!

4. Know the rules and etiquette. There are many, many rules and small details to remember when you are a junior handler. Know the ring patterns and, if possible, watch classes before yours to see what the judge is asking them to do. Always be working and showing off your dog because you never know when the judge is going to look over. If you have a table dog, make sure to check the table’s sturdiness before placing your dog on the table. Know how to stand and where your boundaries are.

5. Practice, practice, practice. This is the most important part of junior handling! The more you practice, the more confident you will be in the ring, and that will show. Make sure your dog knows what you expect from it and practice the things you aren’t very good at or your dog needs more practice at (such as free stacking).

Anyone else have some tips for our next up and coming dog handling generation?

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Judging Salukis

I was asked to judge the Saluki Sweepstakes for a Specialty coming up next year (more on that later!). That got me to thinking about how I would really judge (and possibly critique) a group of dogs in front of me in the show ring. At dog shows, everyone outside of the ring is of course “judging” each and every dog (especially if it’s up against your own dog!) even if it’s only subconsciously. I think I have a good “eye” for what kind of dog I like and what “fits” to the AKC Standard. However, I like to overanalyze everything I do! When I really look at a dog’s conformation, I try to take into account every part of the dog. This, to me, does not only mean how they fit to the standard and their physical attributes, but also their attitude and how they “make me feel,” if you will.

Here’s a picture of Zoey (Ch. Uziduzit Second Amendement JC, CC, CM) that I’ve analyzed against the standard. Sure I may be a little biased, but I think she’s pretty darn close to perfect in my book!

Zoey is “square” which means she is as tall as she is long. She is moderate which means that her front angles match her rear angles (90 degree angle). Her chest is nice and deep (reaches the elbow), her shoulders are set back and sloping and her muscles are nicely arched over her loin.Judging is not only seeing; however, it is also feeling. You must be able to feel the muscling and width of chest and also check the teeth for a proper bite. Sometimes, a dog’s markings can be deceiving (such as they could be giving the impression of different angles); therefore, it is important to always go over a dog’s body with your hands.

I think the AKC sums it up pretty well when talking about the general appearance of the Saluki:

“The whole appearance of this breed should give an impression of grace and symmetry and of great speed and endurance coupled with strength and activity to enable it to kill gazelle or other quarry over deep sand or Rocky Mountains. The expression should be dignified and gentle with deep, faithful, far-seeing eyes.”

4 Important Tips to Showing an Insecure Dog

Yesterday was one of our local dog shows, Bonanza KC in Carson City, Nevada! Siblings, Mystic and Hunter, were showing.

Mystic (HawksView’s Best Kept Secret CC, CM) was entered in the Bred By Exhibitor Bitch class.

And Hunter (HawksView’s Secret of the Hunt CC, CM) was entered in the Bred By Exhibitor Dog class.

Hunter went on to win Winner’s Dog and Best of Winners (for a 4 point major!) under Judge Maria Gutierrez-Otero! It was also a Trophy Supported Entry. I was so proud of him!

Mystic and Hunter both showed very well, they have both had the problem of insecurity in the show ring (not uncommon in Salukis). And for some reason, I seem to get asked to handle a lot of dogs with these issues (there’s a reason for this!). Many will remember me showing trouble-maker Claire (Amala Zerdali JC), the “backwards” dog who went on to win Winner’s Bitch, Best of Winners, and Best of Opposite Sex for a 5 point major at the Western Sighthound Combined Speciality. Last year I was showing a dog at the SCGSF Speciality who was very nervous and insecure, I went on to win the very large Open Dog class and Reserve Winners Dog with him. So needless to say, I have become very experienced over the years in dealing with nervous, insecure, or misbehaving dogs (specifically Salukis) in the show ring.

4 Important Tips on Showing the Insecure Dog

1. It Starts From Day 1

First of all, from the day you get your show puppy, you should be focusing on making showing FUN! Start with practicing with your puppy show lead such as this one (not a chain lead which you will use once the pup is older): 

When you have the show lead on, make it super fun. Grab your pups favorite toy and play tug-of-war, race around the yard with them running and jumping (don’t worry about them trotting nicely yet), and give lots of treats. Get them used to you touching their legs and moving them around while saying, “stand.” Between the time you get your pup and the time you start to show them (usually around 6 months old), socialization is EXTREMELY important. Have them “stand, stay” while people pet them and give them treats, expose them to busy places, and get them used to their teeth being checked. This training foundation will help with preventing your dog from being insecure or nervous in the show ring.

Sometimes, however, you might be asked to handle a dog who is not your own, or perhaps your own dog will be going through an “everything is scary” phase. Keep reading…

2. Getting Acquainted

This is one of the most beneficial things you could do for a dog who is nervous. Well before you have to go into the ring, start practicing with the dog. Take the dog away from their “comfort-zone,” whether that’s with their owners or away from their other canine housemates, because when you are in the show ring, that will definitely not be a comfort-zone. Once you are away, walk around with the dog, get them comfortable with you and gain some trust, and practice stacking and moving to get a feel for how the dog is going to act in the ring. Determine whether you need to move very slow when stacking, whether they will bait for you, and how they will move (if they are all over the place, you might be better fast-walking the up and back to settle down the trot).

3. Where is my owner?

This could be a make it or break it deal for you in the ring. You must determine beforehand whether the owners need to “hide” from their dog while you are in the ring, or whether they need to stay put in one spot where the dog can see them. These are the two options that have worked best for me. One dog I show regularly, Artreyu, does much better if his owner hides from him (well before I go in the ring), it helps him to focus on me and realize that he can trust me and not worry about where he should be instead. Another dog I show (whom I also bred), Mini J, does much better if she can see where her owner is outside of the ring. A VERY important point about this technique, make sure the dog knows where the owner is and that the owner STAYS PUT! If the owner is constantly walking around or moving to different places, the dog will constantly be looking for where they went or what they’re doing and not be focused on you. If they stay in one place, the dog will realize that they are not going anywhere and can focus more.

4. Stay calm and carry on

Dogs can sense, smell, and feel what you’re feeling. They are very intuitive. If you are nervous or are getting frustrated, they will sense that and react to it. Stay calm, eat a breath mint (they can also smell nervousness on your breath), talk softly and reassuringly, and move slow but determined. If your dog is spazzing out, stay calm and collected and that will help your dog calm down and the situation will also look calmer to the judge.

Just because your dog may be nervous or misbehaving, doesn’t mean that they do not deserve to win. Be confident in your dog and in yourself and that will show and translate to the judge as well. This has been proven to me time and time again, including yesterday with Hunter (who whined the entire time he was doing his up and back)!