By Sue Cone
and the Katmai Chesapeakes CH/OTCH Getty UDX, and Hannah CD
CH Am/Can OTCH Abby WD, OTCH Libby UDX2 JH & OTCH Sam UDX3 WD -- you'll always walk with me.
You got up early, had everything you need with you, and here you are at the trial, hopefully at least an hour before you are due in the ring.
The first thing is to know your dog. She may need a walk around the show grounds to get acclimated. She may do best crated in your car, or crated under a tent, or on a rug next to your chair. What won’t work is dragging her around the show for hours – she’ll be mentally tired when you hit the ring.
Knowing your dog includes knowing what warm-up is best. One good way to handle this is to do a bit of warm-up when you arrive, and then a little bit more right before you go into the ring. Warm-up your fronts and finishes, and pivots and signals if you are in Utility. Remember – all warm-ups must be done on lead with no corrections. And please do them far enough from the ring that you can’t possibly distract a working dog.
Unless you are first in the ring, watch some runs carefully. Know where the first exercise starts. Plan how you will move from exercise to exercise. Does your dog set-up best if you turn left into her, which is a reminder for her to tuck her rear in? Or to the right to remind her to hurry? Check your ring card for your handling reminders.
A few minutes before your turn , get your dog up and attentive to you. This is not the time to chat with your friends – if you want your dog’s attention, you must give her total attention in return. You could do some quiet play, or little heeling “doodles” (like tiny Rally moves) or a bunch of short fronts. You are aiming for a dog with ears up, eyes bright, and completely focused on you. When invited into the ring, move confidently to the starting place, praise your dog, and keep your attention on her. I suggest not conversing with the judge, which, while polite, will take your attention off your dog.
And off you go. Be sure to keep your dog’s focus between exercises and keep her moving attentively with you. Don’t just walk off to the next set-up place and leave your dog floundering behind you. (Hint – practice moving from set-up to set-up as part of your training.) If you have taught some ring tricks, like having the dog jump up to touch your hand, use them as you move to the next exercise to keep your dog happy and focused.
Never forget that it is extremely important for your dog to have a good time in the ring. Should disaster befall, and you blow an exercise, never, ever get down on your dog. A frown, a disgusted look, your body language will be read by your dog. All you can do in the ring is to work on the dog;s attitude for the next time you trial. Our Chesapeakes can be very sensitive, and if you get down on them in the ring, they are going to remember it the next time you show them. If you have a good time, smiling and happy, then so will they.
And always remember, win or lose, leg or not, you go home from the trial with the best dog there – yours!
LongMeadow Susquehann CD
Sue's, "Hannah"on stay who ALWAYS crosses her paws, and always the right over the left.