Tag Archives: handling show dog

Being an Owner Handler is NOT a Death Sentence

I’m an owner handler exhibitor – well, I used to be an owner handler before I matured into an older lady who runs with a gimp, if she runs at all – I let a handler do the running these days. But, while I was an owner handler I love, love, loved being in the ring, and it goes without saying that my love amplified to a rock music decibel when I won. I’ve finished many dogs from many various classes, especially Bred by Exhibitor, and I’ve won my fair share of trips to the winners circle at Gordon Setter Specialties. Group judging was beyond what I considered my forte, that’s where I’d really expect a dog to shine, and knowing my limitations, that’s when I would choose to step back and let a pro take the lead. Today, because of my physical restrictions, I content myself to sit ring side leading the cheering squad. And, manning the water bucket…and handing over the brush…and passing out the bait…

With that said, frequently, I hear comments by exhibitors about how political the judging was, or how “the win” was stacked before the show even started. And just as frequently, I happened to agree with the judge’s decision that day (even if my dog lost) which left me wondering if falling back on that oft voiced complaint, was doing more harm to exhibitors than most of us realize.  Certainly if you think about it, if my dog with a pro handling was a winner that day, I didn’t think that judging was political…I thought we deserved that win. Wouldn’t you? For the winners sake, and many other reasons, I’m hoping to help bring understanding, especially for folks who are struggling to win, about the many, many variables of conformation judging. Sometimes, and often times, politics had nothing to do with the winners that day. I’d like us to give judges, the pros, and the sport a break, at least when it’s deserved!

When I’m watching judging, I am often overwhelmed with the desire to help some hapless exhibitor gain control over their dog, or grab a dog to help the owner learn a better way to groom, or maybe just to shake an exhibitor into consciousness so they go to the ring when called. I’m no professional folks, I’m just like all of you, but one thing I do know, and would share with you, is my belief and experience that the professional often wins because he or she is a professional, doing a professional job. (can you paint your car, bake cupcakes, do taxes, or any one of a million other jobs as well as a pro?) Most times there is an obvious difference in the ring appearance of a professionally handled dog versus the owner entry, and what I would share is that we owner handlers must develop our skill so we look and act like the pro, to make our dogs appear their best, to present only well-groomed, conditioned and trained dogs, if we intend to compete on an equal level. Owner handlers can and do win without doubt, but we too must do the work of a pro, and earn our wins by showing the judge the best our dog has to offer.

So, I started out to write this blog about what an owner handler can master to be competitive in the dog show ring, when I remembered that well-worn phrase “Google It” and that worked! I found many well written articles that offer the same advice I would write for you. Whether you’re just starting as a novice handling your own dog, or simply believe you “just can’t win”, before complaining or blaming another for your loss, or worse yet leave the sport, perhaps you’ll read this, take time to evaluate yourself and your dog, and objectively consider the “picture” you and your Gordon Setter presented when you lost. Did you do your best but were beaten that time by a better dog, or could you have done something more to improve the odds in your dog’s favor? No, it’s not always your fault your dog loses, but you’ve got to even the playing field first with skill, know your dog’s attributes and faults, and then consider, carefully, very carefully, if politics was at play, or if perhaps, you just don’t agree with this judge’s opinion on this particular set of dogs.

I love owner handlers and I would do anything to help you win, so you learn to love the sport as much as me, because I’ve lived that dream and know it can happen…but if you want really good advice, ask the pros, and take the time, lots of time, to watch them work, really watch them in action. There is so much you can learn there!

There’s a list below, links to articles to help you prepare to win. These are a great place to help get you to the place where you can know the thrill of being a winning owner handler. (Oh, and also “Google It” for yourself, there’s so much more information out there, I’ve only picked a few.)

Finally, go to dog shows to watch and observe. Spend hours watching the grooming, various random breed classes, the Groups etc., paying close attention to the pro’s and those winning owner handlers! Best use of your time and classroom setting ever!

good sport
Photo by Bob Segal

Win or Lose never forget BE A GOOD SPORT!

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Photo by Bob Segal from GSCA National Specialty 2014

Owner Handler Advice

Video link: Want to Win Best in Show as an Owner Handler?

Looking Back with Lee – Pro Handlers vs. Owner-Handlers – being an Owner-Handler is not a DEATH SENTENCE! 



Another chapter in our review of the Gordon Setter breed standard

Barb Manson

Written by  Barbara Manson

There are a few things that we need to tie together in regard to the standard.  I’ve discussed most of the pieces but we need to see how they work together to create a good quality Gordon Setter.  As breeders and exhibitors, it’s important that we not “fool” ourselves as we evaluate our own dogs and those of our competitors.  We want what’s best for our breed and we need to be confident and articulate in regards to our choices.  We must also establish, in our own minds, what represents a correct Gordon Setter and what is simply personal preference.  These can be two separate things.  By so doing, we are keeping our minds open and we are better able to evaluate the qualities found in competitors dogs.  This is vital if we are to advance our breed.

Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty


What does the judge see when he/she is evaluating our dogs on the go around.  We all know he sees dogs who may be limping.  These dogs are usually excluded from competition because they are considered unsound on that day.  If you’re new, and this happens to you, don’t worry.  This has happened to most of us at one time or another.  Though disheartening, you will compete another day.  There are many other things that can be seen from the judge’s vantage point.  Under general appearance, size is mentioned.  I’ve covered this previously, but the judge can do an initial comparison between competitors at this point.  He should also see an “active, upstanding and stylish” dog ” appearing capable of doing a full day’s work in the field”.  Balance, and how all the pieces I’ve discussed fit together, is also apparent.  A “long, lean” neck, a “rather short back” and “a short tail” can be seen along with a correct topline on the move.  The expectation is a “high head carriage” and a back that remains relatively level on the move, not running down hill or overly slopingshoulder to rear.  The correctness of the tailset and its relationship to the croup is in evidence at this point.  The tail should appear as an extension of the back and be “carried horizontal or nearly so”.  The gait should be “bold, strong, driving and free-swinging”.  The tail flags constantly while the dog is in motion”.  So what constitutes a “free-swinging” gait?  It is a “smooth flowing, well balanced rhythm, in which the action is pleasing to the eye, effortless, economical and harmonious”.   The dog moves so easily it seems as though he is floating and could move that way all day without tiring.  If you’re the handler of such a dog, you can actually feel him ” collect” himself as he starts to move.

Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty

Temperament also comes into play here.  He appears, at this point, “alert, gay, interested and confident”.  He is “fearless and willing”.  Many of us have had the experience of trying to show a dog who was not exactly “willing”.  It’s not what we want to see in the ring but when this happens, I prefer to think of them as “strong minded enough to stand the rigors of training”.  Some are just more strong minded than others.  We’ll discuss training techniques another day but this can be one of the challenges of showing a Gordon Setter.  It may take time and patience, but even the tough nuts can be cracked.  As you consider the importance of these impressions, remember, they are the first thing the judge sees on the initial go around.  He sees them again when your dog is evaluated individually, and they are the last thing he sees before he points his finger.  These impressions are big clues as to the dog’s ability to withstand a long day in the field.  Dogs who exhibit these attributes are a pleasure to watch and they draw your eye to them.  They may seem elegant but closer examination should reveal substance.  They are, after all, Setters.

Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty

I’ve had a couple of people bring up the amount of coat we are seeing in the ring today.  Heavily coated dogs are certainly much more prevalent today than they were when I came into the breed.  You can look back through old reviews and see how this factor has changed.  The current standard only addresses coat as “soft and shining, straight or slightly waved, but not curly”.  It goes on to describe where the long coat appears, but gives no parameters regarding how much coat our dogs should carry. It was once said, you could hunt with your Gordon on Saturday and show him in the ring on Sunday.  That’s definitely harder to do today.  I truly believe you can still finish a championship on a well constructed dog, under knowledgable judges, without an over abundance of coat.

Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty

Once you move to the specials ring, the game is stepped up a bit.  To compete in today’s groups, coat and presentation become big factors.  I believe it would be very hard to pull out group placements and specialty breed wins without it.  It’s become an expectation.  The dogs who are truly competitive at this level, generally have more than coat and meticulous grooming going for them.  I urge breeders and newcomers to politely seek out opportunities to examine as many of these dogs as possible.  I will bet you find “hidden” attributes you didn’t know were there.  That said, if you bought a dog with an abundance of coat for hunting, but you also want to show him in the breed ring, be prepared to take measures to protect the coat or make choices as to which endeavors you wish to pursue and when.  I don’t think we will be returning to the way things were in the sixties or seventies.

Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty


I really enjoyed seeing many of you at the National.  The committee did a great job and I enjoyed the low key atmosphere.  It was so nice, as it always is, to see the dogs.  Thank you to all who participated in the hands on breeders education and a special thank you to those who shared their dogs with us.  Without you, it would not have been a success.

Barbara Manson, Stoughton  WI

Photographs by Ben Perez are shared for your viewing pleasure and are not intended to illustrate any specific point in this article.

Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty


Getting in the Bubble – Let Show Nerves float away!

OK,  I get that everyone else talks about “getting in the zone” and so you’re probably thinking I’m being my wonderfully bizarre self (sometimes I just need to pump myself up with happy thoughts) flipping phrases around, and meanwhile you really want to shout out “hey dummy, why are you talking about getting in the bubble, it’s supposed to be zone” – am I right? I mean, really, a bubble is mostly just hot air (if blown by mouth), which means it is hot air surrounded by soap. Yuck, hot breath and soap? Bubble? Really?bubble 1

Well, the answer is simple, I had these really neat bubble photos by Susan Roy Nelson and I wanted to share them somewhere on my blog with you. So, for purposes of this article we’re going to be talking about “getting into the bubble” because I think bubbles are pretty, they float, they make me think of lightness and air, they are calm and serene, but mostly because I have photos of bubbles to share that Susan took and they are awesomely fun! Besides, what’s a stupid zone look like anyway? A No Parking Zone? A Loading Zone? Those aren’t cute visions and the photos would be boring and  probably ugly to boot. So bubbles it is – we’ll be “getting in the bubble’ to show our dogs.

bubble5I’m no stranger to ring nerves and with just a bit of thought I can still recall the terror of my early days in the sport. Yep, it was terror I experienced back then and it felt something like a panic attack magnified by an earthquake with chasms in the earth opening all around me. You’ll never get me to believe there is anyone who has never had that rolling stomach madness – “oh my God I’m going to puke” – “just whose bright idea was this?” – “what the hell am I doing here and damn, where is that exit sign ’cause I gotta run?” scrambling through their brain in thin, never wavering, ever-increasing lines like ants racing to a picnic. And, despite my agonizing and growing panic attack my Gordon would be gazing up at me with those ever adoring eyes, drool hanging from his lip or flipped cavalierly over his muzzle , his nose and inch from my pocket just pleading with all his heart and soul for those special cookies I’d tucked in there. He didn’t care much about the ants running around in my brain. “Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn, not about your ants or your exploding brain”. That might just have been his actual thought, if dogs could have thoughts in people talk. What do dogs think I wonder? What does it sound like to them when they think a thought? Is it like the little voices I hear in my head when I’m thinking? …oh, wait, that’s another story!

Now then, what are we going to do to get the ants out of your head, and bubbles on your brain instead when you’re heading into the ring with that Gordon Setter of yours?

Well, there’s an old wives tale that’s told ’round the show ring, kind of like the tales of the wild west told ’round the campfire, that goes “if you get nervous it will travel straight down the lead to the dog”. I ask you, if our dogs are that good at reading our feelings through the lead, then how the heck is it, that my Gordon Setter, who has decided to drag me willy nilly down the street as he plunges after the streaking stray cat that ran across the road front of us, how is it that he doesn’t know that I’m mad as hell? I mean, if my feelings are traveling down the lead shouldn’t he be just a little bit frightened by the murderous feeling that erupted the instant he ripped my arm from its socket when he dove madly after the cat? See now, you’re smiling at how absurd that all sounded – that’s the bubble stuff working – focusing on the here and now – focusing on bubbles and breathing – yes breathing too – breathing is good so we’ll throw that in there for good measure.

Focus on the NOW (the bubble) and not the “WHAT IF”(that bubble popping thingamajiggy) if you want to overcome ring nerves

bubble9The “what if” thoughts are the nasty, biting, little red ant trails that got in your head. See it’s like this, you have one ant trail heading north screaming “will Gordon behave, what if he acts up?” Another ant trail heading east crossing the northbound lane that’s hollering “what if he trips me and I fall” while a third ant trail heads southwest chattering “I sure hope my underwear don’t show when I bend over in this tight skirt” and – ok – well – you get the picture, you’re head’s full of “what if” thoughts and none of them are pretty. Hey, it’s completely natural for handlers, especially new owner handlers, to feel nervous or apprehensive before going in the ring, but I can promise you for sure that even if something were to go wrong for you, it’s already happened a couple hundred million times before, and everyone before you survived to tell the tale…around the campfire, out west, if that’s your preferred story telling spot!  So let’s get out the “Brain Raid” and spray those nasty little ant trail thoughts until they’re all dead, crunchy, little bodies and your brain is free again and floating in a clear bubble.bubble8

I get it, it’s not that easy and there is no such thing as Brain Raid so how’s that going to work? You’re right, it was probably a stupid idea to use Raid. Yes, I know it’s true that no matter how much you practice outside the ring you can still get really, really nervous in the ring, and when you get nervous you change, even if it’s only fractionally, the way you do things. And when you change things up a bit, that my friends is what goes down the lead to the dog, a new and different signal, and that is what gets the dog confused about your intentions. He’s not sure anymore what you want from him, so then he behaves differently than you wanted him to, and from there the whole thing can take a downward spiral into a mixed up, jumbled up mess fulfilling your worst nightmare. What travels down the lead to the dog are your intentions, and if they are the same signals inside the ring that you gave him outside the ring you’re in the bubble. If they’re not the same signals because you’re nervous, well then you’re in trouble. Not nearly as pretty to see as a bubble.

Think about this. How many times have you seen someone outside the ring stacking or letting their dog self stack, gaiting the dog up and back, that kind of thing? Well that’s what I mean about practicing signals with a dog. Handler does this, dog does that, the world’s a happy place. And when the dog did what that handler wanted they rewarded the dog with a big hug, loads of praise or a crazy, wild, happy “atta boy”! They reward the dog with GUSTO to reinforce the good behavior! But then, the steward calls their number, that handler goes in the ring with that same dog and suddenly you can hear a pin drop around that person! No verbal words of encouragement, no sweet talking, no whispering in the dog’s ear “you’re my baby” and  no handy, dandy liver treats. Not even a pat on the head. Total silence and just physical contact from the handler via the lead. Now, since the dog doesn’t know why their handler is giving them the silent treatment nor why they put away the cookie jar, the dog can get pretty confused. These aren’t the signals he’s used to. And that is the turning point, when it starts to show in how the dog performs. Think your dog is ring smart, turning off the minute they walk in the ring? Sorry, but it may have been you who taught him to do just that.bubble

Guess what? The solution to this problem is simple! You don’t need to teach your dog new tricks, you’re going to teach yourself a few instead. Start with keeping your focus on what you need to do and stop allowing your thoughts to stray to worrying about the judge, your peers, or all the things that might go wrong. I know, I know, it sounds simpler than it is, but really it’s not that hard…just picture yourself, focus your thoughts, on being in the bubble, right then at that very moment!

bubble6No switching persona when you walk in the ring, just you, your dog, the judge – oh, and your bubble! What you do outside the ring, at class, at home, where ever and when ever you practice with your dog, well for crying out loud just continue to communicate that way with your dog in the ring, do what you do when training your dog, do the things you do to let him know he’s responding as you want, don’t change a thing (well handstands, handstands might have to be left off if you do those to reward your dog. And maybe back flips, those might look out of place in the ring also so maybe your dog can do without those happy gestures, but besides for those two things don’t change a thing). If you act the same, send the same signals and communicate with your dog the same way in the ring as you do outside of it, your dog will respond just like you expect him to – well most of the time anyway; sometimes there are butterflies to chase, birds overhead, a flipping, floating plastic bag, or some crazy good-looking bitch two rings down! But crazy, funny happenstance aside, by concentrating on being in the bubble, with that bubble being your goal and the signals you need to send for you and your dog to achieve that goal. Concentrate on your bubble and you will find that you automatically focus yourself on the task at hand rather than on those ants in your head, you’ll be “in the bubble.”  And bubbles are marvelous, and bubbles can win!

…for those moments of extreme duress

sing a little song

Tiny bubbles
In the wine
Make me happy
Make me feel fine

drink a little wine!

The End


Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Photos by Susan Roy Nelson, WY

Song lyrics – Tiny Bubbles  by Don Ho

Are There Dog Show Bullies?

I’m an average Jo and I’m worried about the future of my favorite hobby – showing and breeding dogs. I want to do something to help turn the tide of the declining number of show and trial entries, the number of purebred dogs registered, and the declining membership in our dog clubs. A decline that has sometimes been the cause of local specialty clubs that have gone extinct.

Yes, I’m just an average Jo. I get to call myself a Jo because it’s my middle name. I’ll never understand what my mother was thinking, but that’s my name.  I’m not “what’s his face” the plumber or electrician or cable guy or whoever that dude was they talked about during the last election. I’m just an average Jo who has what I think is a funny name. It was a great name back in the day, when I was learning to read and Sally was a main character in the books they taught us from.  Back then I thought I was pretty darn special. That specialness has faded though, and now I’m just an average Jo. But I’m an average Jo who has a cause that won’t make world headlines, but my cause has given me much pleasure and I’d like see it stick around for new Jo’s to enjoy.

Photo by Susan Roy Nelson
Photo by Susan Roy Nelson “Nial”

There are many and various reasons why this decline is taking place, but for today, let’s talk just about the personal enjoyment we’d like others to experience when they join our sport as opposed to the bullying that sometimes occurs. Whether we want to admit it or not, whether we believe it or not (and most who do bully others will not believe it) sometimes, just like a group of school kids, there are those in our sport who engage in bullying, and that behavior will drive the hardiest exhibitor away from our midst in a heartbeat. It adds to the declining numbers and accomplishes absolutely nothing positive.

Dog show people are a mixed bunch and I’ve met my fair share of wonderful people who are my life long friends. They’ve dried my tears, cheered me on, offered advice or consolation, they’ve been my best friends, and many of them have a wacky sense of humor that just sucks me right in! Who doesn’t love a good laugh and I have shared so very many with my doggy crowd!

I firmly believe that there are many  wonderful people involved in dog shows.  And I wonder sometimes, do we forget about those wonderful people when the stories we hear mostly pertain to bad behavior? When was the last time you heard someone spontaneously share a wonderful story about how another person helped them, encouraged them, boosted their morale etc. at the ring, at a show, in their club?  It’s easy to take those actions for granted, that people will be nice and act in a caring manner toward each other, and why shouldn’t we expect that from each other? But, the drama of a person or a group of people acting out badly is so riveting to behold, that we may lose those other acts of kindness in the shuffle. It’s like watching the News – how many good stories do you find there? What draws the masses is drama and drama we remember. As a group can we try to maintain focus on letting “the good times roll” while we police our actions for the bad behavior that turns people off from our sport?

Besides for that, do I think there are other less likeable people in the sport? Yes unfortunately, and I’d have to add that I’ve also met a few truly awful bullies among the crowd. But, and this must be said with force, they are not only the professional handlers as some might imply. Can we all agree or have we had personal experience with bullies among all ranks in the doggy crowd? Are bullies also found among the breeders, owner handlers, exhibitors, dog show superintendents, judges, vendors, the club members hosting a show, your fellow club members or the Officers & Directors of your dog club? Have you ever felt bullied and if so who was that bully, another exhibitor, a club member, a group of people? What “group” did they belong to? And, what would you tell them (or the rest of us here) about how that impacted you and whether you will continue to stay in the sport or simply walk away from it thus adding to those declining numbers that I mentioned in the beginning?

So what’s the solution? Is there a solution? Would it help if we were all more proactive, following the advice that is currently pointed toward our kids – “Stop Bullying”? Would you be willing or would you be afraid to band with the person being bullied to make the bullying behavior stop? What if that meant taking a stance against someone who, in the sport, considers themselves “important”” or is recognized as a “top dog” by virtue of being a handler, experienced breeder, or club officer?

Bullying. Where does it start? Where does it end? Do you believe it has had, or is having an impact on the decreasing numbers pertaining to our breed – Gordon Setters? Is it impacting our National club? Our Regional clubs? And if so, what would you do to put a stop to it? What needs to be changed?

The article that started this one on the topic of Bullies can be read at this link:  Are There Dog Show Bullies?

Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, suggestions and the like in the comments section. If you would prefer to withhold your name so as not to call out anyone specific, you may share by sending an email to gordonsetterexpert@gmail.com and I will post for you without your name. That’s what we’re here for, to share and to make a difference in the sport of purebred dogs!

Sally Jo Gift  Mesa, AZ

Photos by Susan Roy Nelson, WY

Using Signals Dogs Understand

Photo by Bob Segal
Photo by Bob Segal

Let me just say – admit if you will – that there’s been a couple of times, and yes, a couple of wild, crazy (and fun) dogs that I’ve shown for myself and others, who’ve caused my life to flash before my eyes while my brain screamed “…going down” as I wildly attempted to steer a sixty pound mass of muscle covered in black and tan fur into a left turn as the dog lunged full speed ahead, and headlong toward the corner of the ring showing absolutely no sign of braking for any kind of turn. Look out spectators, look out ring-fence, look out world I’m about to get slammed into a three foot fence that I know these old legs can’t jump! No people, my hair didn’t get this gray primping around the ring with well-behaved little girlie puff-ball.

I wasn’t planning to name any names, but I’m sort of on a roll here, thoughts are moving far too fast in my head from the memory of those racing seconds of insanity so I simply have to throw out a couple of names that are bouncing around my brain like kids on a trampoline screaming for attention. First to mind is Isaac, many thanks to Mary Ann for that Mr. Toad’s wild ride! Then there was Julie. As a pup she not only raced around the ring but also loved to stop in front of the judge with a jump to my chest that landed her paw deep in my pocket – more than once. Removing dog’s foot from your pocket standing in front of judge – priceless? Nope, it’s as bad as removing one’s foot from one’s own mouth.  And one more jumps to mind from long ago, a favorite puppy named Hyatt who I’m thinking might have reincarnated as Isaac because their naughtiness was so similar I often forgot it was Isaac and not Hyatt on the end of my leash.

Photo by Bob Segal
Photo by Bob Segal

Old stories aside, I guess maybe we ought to get back to the learning part of this blog article. For those of you who don’t fancy yourselves as race car drivers on a leash maybe you’ll want to read these handling articles by Peter Frost who shares his techniques on how to communicate with your dog by sending the right signals. If racing around the ring at the speed of light with your dog out in front headed for the finish line more than a nose ahead of you simply isn’t your style, Peter may have some answers you’ll like. Obviously from from the stories I just told I’m not the answer lady, nope, no Ann Landers sitting behind this keyboard.  So, the links are all set up below, all you have to do is point and click. I promise not to drag you along at warp speeds.

Part 1 – Speaking dog – use signals your dog understands

Part 2 – Speaking dog – use signals your dog understands

Part 3 – Speaking dog – use signals your dog understands

Here’s another good training article for show dogs from The Whole Dog Journal titled How to Train Show Dogs by Vicki Ronchette

And another more good place to learn some tricks is will be found by pointing your cursor and clicking on these links:

How to Show Train Your Dog by Karon  Pryor – Part  1  Shaping for the Show Ring

How to Show Train Your Dog by Karon  Pryor – Part  2  Shaping for the Show Ring

How to Show Train Your Dog by Karon  Pryor – Part  3  Shaping for the Show Ring

How to Show Train Your Dog by Karon  Pryor – Part  4  The Extended Trot

Photos by Bob Segal

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

How Fast?

Photo by Bob Segal
Photo by Bob Segal

I’m back again to share another of Peter Frost’s excellent handling blogs. This time he shares with us advice on the speed at which we should be moving our dogs, a very frequent question. For those of you learning to handle your own dog or those who are spiffing up your skills, I think Peter is offering some top notch advice and am grateful he is taking the time to share with us all!

Peter Frost TOP DOG Handling

A fantastic illustration of a dog at optimum speed. Handler is Grant Gibson. A fantastic illustration of a dog at optimum speed.
Handler is Grant Gibson.

Why too fast is better than too slow.

One of the most frequent questions that I’m asked in handling training sessions is, “How do I know the right speed to run my dog?”  Every dog – regardless of breed – has its own optimum speed in the trot gait that best demonstrates its conformation while moving. When this speed is achieved, the dog will exhibit their maximum reach, drive, and ‘trueness’ of movement i.e. not overstepping; not to mention their most correct top line, head carriage and tail set.

My answer to this question is this: “Too fast is better than too slow, however, your dog’s optimum speed is always the best”.

Firstly, why is too fast better than too slow? My reasoning is this: If asked by a judge to show your dog on the…

View original post 497 more words

…down and back please.

Photo by Sarah Armstrong See how nicely these two are moving together as a team.

It’s a simple request, we all know it’s coming. When we enter our Gordon Setter in a dog show this inevitable request is certain to be uttered at least once by the judge, at least it will if you’ve been able to get through the judge’s examination! So, if we all know it’s coming, why oh why are dogs presented so poorly, so often when exhibiting their gait? Entry fees are expensive, food, gas, motels, all those expenses add up to this 30 seconds or so at a trot. If we blow this part we’re going home without the win we came to collect.

Before we move on to Peter Frost’s excellent advice, let’s start with a couple of easy pointers.

You have to teach your puppy (or dog) to move at your side on a loose lead, not a dragging on the ground, waving in the air loose lead, but one that is not pulling the dog off-balance.

If you haven’t taught your dog to move easily beside you, go back to step one and accomplish that. Hopefully you started this training when your puppy was a baby just learning to walk…well maybe not quite that young!

Photo by Sarah Armstrong See how nicely these two are moving together as a team.

If you don’t know how to teach your Gordon Setter to move on a loose lead please find yourself a good class or an instructor, be it conformation or obedience, but find someone who can teach you and your dog how to move together as a team.

Now then, Peter’s advice just as I promised. I’ve included links to Peter’s blog here Straight out and back Part I and Straight Out and Back: Part II. He covers tips that will help you learn how to keep your dog on the straight and narrow path that you should be on during this most important part of the judging.

It isn’t about how well your dog stacks, or how long he stands still that is going to earn you the win under most judges. It’s most likely to come down to whether you can present your dog in motion to his best possible advantage. That free-flowing movement, that is what will capture the judge’s eye each and every time.  Have fun learning everyone and best of luck to you all!

Photo by Sarah Armstrong Even though he’s glancing up for reassurance, this dog is moving freely and without tugging or pulling away from his handler.

Backing away: Why some dogs fear Judges

Photo by Sarah Armstrong

If you want to learn how to present those young Gordon Setter puppies so they remain stacked confidently when the judge approaches for exam, then you need to be certain to read the great tips offered by Peter Frost, Top Dog Handling. Whether you’re dealing with a young puppy or a more mature adult who’s taken on bad habits, Peter’s blog is loaded with wonderful advice for every exhibitor. He is not only making recommendations for helping you fix problems, he’s teaching you how to be inside your Gordon Setter’s head to understand better how to communicate with them on a level they understand and trust. I’m loving his site, especially for helping to mentor the newer folks. Click the title to link directly to Peter’s blog to read Backing away: Why some dogs fear Judges.

Dogs who don’t like the show ring

Photo by Bob Segal
Photo by Bob Segal

I found an great blog today and couldn’t wait to share it with you, especially those who may be looking for handling tips. Peter Frost is publishing some wonderful pointers and after reading several of the blogs I think his advice is sound and right on. Soft hands, calm voice, firm control, poise and confidence…that will help to get your Gordon Setter performing at his best. So, just ignore the pictures of those long haired dogs who aren’t Gordon Setters and simply read his writing instead.

The first article I’m sharing is about dogs who don’t like to show, I’ve seen my fair share of Gordon Setters like that, many of whom would have benefited from a more confident handler…we won’t talk about the ones that are just being stubborn, that’s for another day.

Hope you enjoy Peter’s blog. Just click the title to head down the path to where it’s at! Dogs who don’t like the show ring.


2014 national
Photo by Bob Segal

I’m an owner handler exhibitor – well, I used to be an owner handler before I matured into an older lady who runs with a gimp and who can’t keep up with her dogs – I let a handler do the work these days. But, while I was an owner handler I love, love, loved being in the ring and it goes without saying that my overwhelming feeling of love amplified to rock music decibel when I also won. I finished dogs from the Bred by Exhibitor class and have earned my fair share of wins at Gordon Setter Specialties. Group judging was beyond what I considered my forte, that’s where I’d really expect a dog to shine and that’s when I would step back to let a pro take the lead. Today, with my physical restrictions I sit ring side to man the cheering station…oh, and the water bucket…and the brush…and, well, that list is quite long you know.

With all that said, I am sometimes taken aback when comments are made by exhibitors regarding how political a judge may be, how the win was stacked before the show started, how only professional handlers ever win under this and that judge, I’m sure you’re getting my drift.  Sometimes when I’m watching Gordon Setter judging I am overwhelmed by the desire to help some hapless exhibitor get control over their dog, or grab a dog to show the owner a better way to groom, or maybe it’s to wake some exhibitor so they get to the ring on time. I’m no professional folks, I’m just like most of you, but one thing I do know and would like to share with you is that it is my belief that the professional often wins because he/she is a professional doing a professional job. Most times there is an obvious difference in the ring appearance of the professionally handled entry versus the owner handler’s Gordon Setter, and what I would like to say to all who bemoan their losses is that we must learn to look and act like a professional, to make our dogs appear to be handled professionally, to present only well groomed, conditioned and trained dogs if we intend to compete on that same playing field. Owner handlers can and do win without a doubt, but we too need earn the win by showing the judge the very best our dog has to offer.

So, I started out to write this long blog about the basics an owner handler needs to learn and master in order to be competitive in the dog show ring when what to my wandering eye did appear but an article, well written and presenting the same advice I would share with you, my fellow exhibitors. Whether you’re just starting as a novice handling your own dog or if you’re simply feeling like you just can’t win, before complaining or blaming the pro for your loss, perhaps you might read this and judge yourself and the picture you and your Gordon Setter presented when you lost. Did you do your best but were beaten by a better dog, or could you have done something more to stack the odds in your own favor?

I love owner handlers and I would do everything I know to help you win…but if you want really good advice, ask the pros and when all else fails take the time to watch them work, really watch them in action, there is so much to learn there! This article is a great place to start to learn how to be on your way to being a winning owner handler.

Here’s the article  – hope you enjoy! Owner-Handlers: Advice from Pros and Peers edited and compiled by JP Yousha

good sport
Photo by Bob Segal

Don’t forget – Be a Good Sport!

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