Dog Shows: Doing What It Takes?

Is it wrong to do what it ever takes (within reason) to show your dog at his or her very best at a dog show?

It depends.

It’s wrong if the show is an AKC sanctioned event, and the “whatever it takes” is double handling. At an SV/WDA/USCA show, however, it’s perfectly acceptable for a handler to handle your dog in the ring while you “double handle” outside the ring. At these shows, a judge wants to see a dog with powerful, driving movement, driving forward, and the best way to “get there” is to motivate the dog from outside the ring.

Sparring in a terrier (or Chihuahua) ring is another example, but sparring in this context is acceptable at AKC shows. Some judges can request that a few certain dogs to be brought to the center of the ring to “face off.” Contact is never made – ever, but it’s a useful tool to determine alertness, courage and confidence. There is nothing quite like it to show off attitude.

Most dogs have dogs have something that lights them up, but there are also ways to make dogs of some breeds look great, and that takes us to one example, the Bernese Mountain Dog. When resting or “hanging out,” a Berner’s ears hang close to their head, but when they’re alert, their ears are brought forward and raised at the base, and it’s eye catching.

For that reason, most Berner fanciers believe that their breed’s ears are best evaluated when the dog is alert. The ears are raised and brought forward, and the top or the ear becomes level with the top of the skull. Anything less can appear as long or low set ears that give the dog a hound-like appearance of the head, and needless to say, it’s incorrect for the breed. Bait, happy talk, or promising a side of beef after the show, we don’t envy the task of the Berner handler when their dog is delighted just to be with them.

Finding an image to illustrate this wasn’t easy. These are good-natured dogs with very amiable personalities, so we fell back on artwork. If you, however, have a photo that shows this off, we’d love to see it.

Image: Bernese Mountain Dog by Marshall Robinson is available as fine art and as a greeting card here. 


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