Last night was handling class, and WHAT A DIFFERENCE! I’ve been practicing every day for the past week, and the results are finally becoming really noticeable. I focused my practice this week on a few things standing still, forced stacking (where the handler physically moves the dog’s legs into place), showing the bite, and gaiting. I learned last week that Hush is pulling and throwing off her movement when we gait, so to remedy that I’ve worked a lot on loose leash walking when she’s on her regular collar. By revisiting the concept of not pulling and remaining at my side on all walks, this should translate over to gaiting when I put on her show collar and lead.
Class began with only one hiccup, another dog eyed Hush while his handler was putting on her armband, and saw that opportunity to try and start a fight. Hush was a bit shaken up, but okay. I wish I could say the experience didn’t happen, but that’s part of having animals, things like this happen, and it gave our trainer and excellent opportunity to discuss how important it is to always keep a watchful eye on where your dog is looking. You do not want to let your dog make eye contact with another dog, and you do not want to let your dog get into another dog’s face. In our case, the Dalmatian had been eyeing Hush for quite a few minutes, and pounced on the opportunity of a distracted handler. It was interesting to see, that even in a very controlled environment things like this happen, and it made me shudder at the thought of all of the people who let their dogs pull them to me and don’t ask permission before their dog’s head is right in my dog’s face. It’s always good to remember that just because your dog is great with other dog that doesn’t mean the same is true for the dog on the end of someone else’s leash.
Once our armbands were secured and Hush had a slew of people love on her and comfort her, we began by entering the ring in numerical order. The other bitches that are normally in class were absent, so I was the only even number, and had selected 24 (the last number). Once around the ring, line up, stack your dogs, and as each dog came out for the judge we were instructed on which gaiting pattern to do. So, I might do the triangle, while the person in front of me did down-and-back. This required us to pay attention to what the judge was saying.
As we stood with our dogs stacked in line, the “judge” immediately commented on the vast improvement she had seen in Hush. Not only was she stacking very nicely (YAY! I’m getting the hang of it, slowly, but surely), but she also was much calmer than she has ever been before, and stood patiently while she was looked over. When it was our turn to come out of the line and stack for the “judge” the hard work I’ve put forth all week was very apparent. We were asked to show the bite, and did so effortlessly, like old pro’s. Gaiting went okay. I knew all of the patterns, but Hush was a bit skittish at the far end of the ring (where we had problems last week). We’ve been practicing outdoors, so we’re going to need to find some indoor arenas to get some more inside experience. General socialization and exposure to a variety of places and surfaces will help with this. During the mock-show we even placed 3rd, and were provided with reasoning as to our placing! Beating out some really great dogs and handlers made me especially proud.
There is still a lot to work on, but we’ve come a long way… and I feel like the parts are starting to fall into place.