ARE YOU CHALLENGED AS A HANDLER?
By Pat Gilbert
Over the course of my years as a conformation handling instructor, I have come across what some people consider handicaps. I prefer to look at them as challenges.
I have worked with people who are blind, partially blind, blind in one eye, physically limited by canes, chairs, scooters, limping, bending of body and bones and so much more. There is no reason on earth why if you are dealing with any of these issues you can’t show a dog. You can show a small dog or even a large dog with my formula.
You need to teach your dogs to move out in front and slightly to the side of you. I have shown my dogs on the end of a 6' lead. Our Saluki Midas (Mighty Dog) was shown at the end of an 8' purple lead. It is spectacular with any dog. Another advantage to this is if you can't run so fast anymore, it gives your dog plenty of room to go without interference from you. Nobody can run up on your dog. They have to run over you to get to your dog. It is good protection from the not so nice handlers.
Start with a leash trained dog. Put a furry something on a long stick or a fishing pole. I use a longe whip. That is for moving horses in a large circle. Tease your dog with it to the point he wants to get it. This does take some coordination. Hold the furry creature out in front of him and pick up pace until you are going at a reasonable ring speed and he is way out in front of you.
I launch my dogs by giving them the go ahead with a touch on the right ear or side, or just a word and a "sstsst". I up the speed with a "pshut". You can use any key word or sound. You do need to be consistent as you are obedience training your dog for a different venue. When I get to the speed I want him moved at, I use "Steady On". That means hold that speed until I say "Easy". My dogs also know "Left", "Right", "Let's Go", "Stand" and "Stay". Down and back calls for a "Nice and Easy". When I have trained a dog, I could sit down and the dog will do the pattern himself and then stack himself.
Train your dog to stack as I outlined in last months article (SHOW TRAINING A PUPPY). If your breed is a table breed and you are in a chair, have the dog jump into your lap and then onto the table. The same applies in reverse to getting off the table. Never ever let your dog jump off a table unassisted by you. The footing could be off and your dog could pull a muscle or worse, break something.
If you are unable to bend and/or lift, then ask for help. You can have a friend do it for you. You can ask the ring steward to table your dog. In a pinch the judge can table your dog for you.
THINK STRONG THOUGHTS. Stand or sit up straight and throw your shoulders back. Put your chin in the air. Your dog is the best and you are the world's greatest handler. The other people and dogs are lucky to be in competition with you. With a long lead, the worst thing that can happen is you can fall down. You won't hurt your dog. It is all about mental attitude and working with limitations and overcoming them.
Today’s world is a whole lot kinder about people with physical limitations. The American Disabilities Act was too long in coming. AKC has directions for judges faced with people who are challenged showing dogs in their ring. AKC and most of us are very understanding and accepting.
This formula is great to showcase any dog. You don’t need to be a challenged handler to us it.
Show your dog and enjoy the camaraderie of the dog world. At the end of any day, you still get unconditional love from your dog.
THINK ABOUT IT AND THEN GET OUT THERE.
Please feel free to e-mail me with questions. I love a challenge. My private mail box is firstname.lastname@example.org