HANDLING – LEASH PLACEMENT
By Patricia H. Gilbert
A question was asked in an internet discussion about why a handler would pull the dog’s head artificially high and back and how to do it. The question why place the lead in front of the ears was also asked by the same person.
One reader wrote that the main reason is to bring the head artificially high and back and sometimes to excess. She wrote that “sometimes to get this artificial high head carriage handlers will use the “double choke” method - the ring is placed under the LEFT ear and the chain is then wrapped back under the jaw to come back up in front of the right ear - this will make the dog bring his head up and back to give an exaggerated head carriage
even if - especially if - the dog is not naturally endowed..” She also wrote that for the record she never uses this method and did not approve of it.
This assessment of why the leash is in front of the ears is not complete. I assume the description is about the leash being under the right ear as opposed to over the top of the head.
Many dogs and in particular Sighthounds resent having something moving over the top of their heads and tend to duck their heads. If you put your lead under the ear and your hand along side or in front of the dog, he will follow more easily. Depending on where and at what height you place your hand you can set the head attitude higher or lower, etc.
We also, by imitation, changed our show ring neckwear from the traditional Rescoe or martingale lead to a fine chain choke and show lead. The chain choke makes it difficult to keep the hand and lead over the top of the head. It is much easier to let it slip into a natural position.
We need to discuss the "double choke" method. The purpose of a double choke action is to keep the collar in place, to control a strong or difficult dog with minimal neck wear and to control the head position and direction of the dog's travel. If you control the head, you control the dog. Where the head goes the body must follow.
DO NOT USE THE DOUBLE CHOKE UNLESS you are shown how to do it properly , are experienced and have light hands. The double choking action negates the desired action of a choke chain which is to check and release.
If you double choke the neck between the 1st and 2nd or even 3rd cervical vertebrae, you can sever or injure the spinal cord which runs through the cervical column and paralyze or kill your dog.
Here is an exercise I give my students to prove my point and to fine tune their collar technique. Put a choke chain over your arm as you would a dog's neck. Tug and release. It releases pressure or the choke action. Now take that same choke chain and double choke your arm. You cannot release the choke action. You will see how that same action works on a dog's neck. If you put it on too tightly you will choke your dog with no hope of releasing the pressure especially if the dog panics and pulls.
If you are going to use the double choke method, please make sure you have a least a finger or two width for give and make sure you practice a quick release.
Many techniques you see are a result of training or action for a purpose. Don't blindly imitate.
Many times people can't tell you why they do something other than Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Get In Trouble Too.
Find out why something is done and you will be the better informed handler.
Placement of Leash
The discussion also asked why handlers make the dog hold its head up when that is not natural for the dog. In this case it was about the Afghan Hound.
This discussion can apply to all breeds when we take the words of our individual Breed Standards into account. The Afghan Hound discussion is an example of how to apply a Breed Standard to your presentation.
I agree that holding the head up in an unnatural attitude is silly.
We need to look at the breed's function and its Breed Standard. Then we need to look at how it naturally carries itself and imitate that as best as possible in the show ring. We should be breed specific in our show ring presentation.
Often times we take words to mean if a little is good, then a lot is better. This is true for many in Afghan Hound presentation. They have turned what should be natural grace and dignity into something artificial and comical.
The Afghan Hound Breed Standard states: "General Appearance... appearance of what he is, a king of dogs...Gait - When on a loose lead, the Afghan can trot at a fast pace; stepping along, he has the appearance of placing the hind feet directly in the foot prints of the front feet, both thrown straight ahead. Moving with head and tail high, the whole appearance of the Afghan Hound is one of great style and beauty."
Let's examine how to get this important look and movement.
King of Dogs - means just that. He is not subservient to anyone, a court jester, slavering for bait, or cringing in fear. This requires exposure to different situations to gain confidence. Confidence is the key.
Loose lead - I thought these words needed no explanation but it seems that many people do not understand loose means not tight. It is definitely not a double choke.
CAN trot at a fast pace, placing hind feet directly in the foot prints of the front feet, etc. - Where this falls apart is people get the fast part and forget about what the feet are doing. The footfall is important. If you are moving too fast or your dog is not moving properly, you will probably not get the correct stepping into the front foot print. Faster is not better. It is possible to be fast and correct. A study of your dog trotting loose will give you information that you need to imitate and/or correct.
If you tighten the lead, pull the head back over the shoulders, and stick a piece of bait out in front with the other hand, go really fast and you will get nothing that resembles the breed standard. That is what is often seen and imitated. It is so wrong and to me offensive.
I see this in my ring and wonder why you would do this to an aristocrat. I am certain that these people have never video taped themselves and their performances.
I think that video and a knowledgeable friend ringside can be the best learning tools. Analyze, dissect performances, and practice in front of a mirror and camera. Make the basic essentials second nature. Then when you step into the ring, you can fine tune your performance and accentuate those features where your dog excels.
So to recap – Before we set foot into the ring with our show dog, we need to study the breeds’ basic original purpose, Breed Standard and presentation. Then we need to set about training our dog to bring out those essential characteristics for its breed. Those characteristics include behavior and attitude and proper carriage.
This is not an easy task but it is rewarded by kudos for correct presentation and indicates your high knowledge of and respect for your breed.