TO BAIT OR NOT TO BAIT - THAT IS THE QUESTION
by Pat Gilbert
Whether tis nobler to toss half a cow’s worth of bait across the ring or not is a question too. (my apologies to Shakespeare)
Ed and I were talking about the bait subject on the plane coming home from an assignment and agreed that the baiting of dogs in the show ring has gotten totally out of control.
We saw rings littered with bait after ONE breed. I was ringside watching a breed and got pelted with half cooked liver no less than three times during ONE class. The stain on my skirt will attest to that fact.
One ring’s judge stated, don’t toss bait in my ring. Good news. The next ring’s judge had to stop and say to the other one something to the effect that your people are throwing bait into my ring. Your ring may be clean, but mine is now a mess.
I saw rubber balls being flung far and wide in one group ring. Dogs were grumbling at each other because the handlers were tossing around their furry rats and toys and other dogs wanted them.
I was trying to check ear set in one breed. Few of the dogs in the major entry were table trained but they knew all about bait. As soon as my hand reached out to touch the dogs, they grabbed for the nonexistent food.
There are very good reasons why bait is not allowed in the obedience rings. I think distractions is one reason and of course bait is no proof that a dog is actually trained to work is another.
A dog can be motivated to perform because it wants to for YOU. What happened to the bond between handler and dog? Are people only a food dispenser any more?
Personally I take great pride in having my dogs show because they want to be with me and they love it too. Do I use bait? It depends on the breed and the dog and I use it discretely.
What I think is happening is what I call the Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Get in Trouble Too Syndrome.
One handler’s excuse after being told by Ed to pick up ALL her bait and stop throwing it was “Everybody does it. Especially in the Midwest. You should she how much bait [name] throws!” As if that is a matter of pride??!!
The baiting of dogs is out of control and I say enough. Learn to do it properly or not at all!
Bait is not a quick fix to anything and everything. Many times it indicates to me that you are too lazy to teach your dog the reliable and correct way.
Baiting is not training your dog to do anything except what he already knows how to do, EAT.
I have taught handling classes for decades. I do not teach how to use bait until I am sure that my students know how to show a dog that they have reasonably trained well.
Show trained means the dog knows how to stand, move easily on a loose lead and be examined without the benefit of a full meal deal.
Baiting should be a small piece of something to get and hold your dog’s attention. It is not feeding your dog a three course meal. The proper use of bait whether it be a food something, toy, or ball is done with a dog that is already show trained and only to show expression at key moments.
Please, above all, pick up anything you drop or throw. It simply is not fair to the other exhibitors or to us as judges. Of course, my poetic justice is when the offending person attempts to leave the bait and their dog starts diving everywhere for food and dragging the handler off into the sunset. That happened in my ring and I smiled my smile with knowing eyes. Then I asked them to clean up their mess.
If you want your dog to look ahead and move straight ahead in a breed that you think is supposed to be alert at all times, then fake the throw. Teach them at home with actually flinging the food and fake the throw in the ring.
Ears up? Sure why not? But please make sure that it is a breed that is supposed to have a high ear set. Please read and understand your Breed Standard. Do you have any idea how wrong and goofy a Setter or a Basset Hound looks drooling with eyes crossed and ears on top of its head? Their Standards call out for low ear sets. Why then would you bait for ears up?
Hold a small piece of bait only to show stance and expression. Please put it away when the judge approaches. It is only good manners and common sense.
Having a large piece of food and holding it at your dog’s nose as he tries to gobble it down while I am trying to go over your dog’s heaving rib cage and straining muscles is not attractive. I truly believe if people video taped the performance, they would see how dreadful their dogs really looked and would never bait that way again.
You have no idea how gross a wet slobbering mouth looks with food glued to it or worse the dog thinks you are trying to take away its food. I can’t tell you how many times dogs make a grab for my hands because they think A. I am feeding them or B. Taking their food away. In either case both you and your dog will get into trouble. AKC and the CKC have a zero tolerance on dog aggression with people. Your dog can easily be misunderstood and be disqualified from all competition forever. It is very difficult to get a dog reinstated.
The retired professional handler in me wants to see bait used properly. The judge in me wants to nail a No Bait sign up outside my ring as some of my colleagues do. Even though I am very close to the point of no bait and no return, there is a part of me that still has faith in most handlers.
Please take the time to examine what and how you are doing things. Just because “everyone else is doing it” does not make it right. Please use your good manners that your momma taught you and be considerate and professional.
Don’t you think it is so much nicer to bait carefully, properly and neatly? Don’t you think it is a matter of courtesy to your fellow exhibitors and to the judges to be careful with how you use bait? Don’t you think that proper baiting of an already well trained dog will make you look more professional? Certainly the judges will notice and appreciate if not always award it.
I know Ed and I certainly will appreciate your professionalism and thank you from the bottom of our hearts and empty baitless pockets.
Ed’s Footnote: Some years ago judges were asked: “What is your pet peeve with exhibitors?” The overwhelming response: “Exhibitors that bait their dogs during the bite examination.” Another leading response was: “ Improper use of bait – the exhibitors think that feeding the dog in the ring is baiting the dog.” Please learn the proper use of bait or don’t use it. The biggest cause of sidewinding is the use of bait while the dog is moving.