17 Nov Ringcraft for the Novice Exhibitor
From the inception the exhibitor should understand that the breed show for German Shepherd Dogs is not a beauty contest. The Breed shows serve to evaluate the potential and mature breed stock available in the country. In addition to the correct construction the dog should possess the required bone and muscle strength as well as the temperament character as described in the Breed standard . This together with the fitness and willingness to perform should assist the dog in obtaining a good grading in the show class.
This guide should be read in conjunction with the various Breed and Show procedures as published in the GSD Federation of Southern Africa constitution as well as the appendix Tips on showing dogs.
The evaluation of the dogs largely follows a fixed pattern and only varies slightly with the age classes.
The standard procedure is for the entire class after the inspection of the tattoo number in the right ear to move around the ring in catalogue number sequence in an anti clock wise direction at a brisk walking pace. The dog with a locked neck chain should be walking ahead of the handler on a slightly taught line that is held in the left hand. The overlapping of dogs should be avoided unless it is at the request of the ring steward/judge. This warming up serves the present the judge with a general impression of the overall quality of the class. After two or more rounds the dogs the class will be asked to halt and the individual assessment of the dogs commences. At the discretion of the judge exhibitors may be told that they can leave the ring until they are one by one required to present their dogs to the judge.
Presentation in stance: When requested by the Ring steward the handler walks the dog at a brisk pace towards the judge. If not indicated where to show the dog in a show stance take the most advantageous position. Whether the dog faces left or right in relation to the position of the judge is not important. The handler familiar with the shortcomings of the dog will present the dog in the best possible manner.
The show stance is a natural position of the dog and should give the judge a square side view of the conformation of the animal. The front legs should be parallel well under the dog and the hind legs should be positioned so that the leg nearest to the judge is extended backwards with the hock perpendicular to the ground. The other back foot is placed approximately 20 cm forward. The purpose of this “show” position is to enable the judge to evaluate the dog’s construction whereby the angulation of the front and hind quarters together with the top line, croup length and slope as well as the muscle development play a major role. It should be remembered that a well-constructed dog requires little assistance to stand correctly. Therefore excessive interference by a handler will create the impression that the dog has many faults to hide. Ideally a dog is walked into a show stance and only a minor correction such as placing one or two feet is all that is required. Few dogs show well when presented by their owners. Unless the dog is alert, attentive and is willing to stride at all speeds with the owner a well-experienced handler who is familiar with the dog’s shortcoming should present the dog.
After the side view the judge will look at the dog from the front and from behind in order to evaluate the straightness of the limbs and the firmness of the muscles and ligaments.
This is followed by the showing of the teeth whereby the procedure is normally to first show the “bite” and than the molars on each side of the jaws. When showing teeth the dog’s nose and eyes should not be obstructed as the dog will resist this type of handling. With closed jaws and lifted lips the bite of the front teeth is first shown whilst the handler keeps his/her head out of the way so as not to obstruct the judge’s view. With the jaws apart the left and right hand side molars whilst keeping the tongue out of the way are shown. Male dogs will have their testicles examined.
Evaluation of movement: After the presentation in stance the judge/steward will request the handler to walk away and towards so that the straightness of the legs in movement can be seen. It is important that the dog walks in a straight line away and towards the judge and that side way pulling is avoided. After the walk the side gait of the dog is to be shown. It is good practice that the handler walks the dog from the centre of the ring towards the right corner of narrow end of the ring and than uses the narrow end to increase the speed from a walk to the gait so that the full length of the ring can be used to demonstrate the dog’s ability to gait at full speed. The dog should be presented dog at a taught leash held in the left hand without undue pulling. Normally the full length of the field is sufficient to demonstrate the dog’s gaiting. This is a critical part of the dog’s evaluation. The thrust of the back legs and the length of the stride together with a good top line are the prerequisites of a well constructed working dog. Unless these features can be demonstrated at this stage it will require hard work afterwards to gain a good placing for the dog.
Gun sureness test: After the individual evaluation has been completed the handlers are requested to return to the ring and reassemble in the original sequence of catalogue numbers. In show classes for dogs of twelve months or more the class is divided into small groups and each group is now subjected to the gunshot test. Dogs should be presented at a loose hanging leash and should show no sign of negative response to the sound of the firing gun. (six mm blanks.)
Final assessment: Upon completion of the gun sureness test the judge will now indicate his first placing and the dogs will be called out in order of preference.
This is the start of the “hard work” and fitness on both the dog and the handler is a prerequisite for the remainder of the proceedings. Normally the class will be requested to start with a brisk walk where after the gaiting commences. During this part of the show the sequence of the dogs is likely to change. When this happens it is customary that handlers overtake on the outside of the class so as not to obscure the other dogs from the judge’s view.
Puppy classes are not subjected to the same amount of gaiting as the more mature classes. In the 18-24 and over 24 month classes depending on the number of dogs being presented the judge may elect to divide the class into groups and to evaluate the group standing, walking away and towards and at gaiting speed. In the 24 months and older class dogs are to be shown gaiting off lead and at this stage the owners might take over the showing of their dogs at heel. At any time during the show the changing of handlers is permitted.
At the end of the class the handlers remain in their final placing whilst the judge will announce the grading groups and discuss each dog in the ring.”
Preparation of the show dog.
In rare occasions the owner of the dog will present his/her own dog. In most cases the dog will present itself better when in the hands of a handler whilst the owner serves to attract the dog’s attention. This so called attraction by the owner requires a degree of skill and the dog needs to be trained and become accustomed to it’s handler.
Attraction by the owner: An alert dog will present itself better than a dog showing little interest. In most cases too much attraction is not the correct recipe . The degree of attraction depends on the dog but most cases the out of sight absence of the owner is sufficient to make the dog alert. Should a dog loose interest it may be necessary for the handler to indicate to the owner to reinforce his presence by making a sound. (refer tips on showing)
Never attract a dog when it is not facing the owner. In some cases it may be necessary for the owner to show himself but the risk is that a novice dog becomes unmanageable.
A dog is to be shown on a taught leash. The training can be done by the owner walking or running in front of the dog/handler team at suitable distance and where necessary by calling the dog. Whilst this takes place the handler should use a command such as “hop,hop” and when the dog performs satisfactorily the praise “there’s a good dog ‘‘can be given.
Eventually the dog and handler should be able to move around the ring without the assistance of the owner who should watch the performance and await instructions by the handler.
Excessive pulling on the leash should be avoided as it distorts the effective forward flow of the hind thrust and it will therefore unnecessary exhaust the dog.
The show stance: The presentation of a dog in show stance should be frequently trained and where possible with the assistance of a knowledgeable person who can comment on the problems in the construction of the dog. Only in this manner can one make the best of the presentation of the dog (refer to tips on showing). Ideally a dog should be taught to walk into the show position which can be done as follows. The handler and dog are standing still and when the owner calls the dog in front the dog is allowed to make several steps forward until the handler sees that the dogs feet are in a near show position (see diagram tips on showing). Minor adjustments may now be required to complete the show stance. The handler should use a command such as “show”. Never crouch over the dog when placing the legs in position as most dogs do not like this action out of self protection.
Presenting teeth: Showing teeth should be trained at the same time. The more training takes place the more accustomed the dog will be to the command “teeth”. When showing the bite place one hand under the lower jaw and the other hand over the top jaw so that the jaws are closed whilst pulling the upper jaw lips upwards with the thumb and index finger to bare the incisors. The molars are best shown whilst the dog is standing with the jaws apart depending on the judge’s position show his side first by lifting the flutes of the upper jaw and bottom jaw whilst making sure that the tongue is out of the way to show the presence of the smaller molars.
Use an assistant to act as a judge during this training so that the dog gets accustomed to the touch by the hand of strangers. In the case of male dogs do also train the dog to having it’s testicles examined.
The Gun shot: Training for gunshot steadiness should be done in a careful manner. Whilst most dogs have no problem one should be careful during the initial training so as not to scare a dog. Commence at a distance of at least 40 meters and depending on the dogs reaction progressively close the gap until the distance is about 20 paces. The sound should be that of a 6 mm gun. During the test the dog should be standing free with a loose lead. Positive reaction such as barking is no fault where as a dog that wants to flee or place its tail between the legs or goes into a sit is considered to have a negative reaction. Training for gunshot steadiness may also be done whilst the dog is being attracted by the owner or whilst the dog is eating.
Fitness: Not unlike the preparation for a marathon road race the diet and the degree of exercise in preparation for the show are important. One can have the most beautiful dog, but when unfit it is unlikely to do well in a show. Specialised food is available and is the easy part of the preparation. Fitness training requires time and effort on the part of the owner/handler. There are several ways to achieve this, whereby preference should be given to trotting the dog on leash next to a bicycle. Built up the distance gradually to a 10 km stretch on a daily basis.
Stop training two to three days before the show.
Cleaning the dog: Bathing a dog should not be necessary but if so required do it a week prior to the show so that the coat restores itself. More frequently a damp cloth or chamois leather is used to shine the coat. Make sure that the inside of the ears are clean and remove excessive tartar from the dog’s teeth.