Is my dog ready to show? When starting to determine if your dog is ready to show there are a few rules of thumb that you should ask yourself BEFORE sending in those entries.
• Does your dog understand the skills required to perform each exercise? Are you training each skill and each exercise, adding random releases and games to keep desire and focus high?
• When you go out training, can your dog successfully complete each main component of an exercise with NO help from you 80-90% of the time? That means no tight leashes, extra commands, or movements that will “help” your dog completes his job.
• Can you go to at least three new locations and “qualify” the first time with NO extra help in all exercises your dog will perform in the ring? If your dog can perform all the skills, just like you want them to be performed in the ring, without any help or extra cues, then you are ready to enter a show.
• Have you weaned off all extra verbal and physical input to your dog? Your dog needs to be able to complete each exercise successfully the first time in a new environment without any help from you.
• Are you training like you will be showing with an occasional motivational surprise release? Be careful of using cues that you will not be able to use in the ring.
• When training, do you often need to simplify or give extra help or cues to your dog so he will be successful? If you do, then your dog will not be able to perform in a ring situation.
• Can you train your dog with no visible or known toys, treats, or rewards? Will your dog will still work for you? Can you train with no leash? With few exceptions, if you need to use props or aids while training, your dog really is not ready to show.
• If you decide to show, could showing be a detriment to your dog or other dogs? Remember one bad experience to some dogs can ruin or severely set back their career.
• Have you videotaped yourself to see what you and your dog look like while training? You would be surprised at how many problems you can spot when scrutinizing yourself.
• Have you talked with your instructor for input? Your instructor is only interested in your success, and it is always to your benefit to talk with her or him BEFORE entering a show. They can give you additional skills or proofing to work on before entering and showing and can review and recommend ways to improve or fix holes in your training that they see.
Prepare, Train, and Proof.
Make sure all your bases are covered and that your dog is truly trained will aid in your dog’s confidence and success in the ring!