Around the world, the numbers of dogs being exhibited at All Breeds shows has declined. For some breeds, the classes are becoming so small that many classes now have only one exhibitor. The result of this is that many judges use this development as an opportunity to speed up their judging by allocating a lone exhibitor less judging time than those in multiple entry classes.
One common instance of this can be observed when the judge allows little or no time for you to stack your dog for conformation inspection before they immediately begin their examination. In a class with multiple entrants, the dogs are usually run around once and, when they come to a halt, the judge positions themselves to view the dogs’ side profile in order to gain an overall impression of the class. Once the judge has a mental image of the exhibits, they will then proceed to the first exhibit to physically examine each dog’s conformation.
This procedure allows the first handler valuable seconds to prepare their charge for the confirmation examination that is coming. Obviously, the other exhibits gain even more preparation time for this but the normal judging approach still allows the first exhibitor enough time to present their dog without being too rushed. In most cases, a sole exhibitor is not afforded this same luxury but there is something that you, the handler, can do to gain enough precious seconds to settle and prepare your dog.
You can outfox the fox.
Outfoxing the fox means thinking outside the square, not following the cows’ path and handling to suit you and your dog – not simply a judge in a hurry.
With tabled dogs, if you’re the only exhibitor and you’re asked to run around once then straight to the table, break from tradition and set your dog up on the table (to the front and judges side) and position yourself between your dog and the judge.
Remember, to achieve the perfect stack you need to remain calm. This means not rushing but making sure that all your movements happen in slow motion. Only move the legs you have to move. Feeling under pressure, some handlers will automatically pick up both legs (either front or back) when, most probably, one leg or even both were already in the correct position. So, take a deep breath and look before you act. It may take some practice, but if you perfect the techniques that I’ve been writing about, you should be ready for the judge in no more than three to four seconds.
Once you’re satisfied that your dog is ready for inspection, slowly and smoothly move around the table to your dog’s non-show side. Next, extend your arms proudly to communicate to the judge via body language that, “My dog is now ready for your inspection sir/madam”.
With on the ground judging, a different technique needs to be employed. For the ‘on you in a second’ judge, you’ll still need those valuable few seconds to set-up your dog but a traditional full stack is not always necessary. Unlike the handler of table-judged breeds, the ground handler has a different type of control.
In this situation, if you are a sole exhibitor, before you enter the ring, take time to observe where the judge is standing. Doing this means that when you’re asked by the steward to either run directly towards the judge or to run around to the judge, you can come to a halt about three metres (three yards) before them. This action will now require the judge to make a few steps towards your dog before commencing their examination, which means you now have a few extra valuable seconds to correctly stack your dog.
This technique will also mean that you can present your dog front-on to the judge. This makes the position of your dog’s rear legs and tail less important than their front, which not only saves you time, it also means that you’re ready to present your dog’s teeth head and teeth. Likewise, not wasting time on stacking your dog’s rear gives you more time to bring your dog’s attention back to you – the handler – and not the approaching stranger i.e. the judge.
These techniques are not about showing disrespect to judges but to ensure that the dog you handle obtains the equal attention – and chances of winning – as dogs that are in multiple-entry classes do.