As the 4-H dog show season gets into full swing I would like to take a moment to discuss attitude.
Our attitude in the show ring is reflected in many ways. First, our dogs sense our attitude. It travels right down the leash and directly into your dogs brain. If you enter the ring with confidence, so will your dog. If you enter the ring tense, so will your dog. If you enter the ring scared, so will your dog.
The confident handler walks with a brisk pace, shoulders back, head up. They address the judge & their dog in a clear confident voice that can be clearly heard. They take adequate time between each exercise to prepare themselves and their dog for the next task. They have taken the time to study the rules and expectations for each class so they understand what will happen.
The tense or scared handler tends to walk either faster or slower than they normally do when practicing. The pitch and volume of their voice changes. The hand signals and body language tend to become jerky and quick. They either get nervous and begin exercises before they are ready or they become worried and spend so much time setting up for the exercise the dog begins to loose focus. All these signs communicate to the dog that something is different so the dog performs in a manner different than what they usually present in practice.
One of the ways we can manage our attitude in the ring is to manage our behavior before we enter the ring. First, give your dog & yourself adequate time to get a drink & use the appropriate potty area! Second, warm up your dog. Most dogs do best with a short warm up of no more than five minutes. The warmup should be a time to get your dogs attention and reward them with lots of praise & treats for doing tasks they know. This is NOT the time to teach your dog something new or practice something they don't like. This is NOT the time to chat with your friends or allow other people to pet or feed your dog. A good warmup will send you and your dog into the ring with more confidence.
The answers to these questions will determine your success or failure. 1) Can people trust me to do what is right? 2) Am I committed to doing my best? 3) Do I care about other people & show it? If the answer to these questions are yes, there is no way you can fail. ~ Lou Holtz
One of the first things we learn in showing dogs is that hours of work and training are judged by a few minutes in the ring. One of the second things we learn is that we spend more time at dog shows waiting around than doing anything else. So, the second place we need to focus on our attitude is outside the ring, during the “down time.”
When we aren't in the ring, what do we do? Do we watch our friends and encourage them or do we gossip about other competitors? If you see a new person in the ring making a big mistake do we laugh about it or kindly offer help when they leave the ring?
One of the great things about 4-H is that we practice and learn as a team. We experience things as a team. We win and we loose as a team. As we enter the busy and sometimes stressful show season lets not loose sight of why we do this. Working with our dogs is fun. Learning with our friends is fun. If we practice and compete with a good attitude showing will be fun too.
posted by Liz