WITH CHRISTMAS, new year and Crufts entries closing come and gone we are now well and truly on the countdown to that mecca for juniors, the YKC ring, in its prominent position in the middle of the world’s greatest dog show! Officially there are eight weeks to go! That might sound like weeks and weeks but in terms of preparation time it isn’t actually very much and so you are going to have to ignore the dark nights and get yourself motivated to put in some serious practice if you want to shine your brightest. You can’t expect to win if you haven’t put in the work and the old saying ‘No gain without pain’ is as true when you are working with dogs as for other sports and hobbies.
My advice would be to put together a timetable which works backwards from the day you are competing to about now. This way you will be totally organised and nothing will be left to the last minute or worse still totally forgotten about. Your timetable doesn’t need to be set in stone, in actual fact the best plans have to be flexible and able to adapt to meet any additions or unexpected changes that you might have to build in during the eight week run up.
Obviously, your plan will be individual and based on your particular set of circumstances, however as a start I would work on a weekly list of things to be achieved that you can tick off or move around as you need to. Work out the number of training sessions you feel it wise to factor in. This number can be increased or decreased as you find out how rusty you are. You will all need to organise what you are going to wear and possibly build in some shopping trips if this involves a new outfit or pair of shoes.
You need to think about any preparation for your dog – when are you going to bath and groom? If you are competing in breed how much exercise to keep your dog moving its best. When is this going to be done and who is going to do it? I would hope that even if good old mum or dad is the designated exerciser you have at least contributed to any build up programme and have started to understand and take part in getting your dog into top show condition. You really don’t want to be the type of competitor who just goes in with a ready prepared dog having done nothing to help achieve this yourself.
Hopefully by now you are starting to get the idea and are thinking of other things you would need to have in your plan. I would have one sheet per week so that as the weeks pass you can tick off and adjust these to show what you have done and what you feel you still need to do. This will give you a very clear picture of whether you are on target to be fully ready for the finals, competitions and classes you have entered.
Use your parents
The best training is often done with a trainer but it is also likely that you’ll not have one available for either the length of time you need or at the times when you can practice. Mum’s are often very useful at filling in here and are the easiest people to persuade into giving you a hand. Even if your particular mum hasn’t got that much experience of training they will be able to pick up things you are doing and you can explain to them what you are trying to achieve and they can give you valuable feedback about how you and your dog are doing. The good thing is that this works across all the YKC disciplines be it grooming, obedience, agility, heelwork to music, handling, showing etc.
Having said that do make full use of any quality trainers and training you have access to, as this will pay dividends and also give you a better insight into what areas of your own or your dog’s performance that you should be concentrating on. Most of all enjoy what you are doing and start to really look forward to that very special show we have called Crufts!