Train for breed and handling rings

By: Andrea Keepence-Keyte


Following on from Lisa’s discussion in Handle with Care on page 47 about whether free stood dogs should be given more/less credit than that of stacked dogs in the handling ring, this is a contentious issue and for me, and personally, I do not care. What I am looking for in the ring as a judge is that the dog is shown a) to its best and b) as it would be shown/stacked in the breed ring. I will not and do not give extra credit nor penalise handlers who free stand or stack. 


Sympathetic judging

If a handler is free stacking I am sympathetic as a judge if the dog fidgets or is not stood quite perfectly. I will penalise though if you cannot shadow around your free stood dog and I also look for handlers to be able to free stack without blocking the view down the line up. When you decide that you would like to use a dog for handling, I personally start to train for both the handling ring and the breed ring. The main things I train for in preparation for the handling ring is shadow work and changing lead hands, both stationary and on the move. I show a stacked breed, but it is also acceptable for Beagles to be free shown so I do try to train for both and then I go with whichever the hound is more comfortable.

  On the move sometimes I have had to be sympathetic to handlers of large dogs when the handling has been allocated a tiny ring. I will try to ask for patterns that will not be over difficult to a large dog as I do not see the point in making dog and handler struggle doing tiny triangles in the corner of the ring for example – it is off putting. I will try to ask for a pattern where the handler can maximise the space. It is true that handlers come up against small rings in the breed, but again it is my belief that judges should compensate for this as they are meant to be assessing movement. When I have handled Borzoi there is nothing more disappointing when you find yourself in a tiny ring handling a breed that is meant to really move.

  I believe that it is important that handling judges do their homework and at least go around and observe how different breeds are shown. Some dogs are traditionally free stood in the ring, for example Dalmatians and some gundogs, and some breeds are shown front on: Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Dogue de Bordeaux for example.


Personal choice

In my opinion, when stacking a dog in profile, there is no right or wrong way. Some old school judges will argue with me about this and try making the point that the dog should be shown so that the head looks to the judge’s left, so near side on. In my opinion it is up to the handler (and sometimes the dog!) which way around a dog is stacked, most commonly due to the markings on the dog. I train all of mine to be able to stack either way around. This has proved useful for many reasons both in the handling ring and in the breed ring. Judges, therefore, should train themselves to be able to cope with this and go over a dog that may not be stacked how they are accustomed.

  Stacking your dog is a personal choice most of the time and sometimes it is dictated by how the breed is traditionally shown. Whatever the reason, as long as you are showing the dog to its best in the handling ring it is my belief that neither way should be given preference. At the end of the day, handling competition is about the ability to show the dog to its absolute best and as long as that is being achieved then you are meeting the remit.

  Hayley Jones emailed to say that she won her class, took best adult handler and subsequently best overall handler under handling judge Becca Mills at Yeovil on June 24 – congratulations on a fabulous win!

  “It’s a universal law – intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

  If there is anything you would like me to discuss or research and write about please do email me or contact me through Facebook. Also, don’t forget to email or call me with your news, results and gossip!