What I learned from the 2019 Westminster Dog show

After three days of being around the dogs of the Westminster Kennel Club Show, I have a new perspective on dog training and a challenge for dog owners.

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger,

Here’s what I learned.

These dogs aren’t perfect

As with anything in life, not everything is perfect.

While watching the dogs both in and out of the ring I noticed a few things that surprised me.  Many times, a dog would jump up on a handler or mouth them.  An older Giant Schnauzer laid down in the show ring refusing to get up.  A Purina handler’s dog shot off to eat liver left by the show dogs rather than perform its designated tricks.  Even King, the Best of Show winner, chews on his bed.

None of these actions would be tolerated by a home owner; but they are with show dogs.

Dog owners and dog trainers need to raise their expectations on what a well-socialized dog is

Where these dogs are perfect is in holding commands and their high acceptance of being in public.

From my observation the dogs at this show are the epidemy of perfect personality, temperament and socialization.  I don’t personally know any dog that could tolerate being touched for several hours by unfamiliar people and then go into a show and perform and be touched by judges while still remaining calm and collected.

Socialization is a lot about handling

Granted we have “pet” dogs which most likely lack the perfect personality and temperament to perform on a show level.  But that doesn’t mean we still can expect more from them.

I think we should handle our dogs more. Not just by petting, but by touching them all over.   Socialization isn’t just being with other dogs.  We need to groom our dogs and perform snout to tails on a daily basis.  By trimming our dog’s nails, looking in their mouths and interacting on a physical level we can help prevent aggression.  Playing ball is great but expecting our dogs to control themselves in public is something all dog owners should set as a goal.

Stifle the bark

Over 3,000 dogs at this event and I only heard two of the dogs’ bark.  What does that say for us as dog owners?  I think we let our dogs get away with much more than we should.  If the show dogs can sit on grooming tables for hours, I think we can expect our dogs to sit quietly while we pour their meals or answer a door.  Raise your expectations!

Hold commands

I believe even though we teach our dogs commands most of us have a tendency to release them way too soon.  King, the winner of the Westminster stood for over an hour while he had his photo taken.  He didn’t whine or complain, rather he was as stoic as a Steiff stuffed dog.  Sure, this takes a lot of training and discipline, but can’t we expect our dogs to hold a command for 5 or 10 minutes without complaining?

Here’s my challenge

In the next month I want you to raise your expectations for your dog.  If they can sit for a minute quietly, then build up to two minutes.  If they bark or whine for food, work with the quiet command and build until then can sit quietly until their food is poured and you release them.  Can’t stand being brushed or having their nails trimmed…this is the month to work with them and build slowly on improving their stamina for handling.

By taking small steps you may be surprised at what your dog is truly capable of.  Maybe they won’t be at the 2020 Westminster but they will be better behaved and more socialized for the next time friends come ringing your door bell.

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