training – Roman Reign Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs and Lowchens

Starting a Puppy in Conformation

Someone in our regional club asked about handling classes, and I wrote this response.  I thought it might be good to share publicly as well.  Location/person specific information has been removed. Enjoy!

Jennie

I would recommend that you not start conformation classes with your puppy until you’ve tried it without your dog or with trained dogs. It will take you longer to learn how to handle than it will take your dog to learn how to perform in the conformation ring. The danger in taking a puppy into conformation as a first time conformation handler is that the puppy might find it boring or uncomfortable while you are trying to learn. By the time you know what you are doing, the puppy might already dislike conformation.

I would highly recommend that you go and watch a few of the classes first (or watch YouTube videos on conformation handling), do some intense reading (it will be a great investment), and take quality general training classes. Regardless of what sport you pursue, you will need to learn how to communicate with your dog and perform as a team. I don’t think that conformation training is any different from competitive obedience training or flyball or even weight pull. It is still about the relationship you have with your dog and your communication.

Also, all my dogs are trained in competitive obedience and conformation. I strongly believe that they can do both. Many people think that dogs can only do one or the other. All my dogs have been trained to free-stack separately from automatic sits. I wouldn’t discourage training in both if you are so inclined.  You should not limit your possibilities with the notion that a dog can only learn or do one thing at a time.

Here’s a list of books I recommend:

Building Blocks for Puppies by Bobbie Anderson: http://www.amazon.com/Building-Blocks-Performance-Bobbie-Anderson/dp/1577790375
I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. A dog is a pet first. It doesn’t matter what your dog does on the weekends, your dog should find you to be exciting all the time. Your dog should also mind you in and out of the ring. You do have to live with the dog outside of the show ring as well.

All of Pat Hastings books:
http://www.dogfolk.com/puppydevelopmentbook.htm
http://www.dogfolk.com/k9structurebook.htm
http://www.dogfolk.com/trickstrade_revised.htm
I just went to one of her seminars yesterday, and I always learn something new. It is always best to learn about canine structure so that you know your dog’s strength and weaknesses. As a handler, you should learn how to downplay or accentuate those points in your dog.

The Winning Edge Show Ring Secrets by George Alston:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Winning-Edge-Secrets-reference/dp/0876058349
This is a great primer for first time owner-handlers. There are great photos and diagrams along with grooming tips.

There’s many other conformation books out there as well. It might seem like quite a bit of information at once, but I’m of the philosophy of great preparation and learning from other people’s mistakes. Always better to learn before you pay that entry fee.

Lesson: The Back Up In Cart

Lesson: The Back Up In Cart

Many draft tests will require your dog to back out of cart and to back in cart. The length of the back can vary from 1 foot to 5 feet, but just to be safe, teach your dog to back 20 feet. Teaching your dog to back is an unnatural behavior, and there are countless ways to teach a dog to back. I only explained a couple in this video, and I may be updating it with other methods over time.

Lesson: Harnesses, Harnessing, and Hitching

Lesson: Harnesses, Harnessing, and Hitching
Here’s a video on harnesses and harnessing.  I may make other videos  with more details, but here’s the basics to get you started.

Here’s a video on hitching your dog from a sit position.  It works the  same way from a stand position.  Mouse just happened to be sitting. 

What’s the difference between drafting, carting, and weight pull?

Most people I know use drafting and carting interchangeably. Drafting or
carting is usually pulling a cart, wagon, or travois. These apparatuses have
shafts and brakes so that the rig can be maneuvered through turns. IMO,
drafting or carting (whichever term one prefers to use) is not about sheer
weight, but rather about how well the dog and handler can maneuver a cart to do
everyday farm activities.

Weight pull is the activity that involves heavy duty pulling. During weight
pull competitions there are no shafts, and the goals is to test how much weight
a dog can pull. The weight can be either on a cart(wheels or rails) or on a
sled on snow. Weight pull carts and sleds do not have shafts as the goal is not
about maneuverability, but about weight pull only. For people who do use their
dogs on the farm to do work, I usually hear the terms hauling or pulling. I
only hear the specific term weight pull when speaking about the sport.

Just to make things confusing, it is common to cross train dogs in both sports
to improve both sports. My dogs are active in both drafting/carting and weight
pull. I might have my dog pull a 100 lb load in his draft cart to train for
weight pull for a miles to build endurance. Or I might have might dog
participate in weight pull to build up strength and confidence.

To make things even more confusing, if you look through breed club rules and
titles, most all carting/drafting titles are called Draft titles or Draft tests,
even though people refer to it as carting. ND stands for novice draft. DD
stands for draft dog (the open title in GSMD). There’s also team draft which is
sometimes referred to as brace.

Siwash Harnesses – freight weight and the carting

Frequently, people ask me about harnesses.  Which one is better?  I can’t say that of the two siwash harnesses: freight/weight or carting, that one is better than the other.  The both have advantages and disadvantages.  I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 harnesses now, and the only one I haven’t tried for carting is the parade harness.  I’m not a huge fan of the parade harness, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that many other judges aren’t either.  I’ll go into detail about that on another post along with specialty harnesses including the Wilczek, weight pull harnesses, and leather harnesses.

Mouse has a freight/weight siwash with a cinch and cinch loop added because I want to do weight pulling and carting. However, the freight harnesses is too “wimpy” for real competitive weight pulling.  Do not take this to a weight pull.  You will need a true, heavy duty weight pull harness to do some serious work.  The disadvantages of a frieght/weight siwash is that it is a one-piece so you must take the entire thing off to let
the dog potty or else hook the spreader bar up to the shoulders of the dog so they can walk around without tripping. On the other hand, being a one-piece is also an advantage as it is easier to
untangle and easier to put on.

The carting harnesses usually is more complicated than the freight weight harnesses. There is the neck piece, belly band, and 2 traces. You MUST be absolutely certain that the 2 traces are the same length so that the weight is distributed correctly. These two traces either attach to a tree or 2 points on the vehicle. The advantage of the carting harnesses is that you can just unhook the traces without having straps hanging off everywhere.

I personally lean towards the carting harness.  It’s just a personal preference.  There is no performance differences between the two harnesses if used properly.