Dog show preparation, Francesco Cocchetti



Dog shows are being accused of ruining breeds. People say breeders go there to get winnings and don’t care about the well-being of the dogs. One might ask how the breeds would be without the shows. How would it be?
The meaning of shows is to keep the construction on average the same as the standard says. The standard on the other hand is based on the purpose of the breed. For example, in my case, the Chihuahua is supposed to be a good companion – healthy, fearless and its mental construction should be of that kind that it enjoys life. If the dogs would not be compared would they become too big or small, would their feet be correct and character good? There are many features to discuss in shows but shows have their value.
The show needs to be a pleasant experience for the dog. For the dog, the environment is different than at home and the walks they are used to. It’s crowded and there are many strange dogs of all sizes, smaller and bigger. You need to support the dog all the time. You need to be careful that the bigger dogs don’t decrypt their aggressions towards your dog but on the other hand make sure to give a chance for the dog to get used to the show life on it’s own terms.
After the ring you need to reward the dog no matter what the result was. The dog doesn’t understand if it did good or not. Dogs only knows the reactions of the owner, the nervousness, disappointment or joy.
If one wants to go to shows the training needs be started already in puppy age. The Chihuahua, for example, is one of the breeds which are being judged on the table. Training with the puppy can very well be started already in early age. Puppies are generally greedy for the food and training is easy with treats. You show the treat to the puppy and then the puppy is lifted in to a table which is large enough and very stable. After this you need to get the puppy’s attention to the treat and in this way distract the puppy from the new situation. If the puppy likes to be on the table (especially for the small breeds) and is confident it might wag it’s tail happily. That’s when you can try to set the puppy in the position wanted and it’s bite can be checked. From the males you can also check testicles.
If the puppy instead is trying to get out of, or is lying on the table, the dog should be petted and talked to with a calming voice. Your puppy should however not be taken down or into your lap from the table. This is only rewarding the puppy’s insecurity. Instead leave the puppy on the table in peace (one shouldn’t leave the puppy alone there because it might fall) and let it gather some courage. Normally it tries to stand. This is when you should confirm the behaviour by praising and rewarding it with a treat. When it stands the puppy is being rewarded and it should be allowed to stand for a while and then praised again.
When practicing the standing on the table next day again the puppy is usually already much more confident. It is already possible to start to set it to the right show position, but doing it on the puppy’s terms. Once again – the tail tells a lot. If the tail is between the legs it reflects insecurity and in this situation you still need to proceed slowly and carefully. The most important thing is to keep your own nerves under control and show good leadership.
The first thing is to get the puppy to walk nicely on the leash. This is anyway expected in normal walks as well. When the puppy arrives to the house you could put a narrow collar on it after the puppy is used to the house. It might bother the puppy for a while but you can distract it’s attention elsewhere. Until the puppy is used to the collar you shouldn’t attach a leash to it. If these are tried together as well as taking the puppy out it might happen that puppy will put on the break or sit without knowing what to do. One thing at a time!
At first you can let the puppy show the way and then little by little, with a treat or gently pulling the leash, guide the puppy to the way you want. It helps the situation if you also have an older dog along who already knows how to walk on a leash. By doing this the puppy’s attention is focused on the other dog, not on the leash. You shouldn’t drag the puppy. By doing this the puppy easily starts to “tiptoe” on the leash because it’s an unpleasant experience for the puppy.
When the puppy knows how to walk on the leash it’s easy to practice free stacking with the leash attached. For this you can change to a show leash. The dog starts to learn to connect things. In the beginning the stacking practices should be so short that the dog is able to do them. The treat helps in this, first you give the dog the opportunity to sniff it and then it’s kept in front of the dog. In this you should attach a command “stand”. When standing is proper the dog is rewarded. Later the treat should be withheld so that the dog doesn’t need to be fed in the ring.
In addition the dog should be able to trot in the rhythm of the handler when the judge is looking for the movements from up and down and the side. Last-mentioned can also be seen the other way; the handler needs to be able to adapt its movements to the speed of the dog when the dog is trotting in it’s ideal speed.
If the dog is standing vigorously still the judge can’t ask for more. Standing still in the leash can be trained e.g. in the home yard but it needs to succeed also in a bigger pack of dogs. Many times breeder or local subdivisions can give advice about suitable training facilities or a place and a time when show practices are held.

Before this breeders have many problems:

- They need to evaluate the bitch and it’s background correctly
- They need to find the suitable male
- Travel to the male maybe to another continent costs, even if it’s possible to take a small dog into cabin in a bag. Where to get the money?
- When it is the right time to mate and is this ok for the male owner?
- Will the mating be ok? Is the male able to mate and does the female allow it?
- How will the whelping go and are the puppies going to make it all right?
- Are they going to be promising and will one find suitable homes for them to make it all worth it?

The type, the height in ratio of the length and the strength most of the breeders can see. Also some details e.g. the shape of the head. Character is harder. Obviously shy dogs are easy to eliminate but if female is shy only with men one need to think whether it’s genetic or in experiences. Female like this can be tried but the male needs to be immaculate in character.
There are a lot of dogs in the world so one might think it’s possible to find a suitable male. Gene pool however is considered small in most of the breeds. By gene pool is meant the dogs that can be used or are used successfully in breeding and are not so closely related to each other. All dogs has faults if not in individual then at least in some generation in pedigree. If one wants to breed it’s comforting to know that this is about animal breeding and it also includes possible faults. It’s about selecting and in next generation one try to get rid of it. This is how breeding dogs has been for over thousands of years.
Knowledge is not the only thing that affects the choice of male. These are things one needs to recognize in themselves. One might leave some male just because it’s owned by “wrong” person. Is this really clever when one remembers that genetics of wrong person are not going to transfer to the female?
Many talented breeders “sense” the right combination. They make their decisions intuitively, inexplicably. It doesn’t matter what the reason was it’s the result that counts. Regarding this the breeder needs to be honest. They talk about kennel blindness, when breeder is exaggerating the good parts and underestimating the faults in their breeding. This way is doomed or at least road to bad breeding!
There is also a justifiable impression that there are unequal dogs in pedigrees. One thinks that e.g. father’s mother or mother’s mother of a brood bitch are important. Are they producer type? True or false but nothing lost if it’s checked.
New breeder might get scared to see a serious illness in some dog’s 7th or 8th generation. Are these things to really mind about and how long in the pedigree one really needs to track? If it’s a fault caused by one gene it’s enough to check carefully 2 to 3 generations. Anything can happen but this is a calculated risk. If some characteristic is desired to be established and this characteristic is caused by many genes (“polygenic”) one needs to go further in the pedigree. E.g. behind the Chihuahuas (my own breed) there are dogs of many types and this is why maintaining it can be hard for a breeder. This is why the breeder needs to look the type all the way to the 4th or 5th generation.
Do we dare to line breed, in other way put dogs together so that there is same dog at least twice in the pedigree but any way not too close to each other. Or should we use out crossing so that there are not any dogs in common?
Neither of these methods solves the breeder’s problems, if they don’t know the dogs and their backgrounds. With line breeding one is aiming to keep some special characteristic – type, character and health – in their puppies. It decreases the variety in these characteristics. The dog whom one Is lining doesn’t need to be perfect but it needs to have those features which breeder wants to hold on to. It’s not about details; those one can add after the base of prominent characteristics is strong.
Line breeding is also beneficial because it brings out the hiding faults. They hurt, but after this they are easier to get rid of than “random” faults. Problem of out crossing is mostly that the faults show up as surprises because breeder was not provided enough info of the male. One should any way use out crossing to bring other forms of genes to own dogs.
Health of the dogs is important. If they suffer from faults and they are genetic one has failed in breeding with these dogs.
Most visible thing in Chihuahuas is for example the color. They seem to appear in all kinds of colors. They are not just result of breeder’s imagination, in the standard all colors except merle is accepted.
Color of the coat and skin of a dog is affected by genetics, food and shedding.
Gene decides what color of pigmentation is in the skin and what color the melanocytes (cyte=cell) in the root of the hair produce. Color depends on the amount of the melanocytes , their ability to produce pigmentation and how it’s divided on different sides of individual. Also there are differences on the shapes of color particles. White color is strange since it’s not color at all. Also with white melanocytes produce pigmentation but it doesn’t end up to the hair. Hormones can change as the dog gets older so that it might get harmless pigmentation spots e.g. in the tongue.
Improper food might lead in to shedding and skin problems. To keep the pigmentation as good as possible it’s important to know if the food is digesting properly in the individual. Does it include enough fatty acids which are suitable for carnivores and where the protein of the food is from? Many people just quickly look the fat and protein levels on the food.
Dog’s hair is protein, mostly keratin. They grow from hair bud in the stem of the hair and its cells of splits quickly. Bud has growth and rest stages which can be seen first when the hair is growing and then when it’s shedding. E.g. hormones has impact in this cycle. Females lose their coat about four months after their season. It’s around the same time after they would have breast fed their puppies. With males it can be caused by epiphysis which reacts in light of different time of year. Temperature can have impact as well. In the north this is more obvious and many times male does thinner summer coat and thicker winter coat.
Shedding also has impact in the shading of the coat. This is because the melanocytes in the hair bud are producing less pigment.
Dog’s color is regulated by gene pairs of which the other one can dominate the other one (“recessive”). To get the impact of the recessive to show its pair can’t be dominant. Recessive gene is also producing proteins, but this is not visible.
Gene pairs are also affected by other genes. Though dogs has two basic colors – black & red – because of impact of many different genes has given a whole bunch of colors which are divided differently in individuals.
Complication of color transmittance can be very well be described the fact that in all of the colors and shades of colors are affected by the following gene pairs: As/Ay/asa/at, B/b, C/ch, D/d, Em/Ebr/E/e, g, m, S/si/sp/sw, t. These letters are describing different gene pairs which are located in different parts of the chromosome or even in different chromosomes. Capital letter is dominant and lowercase letter is recessive.
What colors do Chihuahuas have e.g? Many things are affecting the number of common colors. Are they popular colors for breeders or puppy buyers? Are they caused by dominant or recessive gene? Which of the colors are one and same colors?

Breeding is a difficult task and especially is not for all! The best advice for a beginner I can give is first go to the shows and watch, ask and learn from experts. On every show I still keep an eye on them, wonder why they do something…think about it a lot and try it myself. Go and see what people do with other breeds and pick out the things you can use. Another thing don’t treat your dog like a baby. Don’t kill their personality with too much love, let them be dogs. The only way to make them strong and not shy, hanging on their mothers skirts. We see too many dogs crawling round the rings instead of moving with the heads and tails up in the air !! A topclass puppy treat it like a raw diamond, polish it so it shines when it fully comes to bloom. To show a big winner takes time. Build up the confidence so they show their personality and can become the star that is in them. We just need to help them to get it all out.
Breeding dogs is complicated if you want to improve the breed and not just make puppies. Others only see the results of the breeder – puppies – and they judge them by their ability.

Copyright Francesco Cochetti