In this section Show Training and Agility Training are discussed
A successful show career means taking good dogs into the show ring and winning prizes consistently. But that is not as simple as it sounds. A Show is effectively a beauty contest and in order to win those prizes the good dog must look really really good, be well trimmed and presented and move elegantly. Most of this depends on the preparation and handling.
The novice exhibitor would be well advised to first go to one or two shows as a spectator and carefully watch the tactics of the experienced exhibitors from well known kennels, and these exhibitors will be quite willing to give tips and advice if approached after the judging is over.
Show training should start when a puppy is about 4 months old. The trainer must be very patient and understanding, firm but gentle, and never under any circumstances lose his or her temper. The puppy must be able to look upon their training (and eventual showing) as an enjoyable affair with lots of attention and praise, with an occasional tit-bit for reward and encouragement.
First teach him to walk on a collar and lead in the privacy of his own garden and when he has got over the ‘bucking-bronco’ stage and will move steadily try him on the roads and get him used to noise and traffic and people.
The next step is to get him to walk in a large circle, anti-clockwise on your left, then stop and make him stand still with front legs straight and together, head up, back level, hind legs apart and tail up. Train him to stay in this position for a while, then give him an encouraging pat and a word of praise to put him in a happy mood for the next part of the lesson, which is to move forward sharply, in a straight line for several metres and back again, then stand him as before.
Practice this procedure a little each day until your dog realises what you want him to do, then try him out in a field or park to get him used to showing in a strange place and in public.
Now prepare him to accept the type of examination he will get from a judge by going through the routine yourself. Feel his skull, look at his eyes and teeth, run your hand down his neck and shoulders, his back and legs and when he gets used to the idea, get a friend or relation to do the same thing, thus teaching the dog to accept this treatment from a stranger.
Do not expect too much from him at his first show as he will probably be a little bewildered by the noise and the strange dogs and people.
Get to the show in good time to give both you and your dog a chance to get settled, and first find out the time the judging stars and the ring in which the breed will be judged. This will enable you to have your dog groomed and ready at the ringside several minutes beforehand giving you both a chance to relax a little.
When you are in the ring keep your dog on a fairly short lead and do not allow him to interfere with other exhibits. Keep him in full view of the judge but do not stand in front of other exhibitors, Keep your attention firmly fixed on your own dog all the time, giving the same encouragement, praise and tit-bits as when you were training at home. At the same time keep an eye on the judge so that you can relax a little when he is examining another exhibit but are ready to have your dog standing perfectly should the judge look in your direction.
The novice exhibitor would be well advised to start his show career at a breed show held by one of the Kerry Blue Terrier Clubs. He will then be able to compare his dog with other Kerries, find out the good points and the faults, gain knowledge on trimming and handling and stand a better chance of winning than in a mixed variety show. For a beginning enter in the lower classes such as Puppy or Junior until both exhibit and exhibitor have gained some experience in show technique.
Six months old is the minimum age for competing in dog shows under Kennel Club rules.
Most counties have RingCraft Clubs where you meetup with other show people – mixed breeds – and have training in handling your dog. Ringcraft clubs are usually very sociable, where groups of like-minded people meet on a regular basis and get great enjoyment from training their dogs. The ideal Ringcraft club should have classes, for the beginner, and in particular the puppy before it goes into the show ring, through to classes for more experienced dogs and handlers in order to keep them in the peak of training. The Kennel Club have a find a club search on their website and word of mouth travels well with a good RingCraft club so do ask people locally who show which they’d recommend.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article which has drawn on a piece written by Mrs Pat Littlefield in 1969 who lived in Staffordshire and a Kerry exhibitor. Amazing how some things don’t change with time!
To get started in agility, find a good club or trainer in your area. The Kennel Club has a list of registered clubs and trainers, but there are also some really good trainers who aren’t registered with the KC because they don’t want to pay the registration fee. So, it’s worth searching the internet or asking at your local vet’s.
A couple of agility training sessions a week is plenty, combined with a little practice at home.
Good news is Kerries love agility so if you want to try it we think you’ll have a lot of fun.
It helps to have a few agility jumps at home to practise your agility, but don’t do hours of practice, just a bit here and there. There are some great agility jumps available on the internet, but go for the hurdle jumps or proper agility jumps, not flimsy garden types.
Eighteen months old is the minimum age for competing in agility. However, you can start agility training at just under a year old, starting with jumps at a low height.
Make everything fun. Dogs and owners need to enjoy themselves. So only do a bit at a time and even when your dog matures, it should be little and often. Dogs are at their best in this sport from four to six years of age, so it’s important to take a long-term view.
The weaves are the trickiest to teach. They’re an ambiguous obstacle and require great accuracy. It’s important to teach them slowly and patiently and keep it interesting.
Any dog can do agility, but if you want to win and get to the top then a Border Collie is definitely the best breed. They’re hard working, clever, and loyal. The figures speak for themselves, with over 95 per cent of the large dog category in agility being Border Collies.
Our best piece of advice would be to enjoy your time with your dog; keep it fun and don’t get impatient. Remember to keep your contacts good as this is what will make a difference in agility competitions. Never underestimate the importance of your positioning on the agility course, as this is vital for your dog’s flow.