Monday, December 27, 2010

Dog Training Tips - Train a Labrador Pup for Showing

Happy Holidays to all! May this special season bring joy and build merry memories for the future. Our holidays have a different twist with the addition of a young dog here for training. This adorable chocolate Labrador is named Scandal and he belongs to Susan Bennington of Moonlit Labradors. Scandal turned 7 months old on Dec. 23rd and is getting ready to start his career as a show dog. He came to us on Dec. 18 specifically for conformation show training. Dogs at our home are all treated as house pets and expected to abide by certain rules, so by my requirements Scandal is learning some other things too.

I consider eye contact to be of utmost importance in my relationships with dogs and I almost always teach that first at the same time that I introduce the dog to clicker training. For dogs in the breed ring getting eye contact on cue is an element of showing well, so it's a great place to start. With all training I break the lessons down into small parts. I consider what things a dog needs to do to show well based on that perfect picture in my mind (and my experience in the breed ring). Here is a partial list of what Scandal has learned in the past 10 days (not necessarily in order):

Make eye contact on cue
Wag your tail
Stand 3-5 feet away from me
Allow me to place your feet
Allow me to look at your teeth
Stay on my left side on lead
Do not weave from side to side on lead or get underfoot
Do not pull on lead
Do not stop to scratch or sniff when trotting
Trot at a steady, even pace
Turn and trot again in the opposite direction
Trot in a large circle and triangular pattern without bumping into me
Look straight ahead while trotting
Keep you head up while trotting
Upon stopping from trotting look up at me and wait (eye contact and tail wagging)
Follow my hand with your eyes (so I can position his head)
Catch a toy -- advanced into catch a treat
Back up on cue

Other non-show things that Scandal has learned this week include:
When a door and gate is opened, make eye contact and wait to be invited through
How to use the dog door
Pee outside
"Leave It!"
Do not complain in the crate (still working on that one)
"Easy" - go extra slowly and carefully on lead (e.g., on ice or steep downhill)
Lie quietly while I prepare dog meals
Wait for and eat from your own bowl and do not bother any other dogs as they eat
Don't harass the cat or eat her food
A noise I make means the same thing as a "click" of the clicker

The above is repeated daily as we introduce the next steps:
Stand with your feet in 4-square position - I may teach this earlier or later in the training. It may be more likely to happen naturally as they mature through different growth stages. You can always position their feet if necessary in the ring. I want them to walk naturally into a perfect 4-square. I teach them to move their feet so I can tell them to fix it if they are not properly placed. All of this should give him excellent preparation for his first exciting time at a dog show. For my own dogs I teach them much more - the more, the better is my philosophy. They love to learn and it makes traveling and showing less stressful if you can give them direction and they understand what to do. Plus the more they learn the smarter they get. Yes, I absolutely do teach my show dogs to sit on cue -- that's a topic for another post!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Black Labrador Portrait Painting for Christmas Gift

Here is my last dog portrait painting for 2010. This Labrador painting was commissioned by a girlfriend in tribute to her boyfriend and his beloved black Lab. It will be a surprise Christmas gift. I hope he loves it! I don't think he is a blog reader, so I am safe to say that the dog's name is Fetcher and he is 14 years old. I can tell by the photographs she sent me that he is a wonderful hunting companion and is said to be still going strong. Good wishes that you may continue on with what you love, Fetcher! It was my pleasure to paint such a special old boy.

I am gearing up for 2011 and already scheduling new paintings to create lasting memorials to much-loved dogs. Why not celebrate your own heart dog or honor a friend with a gift that will last forever? To learn more about commissioning a dog portrait painting of your own and see more OtterTail Labrador and Dog Art visit my OtterTail Labrador Art website.