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Help! I'm having nightmares just thinkin' bout it

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  • Help! I'm having nightmares just thinkin' bout it

    This is Luke. He's 9 months old and about 100lbs. I got volunteered to show him at his first dog show in a month, and I'm at a loss about what to do with him. I have lots of experience showing BMDs, but haven't had one like him. All the ones I've shown have been ones I've spent tons of time with (Luke doesn't live with me- my mom bred him and he belongs to a close friend) and they've all been thrilled to go in the ring.

    Yesterday we went to show practice in Puyallup (anyone in my area wanna come meet me!?) and Luke seemed fine, then all the sudden he puts on the brakes, chokes himself and gets all freaked out. Refuses to stand on the dog show mats. Is panting and gnawing on my hands (I had cookies) nervously. He's been through three rounds of obedience classes already, and is pretty well socialized. First time I groomed him he did the same thing coming out of the crate and when I forced him he shot anals like 4 feet across the room! I was scared this would happen again. He was being naughty whether or not his mom was there. We ended up "auditing" the class. I fed him cookies while we sat together and watched the other dogs go.

    I can't tell if he's being stubborn (BMDs tend to do this, but they also tend to be big babies) or if he really is fearful. I don't want to force him to do anything, because I want him to think that hanging out with me is fun, and that dog shows are super fun. I also have read a little about fear periods, and I don't want to traumatize him.

    I am going to be off of school for a few weeks due to the holidays, and mom is willing to do (and pay) whatever is necessary to get him over his issue. I told her that we should probably skip show practices the next two weeks, and that I would just try to borrow him for a few hours to take him on a long walk at the park. I want him to bond with me, and trust me, and I think that if I can take him 2-3 times per week for a few weeks in a row, he will get over it. I also told her it might be a good idea if he stays with the breeder (my mom) over night once or twice, and that he could spend the night with me a few times too.

    Any other suggestions for getting the dog to bond with me and trust that walking on the ring mats is okay?

    Anyone with conformation (and/or stubborn dog) experience, any ideas? I'm seriously having nightmares about him putting the brakes on and refusing to enter the ring at the dog show How embarassing would that be?!
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  • #2
    can you not keep him while you're out of school? aalso get some ring mats or something similar and feed him on them,most handlers keep the dogs awhile before a show,and condition the dogs he just need sto be eased into this,you know that you're overthinking this cause it was'nt your idea,imo ,or you could tell them he is'nt ready which is true. lots of luck.
    ~~Everyone is entitled to my opinion!~~


    • #3
      I would just try your best to make it fun for him - go to class & bring a toy in the ring - don't stack or gait - just play w/him. find out what motivates him & only let him have it @ class or in the ring. if he doesn't look foward to going to class, it will be the same situation in the ring - & I would definitely not enter a show if you are not confident that he will be good. going to a show will only make it worse, and you do not want to give him a bad experience @ a dog show.


      • #4
        He belongs to a family friend, and while they're willing to let him spend the night, he is a beloved pet first and foremost. We don't really do the hardcore show thing and send the dogs off for weeks at a time to campaign.

        I am going to try to have him spend the night a few times with me and a few times with my mom to work on it. I'm glad to hear that others think it is a bad idea to enter him before he's mentally ready. I'm gonna work on him and plan on going, but if he's not ready at show closing time, I'm not gonna worry about it. At the very least he can go to the show to walk around and experience it.

        It was really weird- sometimes I could get him on the mats and he'd be fine, then realize they were there and get freaked out. Any other ideas for making his bonding to me go more quickly?


        • #5
          Luke sounds like a big wimp. I wouldn't not go to the handling classes-he needs to get out there to see that it's not such a scary place. Don't force the issue, let him find out for himself that the mats are ok. Maybe invest in some rubber matting for at home too. I agree that having him bond with you is a good idea. Is his owner a little over-protective? The Puyallup show is a very crowded, noisy show. If you can, and they have specialties the day before, take him out there and just walk around the building. Good luck. Most judges are very lenient with puppies-even 100lb ones. Puppies can and do make fools out of us in the ring.

          Ever try clicker training? That would be a good idea for him also.
          Old groomers never die, they just go at a slower clip.

          Groom on!!!


          • #6
            You have received some good suggestions and your ideas are "right on". But ithink you should go to the handling classes, but just sit and observe. After a while as you see he is relaxing then you can try to get him into the practice ring.

            Give this "little" boy the chance to observe the whole thing with out the stress of having to participate. Have all of the people come and visit with hin as you sit and relax. Maybe they can give him a nibble of bait.

            I'd hold off entering any show until this is well behind you and him.



            • #7
              You might want to check out the leerburg page on facebook and add their page as a friend if you are on there. He has recently posted some videos on conditional training for dogs in the conformation ring.


              • #8

                Luke sounds mild-mannered and not used to too many different things, perhaps, despite having done obedience.

                So I agree with doing some "target" standing at home (get a mat AND use some different things, like outlining a spot with rope, using a small rug, etc. and teaching him to get on it for a treat.

                Luke just needs to feel confident with this stuff instead of scared, and familiarity and calmness plus treats ought to help that along fairly quickly.

                Hmmmm.....someone suggested Leerburg, but I don't think he uses positive reinforcement methods somehow..... first tipoff may be Shepherds, which will stand up to an awful lot of tough, "strong-arm" methods, even though they don't necessarily need them...


                • #9
                  Two things stand out about this dog. He's a 9 month old puppy. That means he's smack dab in the middle of the second fear/intimidation imprinting period. If he were a wild canid, this is the time he'd be starting to go out and learn to hunt with the pack. Because many of the creatures he might encounter will eat him, he has a behavioral imperative hardwired into his brain; Be wary! Be cautious! Don't take any chances with anything, or you might end up someone's lunch. And it doesn't matter if he's never had a problem with something, and now he's showing caution, or if it's an entirely new situation he's never encountered. What's happening in his brain is the same.

                  The best way to deal with this is don't do anything. You need to step back, let him think it over, give him time to reach his own conclusions. You can encourage him but don't try to force the issue or you run the risk of making him fearful for life. He's not being stubborn, he's being shy and cautious. And he has no choice. That's the way his brain is functioning.

                  The second thing that comes to mind is this. He's 9 months old and this is his first show. Puppies should be allowed a little lee way, and you shouldn't expect him to be perfect. Just take him in the ring and have fun with him. If he starts acting like a potato head, try to distract him, but grin & bear it. Dog show judges have all raised a puppy or two, LOL. They know what's going on.


                  • #10
                    All good suggestions here, and I too...would continue to expose him via the classes.

                    You say he's been thru Obedience about approaching it from an Obedience angle...even though it's Conformation? Most dogs, by the third round of Obedience should be fairly comfortable w/ "stand-stay" maybe if you put yourself and his head in an Obedience frame of mind...he'll have more confidence?
                    I know you'll have to then rework his eye contact w/ you to get him moving properly...but maybe baby steps right now will help?

                    Also...if the entire ring is NOT matted...maybe try heeling him ACROSS it, exposing him to some floor, then a step or 2 on mat, then some floor, then some mat, w/ lots of positive reinforcement and treats?

                    My dog's brother (Sibe) had the opposite problem...would LEAP 20 feet to avoid the floor...the mat was THE only safe place in his mind. On a down and back...he acted like he was walking the plank....
                    Continual and gentle, reassuring heeling work on the tiled or concrete floors eventually brought him around. He still eyes the floors nervously...but looks to a heel command for security. Good luck...that's alot of dog to have panicking!
                    Often it's not what you say, but how you say it.