How to Train a Golden Retriever for Shows

Medium
1-4 Months
General

Introduction

Imagine standing in a line up with six other Golden Retrievers. The judge methodically walks up and down the line of dogs, evaluating structure, coat, and temperament, thinking about his options. He indicates for your pup and another dog to make a circle around the ring once more. He studies the two dog's movements as they strut around the ring. Your dog is graceful, strong, and elegant. You rejoin the group. The judge scratches his chin once more while making his final decision, then he begins to point, indicating his choices. You hold your breath, and in a heart-stopping second, he sends you and your dog to the front of the line up of dogs. You have just won Best of Breed! 

Such a scene is what every dog show handler dreams of: winning, earning titles, beating the competition, climbing up in the breed rankings. Showing a dog can be a lot of fun. There is a lot of pride in showing a great representative of a particular breed. There is often great camaraderie among the handlers, who understand and appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes it breeding, raising, training, and showing great dogs. Many dogs feed off of all of the attention and treats that they get in the ring, and they thrive in such an environment.  

Whether you are just getting started with conformation, have just brought home a new puppy that you expect to show in the future, or are simply looking to improve your current show dog's chances, winning a show is not just about successful breeding. Although that is a large part of it, it is also about training and preparation. While selecting the right dog is the first essential step in competing and winning, great training will help you go all the way with your pup.

Defining Tasks

Preparing your pup for conformation shows is very important. Not only will it increase your chances of winning, but for your dog it will also decrease or entirely eliminate the stress of being in a busy ring, around lots of people, being handled by an unfamiliar person. For you, it can eliminate the stress and embarrassment of being pulled halfway across the show ring when your pup sees a cute female Golden on the far side of the ring.

The easiest time to work on getting your pup used to being handled is when he is still a puppy. If your dog is well past that point, spend lots of extra time gently working on touching him while giving him treats. If he seems uncomfortable with being touched, then use treats that are especially exciting, such as real chicken. If your dog has ever shown any form of aggression, do not use 'The Touch Method' on your own. Find a good trainer in your area to help you. Do not corner your dog or force him to be touched. Instead, use your treats and praise to encourage him over to you. Go slowly with him if he seems unsure.

If you know anyone else who shows their dog, then you can create your own dog show training class, where you can both practice handling each other's dog, walking your dog with the distraction of another dog, and standing for an examination from another person. Doing this with one friend and her dog is good, but doing this with even more people and dogs is even better. If you have multiple dog show friends, then recruit several. Another great option is to find a class at your local dog club, that focuses on preparation for the ring. If you cannot mimic the surroundings of a dog show yourself or find a class in your area, or if you just want more practice, then you can take your dog to spacious public areas, such as parks, and practice your dog's skills around other people and animals there. The more things that you can do to prepare your dog for the distractions of the show ring, the more likely he is to remember his training on show day.

Getting Started

To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. The treats should be something that is quick and easy for your dog to eat. Freeze dried meat, real chicken, or other small, soft treats should work well for this. If you are using 'The Touch Method' then once Fido is comfortable being touched by you, you will also need assistants to help you desensitize Fido to being touched by other people. The more volunteers that you can recruit for this, one person at a time, the better the result will likely be. 

If you are using 'The Stand Method' then the training will go faster if you pup already knows the 'down', 'sit', and 'OK' or 'free' commands. If you are using 'The Walk Method' then you will need a small Ziploc bag to put your treats into, and a pocket or treat pouch to hold the bag. You will also need a thin, slip lead type leash--the type that is typically used in show rings. You will also need a resource for viewing proper Golden Retriever movement in the ring, such as online videos or live attendance at a dog show. Finally, you will need a location where you can practice walking your pup in the presence of other people and dogs, such as a class setting, a public park, or your own self-created class, put on by you and other dog show friends. With all of the methods, you will need a positive and encouraging attitude to keep your dog happy, confident, and excited about training and showing.

The Touch Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Call your dog
To begin, choose treats that your dog loves. If your pup loves his own kibble, then you can also use that for this. Call your dog over to you and show him a treat.
Step
2
Touch ear
While your dog is standing in front of you, gently touch his ear while giving him a treat from your other hand. Repeat this with the other ear afterwards.
Step
3
Touch paws
After you touch his ears, then touch his paw while giving him a treat. Repeat this with each paw.
Step
4
Touch abdomen
Next, gently touch his abdomen while giving him a treat. Repeat this with both of his thighs, one at a time, and his chest.
Step
5
Touch tail
Next, gently rub your hand down his tail while giving him a treat. Practice gently lifting the tail up and tucking it underneath him while giving him a treat.
Step
6
Open mouth
Next, carefully open your dog's mouth and then give him a treat. If your dog is likely to bite you if you try to do this, then do not do this step on your own, instead hire a trainer in your area to work with you on this.
Step
7
Look into eyes
Next practice looking into your dogs eyes to check for clarity while giving a treat. Also practice running your hands over your dog's entire body while giving him a treat, and gently touching him in any other location that a judge might touch him in, while giving him a treat.
Step
8
Repeat
Repeat touching your dog in all of those areas while rewarding him with food every time that you do. Do this frequently for at least two months, until your dog seems completely relaxed and happy about being touched.
Step
9
Recruit a friend
After your dog is completely comfortable being touched by you, have a dog savvy friend repeat the touches and treats with your dog. When your dog is comfortable with that person's touch, then repeat the process with another friend. The more friends that you can get to touch your dog in a positive way, the more comfortable your dog will be with being touched by a judge.
Step
10
Practice
After your dog is completely comfortable with being touched by multiple people, then continue to practice touching and rewarding your dog occasionally throughout his show career, to maintain his tolerance of being touched.
Recommend training method?

The Stand Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Call your dog
To begin, call your dog over to you and show him a treat.
Step
2
Add command
Command your dog to 'sit' or 'down' or simply wait until he chooses to do so. After he is sitting or laying down, then touch the treat to his nose and tell him to 'stand'.
Step
3
Lure
After you tell him to stand, slowly move the treat on his nose upwards and then horizontal, so that he begins to stand up, in order to follow the treat. If your dog is trained to remain in the sit or down position without being told to stay, then tell your dog his release command right before you command him to stand.
Step
4
Reward
As soon as Fido stands up, praise him and give him the treat.
Step
5
Repeat
Practice telling him to stand, luring him into the standing position, and then praising and rewarding him. Do this until he stands up when you tell him to before you have lured him with the treat. If your pup is struggling with this, then wait five seconds after telling your dog to stand, before luring him into the standing position, to give him time to think about what to do.
Step
6
Add time
After your pup can stand when told to, before being lured into the position, then begin to add time. To add time, praise him right when he stands up but wait three seconds before you reward him with a treat. If he moves out of the 'stand' position, then simply repeat the process of getting him to stand, until he will stand for the three seconds in order to receive the treat. When the three seconds are up, tell him "OK" to release him from the position.
Step
7
Increase time
When your pup will stand in place for three seconds, gradually add more time. Add two seconds at a time, until you have worked up to thirty seconds. When you have worked up to thirty seconds, then add ten seconds at a time, until you have reached one minute. When you have reached one minute, then add thirty seconds at a time, until you have reached five minutes. When you have reached five minutes, then add one minute at a time, until you have reached fifteen minutes. When you have reached fifteen minutes, then your dog is ready to stand still for a full examination during a conformation show. Work on getting him used to touch using 'The Touch Method' as well.
Recommend training method?

The Walk Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Get ready
To begin, place lots of treats that your dog loves into a small Ziploc bag,and place the bag into your right pocket, then go to a calm location with your dog. It is important that the treats go into your right pocket, even though you will be rewarding your pup with your left hand, so that your dog does not learn to nudge or bite the pocket next to his head.
Step
2
Add command
Say your dog's name, tell him to "Heel", then show him a treat, and hold the treat against your left hip.
Step
3
Move
With the treat against your hip, and your dog's attention on the treat, practice walking quickly with your dog by your side. Walk quickly enough for your dog's gait to become long and graceful, to show off the fluidity of his movement for the show ring later.
Step
4
Reward
Praise your dog and give him the treat whenever he stays by your side, and especially when he stays by your side while facing forward at the same time.
Step
5
Add leash
When your dog will walk nicely by your side, then add a thin show lead. Slip the thin slip lead onto your dog's neck and arrange the collar portion of the leash high on your dog's neck, behind his ears, so that the slight pressure will encourage him to not droop his head down. Be careful not to pull up on the leash too much. You do not want to choke your dog or to make him uncomfortable. Practice walking quickly with your dog on leash while telling him to 'heel'.
Step
6
Reward
When your dog walks in the correct position beside you, keeps his head facing forward, or elongates his stride the way that you want him to in order to show off his movement, then praise him and give him one of the treats from your right pocket.
Step
7
Practice
Once your dog can walk gracefully with you, then practice heeling in open, public locations, to prepare Fido for busy show rings and crowds later on.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd