Shows In a Nutshell
and foremost, remember a dog show is only a dog show. You can do it! Relax and have fun!
There are a lot of nice dogs competing, and only one dog and one bitch can win
points on any given day. If you put a lot of pressure on yourself, your dog
will pick up on the nerves which will likely negatively impact the
performance. This is a sport and it is important to be a good sport and treat
your dog well. Do not get discouraged, especially if you are showing a puppy.
Puppies are not supposed to behave like little robots; the key is to make sure
your puppy is having as much fun showing as possible. An unhappy dog is not a
good show dog. Few puppies are mature enough at a young age to win
consistently over more mature dogs. Your goal is to present your vizsla
in as favorable a light as possible - basically, you are selling your vizsla
to the judge! you must convey that you expect and deserve to win.
your dog, you can be standing or kneeling, whichever is easiest for you and
works best for your dog. Handling is a process of trial and error, as you try
to figure out the best way to present your dog. All handling tips included
herein should be modified to accommodate your dogs needs! Each dog is
different in personality and conformation, and different handling techniques
need to be used. Some dogs are jumping off the ceiling, others are falling
asleep in a stack, extremes which require very different methods of handling.
Different techniques also need to be used to minimize whatever faults your dog
happens to possess.
have control of the dog's head. Either hold the head or position and hold the
lead to control the head. You can not stack a dog without having full control
of its head because the dog's body will follow wherever the head moves.
most dogs do not love being overhandled, keep your handling to a minimum. Do
not fix what is already naturally set correctly. When taking a part of a dog's
body to set, take it gently and move slowly. Do not GRAB the dog's limbs or
make quick movements, because fast, rough handling not only looks bad, it
makes dogs not like handling and not stand still.
dog's head is aimed toward your right. Set front feet first, then rear feet.
Front right leg is placed with the right hand. The other three legs are placed
with the left hand. Once the dog's feet are in position, you must PRESENT your
dog to the judge with confidence by finishing the picture:
- Dog is
up over the front feet, showing available arch of neck.
are not caught on teeth. Extra skin on neck or wrinkle over shoulder is pulled
Topline is level and straight.
is straight out slightly below topline.
Handler is as inconspicuous as possible. Extra lead is balled up (or Zd up).
looks alert and interested.
come to your place in line, try and keep some space between you and the dog
ahead of you so that you have room to stack, and room to move if the dog
behind you moves up too close. If someone is crowding you, be sure to ask them
if they could please move back. Make sure that your dog is in line with the
dogs in the row, and not in a hole behind the line where you won't easily be
seen. Pay attention to where the judge is having dogs stack and the pattern (s)he
is using so that you will prepared when your turn comes.
of Bait: Bait is the tasty treat you are using to keep your dog interested
in performing. You can use bait to make your vizsla look its best…e.g., to
gain expression, to maneuver the dog's feet, to help keep the dog holding in a
hard stack and to attain a great free stack. However, many judges do not like
to see a dog chomping on bait.
- Do not
feed your dog the bait just before you are moving around the ring. Chomping on
food does not look attractive, can affect the way the dog moves and can cause
choking and gagging all the way around the ring.
- Do not
feed your dog the bait just before the judge examines the bite.
Timing: The goal is to have your dog always looking its best whenever the
judge is looking at your dog. Therefore, timing is critical. With a dog just
learning to stack, there is an exact right time to start the stack so that you
have time to get the dog looking good before the judge looks. If you are too
late, the judge's first impression of your dog could be that it looks like a
pretzel! If you are too early, the dog may be breaking out of that lovely
stack just as the judge looks at him or her. Timing comes with practice, and
becomes less relevant as your dog becomes more reliable in holding a hard
stack. The other component of timing is a cardinal rule of handling: You
should know at all times where the judge is and what the judge is doing.
Best of Breed
Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed
Reserve Winners Dog
Reserve Winners Bitch
Best of Winners
Best in Show
Best in Specialty Show
Award of Merit (aka JAM)
GCH Grand Champion
front feet should be positioned shoulder width apart. The legs should be
straight with the feet parallel and pointing straight ahead. The dog should be
up over the front, not posting/bracing. The dog should be looking straight
WALKING your dog into a stack. Some dogs sets their fronts naturally. If the
dog has its feet in the correct position, don't touch the front legs. If the
front feet are not correct, you will need to set them using one of the methods
Setting the Front feet: Lift and Place Method.
Controlling the dog's head with your left hand, shift the weight off the right
front foot. Take the dog's right leg at the elbow and set the foot on the
ground facing straight ahead. Shift the dogs weight back on to the set foot.
Slowly say STAY.
switch hands, control the dog's head with your right hand and shift the weight
off the left foot, take the dog's left leg at the elbow and set the left foot
parallel with the right foot. Shift the dog's weight back on to the set foot.
Slowly say STAY.
Setting the Front feet: Push Back Method.
Controlling the dog's head with your left hand, shift the weight off the right
front foot. Gently push back the dog's right upper arm until the right foot is
in place. Slowly say STAY.
switch hands, control the dog's head with your right hand and shift the weight
off the left foot and gently push back the dog's left upper arm until the left
foot is in place. Slowly say STAY.
I prefer to stack the left front foot (judges side) before the right front
foot. However, this requires switching the lead twice. I have described the
stack with the right front first to minimize this lead switching.
Fixing front feet that are not straight.
set your dog's feet, and they are still not pointing straight ahead, you will
need to do more manipulation to make them point straight ahead.
Easty-Westy: Some dogs have a front foot or feet that point sideways rather
than straight ahead (common in some young dogs whose fronts may be straight
once the chest fills in and pushes the elbows out). When setting the foot of a
dog whose foot naturally turns sideways, turn the elbow and place the foot
facing IN rather than facing straight. When you shift the dog's weight back on
to the foot, it will generally appear to be more straight.
Out-At-Elbow: Some dogs have a front where the elbows bow out, rather than
being held close to the body, resulting in a front foot or feet that toe in
(bowlegged). When setting the foot of an out-at-elbow dog, try and make sure
that the elbows are close against the body and place the feet facing out. When
you shift the dog's weight back on to the foot, it will generally appear to be
Posting or Bracing.
dogs react to handling by bracing or posting, which means they lean back on
their front feet, heading toward a play bow position. It is very important to
make sure you have your dog over the front. If your dog is bracing or posting,
take your bait to draw the dog forward. Once the dog is up over the front,
tighten your grasp on the collar so the dog can't lean back. Keep interest
with the bait to hold the dog in this position.
Common Mistakes to Avoid:
set the front too far forward which makes the dog brace.
Setting the front too narrow or too wide. Feet should be shoulder width apart.
Setting the feet so that they turn in or out. Make sure they are straight.
Setting the dog so that the elbows stick out. Bring elbows close to the body.
feet should be positioned slightly wider than the front feet (about one paw
width outside the front feet). The hocks should be straight up and down and
perpendicular to the ground. The feet should be parallel and pointing straight
your dog into a freestack and look at your dog's natural rear. Then, look at
how your dog's rear looks after you finish stacking the front. Some dogs set
their rears naturally. If the dog has its feet in the correct position, don't
touch the rear legs. If the rear feet are not correct, you will need to set
them using one of the methods below.
Setting the Rear feet: Placement Method
use your left hand to set both rear feet. If a dog does not like having its
rear touched, it sometimes helps to gently run your hand down the back saying
STAY before you start. It is particularly important when placing the dog's
rear that your motions be gentle and slow.
either stack the rear from over the dog's back or underneath the dog's
stomach. You should try both methods to see if your dog prefers one method
over the other, and to determine if one is easier/more comfortable for you.
control of the dog's collar on the front, being careful not to pull on the
collar which will knock the dog off balance and mess up the front stack.
take one hock, pick it up and place it slightly outside the line of the front
foot on the same side. Make sure that the hock and foot are straight. This may
require you to twist the hock slightly if it tends to turn in or out in its
natural position. Slowly say STAY.
gently take the other hock and place it parallel with the first hock in the
same position on the other side. Slowly say STAY.
Setting the Rear feet: Lift and Drop Method
dogs don't like having their rears set (particularly if it is a new experience
for them). This method works better for dogs with very strong rears.
your hand between the dog's rear legs and gently lift the dogs rear off the
ground. Gently pull back, using your fingers to spread the legs to the
appropriate width and set the rear on the ground. Slowly say STAY.
- If the
dog's rear is strong, the rear may set perfectly. Otherwise, you may need to
make some minor alterations using the techniques in the Placement Method.
common mistakes in setting the rear include:
Overstretching or understretching the dog's rear. Use the dog's topline as a
check. If the dog's topline is roaching and bunched, you may not have the
hocks placed far enough back. If the dog's topline is sloping, you may have
the hocks placed too far back. Remember, the hocks should be perpendicular to
the ground and the feet should be parallel.
Setting the rear with the hocks "hocking in" (or less commonly, hocking out).
Remember, twist the hocks if they are not straight before you place weight on
Setting the rear too narrow or too wide or off center. Each foot should be
about a pawprint out of the line of the same side front foot. Proper foot
placement is essential for balance (otherwise, the dog will appear to be
leaning on the handler…probably because the dog IS leaning).
Pulling on the collar and throwing the dog off balance. Also, keep you feet
out from under the dog (if your feet are under the dog's body, chances are you
will bump the dog and throw the dog off balance).
HEADS, NECKS, TOPLINES and TAILS
After the dog has been stacked with its front and rear squarely beneath
itself, the handler needs to be attentive to these additional aspects of
Head: When the judge is walking to individually examine your dog, try
and present the headpiece. Be aware that there are judges that are very
attentive to the headpiece of their exhibits and who will walk up and down the
row of exhibits, looking directly into faces. Some judges really want
- Presentation of the head can include a variety of approaches…e. g., framing
the ears, gently holding under the muzzle or baiting in front to obtain
expression. It is not as pretty a sight to approach a dog whose handler is at
that particular moment squeezing the jowls or holding the dog in place by his
or her lips.
- Gather up any loose/hanging skin under the neck into the lead.
- Make sure the lips are free and loose and not caught on teeth.
- Make sure there are no goobers in the eyes or face.
- Train your dog to accept BITE EXAMINATION without backing away by using lots
of positive reinforcement (say "teeth", look, treat, over and over).
- When the judge takes your dog's mouth to examine the bite, say "teeth" and
hold your thumb and forefinger directly behind the back of the dog's head to
keep him or her steady.
- Alternatively, you may be asked to show your dog's bite (or you may just do
so if you have a dog who has mouth sensitivity for some reason). Tilt the
dog's head upward, and pull back the lips to show the teeth, and then rotate
the head from side to side so that the judge can see both sides.
- Try and keep the dog's expression keen and alert by using your bait to keep
his or her interest.
- Figure out any head faults you have (light eyes, insufficient stop) and
position the head (using bait, noises etc.) in a way most favorable to your
dog (for example, if your dog has extremely light eyes, don't encourage him to
look up into the sun at the judge; rather angle the head slightly down).
Neck: Make the flow of the dog's neck into shoulders look as smooth as
possible. An arch of the neck is also desirable.
- If your dog has a wrinkle over its shoulder at the base of the neck (fairly
common), try and push that wrinkle up under your leash and hold it.
- Pull UP on the leash to elongate the neck, and bait the head DOWN to show
- Avoid bringing the head too far forward (chicken neck) or too far backward
(making the neck look like it is just plopped on the shoulders).
Toplines: Toplines should be LEVEL. They should not be roaching
(arching), dipping (caving) or sloping (downward). After you have your dog
stacked, look at the topline. It should be straight and level, with a slight
drop off to where the tail is placed on the body. Try different techniques to
make the topline level.
-If your dog has a roach in its topline, it sometimes helps to pick up the
entire rear, hold it for a second or two and then place the feet back on the
floor. This lift sometimes relaxes the topline and settles the roach. You may
need to pull back slightly as you reset the rear (some roaches are caused by
not having the rear feet back far enough).
- If your dog has a dip in its topline, you can gently push under the ribcage
to lift the topline and hold if necessary. Dips tend to show up in dogs with
- If you have a dog with a low tail set, or a dog with a sloping topline, you
can put your hand between the rear legs and pull back and upward without
lifting to help level off some of the problem.
- If your puppy is going through a higher in the rear phase, stretch the
puppy's rear further back to level things off.
Tail: The tail should be placed at the horizontal and straight, and
should be long enough to drop to the front of the knee.
- It is ideal if the dog holds its tail horizontal without assistance.
Sometimes you can feather a tail into position and the dog will hold it.
Otherwise, gently hold under the tail. Do not push your dog's tail into
the gay position.
- If your dog's tail is docked too long, you can mask some of the extra length
by cupping the end in your hand.
- If your dog's tail is docked too short, you can create an illusion of more
length by cupping the tip of the tail and the air behind that.
- If your dog's tail curves to the side, you should hold it straight.
Feet: Nails should be clipped short so that the feet look their best.
Pasterns should be upright and strong. Make sure that your dog is stacked with
it front underneath itself and it is standing up over its front feet to have
pasterns look their best.
For Males Only: Make sure when you train your males to have their bites
examined, you also train them to have their testicles examined. Avoid any kind
of sharp jewelry that could scratch or hurt you dog
Lead Set-Ups: Type. Position and Pressure
are all different types and styles of show lead set-ups, and you may have to
experiment to find the set-up that your dog works best on. Leather, nylon,
parachute and metal collars and leads of various thickness and length are all
available. Different materials work for different dogs. There are also one
piece, loop leads, metal bolt clasp and martingale leads of varying lengths.
For a beginner, try a parachute collar with a 3' loop lead ; however, if your
dog is out of control, try a fine metal show choke and soft wide lead. Shorter
leads allow less finesse, but they are easier for novices to maneuver.
out which lead position works best for your dog. The two most common lead
placements are over the head behind the ears, or on the side of the head below
the ear. Generally, a novice dog gaits straighter on a lead up over the head.
will also have to practice to figure out how much tension on the lead works
best for your dog. Some dogs fight any pressure on their necks; other dogs
need firm pressure to maintain control.
Patterns of Movement: When exhibiting your vizsla, there are only a few
basic patterns that are used 99% of the time (in the rare case that you are
asked to move a pattern you are unfamiliar with, ask the judge to explain how
to do it). Your dog is always on your left side for the basic patterns:
Round: Take your dog counterclockwise around the ring and stop where
indicated by the judge and free stack (or hard stack if you are first in
Diagonal Down and back: Take your dog straight to the opposite diagonal
corner from where you start. When you get to the corner, bring the dog all the
way around your body and line up again with the judge. Come straight back and
Straight down and back: Take your dog straight to the opposite side of the
ring where directed by the judge. Bring the dog all the way around your body
and line up again with the judge. Come straight back and free stack.
Triangle: Take your dog straight down the side of the ring where the judge
is standing. Turn at the first corner and take the dog to the next corner.
When you get to the corner, bring the dog all the way around your body and
line up again with the judge. Come straight back and free stack.
in a straight line.
an object to run toward so you run straight going away from the judge.
and look at the judge before you start moving back and make sure your dog is
lined up correctly.
sure that your dog (not you) is lined up directly in front of the judge going
- Do not
watch the dog the entire time you are moving because it may cause you to run
crooked. Take quick glances back.
both arms under control.
your leash hand (left hand and arm) steady (jerking movements will negatively
affect your dog's movement). Keep your left elbow close to your body and hold
the lead naturally.
your right hand and arm from swinging wildly (swinging right arms are
distracting to the judge).
your dog at a gait at the best pace for your dog.
sure you dog is gaiting (opposite front and rear foot coming together
underneath the dog). Your dog should not be pacing (the front and rear foot on
each side moving together in the same direction) or galloping (both front feet
moving together and both rear feet moving together). The goal is a dog that
reaches its front, drives its rear, converges to a single track under its body
and is light footed (floats).
out your dog's best pace. Do not drag your dog or allow your dog to drag you
around the ring.
your dog moves quickly, count to 3 before taking off after the person ahead of
your dog moves very slowly, warn the person behind you that you intend to move
- Do not
make sudden stops. Pay attention to the person ahead of you so that you do not
- Do not
be intimidated into moving more quickly or slowly; you are presenting your dog
and other exhibitors are responsible for adjusting their take-offs
A "free" stack is a "stack" where the dog positions its legs and body without
the handler touching the dog (contrasted with the "hard" stack where the
handler manipulates the dog into position).
The goal: Have the dog look as good on the free stack as it looks on the hard
You will do a free stack:
- After you come back from moving your dog individually for the judge
(expected by most judges).
- After you complete your individual go round (judge may be looking).
- While you are waiting your turn in line for your individual exam (judge may
- Upon the judge's request. Some judges use this as a "tiebreaker". Aware that
handlers may be hiding problems in a hard stack, some judges want to see what
the dog REALLY looks like standing naturally.
Free Stack Basics
- As with the hard stack, the most important component of the free stack is
control of the dog's head. The dog's feet and body will follow its head.
Moving the head causes subtle weight shifts and causes the dog to move in the
- Try and walk the dog into as nice a natural "stack" position as you can.
Practice entering your initial free pose from different speeds, patterns and
lead positions to determine the best way for you to walk your dog into a nice
- Position yourself in front of your dog. Keep your feet together and hold the
lead about waist height.
- The lead should be up high on the side of the dog's head directly beneath
the ear and lightly taut to keep it in place. Using light tension, move the
lead away from the foot you want to move while moving the bait in the same
direction. The dog's head will follow the bait, guided by your lead movement,
his or her weight will shift, and the opposite front foot will move. You can
cause the feet to move frontward, backwards or sideways depending upon how you
move the lead and bait.
- Instruct the dog to STEP when you want the dog to move his or her feet, and
instruct the dog to STAY when the feet are in the correct position. You may
have to swing the dogs head back and forth several times and have the dog take
a few steps to achieve the best position.
- When the dog is in position, tell the dog to STAY and release tension on the
lead (but keep it taut enough to stay in position in case you have to do more
maneuvers later on). Hold your bait low to show the dog's arch of neck and use
the bait to keep the dog's attention and get expression, repeating the STAY
command if your dog is otherwise likely to move.
- Training your dog to perk its ears, cock its head and wag its tail upon
command could give you an edge (perhaps consider clicker training these
- Avoid over handling or interference with the judge and try not to obstruct
the judge's view.
- If the judge has instructed that you free stack your dog, do NOT touch your
dog to make corrections.
- If a dog is simply in a bad pose, take the dog in small circle and start
- Do not stop free stacking until instructed to do so by the judge.
GROOMING, POINT CALCULATION, RING PROCEDURE,
ATTIRE AND RING ETIQUETTE
Grooming: The dog should be clean and shiny. Ears should be clean and
free of dirt. Teeth should be brushed and free of stain. Nails should be
short. Excess/dead hair should have been brushed away.
- Ours is not a traditional "grooming" breed. However, some vizsla competitors
do trim tail tips to remove that hair sticking off the end, and some also use
thinning shears to thin out extra hair on the haunches.
- There are lots of show sprays (usually mink oil based) you can use to shine
up and soften your dog's coat before shows.
Point Calculation: Every year as of an effective date in May, the AKC develops a schedule of points
for each breed for various regions in the country. You can find the current
point schedule on the AKC website,
www.akc.org. In Connecticut, this
schedule for vizslas for the year beginning May 15, 2013 is as follows, but
this will change in May 2014 (number of dogs competing to
get the delineated # of points):
SCHEDULE OF POINTS FOR DIVISION 1 - EFFECTIVE MAY 15, 2013
Division 1 is comprised of: Connecticut, Maine,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont.
To obtain a championship, a dog must earn 15 points, including 2 majors under
different judges and at least one point under a third judge. Any win of three,
four or five points is a MAJOR. The most points a dog can earn at any given
show is a FIVE POINT major.
A dog or bitch who goes Best of Winners has the chance to get more points than
earned as the Winners Dog or Bitch. Best of Winners takes the greater of: (a)
the points he or she has won by defeating his or her
own sex; or (b) the points the other sex class winner took that day. For
example, if 5 dogs and 9 bitches compete, Winners Dog takes 2 points and
Winners Bitch B takes 3 point major. If the dog wins Best of Winners, he would
also take a 3 point major like the bitch.
If Winners Dog or Winners Bitch takes Best of Breed (add all specials to # of
dogs competing) or Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed (add all same sex
specials to # of dogs competing), additional points may also be earned. Refer
to the AKC pamphlets handed out in your packet for a detailed discussion of
After you earn a
championship title, you now have the option to pursue a further title known as
a "Grand Championship" title. Refer to the AKC site at
learn the rules and point schedule.
Entry Procedure: You receive a premium telling you the particulars of
each show (location/judge/date). Entries for dog shows close about 2 1/2 weeks
prior to the show date. Depending upon the superintendent, you usually can
enter a show via the mail or fax, by turning in entries at dog shows run by
the same superintendent, on the phone or on line. The superintendent prepares
a schedule assigning several breeds
to specific time slots. You receive your entry information (judging program,
armband #, etc.) about a week before the actual show. You are responsible for
being at your ring and ready to show at the start of your time slot. Most of
the time, the judging goesin order according to the program. On average, you
are safe if you assume 2 minutes for each dog ahead of you in the judging
Judging for vizslas starts with all the CLASS DOGS (these are the male
non-champions). Each class of class dogs goes in separately and competes. The
most common classes include Puppy Dogs, 12 to 18 Dogs, Bred-By Dogs and Open
Dogs. In each class, the judge awards up to four placements. The winner of
each class (1st place) then returns to compete for WINNERS DOG (the only dog
to win points that day). After Winners Dog is selected, the dog who was 2nd
place in the class in which Winners Dog initially was entered returns to the
ring and he and the other class first place winners compete for RESERVE
WINNERS DOG (1st runner up).
NEXT, the judge follows the same procedure for the CLASS BITCHES (the female
non-champions) until WINNERS BITCH and RESERVE WINNERS BITCH have been
Then, all the "specials" (champion males and champion females) compete for
BEST OF BREED and BEST OF OPPOSITE SEX TO BEST OF BREED. The Winners Dog and
Winners Bitch compete along with the champions for BEST OF WINNERS and they
are also in competition with the specials for BEST OF BREED and BEST OF
OPPOSITE SEX TO BEST OF BREED.
Ring Procedure: If possible, watch what the judge does in the breed or
classes ahead of yours so you know the procedure. When it is time for your
class to compete, the steward will call out all the armband #s. You go in when
called and stack your dog while the judge checks all the armband #s (try and
turn your armband to the judge for easy viewing when (s)he is near you).. The
judge determines procedure; listen carefully and follow the instructions of
the judge. Usually, the judge takes a quick look and then sends the class
around together. Then, the first person in line hard stacks his or her dog for
individual examination by the judge. After this exam, the judge has the dog
gait some patterns. While this dog is gaiting patterns, the next person in
line should move where the first person's dog was examined and hard stack his
or her dog…and so on down the line. That way, when the judge first sets eyes
upon your dog to commence the individual exam, you want your dog looking as
perfect as possible.
Hard stack your dog when you enter the ring, for your individual examination
and when the judge is making the final decision after all dogs have run their
patterns. Free stack your dog at the end of any gaiting pattern, after you
complete any go round, and while you are waiting your turn in line.
Attire: Wear neat clothing that permits you to move and does not
interfere with the dog. Usually, men wear suits and women wear skirts. Pockets
are a must for the novice to hold bait. Avoid clothing with lots of fabric
that will block or hit the dog. Certain colors can offset your dog, or mask
topline faults. Shoes should be comfortable and enable you to run (avoid loud
shoes or heels).
Ring Etiquette: There are lots of things you can do to make showing fun
for you and those around you. Unsportsmanlike conduct or conduct detrimental
to the sport of dogs is not only unpleasant, but can result in suspension of
your AKC privileges
- Be a good sport. Always thank the judge for your ribbon. Never thrown a
tantrum about the judging when in or near the ring (go in your car and scream,
but keep quiet at ringside)..
- Be attentive to the needs of your dog. You are representing the dog fancy to
the world. Your dog should have adequate shelter and water and should be
treated with respect.
- Be courteous to the judge and the stewards (the people who run the ring).
-Be courteous to your fellow exhibitors. Be ON time (they won't wait for you).
Be ready. Have your armband. Pay attention.
- Do NOT throw food in the ring.
- If you are first in line, DO check with the people behind you before moving
as a group to make sure they
- Do NOT run up on the dog ahead of you moving in a group.
- Do NOT throw food in the ring and do not make excessive noise so as to
distract other dogs (but you certainly can make noise, play and squeak toys
for your dog to get your best performance).
- Do not let your dog jump on other dogs in the ring unless you have asked
permission. Your dog should be under control at all times.
- If you have a bitch in season, WARN the judge. Also, warn other exhibitors
with male dogs so that they can avoid being too close to your bitch.