If you have a guardian dog that is going to be shown, there are some things you will be asked to do at home to help get your dog ready for the ring. It is not a huge time committment – for dogs, 5 mins 2-3 times a week is much better than a 30 min session 1x a week.
Repetition, consistency and keeping it fun is key to success.
I always start any training session after play time or a walk so the puppy/dog is tired. You will always have more success after the wiggles are out.
Here are the skills your dog will need to master to be successful in the ring.
ONE: Walking on a lead with her head up. Beagles especially want to walk with their nose to the ground which is fine for a pet and totally instinct. However, for a judge to see their movement, we need them to be able to move around without putting them head down constantly. So, the training for this is that they will walk on a leash by your side with her head up, not on the ground. We train this by having them walk by your side (on the left if possible). **Side note – Honestly, I prefer this for all my dogs anyway, as then I am not fighting them, pulling on a leash anyway. But for show dogs, its paramount. Nate Schroemer is a wonderful dog trainer – I like a lot of his videos on training – he has a great one about training your dogs to walk without pulling, by your side:
TWO: We need to train them to stand still in a “stack” – having her head held and tail held gently and not move their feet or sit down. Will Alexander shows this perfectly with a beagle:
This video is a good indication of what we want. For cavaliers, we don’t pull up their tails, but on the table we do hold their heads still. The dog should eventually be able to stand still for a minute at least without moving. As a puppy we start for 10 seconds and then work our way up to 15 seconds, then 20 and so forth up to a minute. I stack my dogs in the house on the floor, at the park, on the table (so height is not an issue). Please note the other difference for a cavalier is on the ground, they always “free stack” (stack themselves) – we dont touch them on the ground. Beagles, we can move them into position, but cavaliers we dont. So teaching both breeds how to move into that perfect position on the ground is called a “free stack” and is very helpful
THREE: They need to be able to show their teeth (or bite). This is something that they will need to do with the judge. Again, one minute of working on this, once a day, is much better than working on this for 30 mins once a week. This video is quite good showing how you can do steps to work up to it. These steps don’t have to be done in one day unless they is fine with it. I find beagles don’t usually give a lot of resistance once they know a reward is coming.
I start by lifting up one lip and then giving them a tiny bit of steak or pork or something, and saying teeth, and then doing it again. I work up to being able to do both lips over time. At first they resist but it doesn’t usually take long for them to not care as they love the reward more.
FOUR: Grooming upkeep. For a cavalier this just means keeping on top of regular brushing and baths (once every 6 weeks is more than enough unless needed more frequently). For a beagle, I would encourage “fake” clipping – if you have a clippers (beard trimmers or hair clippers are fine) then you can get your dog used to the vibration of this running over their body using treats as rewards. The places they get clipped is under their chin/chest, under their belly, around their bottom. So, start with the noise only and treat them. then work up to a light touch and treat them. and work up to touching them for 5 seconds and then longer as your dog is comfortable. you dont actually have to clip their hair (unless you want to).
For both breeds, they need to have their nails cut a regularly so they don’t impact their feet growing. I recommend once a week so if you forget, no big deal. But if their nails get long, it will impact how their feet grow and therefore their movement.
I am always here to support you.
As for the showing part. I wouldn’t ask you to do it yourself unless you wanted to. I would usually hire a handler or if I can, I will do it myself. This would mean you would need to meet them at the show or drop the pup to me so I can do that. There are loads of shows all your round so we have plenty of opportunities and many are 2-4 day shows. If your dogs is well trained and there are enough points, he or she could finish quickly in just a couple of weekends. All the showing is at my expense. You could stay and cheer her on, or have ,me or the handler have her for the weekend and pick her up afterwards – its up to you.