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Bench Training and Bonding For Shows

Full Cry March 2012 CoverFULL CRY – Showing your dog on the bench can be fun for you, your dog and the whole family. It can also be a great aid in training your dog. It helps with socializing, leading, reinforcing the NO command, and most of all “Who’s the Boss.” There are lots of other commands that you can teach your dog that will prove useful in the field and on the bench.

The first thing you will need to do is build a bench. The bench should be about 2 feet tall, about 18 inches wide, and at least 3 feet long. I like to make mine a little longer in length because I use mine as a grooming table. You will also want to put carpet on top. I have found an indoor/outdoor carpet works best. The biggest thing is to make sure you build it sturdy enough for your dog to jump on and off without it shaking.

A shaky bench can scare a dog making them shy of the bench causing a set back for you on a task that isn’t easy to start with.

Now with your bench all ready, the next step is to get your dog used to riding in the truck. Start with short trips around the home. When your dog is ready then you need to socialize your dog. Making your dog familiar with strange people, the bench, sounds and smells of a club or clubs you will be showing at. Best way to do this is attend some of the shows you plan on participating in and walk him/her around. Let  them smell all the smells of the club grounds, other dogs and where the bench show is held.

If you are a parent, this is the most bonding time of the training process with your child as well. Let your child help walk them around, because most clubs hold a kid’s bench show at the end and this makes them feel a part of your dog’s success.

When you feel comfortable with your dog’s progress, the next step is putting your dog on the bench. I like to do this when they are about four and a half to five months old.

For the first few weeks, I like to stand them every other day at first then everyday until they are standing to your satisfaction. After that I will stand them about 2 to 3 times a week until your dog reaches Grand Show Champion.

Prior to putting your dog on the bench, make sure you walk your dog in a straight line about 35 feet or so to practice his gait. Make sure to walk at a good pace but not too fast, just a little slower than a speed walker.

After practicing your gait put the dog on the bench and look at their teeth, rub your hands on their muscles. You just need to duplicate what a judge would do in a competition.

The first few times you put your dog on the bench just try to keep them still. Put their legs in line with each other, side to side, front to back. Keep moving their legs to where you want them and give the “STAY” command. With one hand under their jaw to keep the head in place, use your other hand to position their legs. Remember you are the boss, every time they move say “NO” and reposition them and then say “STAY” be very firm. When you get them to stay for a few minutes, the next step is to start holding up their tail, so one hand is holding their head and one holding their tail. Keep at it until your dog can stay with only you holding the tail.

When you reach this point, the next battle will be to get them up on their toes. Your dog will need to have their feet crunched up to simulate the feet of a cat. Not all dogs have tight feet and all Bench Show judges should look at the TOTAL dog. If you struggle getting them on their toes put a 1×2 behind their front feet.

Remember have “patience.” It takes time, weeks even months. This will not happen over night so when you get frustrated, stop, take a break. Always try to end on a positive note. Don’t forget to reward your dog because they will reward you at the shows. These pictures are of my bench and dogs, take note of carpet and 1×2.

By Craig Canard.  4 Boulder View Lane, Front Royal, VA 22630, Antlrbound@comcast.net