Preparing for nationals!

27 Apr

This weekend, we will be packing up the car and making the trip to Ohio for the Vizsla Club of America’s national non-field events. Needless to say, we are pretty excited :-).


In preparation, almost all training time for the past couple of weeks has been dedicated to conformation. We haven’t entered Gumbo in a show since early March because we’ve been focused on bird training. To get Gumbo ready to show, we have been attending a conformation drop-in class for the past couple of weeks. We thought this would be beneficial to Gumbo because he always tends to get very excited the first day of a show and settles in better each subsequent day. Hopefully, the recent exposure to the ring environment will make showing easier for him.

We’ve also been doing cavalettis with Gumbo to help him with his movement (same idea as used for horses but without jumps). We thought that all the recent running and conditioning we’ve done for the field could throw off the timing of his feet, so we brought out the caveletti poles to help him with his footing. Incrementally spreading the poles also helps with reach. To set this up, we just pulled apart a set of weave poles that we made out of PVC for agility.

The last major thing we’ve been working on has been Gumbo’s free stack. The free stack is done the end of a down and back to show how the dog naturally stands without being stacked by the handler. I enjoy the free stack because training can help improve the presentation. Gumbo knows how to stop on cue, and we’ve also been working on the command “step”. If the dog is off balance during the free stack, it won’t make for a strong presentation but teaching them to move a foot can help them adjust themselves into a better stance. It is probably my favorite aspect of dog shows because watching a dog hit a free stack perfectly or watching a dog/handler team adjust into a perfect stack quickly and easily is a thing of beauty. Figuring out what works for Gumbo is a lot of fun. The more confidence he gains in what is asked of him in the ring, the better his expression becomes. And although the dogs are judged against a standard, there is an element of subjectivity to dog shows. The dog beaming with pride as if to say “PICK ME, PICK ME!!” often has a better chance of being selected than the dog that looks miserable in the ring (all other things being equal).

We’re making this trip without any expectations to bring home a prize, but of course it would be nice to win a ribbon. It is such a wonderful celebration of the breed and so exciting to watch so many red dogs all in the same room. We will keep you updated on how things go!

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