Tips For The Aspiring Competition Dog Handler Handling dogs for competition, as well as a living, is an art that can be acquired only through experience. It is not anything you will pick up in several days. It is the culmination of all the knowledge that you have attained through different sources such as reading, studying the different breeds of dogs, digesting the Obedience Regulations, conducting frequent practice sessions, observing top handlers in competition, and developing your own style for Obedience competition.
Of course the first requisite is a genuine love for dogs, and if you have that it should follow that you will have the patience and understanding to cope with them. The second requisite is perseverance, for without it you will not get very far. And last but not least you must have a sense of humor, for in obedience trial competition anything can happen.
If you want to learn something you should go to the person who is most qualified to teach it. By qualified I mean he is at the top of his profession because of what he has accomplished personally. The teacher who has made a fine record himself in Obedience is the one who can help you. There are hundreds of Obedience trainers in the country, but most are passing on bits of training advice they have picked up here and there.
With coaching like this you can expect very little consistency and much confusion. The first thing you will notice when you watch a top handler is the relaxed, easy manner in which he controls his dog and the rapport that is evident between the two. The dog will be attentive and responsive to the handler’s firm but soft-spoken commands, the signals will be given with just one hand and arm, and the exercises will be performed very smoothly and skillfully.
The first time you witness this type of handling you will be more impressed with how easy it looks than by anything else. If you haven’t started training you will be quite certain that you could do it yourself – it looked so easy. The first step to becoming a good handler is to train your dog correctly. Good handling is synonymous with expert training. Your voice is important – give the commands in a firm, well-modulated tone and praise your dog in a very pleased tone that rings with sincerity.
When the dog is close to you teach him to respond to commands that are given to him softly. When working away from you, teach him to execute the commands that are given crisply but just loud enough for him to hear. Don’t repeat commands, rather correct him for not paying attention during practice, which should closely replicate the environment you’ll be competiting in. Commonly called, “matches” vs. “trials”.