Handling Classes: A Great Place to Practice!

by Joyce Johanson

Handling classes are a great way to prepare your Lhasa Apso puppy for his career as a "show dog." When they are managed correctly, such classes provide an atmosphere comparable to a show ring where both you and your Lhasa can learn many valuable pointers about showing, handling, and gaining a competitive edge. Not only are they good places to socialize your puppy, but they are also great places to meet others who are interested in dog showing. Not all of these people are newcomers like yourself, so you will soon be hearing excellent advice from some of the "old-timers" who are bringing their future champions to handling classes.

At classes you learn appropriate ring procedures, practices, and etiquette and catch on to some of the "jargon," while your Lhasa learns to stand on the floor and on the table for examination, to walk with dogs in front of and behind him or to lead the pack, to allow strangers to touch him, and to cope with strange noises and smells, other dogs and people, and a different environment.

Those of us with Lhasas need to remember that showing them involves some challenges that are coat-related. Handling classes are also great places for learning to cope with those challenges. For instance, Lhasa handlers always take a comb or brush in the ring with them. If they don't, they always wish they did! Why? Because Lhasas inevitably shake and mess up their coats any chance they get. Their eyefall flops into their eyes and they can't see, or the judge has to go hunting through eyefall to get a look at the head. The hair gets caught in their mouth and they chew it. Their parts get mussed up.

Being comfortable with a comb or brush in the show ring is often more of a challenge than it sounds. For instance, what do you do with it? Some people carry it in their right hand. Some tuck it in their belt s or into jacket pockets. Some slip it into their armbands to keep it out of the way until it's needed. But if you don't practice carrying a brush or comb around with you at handling class, you'll never know which method is easiest for you.

You also need to get a feel for using the brush in the ring. Can you easily slip it out of the pocket or belt or does it tend to catch on something? Can you brush the dog without drawing undue attention to the brushing? Certainly you don't want to bend over the dog and block him from the judge's view.

You'll notice -- if you ever watch Lhasas and other coated dogs being shown -- that brushes and combs create a lot of confusion. They fall out of armbands, pockets, and belts and clatter on the floor. They land on other exhibitors' dogs. They are left behind on grooming tables. Small things, yes, but if you are the type of person who becomes nervous and flustered easily, you'd better take your brush to handling class and learn to cope with it!

Also, if you keep your Lhasa's eyefall in topknots or braids (as you should), take the eyefall down when you go to handling class. You want to practice being in a show ring situation, and in the show ring, your dog cannot have his hair up. If he's used to having the hair out of his eyes, having it over his face may disconcert him enough to cause him to be apprehensive about walking or letting the judge look at him. He may go on a sit-down strike until you brush his hair out of his eyes, or he may pull away from the judge.

These things seem like small things--and they are, but it sometimes only takes one small thing to go wrong and upset everything. Just practice and be prepared. Oh--and don't forget about using bait, watching the judge, and being aware of the dogs in front of and behind you.

And you thought all you had to do was put a lead on your Lhasa and walk him around the ring! Better sign up for that class today!

Please note: Permission to reproduce and/or circulate information in this article is granted. However, the article must be disseminated in its entirety and credit must be given to Joyce Johanson, Joyslyn's Lhasa Apsos. Thanks!

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