Don't Expect Too Much Too Soon

by Joyce Johanson

You've just bought an adorable Lhasa Apso, your first "show quality" dog, and you are so excited about getting started. The puppy looks gorgeous; the breeder promised she was show quality, and you have promised to show her. The future looks bright!

You've subscribed to the breed magazines, hoping to learn from them, dreaming of one day seeing your dog's picture advertised as "CH" on one of the pages. The many books on Lhasas are well-thumbed at your house and have supplanted all other leisure reading. You've written to the superintendents and asked to receive premium lists for shows in your region. You just can't wait for your puppy to be six months old and eligible to enter that first show!

The excitement and anticipation that comes with having a new puppy and prospective champion or group winner is common to novice and experienced exhibitors alike, and it makes showing fun. However, there are pitfalls involved with expecting too much too soon from a Lhasa puppy.

Take It Slow
An owner can be so anxious to get the puppy into the ring so she can start winning that he pushes the puppy before she's ready. If a puppy is to enjoy showing, showing has to be fun. An anxious, uptight owner-handler who expects too much and gets tense or disappointed with his puppy's performance can adversely affect his puppy's attitude and behavior. Lhasas are smart, sensitive dogs and can easily tell if you are nervous or upset with them. They react accordingly--usually not the way you want or expect them to. Then the shows stop being fun for both of you.

You may look through breed magazines and notice ads announcing that someone's Lhasa puppy was "major-pointed from the puppy class" or "BOB over Specials" or "BOW first time out -- age 8 months" or "finished owner-handled from puppy class." Such ads may mislead you into thinking such wins are common. They aren't. The exciting points earned from puppy classes are exceptions, and naturally the owners will advertise such wins. Seldom will you see an ad which proclaims, "Finally, after X months steady campaigning..." or "It was a long haul with points few and far between, but at last she's a CHAMPION!"

Don't Waste Your Money
The high costs involved in showing can be discouraging for beginning exhibitors also. Unless you are independently wealthy, dog showing can be a budget cruncher. There are travel expenses--gas, motel, food. There's equipment to buy--crate, exercise pen, grooming table--and entry fees to pay. Entry fees add up fast, even with the reduced fee for puppy classes.

To enter your very young puppy in two or three shows every weekend is neither good for your puppy nor your checking account. It is smarter and thriftier to take your puppy to training classes to become accustomed to a show-like environment and then to show her occasionally to give her a taste of the "real thing." That way you ease her into the shows gradually and save yourself the funds you'll need later when it's time to do some serious campaigning.

Avoid That Awkward Stage
To you, your puppy is always beautiful because she is so special. (Who else has such a vibrant personality, such lovely eyes, such a melt-your-heart expression??) But don't let your emotions blind you to her stages of development. Lhasa puppies go through an awkward stage, sort of a "teenage" stage, as they grow. Often they look clunky. Their necks seem to disappear, and their bodies look long and uncoordinated. Their ear fringes haven't grown, so their head seems unbalanced; their coat change makes their coats unmanageable. Lhasa puppies inevitably go through a high-in-the-rear stage which is truely gross.

Avoid showing your puppy during this growing stage. Give her time to grow out of it and look as beautiful to others as she does to you. It seems there are always older puppies in the ring that are past that awkward age, or younger ones that haven't started going through it yet. And there you are, placing last when you know your puppy is just as good or better than what's just won.

Another reason not to show your puppy at this stage is that, unfortunately, there are always exhibitors who enjoy criticising other's dogs. If you show your Lhasa when she isn't looking her best, you give such people an opportunity to bad-mouth your puppy. Their comments can be discouraging and cause you to lose faith in your puppy. Remember, there are people out there who refuse to acknowledge that any breeder but themselves can produce quality puppies. They will be more than willing to evaluate your puppy for you--if evaluation means pointing out every single negative attribute your puppy has--and some that exist only in the evaluator's mind.

If you sense that your puppy is going through a stage and you don't understand it, contact your breeder and question him. Don't sit at ringside and question someone who is unfamiliar with the growth rate of your puppy's lines.

Just Go Slow and Have Fun
Your Lhasa needs to enjoy being a puppy. Don't push her into being a "show dog" before she's really ready to win--and don't give up on her before she's had a chance to prove herself. If you enter show after show without winning, sure it can be discouraging. But if you are putting pressure on yourself or your young puppy to win, you are going at it wrong. Showing should be fun for you both. If there's all that pressure, where's the fun? I've met people who have given up on perfectly good Lhasas because they didn't win from the puppy class. That's nonsense! Some Lhasas don't even mature nicely until they are two or three years old.

Just don't be in such a hurry to enter the winner's circle. Take your puppy to training classes. Attend kennel club meetings where you can meet people who can help you ease into this sport of dog showing. They don't have to be Lhasa people--you can learn a lot from people who have other breeds. Read everything you can about Lhasas and dog showing. Attend shows even though you aren't entered. Observe!

Your wins will come. They'll be more exciting when you have prepared yourself and your Lhasa well. Relax and things will fall into place. The friends you'll make, the exitement of competition, and the joy you'll feel when at last your Lhasa becomes a champion will make all the waiting, training, grooming, and preparation worth while.

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!

Return to Articles Menu