Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S -- Stacking

A big part of ring performance is stacking. This refers to the way a dog stands for presentation in the ring. A sloppy stack can really hurt a dog's chances of winning. (Ask Jedi about this.)

I learned the hard way that stacking training should begin early as it's a muscle memory thing. Ideally, once a dog learns the correct way to stack he'll automatically move into position on his own.
 
There are two types of stacking. The first is hand stacking. This is where the handler physically moves the dog into the correct position.
   
The second type of stacking is called free stacking. This is the one that you want! When free stacking, the dog puts himself into the proper position with no touching from the handler. Jedi is getting better at this, but nowhere nearly as nice as I would like.

For every breed but one, the stack looks like this:

GCH Kurpas' Holy Smoke ("Clint")
The front feet are directly under the body, facing forward. The rear feet are also facing forward and the legs are vertical from the hock down.

The oddball stack belongs to my breed of choice, the German shepherd. Our stack looks like this:

Mar Haven's Deal Me In V Solitaire
Like everyone else's stack, the front feet are directly under the body facing forward. The rear legs, however, are different. The right rear leg is set directly under the body, perpendicular to the ground. The left rear leg is elongated, creating that unmistakable German Shepherd profile. Changing the position of the rear leg increases or decreases the slope of the back end.

Once stacked a dog should stay in that position for several minutes so the judge can get a good look. Constant fussing and fidgeting from the handler is distracting and can cause the judge to move on to the next dog.

Another component of stacking is "expression." A dog should look alert and lively. A dog that comes across as bored or uncomfortable will also be overlooked by the judge. Handlers often use bait (small bits of food) to get a dog's attention while in the ring. Other methods used to get expression include tiny noisemakers (i.e. clickers or squeakers) hidden in a handler's hand, baby talk and making silly noises.

Next time you go to a show, watch the handler. How does she get the dog to stack? What does she do to keep the dog's attention? Does it work? And if so, let me know what it is she's doing! Jedi and I can use some help here. -- K

Tomorrow's Topic: Teeth to Tail