By Candi Anglace, Wyndridge Shelties
Trying to compete with each of my shelties in several different venues, including conformation, has always felt like a balancing act to me.
With each puppy that I train, the first year or so is always spent with a heavy focus on socialization, training the foundation skills of the venues that the puppy will ultimately compete in and most importantly, building a solid relationship. Socialization is especially critical for a future performance dog, and will only serve to benefit that same dog when he or she is in the conformation ring as well.
Training foundation skills for the different companion and performance areas is best started early. It is not only important to teach the puppy how to learn, but, also that learning is fun! Relationship is by far the most important aspect to develop for the future of solid teamwork in any ring. We spend a lot of time on relationship building because the puppy has to learn to want to please you in order to excel in any venue.
What to do when and how to fit the conformation ring into the mix? Here is where the balancing act begins. I have never had a puppy flyer in the conformation ring, and that has worked out fine for me because I really feel that the first 18-24 months or so are best spent learning skills and building on all of the elements that were started in the early weeks of that first year. Once a solid foundation has been built, any dog can take a “break” from training or trialing in a particular performance venue to spend the time needed in the conformation ring. Doing it this way he or she can go back to the performance rings with very little difficulty later.
By the time my dogs were ready to be shown in the conformation ring, they were pretty well along in their training of both agility and obedience exercises. Neither of them was mature enough for the conformation ring until around 2 years old. This allowed us time to complete their foundation work together in many venues. I was very fortunate in that they both finished their breed championships quickly and were able to return to performance work again without a lengthy break in their training.
I have always enjoyed simultaneously training my dogs in obedience and agility. We are usually ready to trial in agility long before the necessary precision has developed to be a high scorer in the obedience ring. Because of this, we typically start out trialing in agility first, and then later, when the obedience work is where I want it, we will compete in that ring as well. Once in the Masters or B classes, working toward an agility or obedience title with one of my dogs, I do tend to focus on just the venue in which we are closing in on that particular title. This has always seemed to be the best way for me to manage the time for training and trialing toward the specific goal for each dog.
No matter what your ultimate goal is with your dog, always remember to enjoy the journey; for it is truly in the journey that you will find the greatest reward.
Candi Anglace lives in Seymour, Connecticut with her husband John. They have three grown children. Sheltie “Stormy” joined their family 11 years ago and Candi was quickly hooked on training, and competing with him. Over the years the Wyndridge Sheltie family has grown and Candi and her dogs have earned obedience, agility and conformation titles. They have dabbled in tracking and herding as well.