On the Cover Ruth Phillips
with her Icelandic Sheepdog, CH Hrafna Andi PCD (Andi) Bred by: Karen Riggin & Piper O'Donnell
Sire Astvinur Imaldur Dam Somi's Saela Cover photo photographer- Jordan’s Photography
Ruth Phillips is 17 years old and lives in Connecticut. She owns two Icelandic Sheepdogs, and assists in showing golden retrievers. She shows them in AKC Junior Showmanship as well as the breed ring. Andi, as shown on the cover, is the “Icie” she most commonly shows in juniors. This year, she’s set on getting his Grand Championship, and getting as many juniors wins as possible to qualify for AKC Nationals, and Westminster before she ages out.
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FREE STACKING Your Way to A Win Many people in the world of dog showing have Execution of Free Stack always seen that gorgeous free stack,
When coming in from any pattern, either a down and and it just gives them chills. To see a dog just back, a triangle, or an L, you must be aware of how naturally walk into a stack, and for it to be far out you are from the judge. You can start to slow structurally comfortable for them, is just a your dog about 10 feet from the judge. A good place phenomenal feat. When I first got my Miniature to stop and pick a point to stack your dog, depending American Shepherd, Duke, that was how I wanted to on the angle you present your dog at, is about 3 feet train him. I had seen so many dogs just walk in and from the judge. When free stacking, it is always a BAM, an elegant free stack where the handler was good rule of thumb to show oﬀ the best feature of able to focus on getting the perfect expression, your dog. If they have an awesome expression and instead of twiddling with the legs to get them just ear set, then obviously, you would want to stack the perfect.
dog directly facing the judge. Once your dog steps It's not quite as easy as it seems, however. A lot of into the stack (assuming they have the training to do behind the scenes training must go into it, involving so), step back, hold your leash at a comfortable muscle memory work and focus. That second word position, and very subtly bait the dog (See Figure 1). is key. Focus. What a brilliant word, and oh how it This allows the dog to have the opportunity to show aﬀects how our dogs work in the ring. I recommend some expression, and lets the judge move almost watching the Puppy Culture Videos, “Attention is the anywhere to see the structure of the dog. It is a very Mother of All Behaviors”, and “Demand to Win clean cut maneuver that will appear very professional. Puppies: Killer Free Stacks”. These are two amazing When the judge begins to move on, REWARD videos that essentially explain the basic training of a REWARD REWARD. I can not say it enough, most killer free stack.
dogs need an incentive to continue stacking One of the most important parts of teaching the free themselves.
stack is teaching the focus, and a term I use, called the Statue. All the Statue is is a wait command where the dog walks into a free FIGURE 1 stack, and you somehow imply, either verbally or with body language, to hold until released. It also helps to have the focus aspect down first, and the statue will come. I find these two things, which are part of the free stack, are most applicable after the pattern is completed and you are showing the dog’s expression or general structure.
The other aspect of acing a free stack is the execution of the stack. Not just the stack itself, but the approach to the judge, the angle at which you place your dog, and the way you yourself present the overall picture. My biggest pet peeve is when I am watching the juniors ring, and I see somebody who has so much potential, and whose dog nails a free stack, but they over handle. They throw and wave their hands, or make to much noise. Handling in that manner takes away from the general overall picture, and draws more attention to the handler, rather than the actual star in the ring: the dog. This especially applies for junior showmanship, as you should be fading into the background and presenting your dog, not trying to stand out and be flashy.
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FREE STACKING Your Way to A Win Some dogs won’t always put their ears up all the time, so it is imperative you are reading your d o g ’s b e h a v i o r b e f o r e y o u complete the pattern. If they are unwilling to show their expression or earset, or in the case of a dog who might not have the greatest headpiece, but has very correct angulation and a solid topline, you might want to present the dog’s side. In general, it is easiest to have the dog turn its head towards yourself and thus shows oﬀ the left side to the judge. When you come back from the pattern, slow your dog enough to where they still have momentum, but are slow enough they won’t just keep trotting. Sometimes a little tap on the rear is a fun way to get their attention, otherwise, just using your voice and turning your body will help them. Use your body language to make sure that the dog walks onto just the left edge of the mat. This gives them room to walk up and into a stack, right in the middle of the judge’s vision, as they always center themselves on the line you and your dog will be coming down. Once centered, depending on length of lead and the size of the dog, you can step back, bait, and maybe smile a little bit (See Figure 2). Hold the dog’s focus. Yet again, I must reiterate, focus is absolutely key. It doesn’t look very impressive when a dog has his head turned one way or another and doesn’t really care. Keep them engaged and keep their attention. When the judge motions for you to continue on to a go around, again, don’t forget to reward your dog! They’re doing the hard work acing that stack, and they deserve something to show for it!
Common Issues with Free Stacking There are several common issues that I have seen with dogs free stacking, as well as have experienced with the dogs I handle. The biggest that I notice, is what I call “Happy Feet”. This is where the dog has a hard time finding where their feet belong, and planting them there. It kind of looks like they’re a little kid doing the bathroom dance! This is a common issue caused by ill-timed rewards. Timing is key when rewarding a free stack. You want to enforce the behavior while it is happening, not while they move, or after the free stack is over. This is where training the wait or stay command (the Statue) comes in really handy, as well.
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