I just came back from conformation class and I am getting a bit frustrated and upset. Neither Zoni or I are anywhere near perfect yet with this and I'm okay with that as we've got till the end of June before her likely first show. And if she isn't ready I'll wait a little longer (although I really want her to show at the WI basenji specialty at the end of July). I've been trying to keep the training for conformation as positive as I can make it (particularly on the table) using methods described in "Positive Training for Show Dogs" and "Clicker Training for Obedience". Zoni is doing a few things right now in class that she really isn't doing at home too much a) she's jumping up (front feet in the air) and walking back on the table and won't stand still when the judge reaches out to her and while examining her, b) when I'm running her around the ring, she often plops down and stops and doesn't want to move or scratches profusely at her show collar as we're going around.
This issue is that I'm not particularly comfortable with the methods of the teacher/judge of the class (she's a Doberman breeder, but I believe she has handled Nemo's breeder's basenjis in the past) to fix the issues. When Zoni was acting up on the table today, she was having Zoni walk some of her feet off the table to simulate her possibly falling if she walked too far to the back or the side. My impression was that you aren't supposed to do that, it seems like it would make the dog afraid of the table more than solving the problem.
When Zoni was supposed to be stacked in front of the judge on the floor but was jumping backward away from her, the teacher held the lead which made the leash tighten which of course was painful when Zoni kept pulling backwards which made her scream and choke a little as she kept pulling more and more. The comment was "she has to learn for herself not to do that". That just made me feel sick to my stomach. The teacher said I was letting some of the improper behaviors become a habit for her, which I don't necessarily disagree with. And maybe I'm a little lax on corrections and erring too much on the side of only positive reinforcement but this doesn't feel completely right to me.
In part I also think a contributing factor might be that Zoni is tired at class time. The class is at 8:00 pm and she usually takes a short nap around that time. There is a conformation class mainly for junior handlers on Mondays that is earlier at 5:00 that I could try to go to, but it would be a challenge to do that with my work schedule.
I'm just wondering if I should hold off on going to conformation class for a few weeks until I have her a little better trained so I can avoid this type of situation. On the flip side, I hate to loose the opportunity for her to get used to being around other dogs and the show procedures, etc. I definitely need the practice. I'm planning to have some friends come over to help with getting her more comfortable with strangers coming up to her on the table so I hopefully I can begin to make progress on that front.
Sorry, a bit long-winded.