Fear of judges at shows

I haven't posted for a while but feel i need some advice or help. Milo has been shown since 6 months old, been to ringcraft regularly and while he sometimes got a bit unsettled on the table, he still allowed judges to go over him. He is now 18 months old and since the beginning of this year has become more and more anxious when the judge approaches him. We have now started to ask judges to go over him on the floor which seems a bit better, but he is still very tense. I have tried numerous calming products with little success. My breeder is very helpful but as she lives a distance away it isn't very often we meet. Sorry for the lengthy post but i have a beautiful young dog who started off with such promise and i would do anything to help him overcome this problem if possible. He is very healthy, very sociable with other dogs and people so what do i do?😕

Sorry to hear Milo is still have issues with the table:(
I don't really have any suggestions as you know I have a similar problem also:rolleyes:
I really hope he gets over it because when he does show, like he did at the last Lanark show, he is like a different dog!!

Could he be taking the signal from you and getting tense? Are you anticipating that he is going to be nervous on the table? If so, then he is feeling that right through the lead and picking up from you. Just like they recommend for animals that are afraid of firecrackers, you never want to reinforce the behavior by telling them "its ok"…. You want to keep up beat and positive and more or less ignore the behavior.

Can you set up a table at shows outside the ring and ask strangers to go over your boy? And when doing so, make it fun?.... give him treats...

I've just started attending ringcraft classes in the UK and have been horrified at the majority of handling and advice that I've seen being given - the techniques and advice being used are just fear and intimidation - which if is a dog is unhappy or fearful is not going to help them blossom. Not saying this is the case where you are but that's what I've seen in 3 different classes.

I've just come back from Australia where I'm a member of APDT Australia and a great believer in positive reinforcement for all types training - it may take a little longer but the effort is so worth it as gives the dog confidence. Whilst there are any number of great books using positive reinforcement (eg clicker style training) there is an excellent book by Vicki Ronchette 'Positive Training for Show Dogs: Building a Relationship for Success' (available from Amazon amongst other places) which I think would be ideal. Unfortunately I don't have my copy to hand to see if she covers fear of the table specifically - but I just looked in the index on Amazon and its covered!

In the meantime until you've got this resolved I wouldn't show him as its not worth him getting more upset - better that he has a 2-6 month holiday from the ring than he gets to the stage where he won't or can't be shown at all.

Thanks everyone. We have tried some of your suggestions already but i appreciate your help.

Positive Training for Show Dogs is a great book and it does have advice for dealing with this issue. If it is a fear of the table, then you want to desensitize the dog to the table. The author recommends starting with the table folded down and laying on the ground then rewarding the dog for just approaching the table. Once the dog is comfortably approaching the folded up table then lure them onto the table and work at getting them comfortable on the folded table. After they are eagerly getting on the folded table on their own, then you can start working with them on the table at its full height. The idea is to build positive associations with the table.

If the issue is actually a fear of the judge then there is a different approach to desensitize the dogs to meeting strangers then add in the table.

Thank you Ivoss! That sounds very interesting. I will check out the book on Amazon.

Update, I have just ordered the book. Thank you so much.

Everyone has given great advice. I would like to add that also at his age he is going through a second mental growth sprit where he is going through a second fear stage. To also follow through with what Ivoss said about the table I would go with an alternating heights instead of straight to full height. Find something to put under the table to make it stable and put it maybe at half height. My boy was a little shy of heights and I didn't have an actual table, so I started him on my low coffee (couch) table (18 in / 45 cm) and then moved him up to end tables that were taller about 26 in /66 cm and then I put him on bar height bistro table I have. After that he was perfectly comfortable with the show table.

Then for the judging part I just had my friends handle him when ever they came over. I would pop him up on the coffee table, put him in a loose stack and show them how to look over him.

The book recommends for dogs that are worried by the height to place the table against a wall at first because many dogs will be comforted by the wall side.

And also, always, always make sure that the table, any table is sturdy… a rocky table will freak out most all dogs, even seasoned Vets.

If you find a table in the ring that is not stable, ask that the table be moved if possible or if worse comes to worse lean your own body against it to keep it still.

And if you don't have an appropriate table at home, be careful of "slippery" surfaces. Put down a towel or bath mat....

The other thing I would like to add is there is no time frame for this. When, for whatever reason a dog becomes upset or fearful about something, it can take months for them to get over it - equally for some its just a matter of weeks. What is important is not putting them into a unsure or fearful place whilst you are working on this as another unpleasant experience tends to undo all the hard work you are doing and possibly put you back even further. Without anthropomorphising the situation, for example if a human is getting over say a fear of lifts/elevators - and have just started to use them when they know its only 1-2 stories in a large 8 person lift, when suddenly that lift shudders…. their fear levels are likely to be heightened as now even the 'safe' lifts have gone bad. And as our dogs can't speak to us, we have to take the de-sensitation process very slowly so that they are fully ok with each step before moving onto the next phase.

Sorry to hear poor Milo is still upset about judges, he has always been so good in the ring!!

I do think that our show organisers have a lot to answer for with some of the fear of tables (that this could possibly be?) as mentioned previously. I very rarely find a table that isnt incredibly rocky when im showing my table dogs and even the most seasoned, professional dog will find that very unnerving, and Milo is still just young and a sensitive breed and maybe if that just upset him one time he has remembered it?

I dont know.. But I agree our ringcraft classes here are not always brilliant. I dont tend to take my pups til i've got them confident at home as the classes are more likely to scare them than anything!!

You could always try bringing a table to a show and try to get as many people as possible to make a fuss of him or feed him whilst he's on it? Im forever having to do this for other pug exhibitors who's dogs have had a scare, or for nervous pups, and it seems to work wonders. Im sure the other basenji folk would be happy to help out if they can, I know i would 🙂

Its such a shame that Milo is having his problems with judges on the table - but then he is at that age!

Just a pity your not closer - we rent a local village hall every monday night from 7-9 just for extra practice for our dogs. Use one of the big sturdy 6ft tables with rubber matting on it. Some friends often come along with their dogs too - a couple of Dogue De Bordeaux, a bulldog, and sometimes a few gundogs - I know its about an hours drive away but your welcome if you feel you want some extra practice on table with him.

Thanks again folks. Lots of sound, encouraging advice. I think his age is a major factor, but we will take time with him and hopefully he will settle again. Our table at home is safe and very sturdy, unlike many at the shows as you said Jess. We will take things slowly and see how he gets on. Thanks Scott for the invite to your meet up. We'll keep that in mind too.

I am so sorry to hear about your problems with Milo. Perhaps you would be better to go back to the beginning and just concentrate on him feeling comfortable on the floor before progressing to the table.

I would ask people to give him a treat and then just briefly run their hands over him until he feels more confident on the floor. Sometimes the judges are too rough with the dogs, if he is not happy on the floor it may not just be the table that is a problem.

I hope you overcome his problem soon.

Thank you. We have been keeping him off the table as advised by his breeder. There has been some improvement and he is less stressed. Hopefully this will continue and eventually he might be more accepting of the table but we will take it easy with him.

Are you able to show him on the ground in the UK ???

I know here in Aus, if we ask for permission from the steward, they will ask the judge, and I dont know of any that have refused to judge a tabled dog, on the ground…

I have been told by a few people who judge that you don't have to show your dog on the table. It is only so that the judge can have a good look at the dog but many short breeds are shown quite easy on the floor. Bassets obviously because of their sheer weight even though they are quite close to the floor,Staffordshire terriers are shown on the floor and they are short legged breeds. It's not ideal i admit, but if it gets your dog over a period of nervousness or whatever it's better than giving up completely or stressing your dog out even more. For now it is having a positive effect so hopefully it won't be for too long.

Oh thats good that you can do it over there too…

So just curious, do you think you will enter him in his next show and perhaps show him on the ground ??? Will be interested to see how he goes for you, if you do :)... Good luck with him... Heres hoping it just a 'stage' he is going through...

Hi, I thought i would update everyone on this topic. My hubby started to handle Milo last spring. It wasn't easy but Milo has been fine mostly in the ring, on the table. He still has issues with certain judges, their appearance, manner or smell. However, Brian can control his tension most of the time. Milo has and does do well in the ring and is a lovely basenji. His breeder i think blamed us for his nervousness, however, i think he is just naturally suspicious of certain people. I am just delighted that we can enjoy him in the showring and look forward to many more years doing the same. I am glad we didn't give up too, so many people do and that is such a shame.


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