If you are considering a show career for your Great Dane it is best to get started early. Beginning at a young age will take advantage of important developmental stages that your puppy goes through only once in life. As a puppy your Great Dane is filled with curiosity and an eagerness to learn; traits that become less prevalent later in life. Plus, as your Dane grows he/she will become more difficult to manage simply due to their immense size.
In addition to training, socialization is something that should be engaged in early and often. When it comes to show dogs, the more socialization the better. In the ring, your dog can not be distracted by other dogs, large crowds, loud noises, or close contact with strangers. The more exposure they have to these types of experiences, the better they will handle themselves in the ring.
In getting a show puppy ready for a show career, the first thing to remember is it’s never too early to start! And, sooner is better than later; as the puppy gets older, you both lose out on some important developmental stages, and the puppy is getting bigger and harder to handle. The next is you can never over-socialize your puppy; the more people, dogs, places, things, and noises they are exposed to at a young age, the better.
Finally, understand that show training your Great Dane is a process. There are many things that your Dane will need to learn before he/she is ready for the ring. Training your Dane in steps will make the process easier and you will be better able to ‘put it all together’ in the final phase of training.
What Your Dane Needs To Know
Gaiting – Gaiting is moving your dog in a way that allows the judge to see their movement and structure. The correct gait is usually a trot, with the dog’s head up. A proper gait will allow the judges to evaluate your dog’s muscle and bone structure as he/she moves. Getting this right can make a huge difference in the eyes of the judges.
Stacking – Stacking (in dog show nomenclature) is to stand squarely and still. The exact position of the head, hind legs, and forelegs depends on the breed. There are two types of stacking: free stacking and hand stacking.
With free stacking the dog assumes the proper position on its own. The trainer may make adjustments with verbal commands but does not touch the dog. While free stacking is more difficult to teach, it is more impressive and may win you additional points with the judges.
Hand stacking involves you (the trainer) actually positioning the dog with your hands. Most dogs are taught proper stack position through hand stacking and building on that knowledge they are taught to free stack.
Your Dane will be expected to stack a few times during a show competition. Once upon entering the ring, before being moved as a group, individually for the hands-on examination, and once for the final line-up.
The Examination – Your Dane will be expected to stack and hold for several minutes while the judges examine him/her. These examinations can be somewhat invasive with judges touching your dog, examining their teeth, and even lifting their testicles. It is important that you make your dog accustomed to this type of examination and that he/she remain stacked throughout the process.
The Training Process
The training process will vary based on you and your Dane’s preferred methodology, but there are some general tips that will be helpful. As was stated earlier, get started early. You want training to become a routine that your Dane enjoys and looks forward to, starting when your Dane is young will help to achieve this mindset.
Make training sessions enjoyable with lots of positive reinforcement and do not get frustrated if your Dane finds some lessons difficult. Be patient and move on to other exercises rather than forcing a difficult lesson. Always end your sessions with a lesson that your Dane is familiar with so you end on a positive note. Don’t drill your Dane. Training should be a bonding exercise that you and your Dane enjoy.
The need for socialization can not be stressed enough. Take your Dane out in public, socialize them with other dogs, and put them through the examination process on a regular basis. Even allow friends or family to examine them to get them accustomed to being examined by strangers.
Consider enrolling in a ringcraft class. Ringcraft classes are designed to teach both you and your Dane the ins and outs of the show ring. They will help with the socialization process and make your Dane familiar with the entire process. In addition, a good ringcraft class will help you to learn the proper stack position for your Great Dane. While ringcraft classes are not essential, they are recommended and can shorten the training process dramatically.