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Using primarily positive reinforcement for training and handling show dogs is not as common as one would think. Most people learn from their breeder or mentor who learned from their breeder or mentor. And the dog show world is very traditional. The training, equipment, beliefs and breed biases are all traditional. It is difficult to change people’s minds. Many of the clients I work with come to me because what they have always done is not working with an individual dog so they are forced to learn another way. As new breeders, handlers and owners come onto the scene this is slowly but surely changing. Now that we have so much more information about how dogs learn we need to change how we train, handle and live with dogs.

Using positive reinforcement instead of punishment and corrections to train and handle show dogs is a fairly new concept and while not everyone is on board, many people are open to learning other ways to train that make it better for the dog. Because the show ring behaviors are not overly complex it is not difficult to train them and certainly possible to do with positive reinforcement.

Also, when non-professional trainers are trying to solve behavior issues, they frequently don’t know how and go to how they train other behaviors to try to modify issues. When their go to is to simply make the dog do it or correct him for mistakes, this can create issues for the dog and owner because just correcting the dog rarely solves behavior issues. If the dog has serious behavior issues such as being fearful or reactive they can make the behaviors much worse. It is important for people who have dogs with behavior problems to use proven, science-based methods that help the dog cope and feel better. It takes a knowledge of and experience of using these methods to be able to coach someone and qualified behavior consultants are who should be doing that.


Vicki Ronchette is the founder of Show Dog Prep School and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Vicki has been working with dogs professionally for over 30 years as a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, groomer and veterinary assistant. She is the author of Positive Training for Show Dogs, From Shy to Showy and Ready? Set. SHOW! Vicki presents workshops and seminars all over the country on how training show dogs.