Painting A Pretty Picture

by Sandy Herzon




With Conformation, Performance & Presentation

Editors Note: This piece was written and emailed out to the newest puppy owners (2007)  in an attempt at educating them at a faster pace,

What does it take to win at a dog show or match? The answer of course is not simple; on the contrary it is so complex with so many variables, that books have been written about this subject. I don’t have the time or patience to write a book, so a concise, short and sweet as can be essay will do.


To make it as simple as a dimple on a dapple, let’s throw out all the variables and only consider 3 of those that owners, trainers and handlers can have a say about. Yes, let’s apply the South Beach Diet to this overweighed subject and downsize it to the bare bones and then apply the following 3 simplified agendas to the recent match that 8 Chambray & Partners puppies and their owners attended. Conformation, Performance and Presentation will be our main menu for this essay. Chomp away and fret naught the calories, fat or carbs, as there ain’t any! For those reading this essay that did not attend the recent match as did a dozen or so new owners, the following will make as much sense as it will those that were there, for the following may be applied to any dog that is being trained, conditioned and exhibited at any match or dog show.


Let’s start out with the most important of considerations, what I will refer to as the most crucial element when dealing with show dogs. Conformation is the absolute most important criteria to consider when breeding/showing dogs. Conformation deals with how close to the standard for the breed a dog comes. So, comparing your dog to the breed standard and hoping that your dog excels with this criterion will go a long, long ways on how successful your dog will be in show competition.  One thing about Conformation, your dog is either born with it or born without it. Not too much that can be done to make a dog have better Conformation! If your dog is in the Partners Program for the Betterment of the Breed and I am making time to train, condition and handle it, then it surpasses the bench mark for “good” conformation for it to be able to continue on this ride called “Showing Dogs”.


If however you are reading this article and are not sure how your puppy or dog measures up, or in many cases, measures down from the standard, then it would behoove you to search out a knowledgeable bloke, breeder, exhibitor or better yet a handler and have them give you an evaluation of your dog as it compares to the written standard for the breed. There are several articles that I have written that cover evaluations and show quality elsewhere, accessible from the Reference Library’s directory.


Conformation or the lack of conformation is the part that either makes or breaks a breeder as far as show dogs are concerned. There are thousands of “breeders”, producing millions of dogs a year across the country. They come in all shapes and sizes, the breeders as well as the dogs! What separates them into definable terms is the quality of dogs that they produce and that quality can only be measured at dog show competitions throughout the country, where dogs are compared to their individual breed standard and also against each other for points, awards and titles. A successful “show breeder” is taken to task with certifiable results, as merely showing up at dog show with a dog in tow, does not make anyone a show breeder. Consistent winning with different dogs year in and year out and champion’s titles are a good gauge as to how good a breeder is producing, thus the notch on the measuring stick for where they belong on the totem pole of actual “show breeders”!


To make the preceding more pertinent to those reading this at this time, each and every puppy that was at the recent match has the right Conformational equipment to succeed as show dogs. Each puppy scored into the 90’s with 100 being tops and 50 being the lowest acceptable rating for a show dog. There is an article at the reference library that is a must reading, and reviewing if you have read it before or reading it for the first time at the following address you will get a better understanding of the rating system and how it applies to our show dogs. If you are receiving this essay at the training class, you may access the article by visiting and then proceeding to the Reference Library section and finding the article from the directory there. If you stumbled upon this article while surfing through our website, it was written for our newest puppy owners, known as Partners for the Betterment of the Breed. As their mentor, I provide a nurturing environment that includes Lifetime Support System, a Continual Learning Experience with articles, seminars and social get-togethers and Lifetime Free Training for all show puppies. So this article was written in particular for them, but can serve as a learning tool for others as well.


Back to the matters at hand; what if all the dogs before a judge are equal in Conformation? Each exhibit standing in front of the knowledgeable person meets the standard to a T, no faults, no deviations, all seemingly ducks in a row! What will make that judge point to your dog as being #1? Does he/she toss a coin and heads win, tails are in the shade? Not if he/she doesn’t want to be suspended by the AKC as happened in recent recollection to a well-know judge who mastered the feat while judging groups and was promptly reprimanded by the AKC and received a 6-month suspension from judging assignments!


The judge at the recent match searched me out after the match was over and complimented my breeding program proclaiming that all 8 puppies* brought before him were of “Superior Quality”.


*Editors note: 9 out of the 10 Labradors present at this match came from Chambray Labradors and the Partners Program for the Betterment of the Breed. The 8 puppies were exhibited in the 3 to 6 month old class, there was a senior puppy in the 6 to 12 class that was also from our kennel and it took Best Senior Puppy, plus a Group II in the Sporting group competition.


What if all the dogs were of Superior Quality as was the case at this match according to the judge, how does the judge discern which is #1, #2 and beyond? The answer to the question is that he must use other resources and criteria; he must base his decision on something more concrete and binding than a toss of the coin. He must “look” deeper and come to a conclusion as to which dog before him is the better specimen, thus anointing that dog with the desired colored ribbon or rosette, making that particular dog the “winner” and casting the competitors into the realm know as “not winners”!


Oh, I know that we go to matches for fun and that there are no real losers……………………………..and money also grows on trees, Santa does exist, the moon is made out of cheese………………..get the picture?


Simple as plain yogurt, if there is a WINNER, then the rest of the people go away feeling like LOSERS! It is human nature and no matter how anyone out there slices the pie, if you don’t win, you lose!


So, back to the question at hand, what is it that will make the judge choose one exhibit over the other when Conformation is equal? The answer to this question will lead us to the next criteria which is Performance. With all things being equal in Conformation, most judges will then look at Performance. Performance is brought about by correct training methods and conditioning of the dog. Where as there is not much that can be done about poor Conformation, there is plenty that can be done in this area of Performance to improve your chances at being selected over the other comparable exhibits.


Attending training classes and practicing at home, socializing the dog in as many environments as possible, exercise and conditioning will go a long, long way in creating the best odds of a great Performance! If there are 2 dogs that are totally equal in looks, then the one that performs better will get the nod 9 out of 10 times!!!!!! Remember the simple dimple on the dapple?


Consistency and Repetition are a must in order for a dog to perform accordingly; keeping it lively and free from stress will make it easier for the dog to follow the program. Short periods of training are far better than long drawn out sessions, providing breaks every 5 to 7 minutes and making it seem like a game works wonders for young dogs. Loads and loads of praise and food reward keep them coming back for more.


Following my easy-going training methods will guarantee results and success. Attending the Thursday night training classes will keep the dog well-socialized and will keep me up to date on the development of each dog under our guidance and management program.


Scheduling private training sessions allows me to gauge how much more to add or to correct in case bad habits are being instilled at home. Private one-on-one sessions here at Camp Chambray also provide me the opportunity to adjust the dog and tweak out better performances. In cases where it seems that the dog is confused, demonstrating to the dog and owner the right way to do things goes a long way to teach the dog what is expected of him.


On to the next criteria; ok, what if 2 dogs are equal in Conformation and in Performance? What will it take to create an edge for your dog with both of those elements being equal? Well, here comes the 3rd criteria screaming at you like a banshee out of helicons; Presentation!!!!!


A great Presentation will take Conformation & Performance to another level; it will create the mythical Winning Edge. How well you present your dog will be the most crucial element when all things are equal.


This is where the master handler cleans up, this is where experience and talent surface to the top, being able to pull out all the stops, reaching deep into the bag of tricks and applying the finishing touch at the precise moment will at times convince the judge to point to you where a fraction of a second before he was about to point to someone else’s exhibit.


Handling is an art and many will not rise to the level needed to really be competitive to go against the professional handlers. Remember, this is the only sport or form of competition where a rank novice could very well be standing next to the top professional in the business.


By providing each and every one of our owners a training and handling curriculum, each dog will more or less be on the same page with a consistent method and terminology that will permit any of the program’s top handler to take over the handling at the shows when the dog arrives at that competitive level that necessitates superior handling.


Painting a PRETTY PICTURE is the product of Conformation, Performance and Presentation!





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