Cherrle Ann Mahi-Brown reprinted from Newf Tide Summer 1980
The 50th anniversary National Specialty of the Newfoundland Club of America had a large entry of 51 in obedience. I sat at ringside throughout the competition and did some ringside Judging. I made a particular point of noting handling errors. Perhaps it was too early in the year for people to get out and work their dogs much, but I gained the overall impression that the dogs were not ready. Heeling, even in the advanced classes, left a lot to be desired. High in trial came from the utility class, Ch. Kilyka's She Shell. CDX, owned and handled by Betty McDonnell with a nice and well-deserved score of 192. Shell also won the open B class with a score of 187'/2. Second place in open B with a score of 185 was Sweetbay's Seaworthy Gale, CDX, TD, owned and handled by Claire Carr. Unfortunately, no dogs passed open A. Some of these dogs may have been unaccustomed to the mats set up at the jumps. First in novice B with a score of 191 was Steamboat Capt. of Aurealwoods owned by Robin Munson. Second was Kilyka's Colossus owned by Betty McDonnell with a score of 189. Third with 183 was Taku de Nashau-Auke owned by Rein and Linda Rand. Novice A was won by Pooh Bear's Monterey Hightide owned by Carol and Jim Catalano with a score of 185. An eager worker, Hightide was also winner of the carting competition. Second in novice A with a score of 184 was Val Karen's Babe owned by Vivian and Dennis Gilkison. Graduate novice was won by Lucabuc's Thursday's Child, CD, owned and handled by Kathleen Mitchell. Unfortunately, I did not get Thursday's score. The judges Mildred Rothrock and Emily Swanson were not easy scorers so the passing scores were well earned. Congratulations to all the winners.
Handling errors were in plenty of evidence. I'm pointing these out, not to pick apart any particular person's work, but to help you avoid these errors in the future. They hurt a lot. Most of the handling in utility was pretty good. One handler, however, did use considerable "body English" on the retrieving turns and offensively loud (harsh) commands. I might mention that the loud commands didn't help the dog any-it failed. One handler forgot that one may not handle the dog's collar in open classes. The dog may not be physically controlled at all in advanced classes. Petting is fine, but no pushing with hands or leading by the collar. I was shocked to see the number and severity of handling errors in novice B. Most of these handlers had trained one or more dogs to a CD and should know better. One handler jerked her dog all the way around the ring on the heeling and to make the dog sit. She also used her hands to sit the dog. Actual corrections were delivered. She should have been expelled from the ring under the rules. Another handler started heeling without checking the slack in the leash. As a result the dog was almost dragged through the exercises. Several handlers started their dogs lagging by stepping out before giving the "heel" command. There was one overly loud recall command. Many common beginners errors were seen in novice A. One handler didn't speed up enough on the "fast" off leash. Two allowed the leash holding hand to "float" to adapt to the dog's position. A common novice error is adapting laterally during the heeling exercise. It often results (it did in these cases) from looking at the dog instead of straight ahead while heeling. Practice moving in straight lines toward visible marks (a tree, a chair, a weed, etc.). Several handlers used their hands to make their dogs sit between exercises. One handler snapped the collar to obtain a sit. A couple of handlers stretched "naturalness and smoothness" pretty thin. Naturalness is difficult for a judge to decide, but there was one leash grip I might have penalized. I don't think a person would go for a relaxed walk with the leash gripped in two hands at chest level. One handler went considerably farther than the specified six feet from the dog on the stand for exam.
These errors need not occur. The range of permissible handling is quite clearly spelled out in the rules. "What? You say you haven't read the rules? For shame!" Write the AKC for a free copy of the "Obedience Regulations" and read them before each trial. Also watch the really top flight handlers in action. If you have any questions, I'd be glad to try to help you. Remember, though, most of your answers are in the rules.