Commonalities and Differences in Sighthounds
Live from the Harvest Moon Cluster, your host Laura Reeves talks sighthounds. The seminar was sponsored by the Saluki Club of Greater San Francisco. Watch and listen to the entire seminar here.
Temperament and showmanship are part of breed type. Our job as handlers is to showcase our breed’s character and personality accurately, not make our Wolfhound show like a Doberman. For breeds with less “flash” that might be overlooked in group competition, it is incumbent on us as handlers to provide an engaging, effortless back drop.
Our hands tell a story in the show ring. How and where we place our hands on the dog is part of the presentation. Sighthounds specifically call for soft, quiet, elegant hands. Holding the collar, placing the feet, should be done gracefully. Quietly drawing the judge’s eye to our dog’s finest features while using our hands as a “frame,” we actually can “talk with our hands” and subtly communicate with the judge.
Dog handling in general is best done when we are judicious and smooth with our hands. The unique nature of sighthounds means than keeping your hands on the dog at all times will help steady the dog and allow him to be balanced on his own feet.
While showcasing our dogs involves a bit of “sleight of hand” in terms of maintaining emphasis on the good and not the faults, Laura shares her 1-2-3-4-5 hand stacking method as a refresher course. Hear more in depth discussion on this topic in episode 2, “How to Stack Your Dog” or in our new audio book, debuting in January.
Give Your Dog What it Needs: Confidence and Focus
All dogs take their cues from us as the handlers. Sighthounds are particularly in tune with their people and draw their confidence from us. Be sure you are relaxed and enjoying spending time with your dog for your best result.
Moving Gracefully – Float with Your Dog
Drive from the hip and a gradual and collected acceleration are keys to showing the judge your dog’s best movement. Don’t let your dog look like “an octopus on speed” by following these suggestions. More discussion in episode 3 and in the audio book.
Ears and Tails
Each of the sighthounds, and really all dogs, have a correct ear and tail carriage to “make the picture” for the judge. Learn how to work with your dog’s attitude to get the best results.
Balancing act of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
Denise Flaim, Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder, judge and historian, shares her knowledge as the RRCUS National Specialty kicks off in Colorado.
The first impression of a Rhodesian Ridgeback, Flaim said, is a “smooth dog with an unbroken fluid line from the top of the head, lovely crested neck, smooth withers, straight topline, gently sloped croup, slightly longer than tall, handy sized for trotting all day. Well angled. Not an empty front, moves freely and effortlessly. Lovely head, round dark eye, triangular ear.”
The Ridgeback, Flaim noted, is that perfect balance of speed and strength. The original dogs routinely coursed large African antelope. As with other sighthounds, the size and bone of the breed always parallels the prey it hunts. They need to be heavy enough to bring down large game like a 200-pound Nyala; lithe and fast enough to catch it. While the breed features a diversity of style within type, the ideal is a dog lacking exaggeration in any part.
“If you don’t know (a breed’s) history you’re doomed,” Flaim said “because you can’t understand its function and morphology.”
Ridgebacks in Africa
In brief, according to Flaim, when the Dutch went to southern Africa in the late 1600s, they found an unimproved “border collie looking” dog that had a dorsal rise of hair on its back, Flaim summarized. These indigenous dogs that hung out with Koi Koi people, interbred with the Continental dogs, resulting in dogs that had native knowledge, resistance to tse tse flies and more.
The Boers moved to Rhodesia in the late 1800s, and a popular big game hunter acquired ridged bitches and interbred them with his pack. The resulting dogs were excellent at lion hunting.
Flaim was quick to clarify what that actually entailed. The dogs would be taken with rich European hunting parties, in small packs of two or three, to find a lion and harass it, like a matador. Overall athleticism that let the dogs get out of the way of claws was most important.
“Any Ridgeback foolhardy enough to make contact with a lion, soon exited the gene pool in an unceremonious fashion,” Flaim said.
What travels with the ridge?
The breed’s trademark ridge is important, Flaim observed, because “nothing exists in nature if it’s not functional. In Ridgebacks, the dogs that carried the ridge were superlative hunters and could survive in the harsh climate of southern Africa.
“Who knows what native knowledge or traits travel with that ridge,” Flaim said. “For example, Ridgebacks don’t jump into standing pools of water. They want graded entrances. In Africa, if you jump into a standing pool of water you encounter something that wants a snack.”
Rhodesian Ridgeback parent club website: https://www.rrcus.org/
And Allison Foley, Leading Edge Dog Show Academy, tells us how to use cornstarch for dematting.