show ring. For conformation, using bait in the ring in AKC shows is perfectly legal and acceptable.
You may meet the occasional judge who will ask you not to, but that is rare. Most judges have no
problem with it provided you follow a few guidelines, which we will go into later.
I rarely show a dog without using bait. You may wonder why I don’t just train the dog to do the
behaviors without bait. The answer is that when I am showing a dog I am asking that dog to do
something very unnatural to him. I am asking him to be in an unfamiliar place with many strange
dogs and people and perform to the best of his ability for me. Because I want my dogs to actually
enjoy their ring experience and want to be there, I reinforce them while in the ring. Of course I can
teach the behaviors that I want them to do, but I want to condition them to love the ring and frankly,
feeding them while in there can be very effective for that. This is simply classical conditioning (think
Pavlov's dogs), I want the dog to "associate" the show ring with great things.
When using bait in the ring you want to make sure that you are courteous about it. If you put bait on
the ground or toss bait to get the dogs attention, be sure to pick it up so that it doesn’t distract other
dogs and handlers.
When you are using bait in the ring, you want to be thoughtful about how you are doing that. Some
handlers will get nervous and wave the bait around wildly causing the dogs head to move around
trying to follow the bait. Don’t do this! Be aware of where the bait is and where you want the dogs
Don’t use bait as a lure the whole time and then never reward the dog. If you are going to use bait
in the ring, feed the dog sometimes. In other words, it isn’t fair to lure him with a piece of food and
then never give it to him. He will quickly learn that you never pay off and stop paying attention.
When using bait during the examination you will want to be aware of where the bait is and what you
are doing with it. Again, don’t mindlessly wave it around. I will sometimes use the bait to get the dog
stacked (the dog gets to nibble while I position him) then I pull the bait away while the judge
examines the head and mouth, I then give the bait back and then put it away when I move the dog.
Judges get very frustrated if you give the dog food right before they are going to examine the bite or
if you are waving the bait around, so be sure that you are not making the judges job harder with how
you handle the bait.
The bait that I use is completely dependent on the dog I am showing. I tend to use roll dog food
(such as Rollover, Natural Balance or Pet Botanics) most of the time. It is easy to handle and the
dogs like it. Also, I sometimes hold the bait in my mouth momentarily so it helps if it is something that
I can stand having in my mouth. However, I modify the bait based on the dog that I am showing.
For dogs that are extremely food motivated and can’t handle the high value of the roll dog food, I
may use a lesser value reward such as a jerky treat or something a bit less meatlike. For dogs that
need more motivation I will use liver or chicken. You can play with this and use what works best for
the dog you are showing.
Here is a list of some bait ideas:
Higher Value Bait Choices (in order of value based on my experience)
Roll dog food
Lower Value Bait Choices (in no particular order)
As mentioned before I use bait in the ring as a rule. It might not always be necessary but I want the
dogs I show to love the ring, and the plain fact is that feeding them in the ring helps me accomplish
this goal. I have had a few dogs that generally seemed to love the ring and that get overly excited
about food, and with those dogs, I might consider not using bait in the ring. Using toys can be
reinforcing too and I will do that when I have a dog that likes toys but doesn’t get overly fired up
If you are going to use bait I recommend you use it during the examination to get the dog set up and
then while the judge is going over the body beyond the head. Again, do not feed right before the
judge goes to examine the bite, wait until he has done the head.
You might also use bait to get your dog in position upon returning to the judge after he is examined
and moved individually. And, during the line ups with the other dogs in the class.
Keep the bait steady and be aware that where the bait is will affect where the dogs head is.
Do not feed right before the judge examines the dogs bite.
Do not lure the dog around with one piece of bait without ever feeding him some.
Use a bait that is appropriate for your dog.
Pick up any bait that you throw or drop in the ring.
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