Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Conundrum of Small Dog Winners

 Bernadette Bay takes Crufts
with handling that deserves to be recognized

Bernadette Bay and her small Sheltie, Itz Got Pizzazz (Zazz), earn their Crufts win with tight, crisp handling that epitomizes the high end of small dog agility handling. 

It's gorgeous. A high level of training and connection is obvious (just look at that breath taking turn through the running dog walk contact!). 

So why are small dog handlers so seldom given the credit they deserve?

When a handler with a big dog wins a major competition, media attention, seminar fees and wide scale recognition often come their way.

Great small dog handling never seems to draw that kind of attention. But it should. As Bernadette Bay demonstrates in her winning 2012 Crufts Finals run, there really is a lot to admire and aspire to in skillful small dog handling.

As opposed to the larger lines and more showy gestures that define large dog handling, small dog handling is comparatively crisper, tighter and more fully followed through. Rather than the big snaps and sends, you see a lot of finely rendered details, artfully connected.

The shorter strides of a small dog demand a kind of patience. If the handler doesn't hold steady, yet also give softness to the line, they'll pull the dog off or cause it to lose the momentum. 

As I've come to describe running my 4" Papillon, Taylor, it's the "needlepoint of agility."

And that's really how it feels. Patiently. Thoughtfully. Carrying the thread through every stitch.

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