Conformation Techniques


A. The Show Lead. For informal CWA Conformation Competitions, the martingale leash
used during racing competition is perfectly acceptable, as well as show leads. Show leads are available at pet stores or dog shows and come in a variety of widths and styles (see photo)

The purpose of the show lead is to give the handler control over the dog. Many times the choke or martingale leads are used incorrectly. There is a common misconception that dogs who misbehave must be strung-up to be corrected. This is not true. When a dog needs to be corrected, the handler should give the lead a light tug or verbal correction. The motion should only be enough to gain the dog's attention, not hurt him. A firm "NO" should accompany the correction. As long as the dog is behaving there should not be pressure applied to the lead other than to guide him in the direction you wish to gait. Do not use a choke collar on a dog with a shy or insecure personality.

The show lead is placed around your dog's neck and secured behind the ears or at the base of the dog's skull (see photo). In a well trained Whippet, the lead may rest on at the base of the shoulders.


The show lead should fit tight enough so the dog cannot get out of it easily, but not too tight. When the lead is secure, you should be able to get at least one finger between the lead and your dog's skin.

Since the dog will be gaited on your left side, the show lead should be held in the left hand when moving. Once the lead has been placed on your dog and secured, you will need to adjust the length of the lead. By leaving the lead dangling from your hand, you not only present an unprofessional picture for the judge, but it can distract your dog as it flaps around. To prevent the leash from dangling, you can wrap it or bunch it in your hand (see photo).

The left arm which holds the show lead should be bent at the elbow and remain stationary so your dog remains under control while standing or gaiting.

B. Stacking your Dog. Stacking your dog, or setting up your dog, means to position it in
a standing position with both front legs parallel and both back legs parallel.

The dog should always be on your left side. When you first enter the ring, most judges will look over the entire line-up in the stacked position. After moving the dogs around the ring as a group, the judge will again examine your dog on the ground or on the table in the stacked position. After the judge finishes examining and gaiting each dog, he/she will again look at the entire group in the stacked position. So the judge will see your dog stacked a large percentage of the time so how well you stack your dog could play an important part in where you eventually place.

After stopping your dog move the collar to the top of the neck, right behind the ears. Gather the lead into your hand and hold the portion of the lead that goes around the dog's neck as the handle. This will give you more control and make it easier to make a correction if he moves. Be sure to keep some tension on the lead as you are setting your dog's legs.

Begin with the OUTSIDE LEFT FRONT leg, grasping it just below the elbow and setting it down so it is under the shoulder (see photo).

Repeat this step with the RIGHT FRONT leg, making sure the front legs are parallel with each other. It is important to make sure the dog's legs are set under the shoulder because if they are stacked too far forward or backward it will result in an incorrect rocking horse outline.

To set the rear legs, start with the OUTSIDE LEFT BACK leg and set it so the hock is perpendicular to the ground; i.e. so it forms a 90 degree angle with the ground (see photo)

Now set the INSIDE RIGHT BACK leg in the same manner. Once both back legs are stacked check to make sure the legs are parallel with each other and the hocks are perpendicular to the ground.

Now position the dog's head in a manner similar to the dog below.

C. Gaiting. Whippets are gaited at a trot, and are normally allowed to move at their own pace (as long as it's not too fast). The judge is looking at HOW the dog moves, not how fast.

The three most commonly used gaiting patterns are the 1) Down and Back, 2) Triangle and 3) "L" (see diagrams).

In all three gaiting patterns you may keep the show lead in your left hand, or you may change hands to minimize blocking the judge's view of your dog, whatever is more comfortable for you. Switching hands is an option and involves switching the lead from one hand to the other to gait the dog on the opposite side. The decision on when and where to switch hands will depend on the pattern you are performing and the position of the judge.

The best advice to improve your ring techniques is to Practice. When time permits, practice the down and back, triangle and "L" on your own. This will enable your dog to become more familiar with the routine and allow you to become a "team" with your dog.

Good luck and have fun!

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