Litter evaluator. Puppy kindergarten teacher. Teenager (human or canine) bootcamp drill sergeant. Handling instructor. Breeding plans advisor. Therapist. Veterinary assistant. Stud dog manager.

These are just a few of the services handlers provide their clients, in addition to grooming, conditioning and traveling. Oh, yeah, and we run around the ring, too.

For many of us, these are simply value-added items for which we do not charge.

So, in the spirit of offering services pro bono, I thought we could add a slightly new dimension to the column.

Introducing “Handling Tips FAQ.” Anyone with a question they’d like addressed in the area of handling their dog, from simple to complex, drop me an email at

Meanwhile, I’ll get us started with a common topic.

Pacing 101

I can remember standing outside a ring at the Gig Harbor Kennel Club dog show watching Vizslas, maybe 15 years ago. An obviously novice exhibitor was attempting to move her lovely dog to the judge’s satisfaction. The VERY famous judge was clearly becoming more and more frustrated while attempting to tell the exhibitor how to fix the dog’s pacing. Finally, in a completely illegal moment, the judge turned teacher, grabbed the dog from the exhibitor and ran it around the ring without pacing. The judge returned the dog to the exhibitor and said, “There, that’s how you do it.” When the exhibitor *still* was unable to manage the exercise correctly, the judge handed her a blue ribbon in the class of one, looked wildly around the ring, glommed onto me and said, “Hey, you, come show this dog.” Flabbergasted, I did as I was told. The dog didn’t pace and it won the points.

The pace is a two-beat lateral gait in which the legs on each side move back and forth exactly as a pair causing a rolling motion of the dogs body.

Pacing is a mode of travel which is easy for some dogs. It can denote a structural issue or simply laziness on the dog’s part. When a dog paces, the legs on each side move forward at the same time. Rather than right front/left rear, then left front/right rear, the dog will carry right front/right rear, left front/left rear. The dog’s movement will feel awkward up the leash, the body will roll from side to side and it is very obvious to an experienced observer.

Training a dog not to pace and correcting the pace in the ring are both important skills. In training sessions, the dog should be moved with a spotter if you aren’t comfortable identifying the improper movement alone. If the dog is pacing, the handler’s job is to provide a little lift to adjust his balance. This can be done with the leash and collar, or a beard if it’s handy!

Both training and in the ring, start the dog in a slightly larger than normal courtesy turn, such that the dog is actually slightly behind the judge when you begin your pattern. I normally teach folks 1-2-3 goooooooo in a gradual increase in speed to produce collected, correct movement. With a pacing dog, the goal is 1-2, lift, go. Ideally, your lift will happen at or behind the judge’s peripheral vision such that by the time they see the dog moving, it is traveling properly and smoothly.

Every dog is different in this area. Some will pop right out of the pace. Some I’ve shown over the years could switch from correct movement to a pace on the fly. Generally, though, keeping the dog moving will prevent his switching gears from a correct show ring trot to a pace.

In all things to do with handling your dog, practice makes perfect. ALL dogs are imperfect in some way. Know what is good AND bad about your dog and learn how to present the dog in his best light.

I’m looking forward to continued conversations. Feel free to include comments on the BISD website or Facebook page.

As always, this is JMHO.