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Baiting or Begging?

PBGV GCh. Jodell Boogie Back To Texas free stacking (left), and 15-inch Beagle GCh. Belcanto Flags A'flyin showing off in the ring at Westminster 2012.

The adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is exactly what comes to mind when I look at these two photos. What they convey to me is the difference between baiting and begging. Neither is right nor wrong, depending on the timing and situation, of course.

We train our show dogs to bait in the ring right? Well, when they aren’t free stacking during their examination, what exactly do you suppose is going through their minds – and not only at shows, but at home as well?

We all know food is a great tool to teach our show dogs how to bait, but where is that fine line between baiting and begging? This is a complex question, I know!

Some dogs are what we like to call “food motivated” all the time, while others are just food-motivated when in the ring. When we first train puppies, we more than likely use bait and toys as tools. The puppies are encouraged to walk on a lead, stack and free stack through a little bribery.

Initially when our dogs first start begging for food, we don’t think much of it. In fact, it’s pretty adorable. Who doesn’t want their dogs to do cute little tricks for a cookie or run around in circles before dinner? Unfortunately in the long run, this can become a serious problem. Once it gets to the point where the presence of food results in a dog whining or jumping excessively, that’s when we have to ask ourselves, “Has this gone too far?”

It’s always easier to blame your dogs’ behavior on someone or something else. In the end, of course, we are the ones to “blame.” I’m not implying that someone needs to be blamed, I’m just saying that sometimes we tend to under-think what we’re doing. We automatically reinforce these habits, and the begging-like behaviors escalate.

Look, I’m the first to admit my guilt, but sometimes I just can’t refuse those doe-eyed looks and cute tricks!

There’s nothing we love more than for our dogs to have that something extra in the ring. Being showy and loving to bait are things that can step up a dog’s performance in no time! But there’s a big difference between a dog having fun baiting and one that is a whining beggar.

Something that I’ve seen done at shows – that I believe is genius – is to have a special treat to use in the ring that the dog doesn’t receive on a normal basis. For example, if you go out to dinner and get steak, save a little extra to throw in the cooler to use the next day as your “secret weapon.” I’ve seen this work magnificently in the past, so if you haven’t tried it yet, go for it!

One of our jobs as dog owners is to differentiate that fine line between baiting and begging. Knowing the difference can ensure that our dogs are well-behaved, happy and healthy!

Don’t forget, Dogs Freakin’ Rule!

Written by

Kayla Bertagnolli is a 23-year-old from Ogden, UT, who's been involved in the dog show world her whole life. A former junior handler who learned about breeding Beagles from her mother Leah, she assisted several professional handlers and is currently working to become a Junior Showmanship judge. Kayla is passionate about photography and writes the twice-weekly blog, DFR. She plans to continue breeding and showing, and expects to stay involved in dogs "for life!"
  • Leslee April 5, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    Great article Kayla!

  • Ruth April 5, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    Love it, Kayla! I’m Corbin’s human (the 15-inch Beagle GCh. Belcanto Flags A’Flyin pictured above). Corbin’s mother Maggie taught him this, but I’m sure I reinforced it! When I showed him to his bred-by championship, I didn’t let him beg in the ring, which is my preference. However, during his specials campaign, Christopher Keith did allow it as Corbin would get bored (understandable). (I’ve seen some of Corbin’s puppies do this, I could swear there’s a gene for it!) Love the special treat tip, will try with my puppies coming up!

  • Tracy Yeanish April 5, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    Kayla, nice article, but I do have a difference of opinion. What I see in the beagle is a dog who has learned to be more than a specimen for reed statuary. I see a happy dog in the ring with a human he likes/relishes being with. And maybe there might be a little more going on in the brain case [what has earned a treat previously?]. Cute tricks make the WKC audience go crazy! and it livens a somewhat monotonous group experience when the focus is not specifically on that dog; but is it bad sportsmanship? not necessarily, the handlers goal is to make their dog be noticed isn’t it? I’m not saying do a full trick performance after individual go round, but tricks are a stress reliever in one of dogdoms most stressful times.

  • Lynda Beam (Canine Candids by Lynda) April 6, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    There is also a fine line (ok, maybe not so fine … between baiting and FEEDING). Didn’t affect me so much as a exhibitor … other than some judges not wanting bait in the ring anymore, but as a photographer I can certainly understand why! There are some dogs I would love to take photographs of, but all I would get is a hand feeding the dog!

  • Lynda Beam (Canine Candids by Lynda) April 6, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    P.S. one of the ways I train my dogs to bait is to train them to catch. You can get their attention by making the tossing motion as long as you once in a while come through with the treat.

  • Nadine Robards April 6, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    Playing catch. A great way to keep you dog on his toes even in a large, slow group!

  • Julie Wright April 7, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    The hound group gets REALLY boring if most of the 24 possibles show up, so when my 15″ beagle, GCh Just-Wright The Full Monty, was on the campaign trail, handler Lindsay Bryson taught him a whole string of tricks to keep him engaged while they were waiting their turn……

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