Relax: 1. Make or become less tense or anxious; 2. Rest or engage in an enjoyable activity so as to become less tired or anxious.
The word itself is pretty simple, really, but as a junior handler this word seems to confuse most everyone when given out by a judge in the juniors ring.
So, what does “relax” in the ring really
There is a very fine line behind this word because – whether we like it or not – every judge runs his or her ring differently. One judge may direct a class to “relax,” and it could literally mean to do nothing with your dog while you wait for your individual turn. Then for another judge, “relax” could mean something else entirely. I remember struggling with this when I was a junior, and there is no way to figure out what it means exactly. Oftentimes, the best solution is to just go with your gut feeling.
Who better to show us how to go with our gut, than this young man whose dog is effortlessly free stacking? You can see the dog is still happy and not overworked.
Today, juniors say that they take the word “relax” either one of two ways. To some this simply means not to be in a hard stack in a straight line while others are being examined. All other things such as free stacking and working with your dog are OK. To others, it means no stacking and no free stacking, just playing and relaxing with your dog.
As I mentioned, there is such a fine line between these two things that the best way to “relax” is to do a little bit of both while watching the judge and others around you.
Perhaps one thing to keep in mind is that one of the main goals in the junior ring – and any ring for that matter – is that we want to keep our dogs happy, right? If we are constantly stacking our dogs or working them they simply will not stay happy. Personally, I watch juniors at every show I attend, and not just one class. I try to stay and watch the whole competition – every single handler in every single class (yes, at times this is impossible, but I try). The one thing that I love to see is a handler having a bit of fun with his or her dog.
In the end, as long as you don’t over-think how much you relax or don’t relax, it probably won’t have an effect on the end result. Just be natural and, like I said, go with your gut feeling. What do you have to lose, right?
I want to know what you think! So, if you have a “relaxing” story that you would like to share or thoughts on this subject, make sure to leave a comment below for all else to read!
It’s still obvious that Dogs Freakin’ Rule!