DS230: Conformation Skillbuilding 1

Instructor: Sue Ailsby

Course Details

"Conformation classes" usually involve a lot of walking around in circles, stopping, and showing your dog's teeth to somebody. That's fine as far as it goes, but what about all the skills the dog needs to show himself to his best advantage?

Hand stacking, free stacking, shifting centre of gravity, giving attention and expression, gaiting, baiting, being comfortable with being examined - as well as incidental arts such as relaxing on the grooming table, sleeping quietly in a crate, and peeing on cue - these are skills which divide winners from "cannon fodder" in the show ring.

This class is divided into Conformation Skillbuilding 1 and Conformation Skillbuilding 2. The two semesters will take you from rank beginner to competent owner-handler. Better yet, they'll take your dog from cheerful bouncer to competent show dog!

The best handlers always look like they're doing nothing at all, that they're only there because it isn't legal for the dog to be in the ring alone. That's because the best handlers have dogs trained so the handler is able to sit back and let the judge and gallery see the dog on display, rather than a handler struggling to get a dog to stand still. The best dogs look like they know what they're doing and do it naturally.

If you're ready to teach your dog to show everybody the best he can be, this class is for you. This is not a showmanship class. The training here is for your dog. You've seen dogs in the ring who don't know why they're there, don't know what's going to happen next, and don't know why the judge is staring at them. And you've seen them lose. I can't guarantee that training your dog will make him win in the show ring, but I can guarantee that without training, you're wasting your time and money. Nobody in any other dogsport would take an untrained dog in the ring. Why should you?

It's called a dog SHOW, right? Go in there and show them what a well-trained, happy, confident dog looks like! 

This first 6-week session in Conformation Skillbuilding will work in three areas: focus, hand stacking, and gaiting on the circle. Grooming and handling questions are welcome as well.



Next session starts: August 1, 2017
Registration starts: July 22, 2017
Registration ends: August 15, 2017

Available as pre-requisite purchase at this time.

For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.


Pre-Class Information available when registration closes:

- Clicker Basics

- Ring Rules

- Structure and Movement

- Conformation Type

- EE HAH! Touch me!

- EEK! Don't touch me!

- Teaching Comfort on the Table.

- Teaching the Stand






1a. Focus - The Yes Hand.

1b. Stacking - Muzzle Targets.

1c. Gaiting - Leash Zen.

1d. Tinkle, Darling!



2a. Focus - The No Hand.

2b. Stacking - Moving the Head.

2c. Gaiting - Pushing into Pressure (anti-Zen).

2d. Respect.

2e. Show Tack.



3a. Focus - Yes and No Hands Together.

3b. Stacking - Hand Stacking the Front End.

3c. Gaiting - The Magic Circle.

3d. Show the Bite.



4a. Focus - The Yes Floor.

4b. Stacking - Hand Stacking the Back End.

4c. Gaiting - Leash the Circle.

4d. TROT, dammit!



5a. Focus - the No Floor.

5b. Stacking - TA DA!

5c. Gaiting - Karen's Circle (Confility)

5d. Spit & Polish.



6a. Focus - Close Encounters with Judges.

6b. Stacking - Keep your Distance.

6c. Gaiting - Stack 1, Stack 2, Stack 3.

6d. Getting That Tail Up.

6e. Walk the Course.

Prerequisites and Equipment



- A food-motivated dog and some experience with clicker training.




- A grooming table. Yes, you too. If you don't have one or your dog is too large for a standard grooming table, you can make do with a piece of plywood covered with non-slip mats. Set this plywood up on bricks to make a very secure platform that is off the ground. Height is not an issue, but a break from the ground will make your life much easier and help you see exactly what your dog is doing with her feet.


- Show tack. The lead and collar of your choice. If you don't know enough yet to HAVE a choice, you are welcome to begin with a small buckle collar and a narrow leash.


- Non-greasy soft bait cut in manageable pieces. If you're using wieners (hot dogs), be sure to roll them in a kitchen towel for a few minutes before you use them to remove the sticky-slippery factor.


- A copy of your own breed standard from the venue you'll be showing in - American Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, Australian Kennel Club, and so on. Each club has their own breed standard and what's considered outstanding in one may be a disqualification in another, so know your standard!


- A long leash - at least 6 feet. This doesn't have to be a show lead.


Course Testimonials


I have taken handling classes before, but the information and videos from the Conformaiton materials were clear and very useful, and my handling skills have improved, as well as my dogs understanding of what she needs to do. Bonnie C.             

I felt that this was the best Fenzi course I have taken yet. I was really impressed by the instructors knowledge and ability to teach this in small easy to learn bits. I have taken other courses where the course work was to vague or too much to achieve. She also encouraged us to work on each part until we have mastered it. I never felt behind and I loved the MANY lessons rather than one big lesson once a week. Elizabeth Z.       

I was a bronze level student in Sue's conformation skills class.-This is my first time taking an online course from FA. Wow! Very thorough and more information than I could process in 6 weeks. I'm so glad that I have access for another year. There was no "fluff" only relevant, interesting and helpful information. And a LOT of it. I hate to say it was a fantastic bargain for fear you'll raise the fee. ;) I more than got my money's worth, and will definitely sign up for more classes. Thank you, thank you. Cindy S.           

Perfect course for me. The finer techniques to stacking that I have been needing and wanting to learn for yrs but hadn't been able to find that person to teach me.      

I have shown in conformation with some success and continue to view DVDs and attend shows to observe and learn. This class is totally unique and teaches us to train our dog and ourselves like nothing I've seen before. We are still working through the course materials and progressing slowly, but most definitely surely. Lila H.       

Sue is a rare gem; the right balance of compassion and firmness with the ability to share her vast knowledge effectively.         

I paid twenty dollars an hour to run my puppy around a ring with other dogs and never got the tinest fraction of information that I got in this class!