Finally, we’ve reached the seventh habit, and it’s what I call charisma on command.
There’s something extra special about a winning dog that goes beyond temperament and bone structure, a show-off’s quality that exhibits itself in the ring. The dogs that have it, or can learn to turn it on, have a distinct advantage. Sometimes it shows itself as a connection between the dog and judge. I can always tell within about a minute of being in the ring if Kunga has the chance of winning that day. There’s some kind of energy that he can turn on, seemingly at will, which makes him lift his head, extend his neck and back, and pop his ears forward. It has nothing to do with what’s going on outside the ring (though once a well-placed squirrel at an outdoor show did us a great favor by running up a tree near the ring), or with bait I’m holding. I think it may be a response to the interest of a judge, which you can feel like an electric charge in the air when it’s directed at your dog. I can feel it and I think Kunga feels it too. He always performs better when it happens.
But a truly great show dog would be able to switch on this charisma whenever it’s asked of him. Sometimes you’ll hear a judge say she awarded a win because the dog “asked for it,” which means that dog has thrown the switch and demanded the attention of everyone in the ring. I wish I knew where that button was on Kunga!