Posing the Lionhead on the show table
comments by Gail Gibbons, holder of the first COD for the Lionhead breed

I get asked all the time how to teach a Lionhead to pose?
First you have to understand not all Lionheads will pose. Some are simply
limited by their body type. A correct Lionhead needs a high head set with a
rather straight shoulder. If they are built long and low to the ground they will
not pose up. Study the image at the right of a Lionhead with the wool removed
and the standard to make sure your Lionhead has the correct type.

Next is temperament. You and the judge will need to be able to place your
hands around the Lionhead's head. If you are afraid of being bitten then you
need to work on correcting temperament. Lionheads are a gentle breed and
the comments we see about them biting on websites and it articles is sad.
We do not tolerate nasty rabbits (or dogs for that matter) . Some does may
exhibit cage aggressiveness when they want to be bred or have new babies
but an animal should never bite a human when it is simply being handled.

If your Lionhead has the correct temperament and body type the rest is pretty easy. There is never a guarantee that any
animal will like going to shows, some just simply never show off well because they just hate the commotion or being away
from home. For rabbits that like the whole show scene they will even look forward to going and be upset when left behind.

We start working with our rabbits at very young ages. I like to have them very comfortable with being handled by 3 weeks
old. I find it embarrassing to pick up baby rabbits that scream when touched in a fear response. They should be used to
human touch. Taking out your babies and playing with them by teaching them to sit on a grooming table is a huge step.

At 4 weeks you can begin basic show training. This includes not only posing, but turning them over or looking at the teeth
and nails. We try to limit exposing the genitals as it can be irritating to their privates if you do it too often.

Do not be above using treats. When I trained rabbits for the use in modeling (magazine advertising) and in the photo studio
with children, I always used food rewards. Good choices are Honey Nut Cheerios or raisins. We used to feed raisins to
bunnies on a white tile floor to teach them to sit and not run off the white set background. We found red licorice (which really
has no licorice in it at all) dangled up to encourage a rabbit to stand on the hind legs or pose up on a chair or table worked
well. It also works with adult rabbits that need to be encouraged to get up off the table in a show pose.
I have found most
rabbits will work for praise and pets but even we humans work for rewards ( money not food, not many of us would go to
work just to hear the boss say "good job".)

We train older and younger Lionheads all the same way, though older ones may need more food treats. Do talk to them
while you work with them. They will learn you voice and respond to the sound. When I walk down a row at a cooped show
you can see all our rabbits turn and scope for me when they hear us talking.

The Lionhead Standard states it is a posed breed.
That means the head is up off the show table. It should NOT be posed down
like a Mini Rex, New Zealand, Mini Satin, Dutch or any of a huge number of
other breeds. Many judges still do not understand that and still position the
Lionhead way too low on the show table. Since most Lionheads are pretty easy
going they just agree and go along with it. Improper posing causes the rear end
to go off looking undercut, makes the rabbit look way too long and often very
low in the shoulders. So a correctly bred and structured Lionhead may get
horrid comments under a judge who is not willing to pose them.
Your best bet
is to teach them to pose and hope they can teach the judge.

* Start by having the rabbit face you.
* Hold the rabbit loosely by the neck with your left hand (if you are right handed) place your thumb under the chin
* cup your other fingers loosely around the neck
(this will prevent the rabbit from backing up or jumping forward)
* with slight pressure raise the head up.
That is all it takes with many Lionheads and they will strike a show pose.
Hopefully when your training is done if a judge does this, yours will just pose up.

After you have your left hand set and you are raising up
if the Lionhead begins to pull away or tries to flatten out
* use your right hand to gently cup the rear quarters
into position.
Sometimes you have to hold the rabbit
that way till it stops struggling but most catch on quickly.

Hint (learned from a wise Brit Breeder/judge) if you have issues or the rabbit has never done this before, tap with your forefinger right between the pin bones. Seems to
work almost every time.

* Once they are posed remove your right hand, still
holding onto the head loosely.
You can now correct
the hind legs
if they are out of position it is important
to teach the rabbit to sit squarely over the rear end

* Remember to keep talking the whole time.
They really do not care what you say they just enjoy
your voice.
* We use a "cue" word that means "hold this pose".
I have used it at shows when one of my rabbits seems upset by the show or the judge and had them settle
down and show fine.

You do not have to be loud, animals hear much better then humans and most people around you and the judge will never know your secret code.

* Once the rabbit is posed as you want stroke the back & keep talking. You will feel them relax their body and you know you are half way done.

Keep working till you can remove both of your hands and the rabbit will
hold the pose. At first it will be only for short periods of time, but they
will get longer.

Remember at your first show the Lionhead may forget the lessons but
be patient and work with them at the show and they will figure it out.

* It is sometimes helpful to have friends at shows pose your Lionheads
so they get used to being handled by many people. Some rabbits love the attention but some really do not like shows or any of the commotion that goes with it.

* We have found by taking them out when they are young they adapt
more quickly.

* Study the standard so you are sure that your Lionhead is posing correctly - not too low but not
to high. It is easy to teach a Lionhead to pose
way to high as they love showing off and find the high vantage point lets them see everything that
is going on.

This little baby
is posed too high
with forefeet and
rear end bunched
under him. His
forefeet are
actually between
his rear feet.

A candid shot that Sarrah took during a grooming/training session, as I reminded Beacon to hold that pose.
Notice how he is paying attention to my voice and hands?

There is nothing that says you have to work with your
Lionheads but when your animals pose like this on a
judging table it is very impressive. If they are correctly
bred for type it just gives them that added edge up in big
classes when a judge can easily see how lovely they are.

back to the Visualization of the Standardback to Cimmaron
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Copyright 2008 Gail Gibbons

Gail, Sarrah & Abby Gibbons
Sara Berks
3276 Walnut St.
Reading, KS 66868
785 528-4414