if I can dig into my past life -- I am sure that this situation still exists, when I was handling one of the major out cries from the judges was " slow down, I want to see your dog at a walk". Do you know how many times the entries were stopped , spoken to , and restarted . This was at specialties level , not so much all-breed.
Faster and crazy does not show anything in a good light.
Gaiting the dog is an obedience exercise. Simple as that . It is not a wild running spree , spurts of speed, galloping , pacing. You have to be in control. No whiping out on the corners .
So you start to have the dog learn to move ahead , on command , about half a leash's length. You see that an even speed is maintained , in that position, till you say otherwise . This would be at a fast walk . When you are sure that the dog understands what is expected then give a little more length of leash till he /she is at the end always maintaining that regulated speed . No pulling , that changes the topline. That is another thing the judges were always yelling out "I want to see loose leads " . Here is where you really see the dog .
Conditioning the dog is important . That is not shampooing the dog and blow drying it , it is getting them out there and doing roadwork . Get the dogs respiratory and cardiac system fit. Get on a bike and do gentle road work . A good shepherd has a natural gait at about 7 miles per hour - that is a good brisk pace . When the dog is fit and the muscles are toned you can increase the speed somewhat but the dog must always be in a trot , not gallop or pace. It becomes a habit , a muscle memory.
Teach the dog to slow down and stand -- . The judge may want to see how the dog balances itself in the exam for forward action , when you are running to the judge. They may ask you to stop for a moment . They look to see if the dog places his front east-west , and then they ask you to go away and around the ring again for the side.
Then you stack your dog. You never for a moment rest , even if the judge is looking at another dog -- you don't know what they are looking for. Yours might just have that one thing the judge is picky about , that the other dog does not . Could be balance front to rear, could be strength over the back/topline (conditioning is a major help) could be feet, pasterns , head . Always think that you have a chance and compete.
Don't get your handling education in an official trial. If you do poorly because of bad handling you will have a disadvantage each time you show -- you get that reputation .
Get your self out to SANCTION matches . Here the "judge" and the "ring steward" will help you . Here you can ask the judge , politely, what you can do with your entry - they may say , look he turns his right foot out he is not as tight in his right elbow when you stack him give his leg a little twist from the elbow and get that foot underneath him straight. You get some of the nervousness out in the sanction matches, you learn ring etiquette and courtesies for the judge. In a real show they are professional , you are up against professionals and they expect you to be professional.
In a real show thank the judge no matter what , don't ask them to justify their decision and don't have the dog releave himself in the ring , prepare yourself
hows that for you -- brings it all back to me -- all those Sunday afternoons in some arena --
Carmspack Working German Shepherd Dogs