Showing your dog at dog shows can be lots of fun for you and your dog. Contrary to what many people assume, you don’t have to be wealthy to show your dog. There are thousands of local dog shows all across the U.S. and Canada each year and they attract hundreds of thousands of dog lovers. Showing dogs is often a family activity with husbands, wives, and kids involved. Many people are involved in shows for decades because they love dogs and they make good friends with other exhibitors.

 

Getting Started

If you think you might like to get involved in showing your dog, the best thing to do is to attend a dog show – without your dog. Go to a show and just watch what goes on. If you’re not familiar with how dogs are judged or how a show operates, check out the AKC’s page A Beginner’s Guide To Dog Shows http://classic.akc.org/events/conformation/beginners.cfm Basically, judging starts with the breed ring, where each breed is judged, based on different classes (age groups, male/female, etc.). Once the Best of Breed for each breed is chosen, the judging moves on in the afternoon to the groups. Breeds are divided into groups based on their original functions (Sporting, Herding, Toy, Working, Hounds, Terriers, and Non-Sporting). Each group is judged separately. Finally, once the winners of the groups are selected, the winners meet for Best In Show judging.

 

One thing that many people don’t realize about dog shows is that they aren’t beauty contests. The prettiest dog doesn’t necessarily win. Dog shows were developed from the beginning to evaluate potential breeding stock for each breed. Each breed has a breed standard that gives details about how a breed should look so it can perform its original job. Throughout the judging from the breed ring to Best In Show, each dog is evaluated according to the breed standard for its breed. That’s how a Chihuahua can be judged in the same ring with a Great Dane. The judge is judging each dog against its breed standard to see how close it comes to the ideal for that breed.

 

Showing A Dog

After visiting a dog show, if you think you would like to get involved in showing, you should think about the breed and dog you would like to show. Some breeds are easier for a novice handler to show with success than others. In some breeds people are more likely to employ professional handlers to show their dogs. You can start doing some research by visiting the web sites for the breeds that interest you. Every breed registered by the American Kennel Club has a parent breed club and that club should have a web site with information about the breed. They should also list a contact person so you can get more information and ask some questions.

 

For example, here is the parent breed club web site for the American Shih Tzu Club: http://americanshihtzuclub.org/ This is just a sample but you can see that it has information about breeder referral as well as other information about the breed.

 

If you are interested in showing, you should talk to a breeder about getting a show quality puppy or dog to show. Even if you already have a dog you love, it’s important to show a dog that is considered to be “show quality.” This means that, in the opinion of the breeder and other dog show people, such as judges, the dog comes close to fitting the breed standard that is used for judging. It doesn’t mean that your dog at home is not as good. It just means that a show quality dog can compete in the show ring. If you show a dog that is not show quality, you will probably spend a lot of time and money and end up disappointed.

 

Preparing to Show

Once you have a show quality dog or puppy, you will need to do some things to get ready to show. Talk to your breeder about learning to groom your dog for shows. If you have a shorthaired breed, this is usually easy. But if you have a longhaired breed or a breed that requires some special grooming such as a Poodle or some of the Terrier breeds, you will need someone to help you with the grooming or teach you how to do it. It can take a lot of practice to learn to groom some breeds for the show ring.

 

If you’re going to show your dog yourself, you should also try to attend some handling classes. Many local kennel clubs offer handling classes a couple of months before their local shows. You can contact them to see if they’re offering classes. Some handlers or retired handlers also offer seminars and classes on handling and these are usually well worth attending.

 

Before the Show

You can find information about upcoming shows on sites such as InfoDog.com and make entries there. As the day of the show approaches, you should practice moving with your dog and setting him up or “stacking” him in his position for the judge to go over him. This is especially important with a wiggly puppy. Make sure your dog is also used to having someone examine his “bite” or teeth. If you have a male dog, he should be comfortable with someone feeling his testicles.

 

You’ll want to make sure your dog is clean and groomed so he is looking his best. Make sure his nails are nice and short and his teeth are clean. Even the smallest things can make a difference in the show ring.

 

You should get your exhibitor information in the mail a few days before the show. It will tell you the time you show and your ring number. You can usually set up in the grooming area at the show the day before the show if you have a grooming table, dryer, or other equipment.

 

Be sure to get to the show early so you can be well-prepared. This will also give you some extra time in case you have any emergencies before the show. Make sure to walk your dog before going in the ring. Many exhibitors like to tuck a comb in their pocket, along with some bait for their dog, and a spray bottle of water in case their dog gets thirsty. You might also want to take a towel for your dog to lie on outside the ring.

 

Pick up your armband number a few minutes before your time to show and fix it in place on your arm. Then wait your turn to go in the ring. And, you’re ready to show!