So, you think you have a pretty nice dog and you’ve decided you want to try entering a dog show.
Dog shows can be great fun. You’ll meet other people with your breed and with a little bit of luck and some perseverance you’ll be able to add a title to your dog’s registered name. Champion Spot; how does that sound? Or Grand Champion; how cool is that?
The best way to learn how to show your dog is to attend Conformation handling classes. These are informal classes that teach both you and your dog what you need to know to show your dog. If there are no classes in your area, perhaps you know someone who shows their dog and they can give you a few tips.
If none of those options are available, just go to a show when one is in your area. For the first show, it might be a good idea if you leave Spot home. This will let you get things figured out before introducing your dog to shows. If you’re more relaxed, your dog will relax better, too.
Watch how dogs of your breed are posed, or stacked, for the judge to evaluate and examine them. Notice how the exhibitors show their dog’s teeth, or bite, to the Judge. Study the different patterns the Judge asks the exhibitors to use when they gait their dogs. They can ask for a simple straight up and back or an “L”. Some patterns are a little more difficult, but none are so daunting they can’t be mastered with a little practice. Note that the dog’s lead is usually in the exhibitor’s left hand, and that the dogs are gaited around the ring in a counter-clockwise direction.
At the next show, take your dog with you and work on getting him used to the sights and sounds. Talk to him in a calm, soothing voice. Encourage him when someone comes up to pet him. It’s important that dogs allow the Judge to examine them without twisting or turning.
When you think you’ve both got it down pat, go ahead and enter a show. All the information you need can be found on your dog’s registration certificate. You’ll just have to figure out which age class your dog belongs in. Once you’re entered, go to your ring and wait for your class to be called.
Here is a list of tips. If you keep these in mind, you’ll be on your way to showing your first dog successfully.
- Dress in clean, casual clothes that fit well, allowing you to bend and move without restriction. UKC shows are not usually “dressy” affairs, so you don’t need to show up in formal attire. But a good rule of thumb is that the way you dress reflects the way you feel about the event and the proceedings. You and your dog will each be part of the “team” that is presented to the judge, and a little extra attention paid to your attire will make you look better in a picture, should you win!
- Shortly after you arrive and find a place to put your crate, you should pick up your armband at the club table. The armband goes on your left arm, secured by a rubber band.
- Keep an eye on your ring and the order of judging (usually posted near the ring entrance) so you don’t miss your class. Once the breed listed just before yours is being judged have your dog on its lead and ready to go at ringside. Watch how the judge runs his ring, where he asks people to pose their dog for examination, what pattern he asks exhibitors to use to gait their dog, etc.
- When you are called into the ring, listen closely to the judge’s instructions. Judges usually ask for larger classes to line up in numerical order. The dog’s lead goes in your left hand, putting the dog on your left.
- Many times the judge will first ask the class to go around the ring together. Travel counter-clockwise around the ring. Leave some space between you and the dogs around you and move your dog at a trot.
- When the judge is ready to examine your dog you should have it posed in a show pose. The judge will ask to see the dog’s “bite,” which means the way the incisors meet with the dog’s jaws closed. In some breeds they may ask to see the sides of the dog’s bite as well. Once this is done, the judge will examine the dog’s physical structure.
- The judge will then ask you to gait your dog in a pattern. This could be a simple “down and back” in a straight line beginning and ending at the judge, or perhaps a triangle, an “L” or whatever. It’s important to watch the classes before you so you’ll know what to expect.
- Keep your dog alert and on its feet while in the ring. Don’t let them lay down.
It may seem like a lot to remember, but after a couple of shows you’ll be showing your dog like an expert. Good luck!
For more helpful information, please watch Dog Show Tips with Will Alexander