9 Steps to Getting Started Showing Dogs (Video) - Simply For Dogs
Showing Dogs

9 Steps to Getting Started Showing Dogs (Video)


I recently attended a meet up for Boxer lovers with Janice and Leroy, which was a ton of fun. Not only did I learn a lot and meet a lot of new dogs, but I also got to watch an event where Boxers competed in a show. It was a lot like an AKC dog show, but with just Boxers. Prizes were awarded for the most show worthy example of the breed standard, as well as for tricks like the ones in this book, obedience, and other things. Think of it like Miss America for Boxers, with several categories and different competitions – except way more fun because it had dogs!

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While I was watching this event, I got to wondering about showing dogs. It’s not something that I’ve ever done, and I don’t think it’s for me in the long run – I much prefer snuggling up with Janice and Leroy for some Netflix, than spending our weekends going through training drills. But it’s still a really neat thing to watch, and I hope to watch a lot more of it. That means, of course, that there will need to be more people getting involved with it to keep the sport alive, so I rounded up a few tips for interested parties. If you’ve ever wondered how to get started with dog showing, here are the steps you need to take.

Before You Start Showing

1. Start your search for a show dog early

Did you know that it can take years to actually acquire a show-worthy dog? Apparently, you cannot just call up a breeder and say you want a show-worthy specimen. There are wait lists for the cream of the crop when it comes to dogs that have show lineage (meaning their parents or grandparents were shown). And most breeders understand tat their name, and thus reputation, will be attached to a dog that goes to shows. If you are a nobody who doesn’t have a track record of training winners, a breeder may not want to sell you a show dog – after all, they’d be putting their name on the line for an unknown player. With all that in mind, you may have to wait quite a few years before you find a breeder that will sell you the show-worthy dog you’ve been looking for. Get that search started right away while you’re still learning!

2. Understand the lingo of showing dogs

A few months back, I put together this dictionary of dog show terms on the blog. Many of these are things that most dog owners don’t know off hand. For example, did you know that a “brace” of show dogs means two dogs that are shown together as a pair? This is done more as a testament to the breeding – the point is for the breeder to get kudos on their consistency in breeding techniques. That’s just one example of the many minute little details about dog show lingo that you’ll want to know. While you are waiting for the perfect show dog to land in your lap, you can be learning all that you need to know about the world of dog shows.

3. Make an informed decision about show dogs vs. family pets

If you want your show dog to also be a family pet, be sure you read up on the requirements for show dogs. For example, most show dogs need to be intact (meaning you can’t spay or neuter) so you’ll have to be more responsible when you have your family pet out in the yard or walking around town on the leash. Keep in mind as well that while you may love a few quirks of character and appearance in your family pet, a show dog has to be as close to perfect as possible in both looks and temperament, according to breed standards. The bottom line is that buying a show dog is committing to treating this dog like a professional performer, not just like a pet. That doesn’t mean you can’t love them, but you will have to reframe your mindset a bit. The dog can’t just be a part of the family – they’ll need a training schedule, a specific diet, and so on.

4. Understand that you may end up co-owning a show dog

In some cases, breeders prefer to co-own a dog that is being shown so that they can maintain breeding rights or protect the dog from irresponsible breeding. This is actually a very common practice in the dog show world, so don’t be surprised if it comes up. You will definitely have to sign some kind of contract if you want to buy a show-quality dog, so be prepared to read that thoroughly and understand which rights you have and which rights the breeder will keep. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something in the contract! There are many very common stipulations in contracts for show dogs that could sound harsh if this is your first show dog. For example, if a dog has been bred specifically to be show worthy, and you buy it to show, it’s common for breeders to stipulate that you must show the dog within a certain time frame, or they will be allowed to repossess the dog. This is so that their hard work breeding this perfect specimen doesn’t go to waste.

To Get Started Showing

5. Register the dog with the AKC

The very first thing to do after you get your dog is to ensure that they are registered with the AKC. You can’t show a dog that isn’t registered, and this is used to prove their lineage and breed as well. Not to mention it solidifies your dog’s place in the breed’s history, so should they turn out to be a big winner, the record will already exist. This requires an application being sent to the AKC, and is often handled by the breeder. AKC registrations come with a few side perks as well, like a trial run of the AKC pet insurance. You also get the satisfaction of helping support the many good things the AKC does for dogs through your registration fee.

6. Choose the right class for your dog

There are a great many types of shows and classes that your dog can compete in. Be sure to read the description of a show thoroughly to know where your dog should and should not be entered. For example, some dogs are entered in Ringcraft shows, where they will perform some basic agility and obedience tricks. Others are simply beauty contests, more or less. Be sure you look at the level of dog show as well. Limited Shows, for example, are usually a small group populated by a specific breed club, while Premier Open Shows are a type of large show with tons of pedigree dogs. There are many other types, and with over 200 different breeds recognized by the AKC, you can find shows going on all the time.

7. Always keep a close eye on your dog’s health

One thing that is paramount for a show dog is to be in good health. First off, an unhealthy dog will be disqualified or will plain lose a show. The judges are looking for dogs that are the prime example of the breed, and if the dog is in any way not at peak condition, he won’t go far. But also, it’s important for your dog to be under supervision, because these events can be stressful. There’s a lot of pressure to please their person, there’s a lot of new dogs to ignore, and there’s a lot of excitement in the air. Plus, being around so many people and new dogs means more chances for bacteria and germs to be spread. You may want to give your dog an immune support supplement in addition to maintaining regular vet visits.

8. Both you and your dog need training

There are many things that a dog needs to learn in order to be a good show dog. It’s not a matter of just standing there, and even if it was, dogs aren’t naturally very good at just standing for long periods of time. There is no dog that is born a show dog. You’ll have to work with them to teach them how to go through a routine, how to stand for inspection, how to handle constant grooming, how to deal with frequent travel, and much more. For those who do dog shows, think of this as your equivalent of teaching a dog to play a lot of games like fetch. Instead of focusing on companionship-building games, however, you’re teaching your dog to be the dog world’s equivalent of a celebrity.

But your dog isn’t the only one who needs “training”. Becoming a dog shower means that you need to learn what you are doing as well. It’s a very good idea to attend some club-sponsored classes to learn how to show a dog in an event. Did you know that the way you handle the dog, the way you stand or move, or even the way you dress, could add or detract points from your dog’s score? You’re being judged as well! So you’ll have to learn how to be a performer as much as your dog, and it’s a very good idea to start with some of the smaller events, like breed club shows, before you head to the large AKC-organized events.

One Final Tip for Dog Showing

9. Consider hiring a professional handler

My last tip may seem like a cop out, but hear me out. If you want to show your dog, chances are you are just really interested in the breed and its standards. Having a show dog is like having a prize horse. You love the events, and you love the breed, but you don’t necessarily want to be the person in the race. Having a professional handler is a very common thing in the world of dog showing. These people have made a living out of being great performers, and are also typically dog trainers as well. They’ll present your dog in the best way possible, and work with the dog to ensure that she is also a great performer. If you’re interested in really putting your amazing dog on display in a way that gives her the best chance at a win, this could be a really good option for you.

You need to be careful when choosing a handler, however. These people will literally be taking care of your dog, and there needs to be a deep level of trust there. Your dog will need to be able to follow this person’s commands and enjoy being around them, because they’ll be spending a lot of time together. So take your time with interviewing the professionals till you find someone you really feel comfortable with.

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The Final Word

At the end of the day, I think the world of dog shows is very interesting, and I would urge anyone who is really obsessed with dogs to give it a try. It may not end up being what you want to do forever, but the experience would be really fun at least one time! Of course, if you do get a show-worthy dog, be aware that you’ve made a commitment to the breeder and anyone else involved that you’ll stick with it – or risk losing the dog due to common contract clauses. So think long and hard about it before you decide to sink the money and time into dog shows.

The only thing to do now is to start thinking about what dog breed you might want to show, and build your knowledge while you look for that show-worthy puppy. Start attending as many shows as you can in the mean time to get a handle on the culture, lingo, and rules of the events – you never know when that perfect pup might appear!




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