Preparing Your Dog for its First Show
Getting your dog ready for its first show is an exciting and potentially highly rewarding time. And, as with most things, the more prepared you and your pooch are, the more you will enjoy the first occasion your pet is on display. And it doesn’t have to be an intimidating experience.
Once you have committed to showing, think about the type of event you want to enter your animal for. There are several to look into, from quite serious and prestigious championships to charity and fun events.
Decide whether you want to go for an open show or a single breed one – many people start off a dog’s showing career with the former, since open events are generally good testing arenas if you’re new to exhibiting.
You’ll also need to consider what class you want to enter your canine for: generally you can enter in as many different categories as you like. Make sure all the relevant paperwork is in order, and save time by entering online.
It’s also an excellent idea to chat to owners who have shown animals before, and attend some shows before exhibiting yourself to get a feel for what goes on. If you can’t get to a real show, consider watching one on a DVD.
Know what to expect and study all the literature you get sent ahead of the event, as well as doing your research online.
You’ll also need a thorough understanding of your dog’s breed, and the American Kennel Club requirements for the breed. Sometimes, if one of the animal’s legs is just one inch too long, it can mean disqualification.
Training for the Ring
Getting your dog to perform well in the ring is much more difficult than it may appear. Judges will not be impressed if your animal just ambles around aimlessly or ungracefully, or slouches in a corner.
And, for example, your dog needs to stand still and to attention after parading round the ring, rather than lying down. (How your pet stands in the ring in front of the judges is known as dog show stacking. The dog must position their feet according to the breed, since each one has its own stacking position.)
Essentially, you have to make your pooch want to show off for its owner! The best way to make this happen is for both of you to work hard together.
One thing you can do is train your dog at classes: you should find these sociable and enjoyable occasions where you get to meet like-minded people, and where your pet will learn to develop the confidence he needs to be in the spotlight at shows.
Some clubs run trial shows now and then so members can see how their animals are progressing.
Given that these classes also teach things like socialization and how to walk on a lead in an orderly way without allowing themselves to be distracted, you may even find training classes fun and useful even if you are not seriously considering showing your pooch.
Nothing is less likely to lose you favour with the judges than a dirty or ill-groomed canine. A bath for your dog is, of course, a prerequisite. Serious exhibitors will have a range of shampoos and conditioners to meet the needs of the coat on the day. Trim and shape the coat as you dry the dog. Sometimes, you may need to trim just fractions of an inch off.
There are owners who feel that a very recent bath can take the sheen and natural oils from a coat, and give it a dull appearance, especially for dogs of a darker color, but you will need to make your own judgment.
If you are showing a flat-coated dog, pin a large towel around him when he’s been bathed, to help lay the coat.
One of the mistakes many first-time exhibitors make is to let a dog become over-heated while waiting to show their animal in the ring. You could be standing around waiting to go on for up to an hour, and your pet could be panting hard and have become very restless by the time their moment in the spotlight comes.
Keep your pet well-watered at all times and make sure it gets enough shade – having the tongue hanging out a mile is not a good look, whatever breed you are showing.
Be organised the night before, and have ready everything you need to take with you. (You may want to write a list, especially ahead of your first show.)
You’ll need health records and to have all vaccinations up to date. This is an entry requirement and will safeguard your pet against disease.
With a little forward planning and thought, you can make your dog’s first show an event to remember.