5 top tips for showing your dog

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5 top tips for showing your dog

The star of our puppy diaries series, Murdock attended his first dog show last Sunday. As a mixed breed lurcher, the show was just a bit of fun for Murdock, entering classes for the dog that looks most like its owner (second place) and the most handsome dog (the judge was clearly blind). There was also a chance to try some agility. (He wouldn’t go through the tunnel even when I got in it with a dog treat) and he won a race against his friend Marvin, chasing a lure along a purpose-built track. Family dog shows like this can be tremendous fun - as can showing your pedigree dog in the showing ring. It’s a great chance to socialise them with other dogs and talk to other owners about your experiences too.

This week we’re taking a look at some top tips for showing your dog, whether you’re entering your pup in the ‘waggiest tail’ competition at your local fete or taking them all the way to the top at Crufts. 

Dog show photo by Jeyakumaran Mayooresan on Unsplash

1. Socialisation

Although dog shows themselves can be a great way to socialise your dog with other pups and people, it pays to make sure they are well socialised in advance if you want them to behave better in the ring. 

As a lockdown puppy, Murdock was quite nervous of the judge to start with but warmed to her as time went on. Even judges at small country shows might want to run a hand over your dog and inspect their teeth and ears so it is important to make sure your dog is used to being handled in this way and happy to be approached by strangers. Our old dog Beau used to be fine at shows until he had a bad experience at the vet and then he would growl at judges who wanted to inspect him in this way as it reminded him of a medical check up. If you’re going to be showing your dog a lot it is important to make sure their interactions with the judge are positive experiences, take some treats and give them lots of praise. You could even practice at home with people that your dog is unfamiliar with, to get them used to being handled by strangers. 

It is also essential that you ensure that your dog is used to other dogs. They may become excited at all the new sights and smells so keep them calm and focused on you with a toy or treats and praise. 

If you’re showing indoors, you may be walking on different surfaces so make sure they are used to this, so that they walk out properly and don’t mince or creep over unfamiliar textures. Try walking them across lino, concrete, grass, astroturf and rubber matting so that they don’t get phased in an unfamiliar environment.

By working on these things before you get to the show, you will help your dog to develop their confidence and this will shine through in the ring, making them more likely to bring home a prize.

Grooming photo by Abbie Love on Unsplash

2. Grooming

Although it’s not a great idea to wash your dog too much as this can effect the natural oils and texture of their coat, judges do like a clean dog.  

Most breeds should have a bath the day before the show weekend, then brushed and sponge bathed as needed to get them to show standard.

If your dog’s breed is traditionally trimmed in a specific way, get them a fresh cut before the show. If you’re going to be trimming the dog yourself, make sure you’ve had plenty of practice before the show, rather than a last minute dog trimming disaster – you can’t stick that fur back on once it’s been trimmed off!

If you’re going to be grooming your dog at home, we’ve got everything you need to make the process go smoothly. Our grooming tables with leashes and haunch holders will hold your dog firmly in place and fold away neatly when not in use. We also have baths and other equipment – and our dog hairdryer is an Amazon bestseller – you can check them all out in our online shop.

Family dog show photo by Sebastian Coman Travel on Unsplash

3. Position

When you enter the showing ring, experts recommend that you should try not to be the first or last dog in the line-up for your class. Sometimes judges at a pedigree show will make all of the competitors line up in order as printed in the show catalogue but - if you have a choice – aim to position your pooch somewhere in the middle of the line. Here’s why: 

  • If there’s at least one dog ahead of you, you will have more time to brush your pooch and position them before the judge gets to you. The first handler in line doesn’t have as much time to get ready as the judge will come straight up to them when you are asked to line up after you’ve initially walked around the ring.
  • The judge will already be giving all of the dogs a final look as the last handler in line walks their dog around the ring, so if you’re last in the line up this can work against you too.
  • But, if you’re in the middle, you’ll have plenty of time to groom your dog before the judge asks you all to run around the ring again and chooses the winner.

One eye on the judge photo by Blue Bird on Pexels

4. Keep an eye on the judge

Always position your dog between you and the judge so that you aren’t blocking their view of your pooch.

Make sure you know where the judge is standing in the ring at all times and check out what they’re doing. It also makes you look professional as you are unlikely to miss being called up for your judging slot (or a prize!).

Show dog photo by Rosemary Ketchum from Pexels

5. Stay calm

Don’t let nerves get the better of you – these can transmit to your dog, who will pick up on your energy and this could affect their confidence in the ring. You need to work as a team.

Take deep breaths and focus on what’s going on around you. You can’t control who the judge choses and don’t become angry if you don’t win. We all know our own pup is the best and some judges (like the one at the show Murdock went to last weekend) don’t always see what you see.  

If you’re just starting out in the showing world, then tips like these can help, but they are no substitute for expertise. The more you do with your dog, the easier it will get. Also take a look at what the winners in your class are doing and pick up some tips from them. Look at how they handle their dog in the ring and interact with the judge. If you’re able to video your performance so you can watch it back later, then this can help you to observe others and hone your showing skills as well.

Have you been showing your dog this summer? Perhaps you’ve got some tips to share that we haven’t covered here? As always, let us know in the comments section below!


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