Showing your dog, as a dog activity
I had a lovely chat with my friend Nikki yesterday, when she was visiting to see the Punk Litter, with their grandad Sox and uncle Dreema. She explained to me how she got into dog showing and what she enjoys about it.
Pedigree Border Collies are not the most obvious breed for dog showing. However as they remain within the top ten breeds in the UK, it seems logical that they will be present at dog shows. This year (2022), a beautiful Border Collie was in the Best in Show competition.
Why did you choose to start showing with your dogs?
Nikki says “I’d already been competing in agility and wanted to try something different. I thought my dog Sox’s conformation was lovely and after reading the Breed Standard I wanted to see how he would do in the showring. I wanted a more sedate activity. I thought it would be a stimulating activity for the dog.“
Nikki has been showing for around ten years, but she says it took quite a while to get going. She had watched Crufts and thought it looked really easy. Then she realised that she had to get the best out of her dog, getting him to stand and focus on her, often for quite a while. It took a few shows to see that it takes a bit of practice.
What is the governing body for dog showing?
The Kennel Club is the organisation that manages most dog shows. They say “Dog showing or exhibiting is an exciting competitive activity where dogs compete against each other for prizes or awards. It is a competition where a dog’s attributes and conformation are compared against a breed standard for its breed. Whilst it can often be taken very seriously, it can be a fun pursuit that people and their dogs thoroughly enjoy.“
What types of dog show are there?
The following are the different shows you can enter:
- Companion dog shows
- Limited shows
- Open shows
- Premier shows
- Championship shows
Companion shows are a great introduction to dog showing, as they are informal events, usually part of a charity fete. They may have classes for pedigree dogs, but more commonly have classes such as:
- waggiest tail
- best trick
- golden oldie
- best pair of dogs, or family of dogs
- prettiest eyes
Other dog shows are only open to pedigree dogs. Limited shows consist of different classes for the different groups of breeds. Then there are different classes for dogs and bitches and for dogs of different age groups. The bigger the show, the more classes there will be.
What training do you need to do?
Initially, Nikki recommends attending a Ringcraft class. This will help you to prepare your dog, teaching them to stand correctly, move with you and to get used to being around other dogs. They will also advise you on which shows and classes to enter. Classes will introduce you to the format of the shows and how to behave when you are there.
You may also need to consider what physical activity you do with your dog, to keep them in peak physical condition. Swimming or physiotherapy are both recommended.
What equipment do you need?
Initially, you just need a show lead. This is a simple slip lead, which is not suitable for day-to-day use. You will need to train your dog to work in this lead, without pulling.
The main equipment needed is to do with making your dog looks its best. As Nikki says, you can spend thousands of pounds doing this! She says there are all sorts of tricks you can use to getting your dog looking great, with whiter hair, a smooth coat with a fabulous shine and so on. Nikki thinks a hair blaster is a must! She suggests talking to the stands at dog shows about the products available.
Other equipment includes crates and trolleys, grooming table and of course a variety of grooming tools.
What are the pros and cons of dog showing?
Nikki says “I really enjoy getting them to move and getting the best from them. They love it.” However, it is not an activity for the faint-hearted. Nikki explains “You have to remain objective, which is hard. You see another dog that you don’t particularly admire win, while you are binned from the ring. It’s all down to the personal choice of the judge. You have to keep your focus on your dog and enjoy showing them off. It’s not about being competitive. It’s a real test of character! Remember to congratulate the winners!“
It is essential to remember you are taking the best dog home. For more information go to the Kennel Club website. Thank you to Nikki for sharing such interesting insights.
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.