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Preparing for a dog show

1. Check it out

Before you go to a show take time to visit a few similar events so you know what is involved and your dog can get used to the sights, sounds, and smells. Take some treats and practise standing quietly at the side of the ring, rewarding your dog verbally and with food whenever he focuses his attention on you. It’s also a good opportunity to do some training. Ask your dog for sits and downs and practise some tricks to help focus his mind.

2. Bath time

It’s probably better to bath your dog the day before a show rather than on the day itself. Not only will this give you more time, but you will feel more relaxed too. Your dog’s coat will also have had time to dry properly and won’t be as fluffy and fly away. Invest in a shampoo and conditioner that suits your dog’s coat type and rinse off all products very thoroughly.

3. Brush up

Give your dog a good groom the day before the show. Make sure you remove all tangles from the coat, clean around the eyes, and ensure your dog’s claws are neat. If it’s time for a visit to the groomer’s, book this well in advance so that your dog really looks his best on the big day. If your dog has been groomed thoroughly beforehand you should only have to do a quick brush and comb on the day.

4. Get packing

A plastic box with a lid and carrying handle makes an ideal show box. List all the things you will need and pack the box so that it’s ready to pop into the boot of the car.

Items to take include:

  • Water bowl and water.
  • Money to pay for entry fees.
  • Safety pins to attach your entry number on to clothing.
  • Poo bags.
  • Grooming kit.
  • Show collar and lead.
  • Cool coat in case the weather is hot.
  • Camera.
  • In addition, it is also advisable to take a picnic, soft drinks, and clothes for all weathers — a coat, jumper, sun hat, umbrella, sunglasses, over trousers, and, most importantly, comfy shoes.

5. Safe and sound

A travel crate is an invaluable piece of kit to take to a show, as you can sit at the ring side while your dog rests in the shade, feeling safe and secure until it is time for him to enter the ring or go for a walk.

If necessary, take a parasol to angle over the crate to provide shade, or invest in a refl ective sheet to put over the crate to deflect the sun’s rays and keep him cool.

6. Showing off

Take time beforehand to teach your dog to stand nicely when asked and practise walking in a relaxed manner to show off his natural paces.

Doing this with a group of friends will enable you to offer each other critiques, and accustom your dog to striding out happily while leaving his pals behind. If you have a small dog the judge may ask you to lift him on to a table to be examined. You could be asked to show off his teeth and gums, so do this at home, asking male and female friends to pretend to be the judge.

7. What a treat

Most fun dog shows allow handlers to take treats into the ring, so prepare a range of tasty titbits to keep your dog interested. Small pieces of cheese, chopped sausage, and chicken should do the trick. You may find it easier to wear a treat bag around your waist, or simply put a handful of treats into your pocket if that is more convenient.

8. Choose your classes

Fun dog shows always have a range of classes that are suitable for pedigrees, cross-breeds, and mongrels. You can usually enter on the day and classes often cost only one or two pounds per dog.

Visit the secretary’s tent to look at the schedule and choose classes you think will most suit your dog. Common classes include: Most Handsome Dog, Prettiest Bitch, Best Puppy, Best Rescue Dog, Dog with the Waggiest Tail, and Dog with the Prettiest Eyes. Some shows feature a Best Trick class, so brush up on one or two tricks and take any props you may need if you want to enter this category.

9. Have fun!

Regardless of whether your dog wins a rosette, you know you are taking the best dog home. Smile, relax, and enjoy the experience. Make sure it is a happy and pleasant event for your dog and he will benefit enormously from all the socialisation on the day. When you are leaving, it’s a nice touch to thank the judge and organisers for giving up their time to put on the show.

Other useful tips:

  • Avoid crowding the dog in front. Make sure your dog is always on the same side as the judge, so his view is not blocked.
  • If you have a dark-haired dog, wearing light-coloured trousers or a skirt will help to show him off. Alternatively, dark clothes contrast nicely against a dog with light fur.
  • You may be asked to walk your dog in a straight line or a triangle so the judge can assess his movement. Mentally work out where your triangle is before you set off and keep your lines as straight as possible.
  • Stay alert and pay attention to what the judge and the steward say.
  • If the judge asks you to ‘stand your dog’ he wants you to make sure the dog is standing straight and looking his best. Kneel or stand behind your dog while you lure him into position with a treat. Feed once the judge has walked past.

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