Preparing For Your First Dog Show: A Quick Rundown

The first thing a novice owner-handler needs is the best quality dog available. Follow that with a good mentor and a good breed club. Finally, you should understand some of the ins and outs of standard AKC dog shows.

The mentor must be experienced in your breed; another “newbie” won’t do. A genuinely-interested mentor is a valuable resource through your entire show career. Grooming, handling, ring etiquette, illnesses, choosing a mate, whelping the litter – all of this can and should be learned from a mentor.

A good breed club provides support and encouragement for newbie handlers. Some clubs offer demonstrations by experienced groomers. They may also hold practice handling classes.

Most clubs plan Puppy Matches or B Matches which reproduce a real show ring experience. In these situations young dogs and new handlers alike become accustomed to expected procedures at a real show.

AKC approves all events, but show schedules and entries are managed by regional show superintendents who work closely with host clubs. Ask your mentor for the name of the superintendent in your area. Go online or go to the superintendent’s table at a show and request to be added to the mailing list. You will receive premiums several weeks prior to the date of the event.

Other Sources for Information

A premium lists the breed judges, show dates, and rules and regulations of the host club/s. An entry form is included. You will need important information including your dog’s exact AKC-registered name and registration number; date of birth; sire and dam; breeder’s name; and name/s of owner/s.

Consult with your mentor regarding the correct class for your dog. If you are showing the dog, use your address on the form; the recorded entry receipt will be mailed to you.

Mail form and payment in reasonable time to meet superintendent’s deadline (found on the entry form). It is possible to enter online through the superintendent’s website; there may be additional fees. Some superintendents accept faxed entries. Keep your receipt; it contains the armband number and class that you entered and is your proof of entry. It will also include a show program which tells you your ring number and ring time.

Occasionally, host clubs include exhibitor passes to the shows. Call the superintendent’s office if you have questions or need to verify your entry.

Use a detailed packing list to guide you when you load the car. Plan to arrive at the show at least one hour before ring time. If your dog requires extensive grooming you may need to allow more time.

Show Day Prep

Allow time to unload and set up. Often you must unload your equipment and dog, take it to your set-up location, then move your car to appropriate parking. Occasionally, clubs provide assistance for unloading and transport of equipment to the set-up area.

Most shows provide grooming tents (usually identified in the show program’s map of the show grounds). Use this map and the ring assignment (in the show program) to plan where you will set up.

Arrange your equipment; then exercise your dog. If you have plenty of time, it’s a good idea to go ringside and watch the judge assigned to your breed as he evaluates others. Based on your five or ten minutes of ringside observation, you may learn:

  • Movement pattern (up and back, triangle, etc.)
  • Direction to place your dog on the table
  • Where the class lines up
  • Whether the judge using catalog order
  • Whether the judge allowing bait in the ring
  • Whether the judge or handler opening mouth to check teeth
  • Whether the judge sparring the dogs

While you are ringside, ask the ring steward for your armband. Finally, return to your setup and get your dog ready – It’s almost time for the show!