By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 06/08/2021, edited: 11/18/2022
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Show dogs are typically bred and raised to compete — but do they make good pets? You might be surprised to learn that many show dogs start as beloved family pets! Of course, not all doggos have what it takes to bring home the ribbon.
Thinking of adopting a retired show dog or purchasing a pup who didn't quite make the cut? Let's explore 3 reasons why show dogs make good pets, plus a few things to consider before opening your home to a canine competitor.
Show dogs receive best-in-class care
Whether your pupper is a conformation champion, a sports star, or a show dog reject, rest assured they've received the best care "pawssible" throughout their life!
Breeders and handlers invest a lot of time and money in their dogs' care before they're even born. Show dogs receive top-tier veterinary care, daily grooming, professional training, and high-quality food. Dogs competing in sports shows are fed special, nutrient-rich diets to optimize their performance. "Pawpular" diets include Royal Canin and Eukanuba. Both brands offer recipes specifically formulated for canine athletes.
A show dog's exercise regimen also caters to the needs of their breed. Some breeds, like Chihuahuas, thrive with a couple of short walks each day. Other breeds, like Boxers, need variety. Responsible breeders and handlers provide an array of activities to stimulate their pups' minds and bodies.
Show dogs are well-trained
It's safe to say show dogs have mastered several tricks in the dog training manual! While all show dogs have a firm grasp of socialization and obedience fundamentals, they also learn special commands depending on the type of show they're competing in.
Dogs competing in conformation shows (aka breed shows) must master gait training and stacking. Gait refers to a dog's walking patterns and speeds. Each breed has a gait standard — show dogs are judged on their ability to meet that standard. Stacking refers to standing poses. Each breed has its own stacking standard.
Dogs competing in canine sports also learn commands specific to that sport. For example, those competing in rally obedience shows learn to slow down, speed up, and change directions on cue. Herding dogs also learn special commands like "walk up", "come-bye", and "keep away".
Show dogs get along well with people and other dogs
If you consider yourself a socialite, a retired show dog might be the right choice for you. Show dogs are accustomed to busy environments with lots of people and other dogs. Competitors in breed shows are also used to being handled by strangers, so you likely won't have to worry about your fur-baby nipping at any of your house guests. The same goes for sports show dogs, who often complete trials in teams alongside other dogs.
Things to consider before buying or adopting a show dog
Sure, show dogs can make great pets. On the other paw, caring for a show dog, retired or not, isn't exactly a walk in the dog park. Here's what you need to keep in mind before buying or adopting a show dog.
Not all dog breeders use positive training methods
Browse any show dog blog, and you'll likely find eye-witness reports of show dogs who were trained with negative reinforcement methods. Studies show negative reinforcement training increases stress in dogs and affects their health in the long term. While most breeders treat their show dogs like family pets and even royalty, not all breeders are created equal. Check out our article on finding a reputable breeder for more info.
Purebred dogs have more health problems than mixed breeds
A long history of inbreeding has narrowed the gene pool and increased the risk of birth defects in purebred dogs. Purebred pups are more likely to develop conditions like dilated cardiomyopathy, cataracts, and epilepsy. In addition to the upfront costs of buying a show dog, pet insurance and veterinary care can get expensive fast.
Contracts are part and parcel of caring for a show dog
When it comes to selling their show-quality puppies and rehoming their retired show dogs, breeders are highly selective. Trustworthy breeders will want to learn about you and tour your home. Many breeders expect to retain breeding rights to the dog, while some even require co-ownership. If you're planning to show the dog, you'll likely need to sign a show contract with your breeder. If you have no plans to enter your dog in competitions, opt for a pet-quality dog instead.
Sports show dogs can have a high prey drive
Beagles and Coonhounds participating in field trials are trained to follow the scent of prey animals like rabbits and raccoons. These scent work trials don't require dogs to actually hunt the game, and no animals are harmed. Still, if you plan to adopt a dog trained in scent work, never let them off-leash, especially in a nature reserve or similar space. Clever Beagles can also escape from a fence in pursuit of prey, so always supervise them when outdoors.
Do show dogs make good pets? Wrapping up
Show dogs "pawsitively" make good pets. But it's important to remember every dog is different, and that includes canine competitors. If you're thinking of buying a show-quality dog or adopting a retired show dog, first ask yourself if you'll be a good pet parent. Many show dogs have grown accustomed to receiving the best food, exercise, and healthcare money can buy. If you're prepared to maintain that lavish lifestyle, a show dog just might be the "pawfect" fit.
Got questions about show dogs? Live chat with a veterinary professional now for prompt answers!
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