For well over a century, pet parents have been entering their fur-babies into show dog competitions to see whose barking buddy is best. While you might think it'll be a bit of fun to enter your pooch into a dog show, there's a lot to consider, especially if you're aiming to enter Scoob into an international competition like Crufts or the Westminster Dog Show.
If you find the idea of entering a major competition a bit overwhelming, look around for local events, which are generally more laidback and easier to enter. Thinking about showing your dog? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
One of the trickiest parts of showing your dog is getting involved in the first place. Hiring a mentor who's in the know is essential to getting Fluffy onto the grandest dog show stages.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) also runs a New Exhibitor Mentor Program, which helps newbies link up with a mentor. If you'd prefer a hands-on approach, attend a local dog show and chat with a handler. Just make sure you don't interrupt them during show prep!
Dog shows are a niche business, with all the important people moving in similar circles. A mentor will be able to connect you with breeders, judges, and other handlers, making it much easier to get recognized among the thousands of puppers that enter dog shows each year.
However, locating a handler who'll work with you is easier said than done. One "pawssible" way is to contact your breeder, who may know a mentor you can connect with. Another good way of meeting a mentor is by attending one of nearly 5,000 all-breed kennel clubs in the US.
Sit, stay, lie down — while your doggo might know these basic tricks, they'll need tons more training if they're going to win Best in Show. You'll want to hire a trainer that specializes in dog shows, so you know your dog is getting the correct training. Your mentor will likely be able to recommend a trainer, or you'll probably find one through your local kennel club.
Conformation shows are about looking good, following commands, and meeting breed standards, so obedience training and acceptance of strangers is a must. Meanwhile, performance competitions entail tricks and routines, so rally and agility training take priority.
Before moving on to more complicated activities like agility training and obedience training, you might want to start by enrolling your woofer in the AKC's Canine Good Citizen™ (CGC) program. What training your dog needs also depends if you're entering your dog into conformation or performance shows.
A massive hurdle to overcome when entering your pup in a dog show is figuring out whether they are "show quality". While some pet parents may get offended by the term show quality, it refers to a set of breed standards, which may disqualify your pooch due to flaws. These flaws are often unnoticeable to the untrained eye and include everything from a small overbite to the wrong coat texture.
The best way to get a show-quality dog is to get a puppy from an AKC registered breeder. However, be warned — a show dog will cost a lot more than adopting from a shelter. A show dog from a prestigious bloodline could set you back anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000.
"Unfurtunately", mix breeds can't compete in conformation competitions, as they're about purebreds conforming to a breed standard. There is also no point in entering a purebred without a traceable pedigree. However, AKC does run a Canine Partners Program™, which allows mixed breeds to participate in agility and sports competitions.
To qualify for an AKC conformation event, your dog must meet several criteria. Your dog mustn't be neutered, must be a breed recognized by the AKC, and must be at least 6 months old. You can find a full list of eligibility criteria on the AKC website.