What You Need to Know Before Getting Started with Dog Shows

According to the American Kennel Club event statistics, more than 3,000 dogs and 150 breeds are entered into a typical large all-breed AKC show. There are also specific breed shows, agility shows and herding trials. That's a lot of competition for any dog! If you are interested in getting your dog started in dog shows, you need to know how to prepare him and yourself for the challenge.

Fulfill Basic Requirements

Photo by joshwept via Flickr

The first thing you need to know before entering your dog into dog shows is what is necessary to qualify. The AKC requires dogs meet several basic requirements, including:

  • Be registered with the AKC
  • Be at least six months old
  • Be the correct breed for the desired show
  • Meet breed standards

The AKC will not accept any dogs into their competition that do not meet all four of these requirements so it is important to determine if these are met before you set your heart on showing your dog.

The Categories

Photo of the Hounds group edited by Pharaoh Hound photo by Ed Schipul via Wikimedia Commons

Once you have determined whether your dog meets the AKC requirements for competition in a dog show, you need to determine the category for your dog. Each dog breed, including all variations of particular breeds, are categorized based on their primary uses and other similar features. The AKC divides dogs into the following groups:

  • Sporting
  • Hounds
  • Working
  • Non-Sporting
  • Herding
  • Terrier
  • Toy

Check your breed's standards to determine which group your dog belongs in. Before you sign your dog up for a show, you will also need to make sure his breed qualifies for that specific show. All-breed shows are open to dogs of all breeds; specialty shows are only open to specific breeds that will be listed; and group shows are open to dogs in one of the seven categories.

Tips for Getting Started

Photo by whartonds via Wikimedia Commons

Now that you're ready to move forward, you need to prepare your dog and yourself for the show. These tips can give you the edge when you begin competing. Some dogs win these competitions repeatedly so it can be difficult for new dogs to break into the competition and do well. With the right steps, you increase your chances of success.

  • Attend shows in person. Observing what goes on at dog shows is essential to understanding what you and your dog will be up against during the competition. Sometimes the grooming areas are open to the public. If this is the case, take some time to walk around and talk to the groomers and other professionals to get some inside information.
  • Visit your vet. Your dog needs to be in optimal health to compete. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on all his vaccinations and is not suffering from any hidden ailments. A clean bill of health is your ticket to success in dog shows.
  • Prepare your dog. Grooming your dog in the style required of his breed is essential to his success in the show. The wrong hair cut will cause the judges to pass up your dog without so much as a second glance. You must also put your dog through obedience training to ensure he behaves properly out on the floor. A dog that doesn't follow your lead and barks at the judges, other competitors or spectators will not leave a good impression.
  • Protect your dog. Once your dog gets a clean bill of health and is properly trained, it is up to you to protect him from harm until the show. Because dogs need to spend time outdoors, keep a close eye on him to ensure he isn't in danger. Check your yard regularly for pests, including ticks, winged ants and other insects that could put your show dog at risk for illness or injury, and safely remove them if you find any.
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