Making the decision to enter your pedigree dog in dog breed shows can be very exciting, and every first-time dog show exhibiter likely harbours a secret hope that their dog will place well and be able to continue up through the rankings of higher-level shows and gain a distinguished reputation.
Theoretically, anyone who owns a registered pedigree dog can enter them in a formal breed show, assuming that they fulfil the entry criteria and choose the right class. However, there are a lot of rules and regulations surrounding showing dogs in breed shows, and a lot to learn when you first start out.
As well as working out the entry criteria and ensuring that you follow all of the rules in terms of getting your paperwork in order and ensuring that your dog will be allowed to compete, you will also need to do plenty of research and spend a lot of time working with your dog to prepare them for the ring.
Dog show exhibiting and judging follows a set pattern in terms of how it all works on the day and what you and your dog have to do – which extends as far as dictating the types of collars and leads you use for your dog in some cases, as well as what you actually have to do in the ring.
If you’re just starting out or want to begin showing your dog, there’s much more to it than just submitting an entry and turning up on the day. You also have to learn what your dog will need to do in the ring, practice with them, and develop the skills and know-how you need to know in order to catch the judge’s eyes, acquit yourself well – and avoid accidentally doing anything that might get you disqualified!
This means that you might want to consider working with a specialist dog show trainer prior to your first show, or even if you have already started showing your dog and want to improve your skills and increase your chances of being able to progress.
In this article we will explain what a dog show trainer can do for you, and some of the skills that they can teach you. Read on to learn more.
A dog show trainer is a special type of dog training instructor, whose role is to teach and train the dog’s handler as much as it is (if not more so) to train the dog. Dog show trainers usually come from a background of either general dog training or dog showing – or both – and they are generally very experienced in the hands-on side of both training and preparing a dog for a show, and showing them in the ring.
Some dog show trainers will work to teach you ring craft only – the skills that you need to show your dog off in the ring – and work with a wide variety of dog breeds to teach owners the universal skills that they need to perform on the day and tell them what to expect.
Others will work with specific dog breeds only, being breeds that they might have a long track record of showing themselves, and that they know very well in terms of their traits, breed standards, and what the judges are looking for.
Dog show trainers work with you behind the scenes, on the run-up to shows and in between shows – but they don’t take your dog into the ring for you. Whilst they might attend the show with you on the day to provide support and advice, if they actually show and handle your dog in the ring on your behalf, that makes them a dog show handler rather than a trainer – although some people do both!
Exactly what a dog show trainer can teach you will depend a lot on the type of trainer that you pick.
If you just want to learn ring craft – which includes things like how to take care of your dog on the day of the show so that they’re at their best when they enter the ring, how to handle them in the ring, what you need to show to the judges and how to achieve the right movements and stances – most dog show trainers can help with this.
They will also teach you how to keep your dog alert and engaged in the ring, and how to combat potential boredom, nerves or overenthusiasm that can affect your dog’s chances.
If you need insights into breed-specific elements of dog showing – such as the type of grooming your dog should have before the event, how to stand your dog to improve their profile within the remit of their breed, and information on what the judges will look for and how to show it to them – you may want to work with a breed-specific trainer.
Dog show trainers may also be able to advise you on whether or not your dog’s conformation, temperament and core traits are likely to appeal to the judges – and they may even know a lot of dog show circuit judges for certain breeds from encountering them in the ring before, and be able to tell you what type of dogs individual judges tend to favour, and how to appeal to them.
A dog show trainer will work with you in between shows to help to improve both your own skills and that of your dog, which means intensive training sessions and plenty of practice in between your lessons. Even with the help of a professional, training and preparing any dog for a dog show can be very time intensive, and you have to be willing to put the work in to stand a chance of doing well.
If you’re planning on entering your first dog show, having a couple of sessions with a dog show trainer can help to teach you the basics, provide some insights into what to do, and fill you in on things you might not know you didn’t know!
This may be all you need to get you started and give you the confidence to meet the other competitors on a level playing field, or you might want to work with a dog show trainer regularly if your dog starts to win prizes and gain a reputation.
One of the advantages of hiring a dog show trainer – which can be costly – is that the skills you learn are transferrable, and will provide value for you when it comes to showing and handling other dogs in the future, and so whilst hiring a dog show trainer can be expensive, it often provides a lot of value too.
Lots of dog show competitors – maybe even most of them – don’t hire a dog show trainer to get them going, and of course, if you do your research and put the work in (and your dog is up to standard) there is no reason why not hiring one will compromise your chances of doing well.
However, if you want to get a head start, avoid mistakes, or show at a high level, a dog show trainer can help.