If you own a show-quality pedigree dog and want to compete with them in breed-specific dog shows, learning everything you need to know to exhibit your dog in their best light in the ring is a steep learning process, and one that never really stops.
As well as learning ring craft and how to show your dog properly so that they stand the best chance of catching the eye of the judges and acquit themselves well, you also have to follow all of the rules and regulations of the show itself – and for formal breed shows, these rules are set and policed by the Kennel Club.
Breaking the rules in the show ring or at the show itself means that your dog won’t win a prize, even if they would otherwise have been an excellent contender – and may result in you and your dog being disqualified altogether.
One of the rules that all Kennel Club dog show handlers should be aware of is the rule that forbids double handling – and breaking this rule will potentially result in disqualification.
In this article we will explain what double handling is, why it might be used – and why it is not allowed at Kennel Club dog shows. Read on to learn more.
If you’re not a regular dog show competitor or haven’t shown a dog in a few years, the term “double handling” might be a little confusing.
When you enter a dog into a breed show, they are entered along with their handler – which is often but not always the owner of the dog, but is always one designated person, and you can’t switch between two different handlers at the show itself.
However, double handling doesn’t refer to switching handlers during the show, or having two handlers in the ring with the dog – instead, it refers to input from other people connected to the dog who are physically located outside of the judging arena but within sight and earshot of the dogs in the ring.
Double handling occurs when someone outside of the showing ring deliberately attracts the attention of a dog that is in the ring – such as by calling their name, waving a favourite toy at them, or using food and treats to gain the dog’s focus.
Deliberately doing things like this is classed as double handling – or remotely managing or attempting to influence the behaviour of a dog in the ring by someone who is not their designated handler.
When it comes to showing dogs, ring craft is just as important as the quality of the dog’s physical appearance. Handling a dog in the ring is designed to show the dog off in their best light, attract the attention of the judges, and enable the judges to see the dog’s most positive traits.
Dogs shown in the ring have to perform a number of set exercises, such as walking and trotting on the lead, standing in profile, and keeping still when necessary, in order to enable the judges to see them properly and assess their core traits.
After all, a really handsome dog that is a good example of their breed won’t be seen as such if they’re rolling around on the floor, scratching their butt or generally doing their own thing! Additionally, dogs in the ring must display a good temperament, be obedient, and demonstrate an ability to follow commands. A dog that can’t or won’t do this will not only not be seen at their best, but will also be disregarded due to a lack of the basic skills necessary to place well in shows.
However, executing a good performance in the show ring can be challenging for even experienced dogs and handlers. You only have a short window of opportunity to impress the judges, and if your dog doesn’t manage to achieve this when the judge is looking, they are unlikely to place well. Getting a dog to stand in profile so that their conformation and build is shown off in the best way, and getting the dog to hold their head up or focus in a certain direction are all challenging – which is where double handling comes in.
If someone outside of the show ring catches the attention of a dog in the ring, they stand a better chance of maintaining the dog’s focus, and getting them to stand still in a certain position or present the best view of their silhouette – which is why double handling can be very effective.
Double handling gives an unfair competitive advantage to the dog and handler that utilises it, by bringing in the assistance of someone outside of the ring to try to improve the dog’s chances. This is considered to be unsportsmanlike behaviour, and has been formally banned at all Kennel Club dog shows and heats since October 2016.
Double handling is something that most competitors wouldn’t have considered doing anyway – but a small number of dog handlers and owners were taking advantage of the lack of a formal ban on this behaviour before the rule came into effect.
Double handling will serve to get you and your dog disqualified from the show if you are caught – as well as inviting the ire of the other competitors!