Showing your own dog offers many rewards. There’s a sense of achievement and pride when you successfully handle your dog to the winner’s circle and a deeper bond of respect and affection is shared between you and your pet.
The grooming and other preparation necessary before a show is felt to be a very relaxing hobby for many competitors, giving them a chance to enjoy their dogs more. Besides personal satisfaction, there also exists the opportunity to meet others interested in your breed of dog with whom you can share interests and helpful hints, as well as the joys and disappointments of showing.
To start, let us assume you already own a dog of show quality, since the discussion of obtaining one is another subject in itself. A dog of show quality can be defined as one that meets, or comes very close to, breed standards, according to conformation, size, type, disposition and color. If you have reservations as to whether your pet dog is of show quality or not, you should ask breed authorities and evaluate your pet as best you can by reading a copy of your breed standard and closely scrutinizing photos of top winning dogs.
I would also recommend obtaining a copy of the American Kennel Club (AKC) rules and regulations pamphlet governing dog shows; this can be done by writing to the AKC. If at this point you and other more experienced dog show goers feel your dog has winning potential, you are ready to begin the training process.
Showing your dog is more involved than any spectator realizes. A great deal of preparation is needed for both you and your dog. The dog must be trained to stand in a show pose, so that the judge can look at it and examine its conformation by feeling the dog structure and muscling first hand. The dog must stand perfectly still and submit to the handling without growling, flinching, fidgeting, being playful or affectionate.
Start teaching your dog to stand in a show pose by standing on its right side and placing the lead high up on its neck right behind the ears. Then clasp the lead in your left hand, place the dog’s head at a high, but comfortable height and keep light tension on the lead so it remains there. Now reach down with your right hand and adjust the front, beginning with the left foreleg, then the right, so that the legs are parallel from all sides and perpendicular to the ground. The toes should be pointed straight ahead, neither inward or outward like a duck.
The width between the front legs varies according to breeds and individual dogs, but the best adjustment is the one that provides the most solid base for your dog. On smaller breeds, it is often permissible to set up the front by placing a hand under the dog’s chest, lifting it slightly and letting the front drop naturally into position. If your dog drops into a good solid stance consistently, it is to your advantage to set up the front in this same manner.