A few tips on attending your first Dog Show!
Even if you have watched “Best in Show” in its entirety, it’s tough for a first-time spectator to prepare themselves for an all-breed dog show. Between the dogs being groomed on tables, dogs being brought out to exercise, loudspeakers, numbers called out, vendors chatting and dogs of all sizes walking in all directions, it can be confusing for the new comer. Not to mention that the “ring” where your favourite breed is being judged is actually a rectangle.
Here are my tips for how to enjoy a dog show.
Finding a Dog Show
Chances are there’s a dog event happening near you most weekends. The Canadian Kennel Club’s Events Calendar is a great tool to help you find one. Simply select your province, the event type you’re interested in (Conformation, Obedience, Agility etc.) and the dates you wish to attend. Once you do, a list of nearby events will appear.
Check the Show Schedule
If you have come to the show to see specific breeds you admire, then you will want to head directly over to the show secretary’s table. Any handler or volunteer can direct you to the table. There you can see what time and in which ring your favourite breeds are showing. Some clubs offer the show schedule ahead of time on their website or social media pages.
Buy a Show Catalogue For More Details
A catalogue? How 1984! A show catalogue gives you a more detailed account of how the show will run. They are a great resource if you came to the show to see specific dogs in the ring. You can get one at the show secretary’s table. Every show provides one so they will be easy to find and to purchase for a small fee in cash.
Conformation dog shows are an elimination contest. Class by class, breed by breed the best dogs are selected to compete for Best in Group and eventually Best in Show. So a dog show must be highly organized so that it flows smoothly and if you have a catalogue, you can be sure not to miss anything great.
A catalogue starts with by showing you that the event is held under Canadian Kennel Club rules. Much like a ref or an umpire at a ballgame, the CKC sets forth precise guidelines concerning rules and conduct at the show.
Catalogues vary. They may start with a list of judges officiating at the show, judging schedule or by breed. The job of a catalogue is to tell you what time judging starts in each ring, which breed is being judged and who is judging them. Every ring is numbered and it’s usually right by the entrance of the ring.
Each breed listed in the schedule is followed by numbers. These tell you the number of dogs in each sex class competition (dogs who have not yet won a first prize) as well as which dogs are entered in the show as “Specials Only”. The “Specials” are going for the big ribbons like Best of Breed, a Group placement or even Best in Show to add points to their records.
So, for example, if you were to see Schipperke: 4-7-2 on a judging schedule in your catalogue, that would mean that at the show, there would be four males entered in the classes, seven females entered in the classes and two entered as “Specials”. If there are 4 numbers on the judging schedule, the order would then go Males, Females, Specials Males, Specials Females. Males always “go first” in the dog world.
Because a dog show is a game of elimination, the catalogue then divides into 7 sections for each of the Canadian Kennel Club’s seven groups. All the breeds within a group are listed. If you don’t know which group the breed you are looking for is in, you can see all groups here or save time and ask the show secretary as they will definitely know. The Canadian Kennel Club has seven groups. They are Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding.
In the catalogue, you will also see that each dog entered in the show has a number. This number corresponds to an arm band that the person showing the dog is wearing on their left upper arm.
What’s a Professional Handler?
Although most of the people you see in the ring with dogs are owners or breeders of the dogs, you might watch the show, you may wonder why one woman or man owns so many different breeds of dogs. Chances are that the person you keep seeing in the ring is a professional handler. A professional handler is a talented individual who shows dogs for a living. As great handlers are always in high demand, many owners find it more convenient and affordable to hire a pro to show their dog. There are also many breeders who are very gifted when it comes to putting together a gorgeous litter but have no skills in the ring and they too enjoy having a professional handler for their showing needs.
How the Day Moves
Dog shows move fast as soon as the show begins in the morning. As more and more best of breed winners are declared and get their red, white and blue ribbons, dogs not required for further judging chill out in their crates, waiting to go home, while those competing in Group get prepared for going back in the ring. A long day at a dog show is indicative for a good day at the dog show.
As soon as the last breed has been shown and a Best of Breed winner has been selected, then the excitement for Group judging becomes electric. Crowds begin to gather and all eyes are on the ring. After careful evaluation, the judge chooses four dogs she places in preference and the first dog wins Group, gets a big blue ribbon and will go on to the Best in Show ring.
The Canadian Kennel Club has 7 Groups. This is why you will always see 7 dogs competing at the end of a show in the Best in Show ring. At this point this elimination contest is in full gear as the judge now has to decide which of the 7 Group winners will be her Best in Show winner that day. She also chooses a Reserve Best in Show winner, which is like second place or a silver medal. The Best in Show winner takes home a huge red, white and blue ribbon.
Still wondering how the day moves? More information on how a dog show works can be found on our Dog Shows 101 blog.
Some Dog Shows Do’s and Don’ts
Members of the fancy are usually happy to have new people come and enjoy our sport. To ensure you have a great time and are welcomed warmly to the event, there a few etiquette rules to follow.
Do get to the dog show early so you can see as many dogs and judging as possible.
Do bring cash as you may need it to pay cover and to buy a show catalogue.
Do check the show schedule or purchase a show catalogue at the secretary’s table so you don’t miss any of the action.
Do wear comfortable shoes as you will be standing and walking quite a bit.
Do bring a lawn chair if your feet tire easily. Many indoor shows have chair available as well.
Don’t touch any dogs without getting the owner or handler’s permission. It’s especially important not to touch a dog while he is being groomed or in a crate.
Do let sleeping dogs lie. Show dogs need their sleep too. Never awaken a sleeping dog at a show.
Do keep a close eye on your children. Accidents can happen in a fraction of a second so be sure to have all your children in sight at all times.
Dog shows are educational and entertaining. With a few tips and rules, they can be enjoyed greatly by the public. I hope to see you at a dog show soon!