Dogs at shows: What Does It Take?

At dog shows, many dog lovers meet to show off with their beloved pets of pure breed. However, such events are not only beauty pageants as they could seem. They are also important for breeding and for pure-bred dog to mate. What happens on such shows and what do you need to be prepared for? We talked about that with breeder Klára Miketová. 

What basic predispositions does a dog we want to take for a dog show need?

A dog needs a certificate of origin (FCI) and it should comply with the breed standards which means it should have typical features for the specific breed, good figure, the right colour and fur, a correct occlusion, the right size (the height, the weight and also sometimes the determined chest circumference). It is a beauty pageant, so we can compare it to Miss competitions where models also need to comply with certain parameters.


What documents does the dog need to have to be able to participate in a show?

The above-mentioned certificate of origin and a pet passport with valid vaccinations (or vaccination records). And an entry form which is a confirmation of the application for the given show. The deadline for applications is usually about a month before the show.


How old does the dog need to be able to participate in shows?

In the Czech Republic, the dogs can participate in shows from 4 months of age. It is the time they usually are after the vaccination against rabies – they usually get vaccinated when they are 3 months old and it takes 3 more weeks before the vaccine is valid and the puppy has overall immunity against it. In other countries, the organizers sometimes have the category called “Baby” from 3 months of age.


How should we start preparing for a show and what should we do?

The sooner, the better. For example, I teach puppies to stack since they are 6 weeks old. So, when they get to their new owners they know a little something about stacking. Then, it’s up to the new owner to train them and teach them more. We can train stacking and walking on a leash simultaneously. The training should definitely start with a small puppy.


What does a dog need to learn?

They need to know how to stack, small and medium breeds need to be able to stack on the ground as well as on the table. Large breeds can only stack that on the floor. The judge assesses the dog in the stacking position for about 2 minutes. The dog also needs to be able to show its teeth. So, it’s good to train that in advance as well. And movement for shows when a dog trots on the left side of its owner around the ring. The dog is on the inner side of it. So we always trot clockwise. The pace needs to be adjusted to the dog’s size. And the dog needs to trot not to canter.


What other skills are needed?

The dog definitely needs to be well-socialized because there will be plenty of other dogs, noises and other disruptions. And the dog won’t probably show what you trained in your garden at home or in the park where pretty much nobody was close to you at its first show. It’s a good idea to visit an exercise area or a dog school and try everything with other dogs around. Or it’s good to visit a dog show for the first time just to have a look and you can participate for the second time you go there.


What aspects do judges assess at shows?

The dog needs to show off at its best, because only then the judge can assess all its qualities well. If you have a brilliant dog but it jumps up and down in a ring, it can’t win. The breed standards describe the dog from its head to the tip of the tail. The head, the shape of eyes, the position of ears, teeth, the shape of back, the angulation of limbs and the structure of the fur – and probably the most important thing is usually the dog’s movement.


How do judges assess dogs?

There is always only one judge and (s)he has a subjective opinion. So, even when the breed standards are described in great detail, everyone has their own interpretation of it. Therefore, there is no dog that all judges in the world would like. Every dog has its strengths, and even the most beautiful dogs still definitely have at least one flaw. It’s also the reason we still like this hobby and why we keep attending shows and the competitiveness drives us. Because our dog may not win for the first time, but it may for the second or the third time. It generally holds true that the mark excellent is for the dog that complies with the standard and doesn’t have any serious flaws.


Does participation in a show have any other purpose than assessing the dog’s appearance and skills?

Participation at shows is mainly important for breeding. If the owner wants the dog to reproduce, it’s important to register the dog. The conditions that must be met for this are set by the club of the particular breed. Shows are usually required for all breeds. For the breeder, it comes with valuable feedback that a dog is showed and assessed when adult and it can learn a few things about its offsprings. For the owner, it is an opportunity to meet people with similar interest in cynology and this kind of activity. You can learn a few things at each show. Even I, after 30 years of participating in shows, always get to know something new!

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