Since the beginning of time, man has always been proud of the things around him and quality was a prime concern. Even in the biblical account of Adam and Eve, it states that Eve looked at the fruit of the tree and saw that it was good and desirable to the eyes. (Genesis 3:6 NKJV- “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”)
Thus we see that even back in the beginning of our culture, man and womankind have always been interested in things that were good, desirable, or aesthetically pleasing. The tradition continues today with contests of skill, beauty and training taking place around the world. From the small town livestock and pet shows to the huge, century old affair of the English, Crufts, which has been drawing crowds since 1891, the show dog is heeling its way down the halls of fame.
Show dogs come from all breeds and the object of the sport is to find the best bloodlines, training and dispositions. The aesthetic quality of some of these animals is truly amazing as is the diversity of trainers and the breeds that are shown. In 1991, the centennial year for Crufts, there was a turnout of 22,993 canine entrants for the show which was held at The National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, United Kingdom. It should be remembered that this is an annual show that has been going strong since its inception by Charles Cruft, a British traveling salesman, in the year 1891. With an entry list of so high a number, one staggers to imagine the size of the crowd of spectators who attended the centennial show. With all this fame and glory just waiting to be taken, how do we get our dogs in the act?
Well, the first step to beginning in the show dog circuit is getting into touch with a kennel club or pet association. These groups will be able to point you in the direction of local shows and get you started on what is hopefully a long and enjoyable journey. They will be able to assist you with finding the rules and regulations for your area, common acceptable practices and any special vaccinations or veterinary testing that may be required. They also offer the mind pool of many experienced trainers who are willing to share the thoughts and training tips. They can also tell you which breeds tend to rank the highest in shows and guide you in choosing the proper pet for showing.
There are a few basic behaviors that are common amongst all dogs and these do not change with the show dog except for the fact that they are refined a bit more. Show dogs must be trained in running a circle, as well as an obstacle course, with their handler. They also must be taught correct postures for sitting, heeling, trotting and standing. Depending upon the breed and class, the dog may also be asked to jump or overcome certain obstacles or, in some shows, work livestock. Show dogs must also be very patient and relaxed as judges will be examining them very closely and the last thing you will ever get an award for is a dog that bit the judges. Your dog should be taught to be still and not fidget when being handled by the judges as well as while waiting their turn at judging.
Another very important aspect of show dog training is socializing the animal to other dogs. These animals will be in the presence of possibly thousands of others animals so it is imperative that your dog knows how to behave correctly to avoid disqualification due to aggressive behaviors.
With these little pointers under your collar, the day of the big show isn’t far away. Be prepared for it and plan well ahead of time. A professional grooming before the show is nice for your pet and will be sure to add to her sleek lines. Also don’t forget her favorite treats and toys for after the show. The author wishes you the best of luck and I hope to see you at a competition near me soon.