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“HI my name is Joshua and I need some info on how to get my dogs in
shows. My dog has been through 3 dog training stages and works off leash and is a really good dog and I would like to get her in a show. If you could send me some info on how to get my dog in a show.
The first thing you need if you would like to show your dog, whether in Obedience, Conformation, Hunting, Agility, Herding, or any of the many other American Kennel Club events, is an AKC registered dog. If you gave the subject proper thought when you bought your puppy, you will have purchased him from a reputable breeder, and your puppy will have come with AKC registration papers. Hopefully he will have grown up to be the quality of dog you and the breeder anticipated that he would. Or, you may have purchased your puppy from a Pet store or through a newspaper ad from a back yard breeder. He may have been sold as an “AKC dog” or an AKC registered dog, and you may not have received the registration papers with the puppy. The puppies in pet stores often come from puppy mills, which do not (ever!) breed show quality dogs. If you have not obtained the registration papers for the dog, by the time you decide you’d like to show him in obedience or agility (which he can do even though he may not be quite up to snuff for conformation) you may find the pet store has gone out of business. Or, perhaps the pet store can’t locate or get the papers from the ‘breeder’. So first of all, whether you get a puppy from a serious breeder, a back yard breeder, a breed rescue organization, or a pet store, if you would like to be able to do something ‘official’ with him later, make sure you get the papers.
If you have purchased your puppy from a pet store or a backyard breeder, and for whatever reason didn’t get registration papers, if the dog appears to be a purebred representative of an AKC registerable breed you may be able to show your dog in performance events anyway. The AKC grants an “Indefinite Listing Privilege” to such dogs, which must first be 6 months old and neutered. This ILP number will allow you to show your dog in AKC obedience, hunting, herding, agility and earth dog events. You may not show an ILP dog in conformation (‘breed’) classes.
If your dog is a mixed breed, you may find local fun matches that are put on by a dog training facility or group. It is in the best interests of all dogs and dog owners to teach them to do anything of which they are capable. It is not, however, the business of the American Kennel Club to sanction such events for mixed breeds, since the AKC’s main responsibility is the maintenance of the Stud Book, and the promotion of purebred dogs.
If you do have a good quality puppy and would like to be able to show in conformation classes later on, DON’T NEUTER the dog. If you would like to show and breed the dog, you should deal with a serious, reputable breeder and contract for a show and breeding quality puppy. This puppy must be on a full registration, if you hope to be able to breed later on, not on a limited registration. Breeders are likely to be very particular about which puppies they sell on full registration, and which people they will sell these individuals to. This is a good thing; only the best animals should be bred, and only owners serious about learning about the breed, about genetics and soundness, about training, and about the effort involved should take on the responsibility of breeding dogs. YOU DON’T BREED PUPPIES TO GET RICH. More often, you go well into a financial hole breeding dogs.
If you don’t wish to breed the dog, a dog on a limited registration and/or a neutered dog will still be permitted to compete in performance events. Bitches that aren’t going to be bred should be spayed, generally before 6 months of age. If a bitch puppy is spayed before her first heat, her chances of developing mammary tumors, the most common cancer in dogs, will be substantially reduced.
If you hope to show your puppy in conformation classes, DON’T TEACH IT TO SIT! You can ask him to stand, to wait, to ‘hold on’ or to ‘settle down!’, but hold off on teaching to sit. Sitting is submissive behavior and some puppies will do this in unfamiliar circumstances even if they haven’t been taught to do it. If he is used to praise for sitting, he is likely to do it in any unfamiliar situation, and it can be very difficult to train this behavior out of him for the purpose of the breed ring.
Whether you hope to show your puppy in conformation, obedience, or agility, it is helpful to socialize him to being with strange people and dogs. Once his puppy shots are complete – about 4 months of age, you can find him a puppy kindergarten class, puppy obedience class, or conformation handling class. Your local kennel club or obedience club will often hold these classes. If they don’t, they should be a good source of information about who in the area does give classes. Check on the AKC web site for the names of member clubs, and their contact person, to find one near you.
After you have found your local kennel club, and have trained your dog, you need to find out when and where the dog shows are and how to enter. Look on the AKC pages, and you will find sections for different kinds of events – conformation, obedience, etc. – and for different months of the year. Start at least a month or more away, as closing dates for taking entries for shows are usually 3 weeks before the show date. When you see some shows you are interested in, check on who the Show Superintendent is. Usually most shows in a given geographical area will be put on by the same superintendent organization. Examples of Superintendents are listed below. Write or call the specific show superintendent and ask for a Premium List for the show you wish to enter. Ask also to be put on their mailing list to receive premium lists of future shows in the area this superintendent covers. When the premium list arrives you will find it to contain information about where the show is to be held, the judges who will be judging each breed or other event (obedience, agility), the officers of the club and the show chairman, closing date (deadline for receipt of completed entries), entry fee (usually 18 to 20 dollars), and the instructions for filling in the form. You will usually find that the superintendent will accept faxed entries accompanied by a credit card authorization. Instructions will be included for faxing your entry.
The AKC home page and the Moss Bow page both include results of some levels of competition for recently completed shows. It takes a couple of days for these to be posted to the net. By examining these it may be possible for you to determine whether or not there are enough ‘class’ dogs being shown in your area to make ‘points’. Beware of looking at only one or two weekends, there may be a larger or a smaller entry depending on how well the exhibitors in your area like certain judges!
The week before the show, you will receive a ‘judging program’ in the mail. This will give directions to the show, any parking information (paid parking for instance), your ring number, judge’s name, and approximate time of showing. A time will be given with several breeds below it (for conformation). This means that the breeds will start at the given time or later if the ring is running slow, but not before that time. You can judge roughly how long after that time you might appear by adding up the number of entries in the breeds listed before your own at that time, and multiplying by 3 minutes a dog. But remember! This is just an approximation. Much better to get there on time and wait rather than to miss your show time after driving 3 hours. You never know if all the dogs entered show up; in the case of bad weather often a large number of the dogs entered don’t make it to the show.
Finally prepare your dog; train him, bathe and groom him, find the appropriate lead (show or obedience, not ‘street’ collar and leash), load your car with ‘crate’ (cage), water, ‘bait’ (food), grooming tools, grooming table, folding chair, and soda pop, and go to your first dog show. Allow plenty of time for grooming, setting up your gear, and going to the john. Allow more time for getting lost or driving around trying to figure out the directions to the show.
When you get there, drive around the building or outdoor show site and look at the lay of the land; see where the rings are situated, find the doors to the building that the exhibitors are using, the loading areas, and so on. Once you find the appropriate place, unload, set up, and you’re on your own. GOOD LUCK!
THE DOG FANCY
When one of your golf-playing acquaintances refers scornfully to someone who has Gone To The Dogs, he’s referring to one of us. We just happen to think we have the very finest leisure time activity going; one that is more than just a hobby, it’s a life-style. I’ve been told that the only other group of people which compares to us in their fervor is the parents of little leaguers. Though, I think that some of the Internet devotees are likely to be in the same realm soon as well.
As a veterinarian, I find myself trying to reason with some of my pet owning clients to alter their living arrangements to accommodate their pet. Some of them find this an incredibly strange perspective, saying ‘What do you want me to do? Move for my dog’s benefit?’ Well, of course this is what I mean! Dealing as I do with dog breeding and exhibiting clients, most of them have already done so. It’s only natural in my world. This is the world of The Dog Fancy.
- Dog fanciers collect chain link fence, and value it as though it was gold bouillon. Crates (wire or fiberglass cages) come a close second.
- Dog fanciers go to the grocery store and buy $95.00 worth of kibble, canned food, milk bones and plastic garbage bags. Also a couple of cheap TV dinners for themselves – say about $5.00 worth.
- Dog fanciers drive mini-vans, full-size vans, stretch vans, high top custom vans, and cube trucks. Also frequently a travel trailer or a motor home. Many own two vans; his and hers.
- Dog fanciers go out to eat at nice places on weekends with their buddys and entertain the adjacent diners with discussions of how difficult it is to chop the ‘poops’ out of the ice and snow.
- Dog fanciers travel up to 50 weekends a year, from state to state, coast to coast, and country to country attending shows.
- Dog fanciers who engage in the field activities, such as herding or hunting trials, must be suitably provided with appropriate accessories – camo gear, shotguns, rubber bumpers and starters pistols, or Australian oiled dusters and their own flock of sheep.
- Dog fanciers all have at least one shirt which proclaims that ‘My Dog Walks All Over Me’, and they wear it proudly.
- Dog fanciers meet their friends at the show every weekend and enjoy a continuing party celebrating their communion with each other and above all, with their reason for being there, their dog. They will be quick to encourage you to spell that word backward. Make no mistake about it, this celebration of an entire species frequently does more than just border on worship.
The sport of showing dogs encompasses many activities, some of which have nothing to do with ‘showing’ per se. It would be difficult to call herding sheep, or hunting birds showing.
A Fancier may have one dog, which may compete in one activity year after year, or may go from one activity to another, mastering many. Or, the household may be centered around many dogs, with sons and daughters of the original Star working their way through the different levels of competition.
There are so many American Kennel Club sanctioned activities that I will probably overlook some here. There is something for most every one, dog or keeper.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A DOG SHOW?
PANDEMONIUM! You enter the building and there are people rushing everywhere, carrying dogs, leading dogs, and running to the ring. Dogs are barking, the public address system is blaring, and people are talking, it seems like everyone in the building is talking all the time! How can you make some sense of it all and start to figure out what’s going on? First look or ask around for the superintendent or club or catalog table. Once you find the superintendent, you will find a pile of extra judging programs. Or, if you are looking for a breeder of a certain individual dog or breed, buy a catalog. The catalog has all the information in the judging program, plus it has the name of each dog, its parents, its date of birth, breeder and owner. In the back of the catalog, you will find the addresses of the owners. These addresses will be invaluable to you if you are looking for a puppy or a breeder. Even if you didn’t connect with anyone in all the confusion of the show, you can call information and find their phone number later. If the first person you contact doesn’t know where there is a litter of good puppies, they will send you on to another person, and eventually you will find the breeder and the puppy you are looking for.
With the judging program or the information in the front of the catalog, you can locate where certain breeds will be showing at a certain time. There will be a ring number and time of judging listed in the program for each breed. It’s often impossible to locate someone with a breed you are interested in by cruising the grooming area, so it’s a good idea to come early – usually 8:30 or 9:00 AM, so you don’t miss what you really want to see. And, it’s a good idea to plan to stay late, so you can see the whole event to its grand conclusion, the groups and best in show.
At most dog shows events are offered in conformation and obedience. There may also be an agility trial. The original basis for showing dogs, like other livestock, is to judge which individuals display the structure that suits the dog for its typical tasks. The way we know what characteristics do this is by comparing an individual to the breed standard, which defines the breed. Ideally, this standard will be well written and will enable the judge to tell which dogs come the closest, and are therefore best suited for the tasks ahead of them.
A dog which has to herd sheep all day long (a herding dog) has different characteristics from a dog whose job it is to go down into a badger’s den and drive the animal out (a terrier breed). A sight hound, which hunts visually, will have a different structure from a scent hound or sporting breed that uses its nose to find its prey. A toy, bred to sit on someone’s lap, would have different structure than a mastiff, which is a guardian or a working breed. Each herding breed has a different job. The Puli’s task is the control and movement of large flocks of 300 to 400 sheep in Hungary, while the Border Collie often searches out single ewes and lambs on difficult and often rocky terrain. The Puli is very vocal, since as a 30 pound dog in control of so many mindless sheep he must appear very powerful to them. These large numbers of sheep move as a single unit; Continental sheep like to stick together. The Border Collie is faced with sheep that like to scatter, as the pasture in Scotland is not so lush. The Border Collie approaches his sheep circumspectly, staring at them and creeping slowly up on them. These different approaches make different demands, both structural and behavioral, on the dogs. The appearance of different breeds also reflects what the breeders feel is attractive.
The objective of conformation classes is to identify dogs most suitable to breed and produce the next generations. The most important objective of obedience and agility, as well as the many other kinds of trial, such as hunting, herding and go to ground (terrier-earth dog events), is to identify the inner character and ability of the dog, which combined with the structure, produces the ideal animal. In all dog show related activities, however, whether obedience, conformation, or working events, and so forth, the second most important objective is having good clean family fun.
Dog Fancy enthusiasts attend shows every weekend. They meet friends, enjoy themselves, and compete on a very personal level, through their dogs. They may take their dogs in the ring themselves, or they may hire a professional handler. They may own one dog, a leash, and a hatchback, or 30 dogs, hundreds of pounds of equipment, and a Greyhound Bus size motor home. You never know at a show if you’re standing next to a millionaire or a pauper. Well, sometimes you do know; however, often you truly don’t. The point is you can attend with just your dog and a leash, and you can also win. You can have your son or daughter compete in Junior Showmanship or in the actual “breed” ring. There are so many levels of competition and so many different kinds of events that you can spend a lifetime shepherding one or many dogs through them. Dog showing for most of us is much more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle.
In the conformation ring, (the ‘breed’ ring), there are several different levels of competition. First, there are the dogs that are not Champions of record. These dogs compete at what’s called the ‘class’ level, and are working toward their Champion title. They may enter the Puppy class, Novice, American Bred, Bred By Exhibitor, or the Open class. Males and females compete separately at this level. The size of the entry has a lot to do with whether all of these classes will actually have an entry at a given show. If there are only 2 dogs entered, obviously not every class will have an entry. However, each class is always available to the exhibitor to enter their dog in.
In each class there are 4 placements awarded. The first place animal from each class goes on to what is called the ‘Winners’ class. We still have the males and females separate here. Males are called ‘dogs’ and females are called ‘bitches’. The dogs and bitches are still separated in the winners classes. All of these first place individuals compete as a class, and the winner is called the Winners Dog or the Winners Bitch. A Reserve Winners Dog and Bitch are also selected. The two Winners are the only dogs to earn points toward a Championship.
The number of points earned is dependent on how many were entered in all of the classes. There may be many dogs entered, and the points awarded might be 5, which is the highest number of points that can be earned at one show. There may only be a few and worth only 1 or 2 points, or none at all. A win of 3,4 or 5 points is termed a ‘major’ win. A dog must win at 2 majors and collect a total of 15 points to earn a Championship. The ‘point schedule’ of how many entries are required to make up 1,2,3,4,and 5 points, varies in different regions of the country and in different years. Check the AKC pages for the current point schedule in your area.
At the next level of competition, the Winners Dog and the Winners Bitch and any Champions that are entered compete in intersex competition for: Best of Breed (BOB), Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed (BOS), and Best of Winners (BOW). Only the Winners Dog and Bitch can earn the Best of Winners award, but any of the individuals in the Best of Breed Class may win the BOB or BOS. Under some circumstances, extra points may be earned by one of the ‘Winners’ by going BOW, BOS, or BOB.
The individual that goes Best Of Breed is then eligible to show in the Group. For many of the Specials dogs (Champions being ‘campaigned’), this is where the competition really begins. There are 7 Groups at a dog show; Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding. Each BOB from the individual breeds which make up the Group competes for Group I, II, III, and IV. The dogs winning Group I in each of the 7 Groups then compete for Best in Show. In this manner, the Best In Show dog has defeated every other dog entered.
Beyond competing to finish championships, dogs compete to gain points toward informal national ratings at the Best of Breed level and at the Group and Best in Show level. These ratings have nothing to do with the AKC. They are compiled by dog publications or breed clubs and only convey prestige to the top dogs in the country.
AKC REGISTERED BREEDS BY GROUP
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
English Toy Spaniel
American Eskimo Dog
LEARNING THE LINGO
Dog shows have their own unique vocabulary, just like tennis or golf or horses, or any of the other special interests we pursue in our spare time. A bitch is a female canine; a dog is a male.
All-Breed Show – Show given by an all-breed kennel club.
Articles – Cotton gloves and metal objects (often dumbells) which are used in the scent discrimination exercises in utility level obedience.
Benched show – Show where all the dogs entered are assigned space in a given area on the “benching” and are required to stay there for the day, so that spectators can find an example of the breed any time during the day, not just at the breed’s scheduled ring time. Benched shows have become quite rare.
Brace – Brace competition, two dogs of the same breed are shown at one time by one handler; this pair is judged on overall quality as well as similarity to each other.
Campaign – A dog which is a champion, which is being shown at the Best of Breed and Group level is called a ‘special’; he is being ‘specialed’. A dog being ‘heavily specialed’ is being ‘campaigned’.
Chipped – Microchipped; bionic dogs identified with an electronic id chip.
CGC – Canine Good Citizen; a certificate and title given to dogs who pass minimal standards for “good behavior”.
Choke – Kind of collar; tension tightens the collar so the dog cannot back out and get loose; may be metal or nylon
Closing date – the date after which entries for a show will no longer be accepted. Usually 3 weeks before the show date; in ‘limited’ entry shows – usually due to space at the show site – shows may close earlier, once the ‘limit’ of entries is reached. Limited shows should be entered early.
Crate – cage
Ex – not a former spouse; short for exercise, a euphemism for taking the dog out to perform its eliminatory functions
Finish – in obedience, a command which sends the dog to sit at the exhibitor’s side; otherwise, to finish a Championship or other title. “Is he finished?”
Flexi – a popular type of spring loaded leash for exercising dogs
Greyhound – A breed of dog and a kind of metal comb
Handler – person who shows dogs for other people; professional handler. May also board, train and groom their charges, or may pick the dog up at the ringside from the owner.
Junior – Junior handler; competitive classes in different age divisions are offered for young people who are judged on their handling skills, not on their dog.
Futurity – Another non-regular set of classes (similar to sweepstakes) which do not contribute to point totals or make a dog eligible for the ‘winners’ class. For futurities, the mother of a litter is nominated and a fee paid before she whelps a litter, the litter is entered in it’s first 6 months of life, and individuals are entered at the normal time for show entries; builds up a sum of money – virtually the only way in dogs that money can occasionally be won!
Martingale – type of show lead.
Owner-handler – The actual owner of the dog is the person taking him in the ring and presenting him to the judge, rather than a professional handler; breeder-owner-handler means that this person also bred the dog, didn’t simply purchase it. A mark of presteige if the dog wins impressively, in that he did it without the benefit of a ‘professional handler’, e.g. he did it on his own. However, it is definitely the case that many owner-handlers are just as skilled as the best professional handlers.
Pin Brush – type of brush with straight wire teeth.
Pooper Scooper – Either the self-explanatory item of equipment or the person wielding it!
Resco – type of show lead, manufactured of strip of Naugahide.
Rig – anything from a mini-van with the seats out to a high top van with roof air, awning and crate Benching, to Greyhound Bus size motor homes.
Ringsiding – Delivering your dog to a professional handler just before going into the ring. The handler does not board, groom, train, or carry this dog in their ‘rig’.
Slicker – type of brush with short bent wire teeth.
Snood – an elasticised cylinder of cloth, slips over the head of cockers, afghans, etc. to keep their ears out of food and water; often a fashion statement.
Special – Champion of Record, being shown at the Best of Breed, Group, BIS level
Specialty – Show given for just one breed sponsored by a “breed club”
Standard – the description of a breed which enables breeders and judges to evaluate the quality of an individual dog; AKC Breed Standard.
Stripper – blade for plucking the coat (terriers)
Sweepstakes – special classes held in conjunction with Specialty shows and some others, for 6 to 18 month old puppies and young adults; not a regular class, does not have a “winners” class, no points are awarded for competition.
Tack box– Whatever you carry all your grooming gear in
Water Hole – water bowl designed to keep ears and whiskers dry
Wheels – a flat, wheeled dolly, made to transport crates, grooming tables and other gear in from your car.
X- Pen – not related to X-Files; wire panels joined to make a light weight, moveable enclosure about 4′ by 4′ and of varying height. Allows dogs crated for a period of time to get out and stretch their legs without a lead on.
Classes – those categories in conformation showing which dogs which are not Champions enter
Puppy – 6 months to 1 year of age
Novice – a dog which has not won points at a dog show
12 – 18 Months – a class which is not always available, usually available at Specialty shows, check premium list
Bred By Exhibitor – owned and handled by the breeder
American Bred – born in the United States
Open – any dog eligible to show under AKC rules
Veteran – a non – regular class, available if stated in premium list, usually at specialty shows; age varies with breed, often 7 years and older.
CH – Champion of Record – a dog which has earned an AKC championship in conformation
DC – Dual Champion (FC and CH)
TC – Triple Champion (CH, FC, OTCH)
Conformation– competition in structure to determine soundness and degree to which the dog conforms to the Breed Standard. No rigorous training required, basically good manners and a few special tricks of the trade to help the dog move at his best and stand looking his best.
CD – Companion Dog, the lowest obedience competition title. Includes sitting, heeling, lying down, come, stay, stand exercises.
CDX – the intermediate obedience title, Companion Dog Excellent; includes the former plus jumping over hurdles and broad jumps, and retrieving over jumps.
UD – Utility Dog, highest level of obedience, including all of the former and scent discrimination. Good training for drug sniffing and search and rescue dogs.(See “Articles”)
UDX – Utility Dog Excellent
OTCH– Obedience Trial Champion
TD– Tracking Dog, title involving scent discrimination in the field, i.e. outdoors over a distance
TDX – Tracking Dog Excellent
VST – Variable Surface Tracker, good training for drug sniffers and search and rescue dogs.
Obedience– competition involving heeling, commands such as “come”, “sit”, “stay”, “down”, jumping over hurdles, finding an article scented by the handler, and much more. May be easily mastered in steps of increasing difficulty, without special equipment or unreasonable time involvement. Many levels, may be enjoyed for years.
FIELD – SPORTING
FC – Field Champion; Field Trial (sporting) or Lure Coursing (sight hounds)
AFC – Amateur Field Champion; dog has won a trial handled by an amateur
NAFC – National Field Champion; dog has won a trial in competition with both amateur and professional handlers
JH – Junior Hunter; 4 qualifying legs at the begining level
SH – Senior Hunter; more qualifying legs at the intermetiate level
MH – Master Hunter; qualifying legs at the highest level of difficulty
Hunting– Dogs are tested on retrieving, pointing, flushing, quartering and general steadiness, involving the sound of a starter’s pistol and retrieving on land and in water. Different breeds – setters, pointers, retrievers, etc. specialize in one or more of the above skills. Months or years of training. A very large time commitment.
FIELD – HERDING
(Non trial level designations)
HT – Herding Tested; involves the dog’s ability to move sheep and change their direction, while being responsive to the handlers control.
PT – Pre-Trial Tested
(Trial level designations)
HS – Herding Started- ability to gather and move sheep through gates and chutes, handler working close to dog.
HI – Herding Intermediate – the above at a somewhat higher level, with part of the course being run with the handler at a moderate distance from the dog.
HX – Herding excellent – the dog works well away from the handler at all times.
Herding – dogs are tested on instinct and training; ability to gather, contain and drive sheep. Months to years of training working with sheep. Travel usually required just for sheep access and training.
FIELD – COURSING (Hounds)
JC – Junior Courser
SC – Senior Courser
NA – Novice Agility
OA – Open Agility
AX – Agility Excellent
MX – Master Agility
Agility – tests a dogs physical ability and speed going over a course with elevated walks, A-frames, teeter toters, tunnels, jumps, and more. The canine version of the US Marine obstacle course! Loads of fun for man and dog. A great way to introduce young dogs to obedience; control and responsiveness to commands and attention to detail, control training balanced by great fun with the obstacles. My personal favorite type of field/obedience activity.
JUNIOR EARTHDOG (Terriers – Go-To-Ground )
JE – Junior Earthdog
SE – Senior Earthdog
ME – Master Earthdog