Thinking about showing your dog in a conformation class. The AKC show ring can be extremely competitive, so here are
a few tips to get you started.
The most important foundation work that you can do is to find and join a kennel club in your area. The club will be made
up of veterans, as well as newcomers, showing, training and breeding many different types of dogs. You can learn from
them all. Many of these long-time breeders will be happy to share their years of experience with grooming, training and
presenting their show dogs to maximum advantage. You may want to choose several mentors to work with in different
areas of expertise.
Your mentors can tell you what styles of show leads to try and will share some grooming techniques for the “coated”
breeds. The Pomeranian breeders can be very helpful, as well as many Nordic dog breeders who are accustomed to
grooming heavy double coats.
Volunteer to help with the shows your club will put on, and make sure that you attend the seminars available. There is
always something new to learn. Take advantage of the handling classes available to learn from the pros. These people
know what the judges expect, and you will find them cheering for you at ringside when you show your dog.
You will want to look at the AKC website for seminars in your area and local shows. You can also have the AKC
Gazette sent to your home so that you can plan your show season. It will list the dates of the show, show superintendent
and contact information for entries.
Your dog will need to be in good shape – not too thin or too fat. The judge will appreciate a well-muscled dog in prime
condition. Conditioning is the whipped cream on your ice cream sundae – the finishing touch.
Make sure your dog is clean - wipe out his ears, trim his toenails. If you can hear them click when your dog walks, they
are too long. Some dogs hate nail clippers but will tolerate a dremmel. A grooming table is a great investment, and your
dog will learn to stand patiently as you brush out his coat.
The next step to completing your picture is dressing yourself appropriately to complement your dog. Your goal is to
provide a background for your dog without standing out. You want the judge to admire your dog, not your cute outfit! If
your dog is black don’t wear black yourself – your dog will become indistinguishable against your clothing. Instead
choose a nice contrast to make him stand out. Since you will need to wear a jacket with pockets for your bait, a skirt suit
or pantsuit will look professional and allow you to move easily. Stay away from long skirts that tend to blow into a dogs
face as you move. Skip the jewelry, and make sure you wear comfortable shoes that you can run in. Flats or tennis shoes
are fine on cement floors or grass.
While you are in the ring your dog will need to move beside you without pulling, stand still for examination, let the judge
look at his teeth and run his hands over his body. You may want to use ARBA, UKC or International shows for practice.
These shows are much more relaxed than AKC shows and have smaller entries. You will be able to talk to your dog
while you are in the show ring. You may even speak with the judges while your dog is standing for examination. They are
more than happy to give you pointers and may even assist you with gaiting your dog outside the ring.
Have a positive attitude when you enter the ring. If you are nervous then chew gum or mints so your dog won’t pick up on
your mood. Remember – you are proud of your dog. Go show him off!