Thanks to Guest Author Mark Harris for this article
Confucius, the famous ancient Chinese teacher, once mused, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” This is especially true when trying to determine whether or not your dog is show ring quality.
Just because you purchase a purebred dog from a reputable breeder and register him with the American Kennel Club (AKC), does not mean that he will be a champion in the show ring. The AKC has established standards for the breeds that it recognizes.
For example, the size and shape of your dog’s head, his height, weight, and length proportions, how he walks, and how he stands will all determine whether or not he is meant to display his best traits in the show ring.
The Road from Registration to Show Ring
There is so much more to performing in the show ring than what you see when watching the event on television. If you think your dog has what it takes, then you should start out by following the steps listed here.
- AKC REGISTRATION – If your dog is not yet AKC registered, then take care of that first. Although every organization has its own rules and by-laws, eligibility requirements and judging policies, many of them default to AKC regulations.
- TRAIN SOONER THAN LATER – Start training as soon as possible. Some AKC events allow dogs to compete as young as 6 months of age. That means training should begin when your puppy is at least 2 to 3 months of age.
- TEACH BASIC COMMANDS – At the very least, your puppy should know how to sit, stay, stand, down, come, and also heel when on a leash. Your puppy should have plenty of socialization with humans who pet him.
- CHECK YOUR PUPPY OFTEN – Open your puppy’s mouth and look at his teeth. Pull his ears back and look inside them. Also check his feet, legs, tail, and underside. This not only gets him ready for judging in the show ring, but also to be handled by the veterinarian.
- PRACTICE YOUR PUPPY’S GAIT – The gait is your puppy’s natural way of walking. While he might be lumbering over his oversized paws now, as he grows you can teach him to gait (which is similar to trotting) at the appropriate speed for inside the show ring.
Show Ring Competition Clubs and Alternatives
The American Kennel Club website (www.akc.org) offers dog owners the opportunity to search for an agility club that trains and competes in AKC agility-based events. Once a dog owner selects a state, the search results list each club along with its contact person, physical location, website and email address, and club type.
If it turns out that your dog is not a “perfect specimen” and then you can look for a club that offers alternate competitions. There are a lot of dog clubs that are not sponsored by the AKC but still offer high quality competitions open to all dogs.
Their events include things like obedience, agility, herding, hunting, retrieving, and tracking. Determining which type of competition event is right for your dog will depend less on his breed and more on his personality. Like people, some dogs seem born to do one style of thing over another.
Where to Train for Competition
If you decide to strike out on your own in training, you might consider hiring a handler. Even if you plan to show your own dog, there are plenty of benefits to hiring an outside handler to teach you the basics.
Before hiring someone be sure and check their credentials. After all, they will be responsible teaching you the basics. You will also want to check their references, track records, the types of breeds they worked with in the past, and any titles or other awards won by them or dogs that they trained.
One place that you can train is at the practice ring or other designated practice area. But another place that you can train is your own backyard. For example, all the tools you need to practice agility training are available for purchase if you are willing to make that kind of investment.
Ensuring that your puppy does not escape the back yard takes one more item, and that is a sport dog underground fence. This way when it is time to go off the leash, if your puppy does have a moment of disobedience or decides to chase a squirrel, he will not leave the parameters of your backyard.
Canadian freelancer Mark Harris lives in White Rock, BC with his lovely wife. He usually works out of his home office, but sometimes heads to his local coffee shop for a change of pace. When writing about dogs he often uses the product reviews published on the site www.doggyfence.com to fact check information. In his spare time Mark enjoys kayaking and hiking along Canada’s beautiful western coastline.
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