Raising a Show Dog – What to Do and What Not to Do

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A show dog wears a first place ribbon as its owner holds its head upwards

Amber LaRock Author of Raising a Show Dog – What to Do and What Not to Do

As pet owners, we tend to feel our babies are the cream of the crop, the cutest of all the puppies. That may be true from your perspective, but there is much more to it than being an adoring pet parent.

Show dogs must meet a list of criteria based on the factual standards of their breed. They also need to have a specific temperament and will need training from a young age.

Here you will find all of the information you’ll need to understand the ins and outs of raising a show dog.


What Is a Show Dog?

Raising a show dog starts with the breeder, before your puppy is even born. Breeders of show dogs look for the specifics when a litter is born. They breed dogs with the right physical characteristics and temperament. Depending on the breed, the physical characteristics required of show dogs are extremely specific. For example height, weight, fur color, eye color, eye positioning, number of teeth, and fur texture can disqualify your pet from being a show dog. Your breeder will be fully informed on these standards, but you should be, too.


What Do You Need to Know About Show Dogs?

The first step to deciding on the show dog life should be attending a show! Before you get a dog, before you dive into hours of research, attend a show. You can also watch one on television, but seeing it in real life is a much better experience. In doing so, you can see if the level of competition is for you. It is very tedious and you must be able to handle criticism. It is just part of the experience.

Match shows are a great first stop with your new puppy. They are a place to practice your skills and expose your pup to the show dog life. There are experienced handlers and professionals to offer feedback and guidance. You can go and watch with your dog to learn about what club you are interested in, or you can participate as a newbie.

Learning about the conformation process is also important to do before you get your puppy. Getting educated on conformation will help you pick the right puppy to be your show dog.


Getting Started Raising a Show Dog

Getting started with your show dog is not a simple process of picking up a puppy from a breeder. Time and research must be dedicated to picking the breeder and type of puppy you want.


Picking the Right Puppy

You’ll need to learn about the different clubs of show dogs. This can help you narrow down what type of dog you want and how you would like to train them.

When you purchase your new pup, the breeder should give you all of the necessary paperwork. Usually, show dog breeders charge more for their dogs’ registrations than those who are bred as pets. If you plan to raise a show dog, make sure you have the proper registration paperwork.

Your breeder will not give you paperwork to register your dog unless it meets the necessary criteria for the breed standard. This is why it is so important to know your breeder is legitimate.

Once you pick out your puppy and gather the necessary paperwork, you can register them with the club of your choosing. The most popular show dog club is the American Kennel Club (AKC).


The Basics

Teaching your dog to be handled should start from day one. Show dogs are examined and touched by people they are unfamiliar with. Use positive reinforcement when unfamiliar people and dogs are around, and handle your dog’s face, head, ears, tail, feet, mouth, and body regularly.

Discipline is a huge part of being a show dog. Your puppy should start learning basic commands as soon as you bring them home. Stand, sit, lay down, come, wait, stay, and leave it are all essential. Teaching your puppy to be comfortable in a crate is also something that should start right away. Once your dog is on track for potty training, you can teach them to potty on the command which will help when you start taking them to shows.

The phrase “gentle restraint” is often used in conversations about training show dogs. At a young age, a gentle restraint should be introduced to get your puppy used to it. Use something similar to what they will experience in the ring. Handle them while using the restraint, and use positive reinforcement to help them learn to enjoy it. You should also get them used to movement and exercise in the ring.


Confirmation Classes

A confirmation class will help you learn what is expected at dog shows. It prepares you and your dog. They will teach you specifics about handling your dog at shows and help ensure you are prepared for your first go at it. This is a great step to take before a match show.


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Requirements for Entering Shows

Once your dog has been through a confirmation class and you are ready for a conformation show, your dog must meet the following requirements:

  • Your dog must be at least six months old on the day of the show.
  • Your dog’s breed must be recognized by the American Kennel Club. They must also be registered. This should be done with the breeder’s paperwork as soon as you pick out your puppy.
  • Your puppy cannot be spayed or neutered at the time of the show.
  • Show dogs must be in good health and up to date on all vaccines.
  • Your dog must not have any faults that disqualify them as the breed they are registered.

Raising a show dog is a big commitment that starts before your puppy is even born. You must do thorough research about the breeder and puppy you are interested in. Learning about what is expected physically and mentally from your breed at shows is also essential. 

Once you have a puppy with all the physical requirements and paperwork, you must get to work on training. Starting the day you bring them home, you’ll need to teach them a list of commands and how to perform around unfamiliar dogs and people. Going to dog shows and experiencing the atmosphere of the competition will help you both mentally prepare for what is to come. 

If you can get through the preparation, you and your dog will have the opportunity to experience the fun and thrill of show dog competitions and may even bring home the prize!


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Meet The Author 

Amber LaRock Author of Raising a Show Dog – What to Do and What Not to Do

Amber LaRock

Amber is a Licensed Vet Tech with a degree in Veterinary Technology. Recently she has specialized in veterinary and animal-related content creation and social media management. When she is not working she loves spending time with her furry friends exploring the outdoors.