The Wonderful World Of Dog Shows: A Beginner’s Guide

BevHills_iStock_000020580100_LargeFor the average pet owner, dog shows can be an interesting, albeit slightly confusing, performance. Each dog is stunning in his or her own way, gliding, strutting, or trotting about the arena attached to their handlers by a leash. But how many of us know exactly what is going on here? How are the dogs judged? How does a dog and its handler qualify, much less prepare, for a dog show?

According to the Westminster Kennel Club (the gold standard of dog shows, in case you didn’t know) “The basic purpose of dog shows is to facilitate the evaluation of breeding stock for use in producing the next generations”.

Dog Shows 101

The main consideration at most dog shows is the dog’s “conformation”, or overall appearance and structure. Dogs compete against one another based on their breed’s standards, which are outlined in detail in the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) publication, The Complete Dog Book. The competition between the dogs essentially boils down to a process of elimination, with one dog being named “Best In Show” in the end.

Conformation shows may get the most media attention, but there are many other types of dog shows out there. Two of the most common are:

  • Agility trials – Dogs are timed as they tackle obstacle courses, points are deducted if the dog fails to perform a task in the course or exceeds the standard course time.
  • Obedience trials – Dogs are judged based on how well they take commands from their handlers, based on AKC regulations.

How Dog Shows Are Judged

Each judge is an expert in the specific breed that he or she is judging. Judges evaluate the dogs against the AKC standards by watching them in the arena and also by running their hands over the dog. Some of the characteristics the judges look at include:

  • Gait (walk)
  • Attitude
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Head
  • Muzzle
  • Whiskers
  • Teeth
  • Legs
  • Coat
  • Color
  • Weight
  • Size

Getting A Dog Ready

If your dog is registered with the AKC, and is at least 6 months old, he or she is eligible to be entered into a dog show. Although you may already think your pooch is a handsome devil, you’ll have your work cut out for you as far as preparing him or her to be shown.

Besides training your dog (and yourself) to participate in a dog show, your pooch will need to be groomed according to his or her breed standards. Your dog will need to be brushed, clipped, bathed and conditioned, blow-dried the night before the show, and clipped and brushed again the day of. Other details, such as nail trimming and expressing anal sacs, will also need to be attended to.

Then comes the fun part…keeping your best buddy clean until he or she steps out into the arena! Good luck with that!

Celebrity Alert!

The Birmingham Youth Assistance Foundation sponsored the 35th annual Kid’s Dog Show this past weekend (Sunday, February 28th) in Beverly Hills, and our very own Dr. Windsor was a judge! He did spectacularly and we’ll have picturess and videos of the event available soon.

Thanks to all those pet parents who attended and made Dr. Windsor’s first judging experience a great one!  We’ll see you all at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates soon!