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All About The Show Dog


Dog show insight to help you show your dog, starting with what NOT to do in the show ring!





E. Katie Gammill, Multi-Group AKC Judge, Exhibition Editor


Why did your dog NOT win today? Some decide the judge is a “handler judge” while others feel judges have color or “political” preferences.



Often driving home becomes a venting session but some who may consider a judge inept have NOT READ their own breed standard. Most judges truly attempt to do a credible job with the dogs that appear in their ring. This is why judge’s education evolved. So, before we take the judging community to task, what about the exhibitors responsibilities? Speaking for myself, I have no preferences except what is written in the standards. However, I will say this. “The CORRECT color is the BEST color!”


Desired markings are a plus, like “icing on the cake” whereas some markings are distracting. Many judges see beyond color. IF you choose to exhibit something different than the preferred colors as designated in your standard, don’t be surprised when your dog is not considered for Winners.


Most judges are serious about their judging and participate in continuing education. Being human, some make mistakes and most learn from these mistakes. Before looking for excuses as to why some dogs don’t make it to the winners circle, consider the below list as to what most judges want to see in the dog that is presented to them. They concentrate on virtues, not faults. Remember, a judge has only a scant amount of time to consider type, soundness, character, conditioning, and presentation. That’s why good handlers don’t show dogs out of condition and the dogs are trained.


Good show ring advice to help you win with a good dog

 1. Show up on time at ringside. This means for your class, and the possibility of returning for Reserve. Don’t expect judges to wait for you.

 2. Take handling classes. Proper presentation is important.

 3. Dress in appropriate attire that compliments your dog. Don’t wear anything that would take away from the dog’s presentation.

 4. Be sure your dog is clean and properly groomed. “Holding coat” results in mats and knots. Some judges will place a good dog with an inadequate coat if the dog is clean and brushed.

 5. Trim those toenails.

 6. Clean those teeth.

 7. Train your dog to stand for examination. Teach it to allow a “bite” check or tell the judge you prefer to “show the bite” yourself.

 8. If your dog shies or pulls away, go back to training classes.

 9. Clean the belly hair around the “plumbing” and make sure there is no feces under the tail.

10. Practice posing your dog in a large mirror to see if you appear a “team”.

11. Trim the feet if the standard calls for it. Do not over do “grooming products”.

12. Use a loose lead if possible on the “down and back”. Train the dog for a “go around” at a comfortable gait without breaking stride.

13. STAY IN YOUR PLACE during the class, especially if the class is large. Don’t get lost!

14. Follow procedures set out by the judge officiating.

15. If you don’t win, congratulate the winners.


Another tip is to allow someone your dog trusts to present your dog. This enables you to evaluate your dog against the competition. Keeping records of particular judges “likes and dislikes” may be helpful but each entry is different on any given show. Good judges always look for structure, type, presentation, symmetry, and conditioning.


Too often the difference between “winning and losing” rests on the person presenting the dog. Pay attention in the ring as one never knows when a judge may “look back” for a quick comparison. Some judges (myself) don’t like exhibitors jerking, pushing, or moving the dog with their feet. Use the bait or lead.


As an exhibitor, YOU have the power to present your dog well. You know your dogs’ virtues and faults and can present it in such a manner as to accentuate your dog’s good points. Remember this is a dog show, not a people show. The way you handle the dog can make or break how the judge sees him.


E. Katie Gammill, AKC Judge/Exhibition Editor for TheDogPlace.orgIf you are at ringside, on time and ready, and dressed appropriately (it’s not a cocktail party or picnic) for your breed, the judge will see your entry at its best. The overall picture you present increases your chances for the judge to point to your dog for those coveted points.


Don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help. Most people will be happy to assist and encourage you IF you give them a chance when they are not readying for their own ring call.


Some new people will “catch fire” and others fall by the wayside. The first step toward success, for both exhibitors and our sport, is to make new people feel welcome. In turn, those seeking assistance need to give the more seasoned participants the respect they deserve. EST 1998 © 1351605



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