A Spectator's Guide to Dog Shows

Dog Show Do's and Don'ts

Going to a dog show promises a fun time for adults and children alike; however, it is a serious event for those whose dogs are in the show. Follow these basic rules of etiquette to make sure your fun doesn’t interfere with the competition:

Don't pet the dogs without asking. With so many adorable dogs around, it can be difficult to resist scratching their heads and giving them kisses. But handlers have spent hours grooming their dogs to perfection, so always ask for permission before touching an animal. And don’t be offended if the answer is a polite “no.” When the dog has completed showing, handlers are usually more than happy to let their pups accept a pat.

Don't distract the handlers. Handlers and breeders are often extremely busy preparing their dogs and themselves to show. From grooming to getting to the correct ring in time to keeping the dog focused, these professionals have a lot to think about. When they’re done competing, however, feel free to go over and ask questions; most are very friendly and happy to offer advice.

Don't bring your pet to the show. You may be excited to introduce your dog to other dogs of the same breed, but most shows have strict rules against spectator dogs. Even the most perfectly behaved pet can become overwhelmed at a show and be a distraction to competitors.

Do wear comfortable shoes. Dog shows are held in big spaces with hard, concrete floors (that can withstand thousands of dogs’ worth of slobber and potty accidents), and you may find yourself walking long distances.

Do purchase a catalog. Usually available for a small fee at the entrance, these books help spectators follow along with a list of dogs competing (arranged by breed and class) and the judging time and ring number of each breed.

Do have a great time! If you’re a true dog lover, attending a dog show can be an educational and exciting time. You will have the opportunity to meet leading experts in dog care and to learn everything you need to know about keeping your own pet looking and feeling her best.

Talk the Talk

Here's a rundown of basic dog show lingo.

Best of Opposite: The title given to a dog who is the best of the opposite sex of the dog named Best of Breed.

Champion: In AKC competitions, a dog who has earned at least 15 points, including two majors from two separate judges. (Champions compete in their own class.)

Gait: The way the dog moves around the ring.

Handler: The person (owner, breeder or professional handler) who walks the dog around the ring.

Major: A win that earns the dog at least three points.

Winner’s Dog, Winner’s Bitch: The male dog and female dog, respectively, who are named the best of their sex of all classes. (These dogs compete against each other and the champions for Best of Breed.)

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